Sex and gender at work, in bed, and on the street

Over the counter contraception, and the men who argue about it

February 18, 2011 - 12:15 PM
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On Tuesday, D.C. Councilmember David Catania introduced legislation that would allow District women to obtain birth control pills over the counter without a doctor's prescription. Catania argues that the legislation would increase reproductive health choices for low-income women, who often face financial and logistical barriers to accessing timely doctor's appointments. Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander has emerged as the main opponent of Catania's bill. "I'm going to do whatever it takes that this legislation will not see the light of day," Alexander told NewsChannel 8's Phil Stewart this week, adding: "Would Mr. Catania have a female loved one, someone close to him take a prescribed medication without consulting their doctor? That's the question he needs to ask himself."

Identity politics alert: Alexander is a straight woman! Catania is a gay man! What implications could these personal details possibly have on District policymaking? Enter Twitter:

I agree with Alexander that District women should absolutely have their voices heard on this issue. But I reject the idea that D.C. men have no stake in this legislation. Plenty of District men—and D.C. taxpayers in general—have a personal, financial, and social investment in preventing unplanned pregnancies and protecting women's health. And with men greatly outnumbering women in the D.C. council, women need men who actually care about the issues that affect us the most. We should be encouraging men to be invested in these discussions, not pushing them away.

Of course, that doesn't mean that every man has a terrible amount of insight into this issue—I'm still trying to figure out how Mark Stevens thinks birth control actually works, and how it may relate to the huffing of glue. But the same goes for the councilwoman. One woman with personal birth control experience should not presume to speak for all of us.



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  1. Sheena Morgan Sheena Morgan

    Sheena Morgan

    Feb 18, 2011 - 12:49:21 PM

    THe problem is that making BC over the counter removes the ability for healthcare providers to offer the education to the consumer about how to use them and the risks associated with them for women who smoke ectera.. also there aremany types of pills, and certian pills are geared toward certian types of problems. the answer is not to make the pill itself easier to access.. its to make womens health initatives easier to access so women get MORE education about their health and the options that are available. Not less information... I would'nt do it.. I dont think any liscenced womens healthcare provider would back it either.. Theres a reason you need to see a doc... Planned Parenthood will administer without an exam.. but you still have to have a consultation.. Make the consultations more affordable and easier to access.. Thats the answer.. If men want to participate in the birth control discussion.. thats fine.. they have their own options.. they can get fixed too.. there are male hormonal shots and surgical options .... they do not need to exercise their opinions over the choices of women either..

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  2. Kate1 Kate1

    Kate Ley

    Feb 23, 2011 - 11:29:22 AM

    However, I do agree with Amanda that (1) men do have an interest in women's access to safe, affordable reproductive health care, and (2) women should not be discouraging men who take an interest in these issues. Sure, they don't have personal experience, but it's not like every woman has personal experience of all the issues that face women. Personal experience may be relevant, but it's not the be-all-end-all, and I don't see a lot of value in reinforcing identity politics instead of forging connections and fostering compassion.

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  3. Kate1 Kate1

    Kate Ley

    Feb 23, 2011 - 11:24:02 AM

    I agree--when I was first prescribed the pill, I had a long conversation with my doctor about contraindicated drugs, possible side effects, things that might decrease the effectiveness of the pill, and the importance of not smoking while on the pill. I have also had to switch types a few times. Also, you are supposed to have a gynecological exam before starting the pill to ensure that you are not already pregnant and that there are no other conditions that might affect the safety or effectiveness of the pill. While the pill is generally safe and well-tolerated, it's a drug that is often taken long-term and that can have serious side effects. It's not the kind of drug that I think should be handed out over the counter. A pharmacist may be a trained professional, but they are not trained gynecologists.

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