Birth Control – Societal Issue or Individual Responsibility?

Birth Control methods have dated back to the 1700's. Since the beginning of man, women have been seen mainly as child-bearers and caregivers. The main purpose of a woman was to give a man a child and then nurture her family. In many countries, women were not allowed to work or get an education. Today, women can vote, go to school for as long as they live, and have successful careers. Some would say this is the result of a little pill we know as the birth control pill.

One tiny tablet, taken once a day. This routine is followed by as many as 80 million women worldwide to prevent pregnancy. When it first came into the market in the 50's and 60's, feminists hailed it as a medical breakthrough, while the Pope claimed its use as immoral. Its significance would be most profound in the 20th century, as it became the most effective and leading form of contraception used by women in North America.

Today, women have the advantage of modern medicine to help them plan their lives. The pill has given us control over our reproduction cycle, which in turn has opened up opportunities in careers, education, and other life goals we would not be capable of reaching if we were pregnant or raising a child. This liberating era sparked world economics by driving many woman-based industries and by impacting the world’s societal view of what exactly a woman's role is.

Although there are many societal issues revolving around the use of birth control, religion has the loudest voice. In America, there was a case where a young teenage girl went to a local Wal-Mart to fill her birth control pill prescription. The man behind the counter refused to fill her order, and — furthermore - did not refer her to another pharmacy or even transfer her prescription. Whether he thinks it is right for a young girl to be on birth control should not affect her right to receive fair service.

Some would agree that easy access to birth control increases promiscuous behavior and also might make women less careful when choosing a sexual partner. Some would even go as far as saying that teaching sexual education to minors encourages sexual behavior. A University of Virginia assistant professor of sociology, W. Bradford Wilcox, published an article claiming that birth control is responsible for an increase in divorce and illegitimate children because it decreased the incentive to marry and created an environment where premarital sex became the norm.

Regardless, for many women the risks outweigh the benefits. Whether a barrier method (condoms, diaphragm, cervical sponge, spermicide) is used, or other forms, including the pill, patch, vaginal ring, or injections (which tricks your body into thinking you are already pregnant) are used, women have a choice in family planning. The widespread use of birth control has decreased the number of unsafe abortions and the spread of STD's. It has also allowed better spacing of birth,s resulting in healthier mothers who are more likely to carry healthy children - thus decreasing the rate of infant mortality and anemia in pregnant mothers.

Smokers over the age of 35 should not take the pill, as they are 10 times more likely to have a heart attack than women who do neither. Other risks include breast cancer and cervical cancer. Chances of getting pregnant after you've been on the pill for an extended period of time is decreased until your body gets used to the lack of hormones.

Using birth control should be a decision only YOU should make. Whether it’s right for you, and - if so - what method to use should be discussed with your partner before intercourse, whether you are promiscuous or monogamous. As women, we have a responsibility over our bodies. We have been given the ability to procreate and in understanding this ability we cannot take advantage of this medical breakthrough and be careless in our sexual habits and relationships.