How ‘Personhood’ Would Severely Reduce Your Birth Control Options

Personhood is a hotly debated topic in this year’s Republican Presidential Primary. Well actually, it’s hotly debated in the rest of the country, especially those of us with a uterus. The politicians in this year’s election circuit are oddly united when it comes to life beginning at conception. Every Republican nominee has either verbally endorsed personhood or signed a written pledge promising to respect it’s position. This argument has been framed as an abortion debate, but it’s so much more than that. Personhood would limit IVF treatments or outlaw them altogether, and it would severely reduce the birth control options available to the American public. Personally, I find this possibility completely terrifying.

While writing about my support of birth control and a woman’s choice to decide what reproductive health options suit her best, there was a lot of debate about the actual effects of Personhood on contraceptives. Even though some politicians, such as Rick Santorum, have openly spoken about the “dangers of contraception in this country,” and even though Personhood Colorado’s talking points specifically list all hormonal forms of birth control as being effectively illegal under the movement’s proposal, some of us simply don’t recognize this as a threat. In fact, the very first comment on my piece was, “Get over yourself. No one is taking your birth control away.”

That’s just the type of indifference that makes seemingly impossible debates such as this so dangerous. No one believes that birth control is actually under attack. And yet, Personhood will again be voted on in Colorado, and possibly Nevada, Arkansas and Ohio. And if a Republican wins the White House, they’ve pledged to support this cause.

So the best thing for us to do is learn up on birth control, what it does and what exactly Personhood is fighting against. So using some help from Planned Parenthood, to get precise descriptions on the various forms of birth control, how they work and how effective they are, here’s how Personhood would change your reproductive health options. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this extremely conservative political push would drastically reduce women’s choices. And it’s something worth paying attention to.

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  • Amy

    Thanks for the info Lindsay, I’m going to have to look into this ‘Personhood’ rubbish a bit more. I mentioned in my comment in your other article that I’m Canadian, so this doesn’t specifically effect me, but I’m still appalled that this movement exists and is gaining traction.

    It’s just so hard to believe that anyone can justify forcing women who don’t want children to have them and then turning around and denying medical technology to women who do want children but can’t. Deplorable.

    This kind of forceful religious based tyranny is what I always thought the United States comdemned (at least when it occurs in other countries). Thanks for initiating this debate and hopefully more people in your country will step up and tell your government to stuff it.

    • Amy

      Okay, I did a few cursory searches and it appears that the vast majority of Americans think Santorum et al are lunatic douche canoes. I’m not as worried about your futures anymore, carry on!

  • NotThumper

    Add this to my long list of reasons why I hate religion…

  • CW

    Shame on you for providing false information on the effectiveness of modern NFP. It has a failure rate of ONE percent when used correctly, not 24%. Modern NFP is easy to use and effective even for women who have irregular cycles (unlike the old-fashioned calendar-based Rhythm method).

    Also, where is the information on the diaphragm and the cervical cap? Those are 94% and 86% effective, respectively.

    Even if chemical abortifacient forms of birth control were banned totally (unlikely in this political climate), there would still be numerous choices available to women for effective family planning.

    • Lindsay Cross

      If you don’t believe Planned Parenthood’s estimates, the American Pregnancy Association says typical use of NFP has a 25% failure right.

      It also is the only option that would make couples abstain from sex during specific sections of the fertility cycle. It’s the likely form of birth control to be used improperly, given these restrictions. And it takes much more effort to track and investigate your own ovulation cycle than to take a pill every morning.

    • Jen

      Actually, Lindsay’s numbers are accurate based on fact instead of wishful thinking.

    • 1st-Time Mommy

      I’m an evangelical Christian and, as a member of that culture, I know quite a few couples who used NFP early in their pregnancies when they didn’t want children. I can think of only one case when it didn’t fail, and that was because the wife was determined to have contributory fertility issues.

      Also, what about the women who have to take birth control pills for health reasons? Like my poor baby sister who, although she wasn’t sexually active, had to go on bc pills at age 14 to treat the massive ovarian cysts that constantly ruptured on her, causing uncontrollable pain and bleeding. Her pediatrician had to write the prescription.

      How about people who WANT to use NFP use it, and stay out of everyone else’s uteruses?

    • Jen

      And, CW, you are 100% incorrect both in your choice of terminology–again, the anti-choice MUST use loaded terms because they have nothing of substance to say–and in your assertion that there are plenty of safe options for women. Hormonal BC (and non-hormonal IUDs which were not mentioned in this piece) are MUCH safer options for women who do not wish to get pregnant. Every scientific study that hasn’t been based on prayer and lies supports these facts.

      I’m actually thankful for the Personhood Amendment. It exposes the anti-choice movements true endgame: total control of female bodies. Thankfully these wackadoos might be loud, but they are also liars.

    • Nebrakadesra

      @1st Time Mommy- I’m right there with your little sister. I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 16 and had to be put on birth control in order to control the size and quantity of the cysts. I’m 26 now and I’m looking forward to being a mom, but birth control is the only thing that is allowing me to keep my body healthy enough to even CONCEIVE (I believe my ob/gyn guesstimated my miscarriage rate at 75% if I was to get pregnant without the help of meds like BC and Metformin). Some of these women (coughCWcough) are so entirely misinformed it’s sad.

    • Zazz

      How many people use NFP correctly? I have tried to start doing it and failed many times. Not everyone can get into the habit of doing it and keeping to the schedule. I’d rather take my pills.

  • Sheryl

    People just do not seem to realize it, but ‎”If a fertilized egg has constitutional rights, women cannot have equal rights with men.” Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 14 Nov 2011, in an article entitled, “The Politics of Planned Parenthood and Women’s Rights”.

    • Jen

      EXACTLY! The endgame of the anti-choice movement is and has always been total control of the female body. I also think it is useful to point out that this movement is not only attempting to take women’s autonomy away it’s also heavily reliant on the idea that women are incapable of making decisions for themselves and need the guiding hand of the patriarchy to make the “right” choice for them.

  • Cee

    Women’s rights…gay rights..Republicans just like to take rights away from anyone that is not like them.

  • Amber

    While I am actively trying not to get pregnant, the main reason I am on birth control is for medical reasons. I have been on the pill for most of my life for these reasons and so far it is doing it’s job. Not taking the pill could put me at a huge risk for medical problems and could end up in expensive, painful medical procedures. I’d rather take the pill, thanks.

  • Janet

    Nice article. Please check out my articles about birth control.

  • Somnilee

    I’m just hypothetically wondering (as “personhood bills” is one of the reasons I’ve suggested to my partner for not moving to the USA), if you personhood bills were passed, and if you already had a hormonal contraceptive like the implant fitted, would you be forced to remove it upon immigration?

    • Lindsay Cross

      @Somnilee I wish I had an answer for your question. I think that situations like your’s are the reason that these laws have been written in such vague terms. The idea of making someone remove a birth control implant seems insane. But technically they would be illegal because they would possibly prevent a fertilized embryo from implanting. I have no idea how situations like your’s would be affected, but I think the lack of clarity around these laws makes them even more dangerous.

  • ol cranky

    Sadly, the argument of the antichoicers (in redefining contraception as abortion) is that the second the sperm penetrates the zona pellucida and a zygote forms, that single celled zygote is a human being because it’s DNA is not identical to that of the mother. Based on that assertion, all products of conception are, in fact, a human being and any action taken not to nurture that “baby” is tantamount to murder. Look up gestational trophoblastic disease and tell me that conception and implantation always generates a baby. It is morally reprehensible that people knowingly and willing disregard and misrepresent information on medications, pregnancy & human embryonic/fetal development to fulfill some sick power trip and political purpose.

  • Dawn

    I think the anti-choice/anti-women’s rights assholes (read: Republicans) use such disgusting terms to scare everyone into their way of thinking. By calling women who go through abortions, “baby killers” is absolutely disgusting. Until you have personally gone through that situation, you have no idea what you would do. I went through it when I was only 20 because I was in an abusive relationship with a man who threatened to kill me if I didnt have one. No one is pro-abortion. No one wakes up and says “You know what? I think I’ll run to the grocery, the DMV and maybe get that abortion today.” It is the hardest thing that a woman ever has to go through. How dare these piece of shit politicians condemn women like me when those MEN have no idea what we go through. It is my understanding that most contraceptives actually prevent the egg from even being released. So their logic that birth control is actually chemical abortion is, in fact, wrong. If the egg is not even released, how can it be fertilized? The natural family planning idea is the worst idea yet. How many women will get pregnant because they have no idea how their cycle works? I know of one 32 year old who thought that she couldnt get pregnant if she did it standing up! Who will pay to take care of those babies? I have said for a while now that Santorum is dumber than the Kardashians and his Christian extremist ideas will be the death of this country. If he wants control of my uterus, then I want control of his tiny little penis.

    • Teresa

      Dawn, I’m sorry for the situation you were in, but let’s examine your logic here. The logical end of your argument is that we should fight for women’s rights to dismember our children in utero or otherwise sterilize ourselves so that we can continue being used as whores by men who don’t respect us. Did you know that when the Pill was being developed there were two being tested? One for men, one for women. Some of the men experience some shrinkage. Three women died, but it was the women’s Pill that was adopted and is now championed as the panacea to oppression of women.

      Ghandi said that contraception is just one more way for men to use women.

      Now, you need to do some more research about the Pill: the reason “personhood” could threaten its usage is because it DOESN’T always prevent ovulation. It’s estimated that between 1/12 and 1/2 of the time (depending on the dosage), ovulation happens anyway. That’s why the Pill also works to thin the uterine lining, preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. So a couple times a year, you may be having a very early abortion. That’s why it’s called an “abortifacient”.

      You’re right that most women have no idea how their cycle works. That’s sad, isn’t it? The logical end of your argument here is that women are too dumb to be aware of their fertility and should just pop a Pill that causes our bodies to work incorrectly instead. Mother Teresa taught hundreds of impoverished, illiterate Indian women to use NFP, with a success rate of over 99% (looks this up in the British Medical Journal, 1993 I think). It’s free, it’s organic, and it has the added benefit of being a litmus test for anyone wanting to have sex with you: if he doesn’t respect your fertility, he ain’t gettin’ none o’ this. I’ve used it for over five years and it works great.

    • Zazz

      Cells…they’re not humans…or else it would be illegal to remove cancer from your body. Yes, there should be a pill for men. But, there should also be a pill for women. We provide birth control for people in other countries but it’s wrong here? What?! I can tell you this, without a single ounce of guilt, if I were to become pregnant (by my husband, while on the pill AND using spermicide) I would have an abortion. I have a son and step daughter right now who need my husband and I to graduate college so they can have good lives. They don’t need a family who is so impoverished they can’t keep the lights on, but not impoverished enough to get government help.
      Yes, we got a cut off notice for our electricity last week, but we make just enough to not be eligible for any government assistance at all. Despite having part of our roof caved in from hurricane Sandy (guess who will have a hole in their roof until they get the couple hundred it’s going to take to repair it?).
      Is ‘just enough’ enough to raise a happy and healthy child? No.

    • Surly Canuck

      For a rebuttal of the pill as “abortifacient” please read:

      The following quote is pretty on point:

      The anti-birth control crowd leaves out one very important fact: a woman’s body naturally rejects at least 18% of fertilized eggs. This means that if you have unprotected sex that leads to the fertilization of an egg (30% chance of successful fertilization), the resulting zygote has an 18% chance of being rejected by the uterus. The human body naturally performs “abortions” almost 20% of the time. So does taking birth control actually increase the chances of zygote abortion, or does birth control actually reduce the chances of this occurring? Let’s do the math.

      Without Birth Control:

      Out of 100 fertile women without birth control, 100 of them will ovulate in
      any given month.

      Out of those 100 released eggs, 33 will become fertilized.

      Out of those 33, 18% will be rejected by the uterus.

      In a group of 100 women not
      on birth control: 6 zygotes will “die”

      With Birth Control:

      Out of 100 fertile women on birth control, around 6 of them will ovulate in
      any given month.

      Out of those 6 released eggs, only 2 will become fertilized.

      Out of those 2, 100% will be rejected by the uterus.

      In a group of 100 women on birth control: 2 zygotes will

      So let’s get this straight, taking birth control makes a woman’s body LESS likely to dispel fertilized eggs. If you believe that life begins at conception, shouldn’t it be your moral duty to reduce the number of zygote “abortions?” If you believe that a zygote is a human, you actually kill more babies by refusing to take birth control.

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  • Teresa

    I’m a 29 year old woman, have used NFP for five years, only gotten pregnant when I wanted to. I’m not a Republican. I don’t use NFP for religious reasons. I’m a member of Phi Beta Kappa, so not a moron.

    Now, can someone please explain to me why persisting in ignorance is part of the fight for women’s rights? It seems you wish to deny personhood to persons who actually warrant that status (not talking about trophoblastic disease because most of you are talking about actually viable fertilized eggs and your “right” to destroy them).

    How does killing our children empower us as women?

    Isn’t it more empowering to actually educate ourselves about our cycles (Lindsay, do you think women aren’t smart enough or responsible enough to do this?) and then NOT sleep with someone who doesn’t respect it?

    Also, before you cite Planned Parenthood as the authority on women’s health, visit the website of the Better Business Bureau and browse the complaints lodged against PP sites all over the country.

    Modern NFP (when used correctly, which I hope you trust women are smart enough to do) is more than 99% effective (sympto-thermal method is what I’m citing). You can’t get pregnant when you’re not fertile. Ta-daaa! Actual science!

    Although, given the ethos of hatred and willful ignorance demonstrated by most of your comments, maybe it’s better if you people DIDN’T have babies. :) If your babies aren’t safe in your wombs, they probably wouldn’t be safe in your hands either.

    • Miranda Smith

      Just being in a college group, regardless of reputation, doesn’t mean you aren’t a moron. For that matter saying that you belong to said group on the internet doesn’t make it true either.

      Regardless of that… what right do you think you have to make decisions for anyone besides yourself? You use NFP… good for you. :: golf clap :: You ever consider that that might not work for everyone? Maybe I some of us want to have sex more often, Maybe some of us don’t want to schedule our intimacy. And yes… maybe some of us AREN’T smart enough to do the math.

      But so what … that is what the choice is all about… the CHOICE to find our own methods and live our own lives and NOT hand over our fates to the government and people like you with your noses in the air and no concern at all for what happens next.

      And for the record I have two beautiful children that I WANTED and planned parenthood helped make the timing just right thanks to low cost birth control early in my marriage.

  • Teresa

    Hmmm, who else in history has wished to deny personhood to others for their own convenience? Oh yes, Nazis claimed Jews were subhuman. Oh yes, the Confederate States claimed slaves were subhuman . Oh yes, imperialist conquerers claimed indigenous peoples were not really human (Australian aborigines were classified as fauna into the 1960s; white settlers regarded Native Americans as “savages”, etc.).

    Let’s examine the analogy to slavery:
    Confederate States denied the personhood of Africans and African-Americans.
    You deny the personhood of the zygote, the proper name for “fertilized egg”, the single-celled, distinct organism formed at conception.

    Confederate States claimed slavery is about “states’ rights”
    You claim that abortion and use of abortifacient methods of birth control are “women’s rights”.

    Confederate States claimed that slaves are the property of their owners and no one can infringe on what one does with one’s own property.
    You claim that zygotes are essentially the property of their mothers, or in some strange anti-scientific arguments, equal to the bodies of their mothers (the whole” it’s my body, it’s my uterus” argument) and that mothers are the sole determiners of what happens to them.

    People bought into the arguments for slavery until they were educated as to what the practice of slavery actual entailed in most cases (remember those pictures in our history books of the packed slave ship? Read Uncle Tom’s Cabin?)
    Women buy into the rhetoric of “reproductive rights”, until they see their babies on sonograms, or see pictures of dismembered fetal remains (I believe this is grisly and shouldn’t be shown to children, let me just say this before someone throws that red herring), or are plagued by nightmares after having an abortion, or realize that contraception is really just enslaving us to men.

    Seriously ladies, let’s think about it. What are you really fighting for?

    • Chinchilla

      I have so many things to say to this comment of yours…

      First off: I’m Jewish, my great-grandmother was murdered in the Holocaust, and I am DEEPLY offended that you are trying to equate something as safe and mundane as an abortion to the living hell of a genocide. How dare you. You disgust me.

      A fetus or a zygote is nothing more than a parasite. Whatever emotions you attach to it are yours and yours alone. Regardless of what it grows up to be, when abortions are legal the fetus has no brain waves, it’s nervous system hasn’t even fully connected.

      So scientifically speaking, everything you’re saying is wrong.

      Stop being a pseudo-feminist. It’s giving women a bad name.

    • Scarlette

      Pseudo feminist is even beyond insulting. Bravo on calling her out.

    • Miranda Smith

      Now this time you sound like a man…. seriously, the writing style of a man… paid blogger much?

    • Zazz

      You watched that ’180 movie’ didn’t you? WOMEN are NOT subhumans, and have MORE RIGHTS THAN A THING THAT WILL IMMEDIATELY DIE UPON REMOVAL. We are NOT incubators! Maybe YOU like to think of yourself as a baby producing machine, but I have always considered myself more than that. Furthermore, a NON ATTACHED zygote is NOT A PREGNANCY.

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  • Amber

    My partner and I have been considering moving back to the States. If this bill passes the first thing I will do is have the longest lasting coil fitted, assuming I would even want to still live in such a country. Luckily, where I now live all contraceptives are not only legal, but free.

    • Miranda Smith

      meh… it won’t pass. Most rational people do not believe in this “personhood” garbage.

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