CMU students talk history, birth control

What would you be doing right now if you had one or more children? Possibly not attending a four-year university.

You might not even be reading this paper, too busy with things like feeding, bathing and an endless train of dirty diapers.

Since its earliest forms and uses, birth control has helped women to limit the size of their family and thus have rights over their own reproductive system. Although what is commonly known as the pill was not FDA-approved until 1960, women have been using and talking about birth control long before that.

Women’s rights and antislavery advocate Lucy Stone, for example, was pushing for the right for a women's reproductive freedom as early as 1856.

Women like her and Susan B. Anthony, another women’s rights advocate and supporter of birth control, were ahead of their time. A backlash on the discussion of birth control and already declining birth rates resulted in the passage of several laws making it more difficult for women to receive and use birth control and obtain abortions or materials providing information about these practices.

The Comstock Act, passed by Congress in 1873, banned the U.S. mail service from distributing anything deemed to be “obscene” or an “abortion device.”

Many men and women at Central Michigan University stand behind the notion that women need to be provided with this basic necessity.

"I think it is vital for clinics to provide birth control to men and women,” said Allegan senior Rachel McDaniel, president of Voices for Planned Parenthood. “It helps women who want to postpone having children in order to pursue an education or a career.”

Unfortunately, many Planned Parenthood establishments suffer from a lack of funding and support. Some, such as the center in Mount Pleasant, have been forced to shut down. According to LifeNews, Planned Parenthood was forced to also close centers in Grand Rapids and Muskegon due to funding cuts.

While some see this kind of limitation to birth control as a downfall, others have a slightly different view.

Jeff Malinowski said while birth control is extremely useful, it is not something that he feels women physically need in their lives. It is more of an option that some women can choose to take.

“It’s a personal decision,” the Grand Rapids sophomore said. “It shouldn’t be covered by your insurance or anything because it’s not necessary. It’s a luxury.”

Others, such as Samantha Asman, said birth control is necessary for women who wish to control their reproductive lives while still being sexually active.

“I went to Catholic school, so I’ve been told my whole life that birth control is bad,” the Mount Clemens sophomore said. “(But,) I don’t want to be a 19-year-old parent.”

There is a long history of the government and church trying to set limits on how much access women have to contraception and other services, such as abortion. The Comstock Act is merely one example.

Birth control, despite its controversy, has many other uses besides contraception that many young women are taking advantage of today. The pill now has the power to regulate hormones and women's menstrual cycles, as well as help with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which can interfere with daily life.

“It definitely makes PMS easier to handle,” Asman said. “It’s also nice to know exactly when it’s going to happen.”

Students are also interested in the future of birth control and are in favor of any improvements that can be made. McDaniels advocated for more opportunities or options for male birth control.

“There really isn't much out there in the public other than the condom, so it would be great to see hormonal methods or internal barrier methods that allow men to have control over their reproductive potential,” McDaniel said. “It would allow for a third method of birth control, so there's potential for people to be triply protected.”

Asman agreed that, while useful, birth control could stand to be improved on a financial basis.

“I would love it to be cheaper, because it’s something that you have to get every month and take every day,” Asman said. “My birth control costs $20 every time I go.”


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