Birth control should be considered ‘uncontroversial’

The birth control debate is on TV screens, newspapers and even my Twitter feed. Between Obama’s new healthcare bill, the Pope’s newest outrage, Dr. Oz’s health claims and Melinda Gate’s “My Uncontroversial Idea,” I decided to do some of my own research and get involved.

Two months ago, Opinions editor SoRelle Wyckoff covered the topic of debate between “Barack Obama [and] Pope Benedict XVI in the arena of contraception.”

The claim that the Obama administration is overstepping its boundaries into the lives of Americans is a crock. Republicans, the Catholic Church and other religious interfaces are claiming their rights of “religious liberty” are being violated; however, this is rhetoric at its best.

“In other words, ‘religious liberty’ does not protect individual freedom (whatever that may be) but allows organizations to police the religious convictions of their employees,” stated professor Finbarr Curtis in an article on contraception to the SSRC. Secularism, Religion and The Public Square is a nonprofit that covers topics like the birth control mandate and gets expertise from those who have the authority to give it.

His ideas play on a scenario where a married Southern Baptist woman takes a job at a Catholic institution (he uses a university, but I have a personal friend in the same situation at a private hospital), and her birth control is no longer covered by insurance because of Papal teachings she has no belief in. The woman already has three children, but whether she can afford more, her individual freedom to make that decision has been taken away.

To Curtis, “the response of the Church (and its Baptist apologists)” would be to refute this woman’s religious freedoms were violated because she knowingly took a job at a Catholic institution, and so she is free to pay the price of contraception not covered by insurance, stop using contraception altogether or find a new job.

This introduces us to Melinda Gates and her “uncontroversial idea.” In an article by the Huffington Post, she argues birth control is completely misunderstood and can be used to help the global economy as a whole.

To her, birth control is an uncontroversial idea practiced all over the world, and a result of birth control becoming controversial has prevented it from coming to developing countries where it could change the lives of hundreds of millions of the poorest families. Gates uses examples and statistics from developing countries that have had the opportunity to give women birth control in order for them to control their own lives.

In Bangladesh, there is a district called Matlab, where half the villagers were given educational access to contraception, while the other half were not. The study was followed for 20 years, and the Matlab villagers given this access had a much better quality of life than those without the same advantages. The households held more assets like livestock, land and savings; maternal mortality and infant mortality rates both decreased, the women were paid more in wages and, most importantly, the children had more educational opportunities than the families that did not have these advantages.

The study here doesn’t make birth control or contraceptives a miracle worker, but it does claim that, by having control of the growth of one’s family, people can and will make better decisions that can result in economic benefit.

A few weeks ago, I went home to spend a couple days of my spring break there before making my way down to Rosemary Beach, Fla. While there, my mom strapped me down in our living room and forced me to watch another Dr. Oz segment, it being her guilty pleasure.

Though my eyes bled for an hour, I managed to learn quite a few things. For one, Dr. Oz is one of the only doctors on TV with an actual medical degree, and two, birth control can actually lower the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer in women, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Oz explained that each year a woman uses birth control, her risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer is reduced by 10 percent. This is not a miracle, but instead the side effect of a developed world with decreased mortality rates.

The cycle is simple. As women are living longer, they ovulate twice as much. Each time a woman ovulates, she is risking ovarian and endometrial cancer, infection and her ability to reproduce. However, because birth control regulates hormonal imbalances and ovulation itself, women are a lot less at risk.

The problem here is control; Republicans, the Church and other religious interfaces are fighting a battle for control that is meaningless in a world that is already a decade ahead of this medically mundane approach.

“People are worried about the impact on sexual mortality, but they are losing focus on what really is important,” said Sean Jennings, a junior majoring in economics and finance. “It’s not about sexual freedom and promiscuity, it’s not a religion or state battle, it’s a battle of human [liberty].”

I agree. And as a woman here in the United States, I know that I want to finish my education and have a career before I have children. I want to be able to give each of my children the best, without forfeiting their education or way of life.

Melinda Gates gave her talk in Berlin, Germany, a country where every woman has access to affordable contraception. Her idea was to make the world more aware and unite it in order to help the global economy. I am writing here in the United States, with the goal to make people aware and well informed of the ignorance of others, and how that can directly affect a thriving nation’s way of life, bringing us to a lower standard of living.


Sophia Fazal is a junior majoring in anthropology. Her column runs biweekly on Monday.

  • Tanner Morris

    A woman in such a position knowingly (or unknowingly due to lack of simple observation/research) began working for an organization with certain policies and beliefs. Though you mentioned it, you did not address the options she has in quitting her job, paying for it herself, or discontinuing contraception use. If anyone takes a job anywhere, they should be required to adhere to the policies and beliefs of the employer/organization. It is my belief that the government should not have the right or ability to force an organization or individual to go against their beliefs, as long as those beliefs do not infringe on the rights of another human being. Making someone pay for your birth control does NOT fall under the category of a human right.

    • Brad Erthal

      What if that employer believed (or claimed to believe) that it was downright immoral to adhere to the rules of OSHA, as a matter of religious principle? More broadly, some religious people (particularly Muslims on the Arabian peninsula are an example,  but I am sure there are many others) don’t believe in wearing seat belts in cars, because they believe that God will protect them. Should we nullify seat belt laws as a result? 

      Moreover, not providing birth control costs the Church, insurance companies, and the taxpayer more money (because pregnancy is expensive). So, in order to police their employees’ sex lives, these people are willing to pay, and to make me pay. I don’t want to pay for their hangups about sex, and I shouldn’t have to. 

      because the latter is false by definition, and the former is false by observation.

      • Brad Erthal

        I should also point out here that if God really does pick who does and doesn’t go through a windshield during a car crash, He really does seem to like people who buckle up better. 

      • Dan_Li

        Pregnancies tend to produce children, and children born in this country are citizens, are they not? I am not sure about you, but I and no few others have an interest in (and ought to have an interest in) the propagation of our culture and history. It’s something that is generally called for and worth investing in; it’s also more burdensome and thus warrants state funding.

        It’s also worth noting that “the Church” to which you refer is a composite of the faithful (magisterium, presbyterate and laity) that adhere to continuous traditions, teachings and faith passed down through the aeons; further defining traits may include self identification as a catholic (or orthodox), compliance if not agreement with the magisterium, etc. Given this, the Church does, in fact, believe that the contraception goes against morality. So do many catholics.

        • Brad Erthal

          Pregnancies tend to produce children, and children born in this country are citizens, are they not?” 

          Once their born, yes. I’m not suggesting that we should end our society by never having kids. I’m quite radically suggesting that women (married, unmarried, or whatever) should have the right to decide when they want to get pregnant, and when they don’t, and that you and everybody else who thinks that we should pay money to withhold that right from them are misogynists who should sit down while the grownups in our country hash out public policy. 

          “Given this, the Church does, in fact, believe that the contraception goes against morality. So do many catholics.”

          You’ve completely missed the point. Organizations can’t have beliefs. An organization doesn’t have a centralized brain. It is possible (although I think it’s rarer than you imagine) for all members of an organization to share one belief. But are you seriously arguing that that’s true of contraception and the Catholic Church? Something over 90% of Catholics in the U.S. admit to using birth control.

          • Tanner Morris

            Let me start out by saying I am not Catholic.

            When I refer to the “church,” I hope that you understand that I do not literally mean the building. I mean people that make up the religion. But please, let’s not make this a point as it has virtually nothing to do with the matter at hand.Also, just because I may sin, doesn’t mean I don’t believe it’s wrong. Just like a catholic that uses birth control, may still believe that it is immoral (according to their teachings).

            Please, tell me why a company should be forced to pay for things they consider immoral? What if they quit providing any insurance altogether? Would there still be such a fuss about them not providing certain things then? Of course not. This is because an employee would be aware of their lack of insurance when they applied! Why is it any different when they know that they are not going to be supplied birth control?

            In fact, this wasn’t even an issue until the government tried to force it. The real issue is that the government is trying to force people to do things that they are morally opposed to. 

            Would you not be outraged if the government decided to completely ban birth control? Though that question does not have to do with morality, it does harp on what is seems you think is some sort of right.

            “I don’t want to pay for their hangups about sex and I shouldn’t have to.” Would that apply if you had said something like “I don’t want to pay for their hangups about my lack of education. I should be receive a higher salary!”
            (Please note that I’m not in any way saying you are uneducated, I’m merely using this wording as an example).

          • Brad Erthal

            I’m not going to concede the point that a group can’t have a belief. Individuals within the group have a belief. If they all share it, we might say something like: “All Catholics believe…”. What is not possible is to say that the church believes something. And quite a few Catholics don’t see anything wrong with their use of birth control. I single out the Catholics not because there haven’t been obnoxious members of other denominations on this issue, but because the bishops have actively asserted themselves here. 

            “Please, tell me why a company should be forced to pay for things they consider immoral? ”

            They’re not being asked to. They’re asking everyone else to pay more for health insurance and public programs because they won’t cover their employees for this. And they may be willing to pay to avoid what they consider immoral. But no one else should have to pay for that.

            “This is because an employee would be aware of their lack of insurance when they applied! Why is it any different when they know that they are not going to be supplied birth control?”Listen, I’m all for divorcing our health care system from employers. It’s not very efficient as a system. But the whole point of coverage as a benefit to employees is to help them stay healthy. If you want to allow religious organizations to avoid covering female employees for important healthcare, then I hope that you also think that men should have to pay for prostate exams.

          • Tanner Morris

            From what I understand, a company does not even have to provide any insurance. If I’m looking for a job, I will take this into account and probably try to avoid those companies. However, it should be up to them as to what they decide to provide. If a company has health insurance that does not cover prostate exams, then I simply pay for it myself.

            What I’m trying to say, is that, from your argument’s perspective, there is no difference in a company not providing any insurance at all and a company that chooses to not provide a specific aspect of a certain insurance.

            And I don’t think you responded to anything I said in my last three paragraphs. Kindly do so in your next reply :)

          • Brad Erthal

            “From what I understand, a company does not even have to provide any insurance. If I’m looking for a job, I will take this into account and probably try to avoid those companies.” 

            Yes to this, but no to everything else, because by necessity they offer different health care coverage to people of different biological sex, different age, etc. This is more akin to a company deciding to selectively slash coverage of sickle cell anemia than not to provide insurance at all. I am a white man, and you appear to be as well, so it seems that neither of us need worry that there are people out there who think that we don’t deserve equal treatment under the law, or who will discriminate against us in our employment. This is discriminatory, and it is wrong. 

            And fine, I’ll respond to your three paragraphs. I felt like it would be mean, but you asked for it: 
            “In fact, this wasn’t even an issue until the government tried to force it. ”
            Wrong. Mitt Romney’s healthcare bill in Massachusetts, and the laws of many other states mandate that employers who cover health care for their workers must cover the pill, both because it lowers the cost of the insurance pool, and because it is useful for many off-label indications. ”Would you not be outraged if the government decided to completely ban birth control?”

            I would be marching in the streets, but I don’t understand what that has to do with anything. This seemed like a half-formed objection, so I assumed that you would find a way to restate it as something other than a non sequitur. 

            “Would that apply if you had said something like “I don’t want to pay for their hangups about my lack of education. I should be receive a higher salary!”"

            No, my objection would fall flat on its face in that situation. I presumably have at least some say in how much education I pursue. I have no choice about whether you are afraid of your genitals.

          • Tanner Morris

            Let me rephrase what you agreed with and see if you still do:
            “If I’m looking for a job and see that a company does not provide prostate exams (or birth control or whatever you want), I will take this into consideration and try to avoid them if possible.”

            If not, please explain why? The only difference between this and the previous statement is selective coverage instead of no coverage at all.

            After you answer that, I think we’ve gotten off of the main subject as I see it:
            Should the government be able to force a person or a company to do something it is morally opposed to? (For the sake of time and not chasing rabbits, let’s not get back on the subject of a church or company not having a belief.)

            Back to my original post and your reply about the seatbelt law: I think that specific example does not work because, should someone be thrown from a car during an accident, they would no longer have control of the possibly still moving car, thereby endangering other drivers and pedestrians. However, I’m pretty sure that this is not the reason that the law was put in place… Probably something to do with money.
            I can sort of see where you were going with the seat belt example, but could you use a different one or a more general one?

            Anyway, this is fun and your reply didn’t seem mean :)

          • Brad Erthal

            It would be completely rational for you to avoid employers who don’t cover you for various procedures. But these employers are seeking to cover men and not women. That is wrong. Moreover, women in many situations can’t avoid that discrimination. A nun who needs the pill for off-label should do what, exactly? Convert? And an ER nurse who works in a city where the Catholic Church takes control of all the hospitals has what options precisely? Move to a new city? 

            “Should the government be able to force a person or a company to do something it is morally opposed to?”

            Yep. Kind of goes with the territory of having a government. Case in point: I thought that it was immoral and stupid of us to invade and occupy Iraq. People who agreed with me (and who were old enough to be paying taxes when it began, which I wasn’t) might have said that they didn’t want to be compelled to fund such a war. But they are compelled to do so, and it is good that the state has the power to compel that, so that we can do so in the case where we actually DO have to fight a war.

             As for the seat belt law, the car is probably not moving by the time you have been launched out the windshield, because that happens in front-end collisions, primarily by rapid deceleration of the vehicle. But I take your point. The primary reason for seat belt laws has been an argument over insurance. It costs everybody else more in insurance when a fool who doesn’t buckle up dies in a wreck, so we mandate that everybody does it. By your argument, it would seem, that people who believe (or claim to believe) that God will protect them, and that it would be an affront to Him if they buckled up, should be exempted from these laws. 

            Moreover, nobody is making churches run hospitals. We should have the right to mandate standards for treatment of employees, for product safety, etc., and then people can choose whether to engage in regulated activities or not. This goes back to the old example of the Amish bus driver: A Mennonite has every right not to drive a bus, but if he takes a job as a bus driver, he can’t claim religious discrimination when he’s fired for not driving a bus.

          • Tanner Morris

            The column is too small, so I’m going to start a new comment.

      • Dan_Li

        Forgive me for the second post, but I would also like to know how general OSHA regulations are related to the provision of drugs and other products that are rather… personal in their application. Contraceptives are not generally prescribed for the purpose of preventing ovarian cancer after all. Is it truly too much to ask that people accept that actions have consequences? If one wishes to avoid the stresses of pregnancy and child rearing, one could try to exercise self restraint.

        • Brad Erthal

          “Contraceptives are not generally prescribed for the purpose of preventing ovarian cancer after all. ”

          Not that it matters, given that women should have the right to control their body, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. Many women take the pill for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, and you and Rush Limbaugh are asses. 

  • Dan_Li

    Birth control generally includes abortifacient measures. These are tantamount to murder in many eyes, and since murder is thought rather reprehensible an institution like the Church (and its members) cannot compromise on this. Murder is murder and ought not be condoned implicitly or otherwise.

  • shawnmcarter

    It’s certainly ironic that pro-choice opinions neccessarily limit choice on private decisionsof private companies.  

    In my eyes, this is another made up drama to pluck the knee-jerk heartstrings.  Although I know I am not, sometimes I feel like the only person left in America who is ok with purchasing my own flu vaccine or paying ninety bucks to have my yearly physical.  Preventives need not have their costs pushed on everyone else.  You know you can purchase several types of birth-control for under 400 dollars a year right?  Many are even cheaper.  we spend more on the stupid dining dollars program than that.

  • Tanner Morris

    The fact that birth control only applies to women does not mean that by not covering it, companies are intentionally removing care for women. Imagine for a moment that there is a new disease that only affects females. It is treatable if found in the first stages, but the screening is astronomically expensive. Just because one company’s health insurance covers it, and another’s doesn’t, doesn’t mean the second company is doing it solely because it affects women. Similarly, the Catholic hospital isn’t doing it to spite women or anything like that. I’m sure if the government tried to make them cover condoms, they would be just as much against it.

    As for the ER nurse, I don’t see why her having to buy birth control for herself is such an injustice.

    I suppose there isn’t any definitive way to say how much government intrusion is too much, but let me try to get back to what I was saying about if they banned birth control. You would be outraged and marching in the streets. That, or something like that, is the feeling that the Catholics who are protesting this are experiencing. The point I’m trying to make is this: People view government intrusion very differently depending on which side of the intrusion issue they are on.

    With that said, I’m sure you will agree with me that there has to be some line where enough (intrusion) is enough. That is what is being debated.

    It’s sort of late and I forgot where I was going with that. I’ll try to pick it up next time. Anyway, your thoughts?

  • misterheche

    Blogger Jennifer Fulwiler has penned a thought provoking  piece on the subject of women, sexuality, contraception, and abortion.  Here is the link:

    Here is an excerpt:

    is only the Catholic Church that is willing to tell women unpopular
    truths about human sexuality. Only the Catholic Church dares to remind
    us that the human sexual act always carries the potential to create new
    human beings, and that we’re setting ourselves and our future children
    up for disaster when we disregard this most fundamental of truths. It
    may not be convenient. It may not be what people want to be true. But it
    is true. And knowing the truth is always a prerequisite for freedom.

    so I find it ironic when contraception is said to
    allow anyone to live “freely.” Secular culture assures women that they
    can go ahead and engage in the act that creates babies, even if they are
    not ready to be mothers. They are handed contraception, and told to
    forget all about the possibility of parenthood. Then, when the
    contraception fails, as it so often does, they find themselves feeling
    trapped, perceiving that their only escape is through the doors of an
    abortion facility. This, to me, does not look like freedom…”

    insights are particularly relevant given today’s news story from
    Reuters: “Women overestimate effectiveness of Pill, condoms.”

    Story here: