ALLIE LaPLANTE & ALAINA CROWELL
The notion that providing birth control encourages sex often outweighs the other purposes for “going on the pill.”
Most know that the pill, also called “oral contraception,” helps prevent unplanned pregnancies by releasing hormones to prevent ovulation, which is the release of eggs from the ovaries. Lesser-known medical benefits can include reducing menstrual cramps, lightening heavy periods, fighting hormonal acne, preventing cysts in the breasts and ovaries, preventing iron deficiency, lightening the effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and more.
Of course, every medication comes with consequences. The pill has to be taken at the same time every day and does not prevent sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
The list of benefits should serve as testimony to the pill’s effectiveness, but the pre-existing stigma surrounding it creates a constant obstacle for progress in availability. One possible solution is making the pill available over-the-counter (OTC).
Organizations like Free the Pill advocate for OTC birth control pills that are “affordable, covered by insurance, and available to people of all ages,” and its website, freethepill.org, serves as a resource for those curious about the state of national progress towards OTC availability.
Support for this movement has a home in Congress, too. In April 2019, legislation was introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) to fast-track the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process towards making the pill accessible OTC. In June 2019, five members of Congress launched legislation to further increase the availability of the pill by stressing its affordability for women nationwide.
Discussions about the pill are also not unheard of to ELHS.
In a poll of 168 people conducted by the @elhssaga Instagram on Jan. 13, 83 percent of voters thought birth control should be available OTC.
What happens when students ask their parents about the pill?
The stigma surrounding “going on the pill” can create accusatory arguments in which more emphasis is placed on the sexual side of the pill rather than discussing both the reproductive and overall health benefits of the medication.
The same poll conducted by @elhssaga on Instagram revealed that 31 percent of students would feel completely comfortable talking to their parents or doctor about birth control and 31 percent would be very uncomfortable.
A mother who wishes to remain anonymous said that “as a parent it’s important that your kids feel like they can come to you no matter what. [My child and I] would have to discuss the pros and cons [of “going on the pill,”] but I would probably try and encourage abstinence [first.]”
While OTC may seem like an easier alternative than talking to a doctor or parent to obtain a prescription, the pill is a contraceptive that impacts one’s hormones, so creating a general OTC medication that is not catered to each individual’s personal hormonal state could create more harm than good.
Some side negative side affects to the pill that are hormone related include mood swings, depression, and irregular bleeding.
Freshman Academy and Physical Education teacher Jennifer Carney-Brush said: “For access to any of the hormonal types of birth control, you should see a doctor just because it’s your hormones and you don’t want to mess with them.”
Planned Parenthood is a healthcare provider that offers health care and sex education. They’re located nearby in New London and Old Saybrook, and their services are available to teenagers without parents’ permission.
ELHS nurse Janet Binkowski suggests that those who seek to be “on the pill” should consult their doctors first.
“We have these channels [or common, legal tracks to obtain medications] in place for a reason and it’s for health and safety,” said nurse Binkowski.
The price to obtain the pill depends on each individual’s insurance, but with most insurances it ends up being free. Most people will not need pelvic exams to get a prescription.
It is also important to note that the pill isn’t the only effective contraceptive for pregnancy prevention, and if someone isn’t comfortable with the pill for any sort of reason, that they are by no means obligated to take it. It is ultimately up to each individual.