I used birth control long before I had sex. Years before, in fact. Why? And why am I opening with such a personal statement? Because for the better part of my adult life, I have needed birth control pills to treat heavy periods that lasted 7-8 days and PMDD. Starting a week or so before my period, I experience severe mood swings. My panic attacks worsen. I get irritable and angry. I have, in the past, had a Xanax prescription just for these weeks, to take away the crying jags and heart-in-throat panic attacks. Those make me tired, though, and the PMDD on its own makes me lethargic. A day or two into my period, the PMDD slows down, but then I’m stuck with cramps and a heavy flow for another 5 days or so. And I don’t mean little stomach cramps—I mean that my stomach and back hurt so badly that moving is excruciating and neither stretching out or curling up in the fetal position provides relief. I mean it feels like someone is squeezing my internal organs.
Except when I’m on birth control. The pill doesn’t fix every symptom, but it does stabilize hormone levels that would otherwise make the PMDD worse, and it does shorten my period from 7/8 days to just 4. It allows me to function with fewer panic attacks and less pain. It prevents me needing other medications for those panic attacks and that pain. In saying that a business can legally refuse to pay for medicines it objects to on religious grounds, the courts just told me that the beliefs of a corporation are more important than my right to health care.
The Hobby Lobby v Burwell decision threatens the way women access healthcare. It shifts responsibility for costs, and it does so at the expense of its female employees’ health. I’m not going to spend much time discussing the Hobby Lobby case, but if you want a run-down, you should see Gene’O’s brief and his follow-up. It’s the biggest SCOTUS case to affect women’s healthcare since Roe v. Wade, in all likelihood. With over 140 similar suits sitting around and a clear message already sent that this can and will apply to all forms of prescription birth control, this is a huge precedent.
This is a ruling that sends a loud-and-clear message: women’s healthcare is not a priority, and science doesn’t matter. (Notice that I’m not calling it “reproductive healthcare”? That’s because it’s not just about reproducing. My reproductive system is part of me. It is not something that can be separated out.) While Viagra and vasectomies are covered by most insurance plans and paid for by employers (including Hobby Lobby), they do not have quite the list of uses that birth control has (heavy or irregular period stabilization, treatment of PMS/PMDD, lowering risks of ovarian and cervical cancers, and the list goes on.)
I think it’s past time to change the conversation we have about birth control. It’s time to be serious about challenging the ways that women’s healthcare is limited or encroached upon. Five male justices just made a decision that limits women’s healthcare.
Has this affected you or someone close to you? What has been your experience with the ruling? Do you expect to be affected by it? Please share your thoughts with us.