Thank God for Birth Control

Birth control: it was a subject in my house that I knew would cause me strife if I ever dared to ask for a prescription. A trip to the gynecologist? That was out of the question as well.

The shaming was hammered into my head. A year before I headed off to college, I cautiously asked my mother if I could get a prescription for birth control. I dreaded asking her because I knew she would instantly jump to conclusions.

I had done my research: birth control had the ability to lessen the severe pain, heaviness and longevity of my menstrual cycle, which were three issues I struggled with eight days out of every month. I had the option of telling my doctor if I wanted a pill, shot, or implant. I knew weight gain could happen. I knew of all the other negative side effects. I knew I was tired of being bedridden at home and curled into the fetal position on chairs at school when the intense pain hit.

The moment after I asked my mother about starting me on a prescription for birth control, she responded exactly the way I knew she would: accusation. “Why do you need birth control if you aren’t having sex?” “Only reason you’d need that stuff is if you’re having sex, which I know you aren’t.” “That liberal media has gotten you convinced that you need to be on birth control.” “You need to go to church because Satan is trying to destroy you.”

I couldn’t even state my argument for why I wanted to be on birth control. Every attempt I made was met with the fiery scriptures in the Bible that somehow forbade me from taking care of my reproductive health.

I didn’t gain access to birth control until a few weeks before my freshman year of college started. My doctor filled a prescription for a pill he felt was best for me, and I went on my merry way, not even bothering to tell my mother I’d gotten the prescription myself – lest I be accused of being a harlot again. I was so happy that my symptoms were significantly less severe than before. I was dealing with a semi manageable cycle and I didn’t understand why the Church had such a hard stance on reproductive issues. Unwilling to deal with my mother’s potential response to finding out I was on The Pill, I paid for it every month for three years without insurance.

A few weeks after I turned twenty-one and finally had my first OB/GYN checkup, I decided it was time to come clean. I was tired of being an adult and keeping secrets of which I had no reason to be ashamed. Her response was immediate: “So you are sexually active. That’s disappointing.” Tired of the shaming, I told her that I had the right and responsibility to myself to take care of my reproductive health, and I reminded her of all the other reasons besides sex why women visit the doctor and take birth control.

I was angry. I was sad. I was hurt. I wanted to hear confirmation that I was making the right health decisions without having Biblical morality and slut shaming shoved into every conversation. I was tired of how girls are taught in churches that anything involving reproductive health is a sin. I was tired of how the end-all to discussions about reproductive health was “You don’t have to worry about that until you get married.” I was tired of how scare tactics and abstinence education were used to strike fear in the hearts of young women who seek to take care of themselves. After I let all of those feelings out on the phone to my mother, she surprised me: she agreed with me and apologized. I felt as though a small weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

It is important for families to hold honest conversations about birth control as well as other women's health issues with their daughters. Encouragement and support from parents is especially needed to structure safe and judgment-free spaces that foster learning opportunities for girls who seek answers concerning their bodies and their health. When religion is used to demonize and demoralize women from understanding and leave them without guidance, the effects are troubling: many young women are unable to effectively vocalize their health concerns for fear of being shamed, and their issues are left unaddressed.

I've learned from my experiences that the only person looking out for my health is me, and I no longer feel the sense of shame ingrained into me from church. Unlearning toxic information is difficult, especially when that information has been disguised as "moral" and "virtuous" throughout years of attendance.

Fear is a powerful tool.  The misinformation I received from abstinence teachings and other faith-based teachings had me in physical and emotional pain for years.  In order to prevent this kind of miseducation,  we must deconstruct the stigma surrounding women's health in religious areas, and actively seek to encourage healthy discussion.  Having the right to a healthy body is a blessing, and I thank God I took control.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time. You can follow her personal Twitter account here (@tiny_kinsey)

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