The Guttmacher Institue, the nation’s leading authority of reproductive health and rights, released one of their famous studies this week and confirmed what we already know. According to the study, women believe that the use of birth control allows them to achieve their life goals and has had a positive impact on the way they live their lives. When presented with the results of this recent Guttmacher Institute study, I imagine most birth control-using women would be like, “Yeah, and?” Really, to all of us who pop the no-baby pills or get shots or use rings or whatever, this isn’t news. Why do you think most women are using this in the first place? They’re using it either to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, alleviate symptoms of various disorders, or a combination of the two, both of which are likely to have positive impacts. Because, you know, most people don’t like being in pain or having a baby they didn’t want.
Most of the 2,094 women in the study were in their 20s, with about one-quarter being in their 30s and another quarter in their teens. The women were all receiving some sort of family-planning services from a clinic, and completed a survey about their experiences. 63% reported that birth control allowed them to take better care of themselves and their families, 56% said it allowed them to support themselves financially, 51% said it helped them stay in school or finish their education, and 50% said that it helped them get or keep employment. Unsurprisingly, teenagers reported more reasons for using birth control than did older women. I’m not shocked by these results at all, because every woman I know who is on birth control is using it for one of these reasons. After all, how am I going to stay out of debilitating pain and make progress on my goal of becoming an elitist intellectual overachiever if I don’t have my contraceptives?
It’s nice to have a well-respected research institute backing up what the rest of us already know. On the flip side, it really gets my goat that such a study is even necessary. Does it even matter what we need birth control for? Why do we have to back up our own medical needs with data meant to convince people that these needs are legitimate? I don’t know about you, but it rubs me the wrong way that we have to do research studies to prove this sort of thing. It feels almost like a small child writing down a list of reasons why they should be able to get a puppy for their dog-hating parents. I don’t need to justify my need for birth control. And these lawmakers who want to outlaw it or make it as difficult as possible to obtain don’t give a damn about our statistics and case studies anyway. In fact, I imagine they’ll see this as nothing but a confirmation of their worst fears. Give them uppity wimmin an inch, and they’ll take a mile, run off with a group of radical lesbians, stop going to church, and leave their husbands to make their own damned sammiches (which sounds pretty awesome to me). This study is a confirmation that, as we found out in the 1960s, birth control shifts power and control to a woman and away from her patriarchal peers.
In a way, this study is almost radical in its findings. It shows women as doing things for themselves rather than for others, when even today women are still painted as being selfless, sacrificing, maternal beings and nothing else, and that “ideal” is held up by almost every mainstream media source I can think of. This study shows that there are plenty of women who are giving the finger to such offensive ideals, who are standing up and living their lives the way they want to live them. It’s rare that I read anything political and feel anything other than upset, but I saw a glimmer of hope in these findings. I believe in women, and I’m thrilled to see them believing in themselves as well.