What ABOUT them?

November 19, 2012 - 1:25 am
Irradiated by LabRat

Well, we’ve covered birth control 101, in which we learned that hormonal contraception for women is a fixed cost that has absolutely no relation to how much sex she has or how many partners she has it with (and surprisingly often isn’t prescribed AS contraception but for other kinds of health care), and today, class, we’re going to have the 102, because apparently we still need to learn things!

Today I got linked to a post by Dr. Whitecoat, who appears to feel that a)The Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception represents a free handout to women, and b)that it offers nothing to men, who will nonetheless be part of the paying pool. This particular point of view, particularly that it represents a handout specifically to young, sexually promiscuous women, is shared by the Romney Campaign. To wit, “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women.”

Here’s a quick primer on birth control: there are three primary approaches with it. Surgical sterilization, hormonal contraception in various forms, which does not (yet) exist for men as it’s much easier to stop an egg from getting fertilized or implanting than it is to stop fertile sperm production, and barrier methods, which technically include female condoms and dental dams, but as I’ve never actually met anyone who’s used either, we’ll just go with “condoms and diaphragms”. There’s also various formats of spermicide delivery, but as they are really unreliable compared to everything else, they’re usually used as a backup to the barrier method in case it breaks or was put on/in incorrectly. There’s also IUDs, which technically is a surgical approach but is also temporary and only for women, so in effect it can be lumped in with the hormonal contraceptives.

All birth control methods have their upsides and their downsides. Hormonal contraception is fire-and-forget as long as you’re good about remembering to take your pill or renew your shot or your Norplant, but it has a number of side effects and does buggerall to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Of the barrier methods, diaphragms have to be fitted, don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and are fiddly as hell to insert; they have the upside that once you’ve managed that you can have sex “spontaneously”, but that’s a sufficiently small upside I’ve never met anyone who uses one of those still, either. Condoms are cheap and protect against sexually transmitted infection, but they reduce sensation for most men that I’ve talked to, you’ve got to have them on hand and ready to go when you’re ready to have sex, and most of them come with spermicidal lube.

Yes, that’s actually an upside AND a downside. The problem with any form of birth control that uses the spermicidal backup is that the vaginal area is an ecosystem unto itself; it’s normally inhabited by friendly, acid-loving bacteria that keep things clean and healthy, but spermicide kills them as well as killing sperm. Use too much, too often, and most women will become vastly more prone to vaginal and urinary tract infections, since the acid-lovers aren’t there making things inhospitable for nastier-tempered invaders anymore. They’re painful, they’re unpleasant, and they stink. They can also be life-threatening- a UTI untreated can happily migrate up into the bladder or kidneys and start doing some serious damage. Condoms that don’t have spermicide exist, but they can be difficult to find, or at least I’ve never managed to find any on the drugstore shelves. Granted, it’s been a long time since I tried, but at the time, it was special order or nothing doing. (I had a friend with a steady boyfriend who was also allergic to the class of antibiotics most useful in treating urinary tract infections. This was the bane of her existence and led to some pretty serious illnesses.)

All contraceptives have tradeoffs, and which downsides you’re willing to accept have a great deal to do with what kind of sex you’re having, and most of the more serious downsides are the woman’s consequence. If you’re a single woman and having casual hookups, sex buddies, or other short-term relationships, condoms are absolutely the way to go: you need the protection from STIs way more than you need anything else other than the pregnancy prevention, and since you probably have no idea when you’re next having sex, there’s less risk that the spermicide will hurt you, and simply grabbing some birth control from the drug store or night stand when you need it is a much more attractive option.

However, if you’re in a long-term, exclusive relationship, particularly if you’re cohabiting, hormonal birth control becomes much more attractive. You’re having regular sex, so the effects of spermicide are a more pressing concern, neither of you (presumably, obviously there are exceptions and the exceptions will usually be using condoms) is carrying an STI and you’re not going to be picking a new one up anytime soon unless someone is both being horrible and doing it without a condom, and since you’re having regular sex, a form of birth control that’s a fixed, steady cost is much more attractive. Since STIs and infections have been taken (mostly, some hormonal birth control raises the risk of vaginal/urinary infections too) off the table, concerns about men’s sensation are much higher on the priority list now.

Now I’m going to get a little more personal, so cut just in case anybody’s sensibilities are more, well, sensitive than I expect.

I’m a married woman. I’m on hormonal contraception. Neither I nor Stingray want children right now, probably not ever, let alone limitless children. Every time we have sex, spontaneous sex where we don’t have to root around for a condom, sex where I don’t come down with an infection, sex where he gets to feel everything, is a direct benefit to both of us. To conceive you need to be having heterosexual sex; I don’t need birth control to masturbate, and I wouldn’t need it if my sexual partner was a woman. The birth control is for BOTH OF US, I just happen to be the one taking the pills. They’re not happy fun sugar pills either, they’re making it easier for me to gain fat and harder for me to gain muscle, just that bit more prone to infections, and if I forget one or god forbid two, my hormones are completely out of whack and I’m miserable for days. This is not a fun sex ticket; it’s a pretty critically important component of my most intimate relationship*.

The thing is? Coverage for hormonal (and some forms of surgical**) birth control is, despite all the veiled and not so veiled muttering about buying votes from young sluts I’ve heard from the right, primarily a benefit to married and long-term couples. The people who are actually young and promiscuous are, if they are even the least bit sensible, using condoms, or at least they all were when I was in college myself, even when they had been prescribed the pill for other reasons***.

Why are young women disproportionately more enthused for Obama than they were for Romney? It’s not because he bought them free sex, all but the dumbest few and those in early seriously committed relationships will still be buying condoms, it’s because not covering a basic aspect of reproductive health care when so many other, more expensive, and more “optional” drugs and services are covered (including the costs of childbirth) seems pretty stupid to most women, for all the reasons I just outlined and all the reasons so many male politicians and commentators on the right, including the presidential candidate, seem to be completely ignorant of.

I’ve seen a lot of muttering in the wake of the election that the only group that turns out reliably for the GOP now is white men, and that this is because women and minorities can be bought with freebies. I have no experience as an ethnic minority, but I am a woman, and if the GOP wants to be what I can only describe as aggressively incurious about aspects of the lives of people who aren’t white men, yet wants the power to legislate on them… all I can say is it isn’t their unwillingness to throw free phones at people that’s the problem, here.

*And incidentally, so far as I’m aware something I’m not going to benefit from personally. Our health insurance is essentially catastrophic coverage only; we pay for all medications out of pocket, including at least one that one of us would fall over dead without, which is much more expensive than birth control pills. Which plan, incidentally, the employer we gain this insurance through rolled everyone back to because of the anticipated costs associated with the Affordable Care Act.

**There really is a legitimate bitch here- it covers tubal ligation and IUDs, but not vasectomy. That’s bullshit, and I hope to see it remedied via lawsuit soon.

***Caveat that this sample was disproportionately white and well-educated, but I am responding to Romney’s comment about “college-age young women”. And I do not think birth control pills and Norplant are disproportionately more common in poorer segments of the population than condoms, and regardless I don’t see what withholding coverage for contraception in health insurance would do to help. Whitecoat’s proposal about free condoms actually might, though; I just disagree with his premises, not with that idea.

41 Responses to “What ABOUT them?”

  1. Indy Says:

    I broadly agree with most points here, but would generally point out that “long term, cohabitating relationship” means something pretty different in your early to mid 20s than when you’re, say, 35. The consequences of unintended pregnancy are, for most women in that bracket, incredibly high (financially, emotionally, socially, whatever), high enough that they outweigh any benefits of *not* using condoms. Pretty much every female friend I have (unless gay) has been on the pill since high school or early college because it’s cheap, widely available, and for most people, has relatively few side effects. My sample size is limited, but of all the women I know in their early to mid 20s, those in committed relationships having monogamous, regular sex are all using both the pill and condoms, because condoms alone just don’t have a high enough success rate at preventing against pregnancy, and, to be honest, neither does the pill unless you’re way more successful than a lot of women at remembering to take a pill every single day within a two hour window.

    I think condom use probably drops off as you get into older cohorts of married folks because the consequences of unintended pregnancy are lower, not necessarily because of a changed need for STI protection.

    Just my two cents!

  2. Mule Breath Says:

    Labrat, you parse this issue in a way that even the flat-earthers should be able to understand. Neither do you ever fail to entertain.

  3. Matt G Says:

    Huh. I found non-spemicidal condoms fairly easily, back in my 20s. Then again, my mid twenties were your tweens, so maybe things changed.

    Other drawbacks to spermicides include:
    Irritation to the mucus membranes, which not only causes discomfort, but also increases the likelihood of STD infection in the instance of failure.
    Tendency to be transmitted to other mucus membranes. (Where things either sting, or STING, or taste bad.) Look, sex is really messy, okay?
    The tendency to believe that your belt-and-suspenders approach means that your method is BULLETPROOF. It’s not. You should meet my lovely 14 year-old daughter sometime.

    We should stop subsidizing population expansion in this nation, and should instead offer free vasectomies to anyone who wants one, with extra financial incentives if he’s on welfare, or admits to substance abuse addiction, or has an IQ under… you know, I’m going to get enough backlash for this post; I think I’ll just stop right here.

  4. Brownie Says:

    I was a Condom Bunny* for 3 years in my dorm at college so I know how many condoms college students go through. They’re all using them (unless alcohol was involved) because no one wanted to get an STI. Pregnancy wasn’t the fear, chlamydia and herpes were.

    On the other hand I know more than a few married/long-term committed couples who will budget every month for BC pills because they’re cheaper than a baby. As it was explained to me, once a baby is on the way the societal and family pressure to keep the baby simply because married people are supposed to have kids is incredibly hard to resist, even if the couple can’t afford a child financially.

    These folk live in fear of becoming pregnant and they’d go for sterilization or long-term hormonal birth control if only they could afford it. And they’re ignored completely in favor of the latest GOP’s morality-based yelling point about young women and the amount of sex they (supposedly) have. The married people I know who rely on birth control pills don’t vote for the party who ignores them on one hand while making it harder for them to get the pills on the other.

    *Anyone at anytime could come to my room and get condoms** or dental dams without charge or judgement. I’d get them free from the campus health center who had inconvenient hours. For the last year I was on campus the health center even had female condoms, but no one ever asked for those.

    **Sadly, all with spermicide. It is hard to find spermicide free condoms but they are out there, usually in larger drug stores like Rite-Aid. Trojan makes one model that has nothing but cornstarch on them. Some adult shops will have spermicide free condoms too, but usually only in overpriced singles, not in packs.

  5. Will Brown Says:

    Let me preface what follows with the observation that I personally am entirely in favor of “college-age young women” being sexually promiscuous and such if they want.

    That said, and stipulating the stunning level of political campaign rhetoric tone deafness displayed, what aspect of the statement“Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women.” is incorrect or untruthful? Lets face it, almost anything “free” is going to be “very big” (eg; popular) with pretty much any young, active and chronicly under-funded demographic of the human population, wouldn’t you agree? I wonder what effect on the election outcome would have resulted had Romney prefaced his statement with, “I’ve heard a rumor that a majority of college-aged young men are grateful that …”?

    With absolutely no disregard for your college friend’s medical illnesses due to spermacidal effects on her vaginal ecosystem, allow me to illustrate my response with a metaphor. Were I to say to you that I repeatedly suffer illness due to my use of alcohol in a casual and spontaneous manner, would you be more likely to respond by sharing your support for federal legislation requireing everyone to pay for my hangoverillness medication or, would you think it fully deserved to call me six kinds of idiot for drinking at all? Can we simply agree that there is a legitimate objection to being legislatively forced to financially subsidize any of the potentially undesired outcomes resulting from another’s informed choice of personally detrimental behavior and leave the argument there? (No, I can’t feature any conservative/GOP politician coming out in support of such a statement either.)

    Based on numerous Vicious Circle appearances, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, “[womens] concerns about men’s sensation are much higher on the priority list now” is by way of being what they call a rhetorical device having little relationship to your actual marital interactions. :) Your point is well taken that the female perspective of “birth control” technology isn’t limited to actual control of the initiation of pregnancy.

    This entirely legitimate political argument is about government control of peoples private choices and actions, both directly by the moralisers (sex=sin you hussy/perv!) and indirectly by the statists (tax it/regulate it/ban it/etc), from both the pro and con sides of the issue. Being the exemplar of the moralising statist, Romney couldn’t avoid putting himself in an attackable position. I’m not certain that circumstance supports your basic arguments about the ins-and-outs (yes, he went there :)) of modern health care. Or the good Dr. Whitecoat’s come to that.

    We are, I think, in complete agreement that politicians are normally aggressively incurious about aspects of the lives of people that don’t lead pretty directly to satisfying politician’s wanting the power to legislate on them. Along with access to the contents of other people’s pockets, of course.

  6. farm.dad Says:

    I am all for birth control , Hell i strongly feel that in some cases it should be retroactive . With that said , I really don’t like it to be ” mandated ” in Obamacare as a ” freebe ” .
    I also don’t think that the party of stupid lost the election because they lost the ” slut vote ” ( with either plumbing ) or for any reason other than the fact that they ran Obama Light ® and wouldn’t stick with real issues that matter such as the economy or foreign policy ( since civil rights would be far too much to expect nowadays ) and state they intended to stay the hell out of anyones private life .

  7. Jennifer Says:

    Indeed. As a happily married mom, I too use hormonal birth control for the same reasons. I’m obviously not anti-reproduction, I’m just not sure I want another right now or ever. And my insurance covers a portion of it.

  8. LabRat Says:

    Will: It’s not untrue, it’s just not true for the reasons the right in general and very likely Romney think they are. I dunno if you were there for it, but I sure was there for the wave of rhetoric from Limbaugh and O’Reilly and others that it was all about young sluts wanting to have sex for free. And yes, Romney didn’t use it, but the word slut was sure thrown out a hell of a lot.

    As to your alcohol argument, how many relationships have you been in? Was alcohol a major component of intimacy in them? We can have an argument about when sex is or shouldn’t be appropriate and whether only marriage legitimizes it, but it can’t be argued that it’s not a normal part of a close romantic relationship, and one many couples would find to be a dealbreaker because it was off the table because all contraceptive options are either out of reach or actively harmful. I personally cannot use condoms as normal birth control because of that at a rate of “more than once a week”, let alone any more often than that. Again, I am married, and I have never had casual sex in my entire life. Would you call me an idiot facing the consequences of my bad judgment?

    I oppose the Affordable Care Act, because I think it’s insane to mandate buying something as a condition of citizenship. But this specific objection? Birth control is a normal feature of life for 99% of Americans. Normal adults are having sex, and you don’t need to be having freaky promiscuous trapeze sex to need it. Lots of other worse habits are readily covered by health insurance.

    FD: Far from the only reason. But I have no sympathy for the “OMG REPUBLICANS CAN’T GET ANYONE BUT WHITE MEN BECAUSE THEY WON’T SHOWER STUPID WOMEN AND MINORITIES WITH FREEBIES!” to be both a terrible argument and a terrible attitude I’ve seen way too much of lately.

  9. perlhaqr Says:

    which technically include female condoms and dental dams, but as I’ve never actually met anyone who’s used either

    I suppose technically you’ve never actually met me either, but I have used both of those things.

    it’s because not covering a basic aspect of reproductive health care when so many other, more expensive, and more “optional” drugs and services are covered (including the costs of childbirth) seems pretty stupid to most women

    It is stupid, and I would think that most health insurance plans would grasp that it’s way cheaper to pay for BC pills than childbirth and baby insurance. But… why on earth is this something the FedGov needs to be invovled in? (Yeah, that’s pretty much a rhetorical question at this point.)

  10. farm.dad Says:

    LR be sure and get FM spun up on that ” womens issues ” subject next time you see her .

  11. R Says:

    Hormonal contraception for men is more possible than most folks are aware of but still in the experimental realm. I was fortunate to attend a lecture on the subject (that was intended for the lay audience) that is available for viewing at http://www.uwtv.org/video/player.aspx?mediaid=16218350.

    IMHO more women should be considering IUD’s and prescriptions for other contraceptives shouldn’t be contingent on annual pap tests.

  12. Matt G Says:

    Given that we already subsidize births, and given that we already underwrite the lives of people whose births were unwanted in this nation, there is a significant net-cost savings in pushing birth control. If it’s legal to give medicaid, and legal to give WIC and other welfare to kids, then why wouldn’t it be legal to reduce the pool of the welfare-dependent?

    The barn door’s already open on the constitutional issue; I just want to round up some of the cattle again.

  13. Kristopher Says:

    Exactly Matt G.

    If someone isn’t going to have sex with a long term partner who is going to help raise a child, then I WANT them to have free contraceptives.

    I WANT then to not have a bunch of of kids on WIC.

    Any man that thinks that hormonal contraceptives are a female-only benefit has not considered the cost of child support after a sexual encounter.

    If some god-botherer wants to take issue with that, then I demand he prove he was a virgin when HE got married.

  14. Kristophr Says:

    Bugger, hadn’t shortened my name on this site yet to thwart google ego searches. Fixed. Carry on please.

  15. Sparrowkin Says:

    I am absolutely dependent on an implant/IUD to insure that I am not immobilized with pain every 21 days. It would have meant the world to my late husband and to me if the GYN’s had been informed better about it before his death because of the boost it would have given the frequency AND the spontaneity AND the protected aspects of our sex life.

    So I drastically appreciate this post for all kinds of reasons.

    One note; a college friend tipped me about a company called good vibrations, or goodvibes.com–they’ve been a godsend for someone with a latex allergy; maybe they have other health friendly options in the condom department? I do not know.

  16. pax Says:

    Should I have to buy your toothpaste because your use of toothpaste is truly a critical component of your most committed personal relationship, and because using it is so important to your physical health that you could literally die of an infection if you don’t use it?

    Health coverage should take care of catastrophic events. Daily maintenance should be your own burden to bear.

  17. Sparrowkin Says:

    Pax, I’m tempted to say “if I have to pay for prison inmates’ viagra, then yes.” So I have.

  18. Indy Says:

    I feel like it’s also probably worth noting that for an awful lot of women (including both myself and Sparrowkin above) hormonal contraceptives/contraceptive options like IUDs or implants are a medical necessity, not just a choice that enables fun sexy times. Before I started on the pill I had debilitating migraines every month, and my Associated Period Stuff (to overshare spare the male audience) was so bad that I had to miss three or four days of school per month. I know an awful lot of women who fall into either the “really awful periods,” “migraines,” or “really bad hormonal side effects” categories and are on the pill for that reason.

  19. LabRat Says:

    In my ideal world, health insurance would not be a standard benefit offered by employers, salaries would be consequently higher, people would buy it for themselves if they wanted it, and health insurance companies would compete as fiercely as car and home insurance companies do. Anything the government were involved in at all would be in the realm of catastrophic only.

    Since we are not in my ideal world but in a world in which people have very limited choices in health insurance and insurance is now mandatory, I want contraception treated like other basic preventative health care. Even if I treated Will’s alcoholism analogy as exactly equivalent, I already have to pay for the medical fallout of other people’s alcoholism.

    ETA: And given that either I personally or my employer who is offering insurance as a benefit is paying for the health insurance in the first place, not government, it’s not “asking everybody else to pay for it” it’s “asking to get what I paid for, i.e. coverage of basic health services”. (All hypothetical in my case given I DO have catastrophic coverage only.)

  20. Old NFO Says:

    Good post and good discussion in comments… FWIW, since I’m older that Matt, yes there used to be ‘plain’ condoms available… Re sterilization/vasectomies, I have friends who made that decision prior to the wedding, and ‘his’ present was a vasectomy. Due to the issues his wife had with spermicides… And they agreed that he was NOT the good father type. They are still happily married now 22 years later, and have no regrets.

  21. tweell Says:

    I buy my non-lubricated no spermicide condoms at my local Walgreens. They’re great for protecting my rifle barrel.

    I’m all for male birth control, as it deals with the ‘oops’ pregnancies. RISUG looks like a winner, but has been kept out of the US so far. Perhaps Stingray can be a test volunteer?

  22. LabRat Says:

    Yeah, this may be a time/place thing. They were very difficult to find on the drugstore shelves in, say, 2000. :)

  23. Sparrowkin Says:

    “Perhaps Stingray can be a volunteer”–Oh gods, please don’t let that Cancer fund raiser pod-cast EVER come up…

    LR and Indy–YES

  24. Will Brown Says:


    Since this seems to be a topic of continuing interest, let me say that my alcohol-for-BC related illness analogy was directed more at the presumption of responsibility argument/POV than anything else. For the record, I’ve been married twice and had a largeish number of sexually intimate relationships with other women when I wasn’t committed to a monogamous relationship (I wasn’t always a 59 y/o fat ass :)). Norplant wasn’t available for most of those, but all of the women in my personal experience used the method of birth control they felt best for themselves. When asked, I have never felt any reluctence to contribute to the “BC fund” (when I was married it was an assumed part of the household budget), but I want to emphasize the point that in each and every one of my relationships the woman assumed primary responsibility for her own health decisions as regards her own “plumbing” as it were, and I have always regarded that as the standard norm of adult human behavior almost literally around the world over the course of 4 decades+. In your experience has that female expectation substantially changed in the past decade or so? If not, then just how out of line are men to be slightly put out by being presumed preemptively financially responsible for the “plumbing issues” of women they don’t even know, let alone have any expectation of having sex with (and the whole “slut” thing is just stupid unless you actually know the woman and have direct knowledge to base the judgement on)?

    One of the most confounding aspects of BC in the US is that access to hormonal BC is prescription only but the most commonly thought of use for the pills/implants/whatever isn’t a “medical condition requireing theraputic treatment” in the classical sense of that statement. So what we have is every possible use of the drug treated as if it was for such a use. In my now quite dated experience with British and German health markets, prescriptions are only required for specific BC formulations related to treatment of a specified medical condition; otherwise there is a broad selection available OTC. Were that the circumstance in this country, I think much of the political/social dispute we currently inflict upon ourselves would largely fade away or be confined to niche considerations of a more generalized philosophical or religious discussion.

    I would also like to say that I find the conflation of moral arguments with factual ones really annoying since I don’t have moral objections to mutually agreed upon private behavior between adults and can’t stand philosophical assumptions presented as facts. Not to accuse you of having done so, though the whole college girlfriend thing gets twitchilly close. :) Sex is a perfectly normal activity between humans, but BC options being limited has only the most indirect relationship to that. I actually know the answer (yes, I did run a multi-decade long survey of as broad a swathe of the human female population as I could), but I do wonder why more women who do want to have sex but don’t want a baby as a result don’t include anal sex as a legitimate BC option?

    I’ll check back later once the outrage has run it’s initial course. :)

  25. Sparrowkin Says:

    Will. “Interest?” Wow.

  26. Kristophr Says:

    Pax: As long as the government continues to support the children of unwed and unemployed mothers, then it is very cost effective to pass out free contraceptives.

    The cost of a morning after pill is miniscule compared to the cost of raising WIC child to age 18.

    I agree that the best solution is for the government to get out of giving healthy people welfare … if you can’t raise a kid, the proper course should be adoption.

    But we have to play the ball where it lies, not where we wish it to be.

  27. karrde Says:


    are you saying that the GOP leadership and voting patterns are dominated by older married couples, and people with similar attitudes towards birth control?

    Because by your description, this is the group that is least-worried about birth control.

    Not to defend them, but somehow this doesn’t surprise me.

    I do fault the GOP for not asserting that birth control is the proper subject of two people who are in a relationship (committed or not), instead of responding to it as a “women’s issue.”

  28. Wolfwood Says:

    Wow…what a glimpse into a different worldview! My wife and I have found Natural Family Planning to be very effective, both in avoiding fertile times and in finding the very best time period to get pregnant. We did a lot of research before we got married, and one of the things that concerned us was all the allegations of horrific side effects from chemical birth control. Not everyone is going to have them, of course, but “death” is pretty eye-catching.

  29. LabRat Says:

    Going to catch up with the rest of this thread in a bit, today has been… epically terrible…

    Wolfwood- death is a pretty eye-catching rare outcome of childbirth, too. It’s still about 10-13 per thousand live births in the US.

    The only woman I know personally who uses natural family planning also has three children that weren’t planned (on top of the five more who were) and can barely afford to keep her family fed. I’m very glad it works for you but it’s… really something you should only do if you are already planning to have some children.

  30. Kristophr Says:

    Humans are designed to make the Rhythm Method fail.

    Ovulation is concealed in human females in order to make it uncertain who the father is, and encourage men to take a chance and provided support anyway.

    She’s got two ovaries, and they do not work in sync. This is a design feature, not a bug. Unless you don’t like operating as designed ( ie, pregnant until menopause ).

  31. Wolfwood Says:

    Just a note: NFP is, statistically, the most effective means of birth control. It does incorporate the rhythm method, but it’s a lot more than that, too. It’s very easy to get pregnant if you’re slacking and only doing the “rhythm” part of it, but I don’t think I know any couples who practice it properly who have had unexpected pregnancies. It’s also, aside from pen, paper, and a thermometer, free.

  32. LabRat Says:

    Just a note: NFP is, statistically, the most effective means of birth control.

    Citation needed.

  33. Silver the Evil Chao Says:

    Did I seriously just read someone comparing birth control use to alcoholism? Because that’s hilarious.

    You see, unlike someone who has to take conscious action to sate their alcohol addiction (unless there’s a new phenomena of brewers literally holding guns to people’s heads and forcing them to drink), I’m pretty sure I, at the age of 13, didn’t tell myself “Hey, you know what would be fun? Three week long heavy periods!“*. And I’m pretty sure that other women don’t consciously decide to have their periods, and all of the annoying (and in some cases, massively debilitating) side symptoms that entails.

    Because something I think keeps being neglected in these birth control debates is the fact that hormonal birth control is very, very commonly used as hormonal therapy for abnormal cycles or very bad symptoms of normal ones. And unlike, say, car accidents, or someone else’s alcoholism, women having their period is something as sure as the sun rising in the morning – it’s an inevitable part of life for pretty much all of the female population. It’s entirely, naturally unavoidable.

    Which is why I laugh so damn hard every time I see people howl over “paying for someone else’s birth control”, because not only are there are a shit-ton of things I’m paying for that I really don’t want to pay for (I’m pretty sure both the TSA groping people and the FBI violating the 4th on a daily basis is paid by my tax money), but the shit that I get to pay for doesn’t even directly benefit me or other people, and it doesn’t NEARLY get the howls of indignation from the Right that birth control does, which is really stupid, given that you’d think that birth control would greatly benefit Americans cost-wise – surely the pills themselves are cheaper monetarily than the loss of productivity from women having to miss days of work every month or the medical bills resulting from abnormal menstrual cycles…not to mention the whole “keeps babies from being made” thing. From an economic standpoint, it is far more feasible and beneficial to “pay for someone else’s birth control” than to pay for the consequences of the lack of it.

    *I will still never forget the look on my doctor’s face when I told her about that. Everything short of an actual jaw-drop. Best part was, I thought my cycle was NORMAL.

  34. Lena Says:

    I actually know a few people who’ve had luck with NFP, but they’re religious enough to be so committed that they will abstain for all the potentially fertile days. When I was charting (for curiosity’s sake) that would have meant abstinence/barrier method for half my cycle if I were following the more conservative rules. Not to mention the often downplayed by NFP fans pain in the ass of taking my temp at the same too-early time every morning and checking my cervical mucus a few times a day.

    So while I can be convinced that NFP followed strictly can be very effective, it’s on the same level of “abstinence is the only effective way to prevent pregnancy” school of thought, which, while TRUE, isn’t exactly practical advice for the vast majority of people.

  35. Indy Says:

    As a point, NFP (may) work well if you have a very regular period, but if you are one of the (many, many!) women who don’t, that option kind of goes out the window.

    Also, to the person above who pointed out that contraception is seen (both through the eyes of many folks and the eyes of the federal government) as a “women’s issue” it’s largely because many of the more effective non-permanent methods, including hormonal birth control, IUDs, sponges, and implants only work on women. As LR pointed out above, the female reproductive system is one we (as scientists) understand to some extent, and we’ve largely figured out how to utilize that knowledge to prevent pregnancy.

    As far as I can figure, past some therapies being developed elsewhere in the world, the only non-permanent male options are condoms and spermicide. This doesn’t mean men aren’t responsible for contraception, just that the majority of the choices available work by limiting women’s fertility.

    And as someone else (presumably LR) pointed out above – women are cryptic ovulators, meaning that both we and our partners don’t know when we’re ovulating and that it doesn’t, for many women, happen on a particularly regular timetable. (I know someone who (naturally) got pregnant with twins from a one-time unprotected event while on her period. I’m just saying.) And as LR has pointed out in prior posts, there is at least some evidence based on testes to body ratio that human men were, at one point, using sperm competition, which means… well, our bodies were designed to create more humans. Probably a pretty decent idea to allow folks who don’t want kids to prevent that.

  36. bluntobject Says:

    On a slightly different note, I can’t help but think that a lot of the “Birth control under the ACA means federal subsidies to filthy slut whores having lots of filthy slutty whorish sex” complaints really parse to “BC under ACA means federal subsidies to filthy slut whores having filthy slutty whorish sex with people who aren’t me“. (Similarly, I imagine the Catholic church’s position on birth control would moderate rapidly if priests were no longer required to be celibate.)

  37. Sparrowkin Says:

    Bluntobject…they didn’t use to be you know. That all started after the Carolingian era because too many priests and bishops were leaving land to their kids and the church was finishing up second best. Not a thing to do with the bible. So I absolutely agree with you. And I love the image your post put in my head of various asshats jumping up and down in tantrums “but not with ME!!!”

  38. Phlegmfatale Says:

    Forgive any typos here. Insomnia/not feeling well/typing on phone.

    When I worked for the US Postal Service, some level of the organization sponsored a $25 spay/neuter for all employees. This seemed curious, but made sense from an economic standpoint in that the organization would pay out less in the long run with fewer new dependents being produced therein.

    I have experienced something of an evolution on my thoughts regarding birth control. I think one aspect which makes this topic so controversial is the idea that some folks don’t want to subsidize the lifestyle choices of others. I get that, and have even said words to that effect. I don’t want to buy hearing aids one day for people who eschewed proper ear care in favor of a bowel-jarring bass in their car audio system. My evolution/change-of-mind/whatever comes with a greater study of economics and precisely which groups are most likely to permanently occupy the impoverished stratum of our society, namely single mothers and their children. Considering the drain on municipal and federal coffers to aid folks in that situation, it seems that the net effect of assisting with birth control would make for less folks in need of the more costly assistance associated with the infrastructure our government provides to single moms, etc.

    I understand that some have religious views anathema to birth control, and I’m nit comfortable with the idea of compelling one citizen to pay for a procedure (abortion, for example) that another chooses to have, but birth control– given its other health related uses– seems mire of a gray area.

    What I would propose would be an opt-in type situation in which the default would be one does not contribute to birth control of others, but that those who support the program could choose to do so financially. This would be like the $1 contribution you can make on your tax return for presidential election support.

    Maybe that’s silly. It’s 4:05 am. Good discussion here. Complicated topic with no easy answers, but I can admit to my mind changing on the subject. This is very onion-peeling. I can see and respect other views than my own, but my (relatively) recent conclusion simply seems the most sensible to me, big-picture wise.

  39. Phlegmfatale Says:

    …and about the political aspect, it would be really neat if politicians/pundits could muster statements on theur stances which did not invite the observation that they are merely upholding a tradition of limiting women.

  40. Anon Says:

    Can we PLEASE put to rest the meme that some small expense my health insurance covers is “paid for by others”?

    Folks, if my health care plan covers hormonal contraception, *I* pay for it. Not the taxpayers, not the other people on my plan. ME. My health insurance premiums come out of my pay. So do yours. Insurance is most assuredly *not* a gift from my employer, so if the plan I pay for covers contraception, nobody is paying for that but me.

    Now, big stuff like heart surgeries and complicated pregnancies? Sure, those costs are spread to others, because the insurance company pays for those out of the pool. But trust me, stuff that 90+ percent of people with insurance get regularly is covered by one’s premiums on a “group discount prepay” kind of thing.

    Also, an aside about NFP—my (now ex) wife and I were in a religious environment that pushed NFP. The failure rate is far higher than advertised (we had multiple pregnancies and one full-term child on it, and we followed it religiously) and the effect on spontaneous and regular intimacy was, in retrospect, catastrophic. And those who sold us on the idea vastly overstated the side effects of hormonal contraceptives; had we known the unexaggerated truth then, we would not have chosen that route.

  41. Geodkyt Says:


    Tell you what — call your health insurance company. Ask them what your price would be if you got the same exact plan from them, as an individual, out of pocket. Then compare it to what is witheld from your check by your employer.

    The delta is what your employer is paying, minus a small price break they get for the bundled volume.

    While it is likely that employers would adjust your paycheck to account for the cost of the insurance if YOU had to buy it 100%yourself, chances are a signifcant chunk of that price difference would be rolled over into additional profit for the stockholders, lower prices (for increased volume), reinvested into more efficient or larger operations, additional employees, or some or all of the previous.

    The insurance system is set up that way because of the progressive socialist impulses of FDR, who tried to hide inflation by freezing wages, but allowing employers to get use health insurance premiums they paid as a tax deduction, so monetary wages could stay the same while insurance was offered as an additional perk to entice workers in lieu of cash raises.