Controlling birth

Pill pressure and reproductive rights
By AMY MARTIN  |  May 4, 2006

Not surprisingly, I am searching for yet another birth control pill that doesn’t wreck my life. This last pill, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7, had its longest useful lifespan at two years, although for the past six months I’ve been bleeding irregularly (two weeks on, two weeks off), while still taking old faithful. Here I am at the gynecologist, once again, requesting a new brand. I’m fairly sure I’ve tried almost all of them, leaving me with few alternatives.

I was eighteen when I first filled a prescription of birth control. I don’t remember the brand. I didn’t even know there were different brands. I took the Pill, not to avoid pregnancy, but to regulate unpredictable cycles and eliminate dysmenorrhea (severe cramping thought to be a sign of fertility). I never thought much about getting pregnant, mostly because I didn’t have a boyfriend, and I wasn’t sleeping with anyone.

I hadn’t thought much about the issue of abortion either. The only time it was brought up in conversation was at church (as a teenager I attended at least three times a week), where they said abortion is murder. No adult or teacher had talked to me about sex (other than that The Miracle of Life film they showed in health class), reproductive rights, protection, or intimate relationships. Because of ignorance, I was pro-life, and never thought much more about it.

Not until I started dating. We were both nineteen, and he was my first serious relationship. I was on the Pill when we starting having sex, but there were several times within our relationship that I had been off the Pill, usually because a surprise expense like car repairs took priority over paying $35 for my prescription. During those times he just pulled out.

But one time he didn’t. We had both just turned twenty-one and were living in an tiny fourth-floor apartment in Pittsburgh. I was cleaning up my life and getting rid of everything that wasn’t good for me, including the boyfriend. He knew it. I wasn’t on birth control at the time because my meager income of $6.25 an hour was paying most of the bills, while his part-time sales job was barely feeding us. He didn’t pull out, he told me years later, I believe because he knew I wanted him to leave and thought I would change my mind if I were pregnant.

A month later, on a routine visit to Planned Parenthood, instead of leaving with a pack of pills, I left with an information pamphlet about abortion. Before I even thought about how to deal being pregnant, I told the boyfriend to go back home to New Jersey. I was going to figure this out on my own. Two weeks later he left, having no idea I was contemplating abortion, adoption, or motherhood.

I was no longer pro-life, but the if-you-have-an-abortion-you’re-a-murderer mentality of pro-lifers weighed heavy on my decision. When the pro-life voices rattled my brain, I reminded myself I was pregnant with a baby I didn’t want. I could barely afford to take care of myself.

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