The Facts About Women’s Health

MYTH: Birth control is readily available everywhere in America, and prescriptions are handed out to anyone who asks. Women have plenty of access to information and to birth control, so we should not have that many unplanned pregnancies anymore.

FACT: Despite various women’s health products and services being perfectly legal – such as basic birth control pills – some health care professionals from doctors to pharmacists are refusing to provide those services. Most of them cite their own religious beliefs as reasons for not condoning the use of birth control, and thus not providing birth control – despite a legal prescription from a medical professional.

This blanket refusal to follow the law puts many women’s lives in jeopardy, especially those in low-income or rural neighborhoods where they do not have the option of just walking down the street to another provider. In addition, birth control has additional, legitimate medical uses beyond preventing pregnancies.

Moreover, birth control prescriptions are not handed out to anyone who asks. Like any other controlled substance, health professionals have to make sure that the woman has no contraindications to taking the drug, understands its uses and side effects, and that the drug addresses her health concerns.

Women’s health is a health issue – not a moral issue.  Women can – and do – die from reproductive health disorders, many of which can be treated by birth control. There is no reason to treat the female reproductive system with any less care than we treat the cardiovascular system, the neurological system, the male prostate or any other bodily system.

I can give you dozens of health reasons that a woman would need hormonal birth control pills, from alleviating heavy periods to establishing a cycle for women who continue to bleed for long periods of time, depleting their bodies of iron. If privacy laws protect our medical information, then we should not have to justify why we want to use a legal medication for an approved medical use.

MYTH: Women who have abortions face greater health risks throughout their lives, including increased incidence of breast cancer. Even women who take birth control face increased risks of disease such as breast cancer.

FACT: Simply put, abortion has no impact on breast cancer rates. In addition, birth control pills on the market today, do not increase the risk of breast cancer. Birth control pills can actually reduce the risk of certain gynecological cancers including ovarian cancer. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (OB/GYNs) and other medical organizations continue to confirm these findings.

In fact, the risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications dwarfs the risk of dying from complications of oral contraceptives, or abortion. In fact, first trimester abortion is the safest medical procedure performed today.

These misconceptions are great examples of how misinformation about reproductive health can harm women. If we want to keep more women and children alive and healthy, we need to allow them to work with their partners to plan their families based on their individual healthcare needs.

MYTH: Women who have abortions suffer from mental health issues, such as depression, and usually regret their decision.

FACT: Extensive research shows that women who have terminated unwanted pregnancies do not suffer adverse psychological effects. The American Psychological Association supports these study results. Even C. Everett Koop, an early pro-life activist and U.S. Surgeon General under President Ronald Reagan, said that adverse emotional effects from abortion are “miniscule.”

Among that “minuscule” amount are women who want children, but must have medically necessary abortions, and those women who suffered from mental health issues prior to the pregnancy.

MYTH: The United States is based on religious freedom, and most religions are opposed to birth control. Therefore, most American taxpayers do not want to see their money used to support something they are whole-heartedly against.

FACT: Much of the opposition in the United States to birth control in general, and abortion specifically, is a modern-day phenomenon – beginning in the late 1970s/early 1980s. More importantly today, the private behaviors of Americans are in stark contrast to that public outrage we see in the media.

The respected Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that almost all U.S. women –over 99-percent, regardless of religious affiliation – use or have used contraception in their lifetimes. Yet various polls from Gallup to The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion show that 85 percent of Americans consider themselves religious and 20-40 percent regularly attend religious services. So it is easy to see that there are a great number of religious Americans using birth control.

Another recent study of 10,000 women who were undergoing abortion found that Catholic women have an abortion rate that is 29 percent higher than Protestant women, and that one in five women having abortions are born-again or Evangelical Christians. Again, proof that public outrage does not always translate into private behaviors.

In addition, the data show that parents tend to shun their anti-abortion views in favor of the welfare of their children, especially their daughters. One study in particular found that Members of Congress who have daughters tend to vote more liberally on reproductive rights. In fact, the more daughters a Member of Congress has, the more likely he is to vote for reproductive rights.

MYTH: This issue is too big, and the people are both sides are too entrenched. I wish I could help, but there is nothing I can do.

FACT: You have several ways you can help turn women’s health back into a health issue, and prevent it from staying a political pawn. Here are just a few:

  • Get Informed – Read A Woman’s Right to Know and educate yourself on the real history of women’s health. You will be better equipped to help people who are “on the fence” to understand the real issue at hand – not abortion, but women’s health. Once you do, you can spread the word to friends and colleagues.
  • Spread the Word – Tell your friends about this book and share it with women’s groups. You can empower others to take action and connect with others who have the resources and connections to influence public policy.
  • Volunteer – Your time or money are precious resources for any organization helping women and children lead healthier lives. You can donate your time at a variety of ways, depending on the level of involvement you prefer. You can volunteer your time at a local health clinic, your place of worship or local schools. If you don’t have that much time, there are lots of great organizations that could use even the smallest donations.