Hormonal Contraceptives Are Not Health Care

Hormonal Contraceptives Are Not Health Care

Insisting hormonal contraceptives are health care is at the heart of the federal government’s case against the Little Sisters of the Poor. But hormonal contraceptives lead to worse health for women.
Alana Newman

This March 23, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments concerning The Little Sisters of The Poor—an organization of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly and may be fined out of existence if they don’t pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires employers to provide certain pharmaceutical coverage within their health insurance plans. The Little Sisters have reluctantly been forced to go to court because they are not willing to violate their consciences by paying for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs.

Their legal defense is using religious liberty arguments, but their words are falling on deaf, secular ears. Millions of people view contraception (and abortion) as important for women’s health. Many people don’t feel compelled to support a small religious non-profit when contracepting is seen as a good, even responsible lifestyle choice. I’d like to share why I support The Little Sisters—and why I too have come to think of contraceptives as a great evil, only my reasons have little to do with religion.

I started using contraceptives when I was barely 15 years old—my mother took me to my pediatrician, and I received the prescription. I’m now 29. I stopped using hormonal contraceptives at 21 after two events.

The first was when after taking a Depo-Provera shot I proceeded to menstruate for six months straight—alongside debilitating mood swings and fits of depression that frustrated my academic productivity and my ability to manage relationships. The second event was when—after I reverted to the Pill—a shaman-like male friend of mine ominously asked, “Why are you on the Pill? Don’t you know it takes away all your power?”

His words rang at me. Despite not having empirical evidence of his claim, I knew what he said was true. I started using the fertility awareness method and have never looked back. Here is what I’ve learned.

Contraception Does Not Lead to Fewer Unplanned Pregnancies

Unintended pregnancies have actually risen over the past decades despite the increased usage of contraception. Unplanned pregnancies are highest among women who receive subsidized contraception programs. About half of all unintended pregnancies occur among women who are using contraception (p. 23).

Increased usage of contraceptives drives unintended pregnancy rates and abortion upbecause of “risk compensation” effects (p. 23). People get a false sense of safety and disconnect sex from its ability to generate life, then they engage in risky sexual behavior with people they have no intention of co-parenting a child with, or when unprepared to care for a baby.

Contraception Leads to More STDs, and Less Trust Between the Sexes

The Pill became legal at first for married couples only. Today it’s being given to barely pubescent girls. Young women can hardly make it to a third or fourth date without being expected to offer themselves sexually—if they’re asked on dates at all.

The result: epidemic levels of sexually transmitted infections (STI)—which costs Americans $15.6 billion per year, and contributes to at least 15 percent of all cases of infertility. Chlamydia cases rose 2.8 percent in one year from 2013 to 2014 and syphilis rose more than 15 percent in the same short time-span.

She will often choose to not embarrass herself or her partner, have ‘raw’ sex, and run off to a clinic to get tested.

In real-life sexual encounters, there is usually a brief conversation regarding “protection” before body parts collide. This dialogue, often in the heat of the movement, will go something like, “Yo, are you on the Pill?” “Um, yeah, of course.” “Cool—Can I hit it raw?” Raw meaning without a condom.

This is where the psychology gets interesting. If she tells her partner “No,” she is suggesting she is either a) infected with an STI herself, which is a huge turn-off, or b) she doesn’t trust him to be STI-free, which is an insult, and turn-off. She will often choose to not embarrass herself or her partner, have “raw” sex, and run off to a clinic as soon as she can to get tested (or not).

Contracting an STI from a sex partner can lead to significant contempt. Also, never getting called back or dumped by a sex partner can lead to significant contempt, and develop into long-term mistrust of the opposite sex.

According to biological anthropologist and Kinsey Institute Senior Research Fellow Helen Fisher, any genital stimulation, especially when orgasm is achieved, leads to huge levels of dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin rushes in the brain, which trigger the sense of falling in love with someone. These brain chemicals can lead to obsessive thoughts and a sort of addiction to the sex partner—which for evolutionary reasons was meant to attach us to the person we would likely be having a baby with.

Unfortunately, however, when we have sex with people we’re not well-suited for, or have a series of “casual” encounters, it can lead to serious brain chemical turmoil, like drug addicts in constant recovery and relapse. People develop a sense that they aren’t safe with the opposite sex, that they can’t trust them. Additionally, when sex becomes as casual as a handshake, affairs and betrayals rise, leading to even more contempt between the sexes.

Contraception Leads to Romantic Dysfunction

In both primates and humans, use of hormonal contraceptives lead to:

  • Less sex, and less satisfying sex.
  • Mate incompatibility and future public health concerns—women on hormonal contraception (HC) choose mates of lower health grades, and with immune systems more like their own (whereas genetic differentiation promotes health in future offspring).
  • HCs apparently work as biochemical burkas—veiling a woman’s olfactory fertility signals and partially sabotaging our ability to attract men.

There Are Better Alternatives

Contrary to what HHS wails, I found that my physical and psychological health improved immediately after I got off hormonal contraceptives. But that doesn’t mean I bought a chastity belt or went on food stamps to feed my litter. I discovered things I’m appalled were never taught during my public school sex ed classes.

We can bond sexually without having to choose between a) putting our healthy organs in a diseased state or b) 500 kids.

I learned that a woman can only get pregnant during the 24- to 72-hour period in which her body releases an egg, and you can know when ovulation occurs. I learned to not be frightened or disgusted by the cervical excretions my body released for a few days every month—that the mucus is a sign of fertility and when it’s present, sperm can live—without it, sperm die.

This means women are not impregnable most of the time. This means that we can bond sexually without having to choose between a) putting our healthy organs in a diseased state with drugs or b) 500 kids.

Hormonal contraceptives are not healthcare. No one should be required to buy or dispense them. And if the real goal is to reduce unplanned pregnancies, there are radically more practical and affordable avenues.

I support The Little Sisters of The Poor. I hope you will too, religious or not.

Alana S. Newman is the founder of The Anonymous Us Project, and Coalition Against Reproductive Trafficking. She is the author of Happy Couple Creed and has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post, Women's Health, and on NPR.

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