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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Natural Order of Things

Having children is a a big part of one's lifestyle choice. It's really not for everyone, and for those who would like to, having a plan is important. Birth control is too important to keep out of reach. Everyone should have access. It's up to them if and how they want to use it. It shouldn't be a decision in the hands of anyone else. It should be our own, period.
I made a suggestion on Twitter that perhaps we should make birth control (oral contraceptives) an over the counter purchase, no prescription needed, taking it away from employers and insurance altogether. What if we were to shift the conversation over to individual freedom and personal responsibility - isn't that a great American value? It turns out there is support for this idea from Obstetricians and Gynocologists. Their findings are Here and here's the full report ACOG Recommendation. Even the FDA is in a favorable position. It would sort of be a win-win for everyone if we could keep the costs affordable.

Oh, and I just want to point out that birth control isn't just a women's issue. Pregnancy only occurs when women have sex with...wait for it... men. This conversation about it being a "women's" issue is funny to me. "It takes two to tango", as my mom always said and in this case one of them has to be a man.  And that, is a whole other conversation - ladies and gentlemen, choose wisely. That applies to birth control and to each other.

When I posted my thought, the immediate response I got was: "What about those who smoke and shouldn't use birth control? What about young people who make poor decisions?" Yes, I'm aware, we'll probably lose a few. I don't mean to sound callus or insensitive about it, but isn't that part of the natural order of things? Look, we allow them to buy guns, we allow them to purchase cigarettes and alcohol, we allow them access to pain relievers and cold medications, even give them an opportunity to run with scissors. We can't prevent every unfortunate accident or poor decision from the consequences that naturally occur. Should we punish those of us who do have critical thinking skills?

My point wasn't that we shouldn't warn or educate them. Of course we'll need to ensure that everyone is provided access to all of the information they could possibly want or need.  What if we just let people make informed decisions for themselves? I think it can be done and I think it can be done well.

The tobacco and alcohol industries have taken orders to educate the public, provide warnings and are regulated to curb the risks of their use and abuse. Other over the counter pharmaceuticals do the same. So can birth control. Let's not overestimate the risks at the expense of the benefits. Fortunately the studies show that the actual numbers don't support the fears. Unplanned pregnancies are a public health risk. The rate is at 50% currently, virtually unchanged for the past 20 years in the U.S. Access to birth control is part of the problem.

Providing birth control over the counter doesn't mean that we can't still have a conversation with our doctors and medical professionals about our options. It just means some forms likely won't be covered by insurance. Like anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages. 

I'm sure there will be some parents, educators, and others who will have a problem with giving young people this kind of information and I'm okay with that too. They're part of the problem now. We need to educate better. I'm completely aware that there will always be a few who inevitably make poor decisions for themselves regardless of what information or warnings are available to them. Do we really want them to become parents?

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