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Birth Control Is Health Care, For the Record

As you may have heard, there’s an ongoing disagreement between Republicans and Democrats in Washington over our nation’s health care. Most Republicans want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the cornerstone legislative achievement of Obama’s presidency; meanwhile Democrats want to hang onto it. A particularly contentious point is women’s health care, which seems to be especially under attack by Republicans. One of the ways in which this attack has manifested is in the suggested elimination of thecontraceptive mandate: The ACA provision that guarantees that all insurance plans cover all FDA-approved forms of prescription contraception —  from IUDs to hormonal birth control pills and everything in between — with zero co-pay.

In addition to the potential elimination of birth control without co-pay, the revised health care plan also bars federal funding for one-year minimum from Planned Parenthood, whichserves at least half of the women who rely on publicly funded contraception in 332 counties in the U.S. In 103 of those counties, Planned Parenthood serves all of the women who rely on publicly-funded contraception. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood served 36 percent of all Americans accessing publicly-funded contraception last year, even while Planned Parenthood health centers accounted for just 10 percent of all publicly funded family planning clinics.

That is all a long way of saying that when right-wing radio host Stefan Molyneux tweeted earlier this week that “BIRTH CONTROL IS NOT HEALTH CARE,” the Internet stepped up to tell him how totally wrong he was.

Immediately, people on Twitter had something to say in response, including Food and Wine editor and writer Maria Yagoda, who explained to Molyneux, and others, why the idea that birth control is not health care is so very wrong:

Just last week, Yagoda wrote an article for Racked about her experience with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormone disorder frequently treated with, yes, birth control.

“It’s patently absurd to say that birth control isn’t health care,” Kaylie Hanson Long, National Communications Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, tells Yahoo Beauty. “The vast majority of women — women of all religious backgrounds, partisan leanings, races, and ethnicities — have used a method of birth control at some point in their lives. These millions of women take birth control for a variety of reasons, whether they want to control whether, when, and with whom they start or grow their families, ease the symptoms of endometriosis, prevent ovarian cysts and cancer, or have less painful periods. Maybe this guy should spend less time tweeting and more time reading up on the facts about women’s health care.”

Plenty of other people weighed in on Twitter about the ways in which birth control can be used to treat and manage a variety of health conditions:

Women use birth control pills to manage cysts, endometriosis, and excessive bleeding that can cause anemia. It’s not all about pregnancy. https://t.co/1kX7OR6gUc

“Contraception is absolutely part of health care,” Dr. Jonah Fleisher, an ob/gyn in New York and a fellow of Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Yahoo Beauty. “As an ob/gyn, I can tell you that it is one of the most important components of health care for reproductive-age women. Many of my patients use contraception for medical conditions like endometriosis, painful menstruation, abnormal uterine bleeding, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, just to name a few. For some women, contraception is used to prevent cancer. How is that not health care?”

While of course birth control isn’t always about pregnancy, birth control used solely to prevent pregnancy is no less worthy of being qualified as health care; especially given thatnearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. In 2010, the U.S. spent $21 billion on costs associated with unplanned pregnancies.

“When couples use contraception to prevent pregnancy, it’s health care too — just as much as when couples use treatments to help them conceive. Gynecologic health care includes the full spectrum of managing fertility to help women and families achieve their particular reproductive goals,” Fleisher says.

“The ability to decide when, whether, and under what circumstances to become a parent is an integral part of health care. When women are able to prepare for pregnancy, including having time to get chronic medical problems under control or finish their educations, both mom and baby have a better chance at achieving the healthiest possible outcomes. Birth control is the very definition of preventive health care,” echoes Dr. Carrie Pierce, a family medicine physician from Oregon and a fellow of Physicians for Reproductive Health.

There are countless other ways that birth control is used — including preventing a fetus from exposure to chemotherapy, postponing pregnancy while at risk for viruses such as Zika, and so many more. Aside from all of that, letting women control just when and if they choose to become pregnant is obviously health care too — it’s giving a woman control over her own body, her own well-being, her own future. Allure’s digital wellness editor, Hayley MacMillen, might have said it best:

Stefan Molyneux, we hope you are listening.

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