By Kari O’Driscoll
On July 16, Buzzfeed asked their female employees to answer the question, “Why do you take birth control pills?” Twenty-two of them responded by writing their answers on a large sketch pad and having their photograph taken. To date, there have been more than two million views of the project, with organizations like NARAL touting the effort to put a face on the issue that exploded after the recent Supreme Court decision to allow Hobby Lobby to deny coverage of birth control to its female employees.
Thanks, Buzzfeed, but no thanks. I understand the desire and appreciate the gesture of support. That said, your attempt to humanize women who take prescription birth control pills smacks of unnecessary justification. The sole response that had me cheering out loud was from the woman who had written, quite simply, “Because it’s none of your business.” I don’t deny that there are a multitude of reasons why women take birth control pills, many of them having nothing to do with pregnancy prevention, but I reject the notion that any woman anywhere ought to have to make her case for using a medication prescribed to her by her physician.
It is ludicrous to think that I would go to the doctor for some medical issue, get a diagnosis and a plan of action, and then come back to my boss or my company’s HR department for their approval. My employer-provided 401K program has no right to dictate how I spend my retirement money, so why would the employer-provided health plan designate which medical treatments I can use my insurance for?
The show of support for women’s rights is certainly welcome, but in the end I fear this display only fuels the notion that women need to justify and explain why they deserve to make their own important health decisions. While telling our stories, making ourselves seen and heard, is vital to combating the dehumanization of women everywhere, justifying our personal choices on social media gives the impression that those choices are free to be judged, that they are anyone else’s business. In no other area of our lives do we ask people to defend their most private decisions to a group of strangers. If we continue to allow this kind of public commentary on personal decisions we are asking for trouble. There is already far too much uninvited commentary from strangers on every conceivable facet of other people’s lives, from what they eat to how they raise their children. Let’s not give social media trolls or lawmakers the impression that they deserve pass judgment on our medical decisions. If our choices make sense to us and to our health care professionals, that is, and must be, enough.
Kari is a non-fiction writer living in the Pacific Northwest who writes about social justice, health care, parenting and spirituality. Her work has appeared in “Get Out of My Crotch! Twenty-one Writers Respond to America’s War on Reproductive Health and Women’s Rights,” “Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding,” and “The Cancer Poetry Project, Part 2.” She has also written for The Feminist Wire, the BlogHer Publishing Network and the online magazine BuddhaChickLife.