When it comes to feminism, there's one name (among others, of course) that stands out: Lena Dunham. Never one to mince words, she's become a champion for feminists the world round. Most recently, she penned a rather moving op-ed for the New York Times on the importance of contraception. In case you haven't read the full piece, I've gathered some of the best quotes from Lena Dunham's essay on birth control.
It's an issue that persists, as our culture still has numerous misunderstandings about how contraception works, the number of reasons women take birth control, why Planned Parenthood is so crucial, and let's not forget our current administration — which has decided that safe and affordable access to health care for women isn't all that important. We're aware of plans being made to roll back on the requirement that insurers cover birth control, as well as giving any employer the go-ahead to deny coverage of birth control whenever — and for whatever reason — they so choose.
Dunham is very familiar with these health concerns herself: after 15 years of suffering, she was diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 27. One of the few things that helped her endure these years was oral contraception. She calls out the government for failing to protect women in this country and discusses the scary consequences waiting for us if something doesn't change.
Read on for some of the more memorable snippets from her piece. You can read the full essay here.
"Birth control pills are many women’s method of choice for preventing unintended pregnancy and should be covered by all insurance policies for that reason alone."
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in the U.S. alone, there are 61 million women of childbearing years. Of them, 43 million — or 70 percent — are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant. Birth control, particularly with the help of Planned Parenthood is a quick, accessible, and safe way to stop unwanted pregnancies.
Yet we're putting women in a position where they're damned either way: get pregnant when you shouldn't have? Shame on you. Should've done something to prevent it. Oh! — but wait. That could be birth control, but we're going to make it really hard for you to get it.
"While there is no cure for endometriosis, hormonal contraception can control pain and bleeding by stopping or significantly shortening the length of a woman’s period."
There's a quick fact for people who maybe don't understand what exactly endometriosis is or why contraception is so important. Menstruation sucks in general; it's even harder for women suffering from endometriosis. For these women, the lining of the uterus grows in other places where it shouldn't — like the fallopian tubes or the ovaries. When the lining breaks down and menstruation occurs, it has nowhere to go. The result can mean cysts, abnormally heavy periods, severe pain, and infertility.
Birth control is a lifesaver for women in general. It can regulate your period, making sure it starts on the same day every month; it can make them lighter and shorter; and it can reduce the symptoms so many of us experience, like cramping, bloating, and other side effects of PMS.
Now, imagine how birth control might take the edge off the symptoms of endometriosis. Can you honestly look these women in the eye and say they shouldn't have some relief from their pain?
"Considering how little money the government puts into endometriosis research ... it’s clear that our country already has a dangerous disregard for women with this common condition."
There's this lingering attitude that women should exist only in the background. With a government run mainly by conservative white men, we're being forced to take a backseat as our concerns about health, income, etc. get glossed over. Women make up half of the population; and one in 10 women in the U.S. suffer from endometriosis, sometimes rendering them unable to take care of their families, work, and otherwise function. Shouldn't we care more?
"More women in this country are prescribed oral contraception for medical reasons than for pregnancy prevention."
So much yes. Many birth control naysayers argue that it's just about preventing pregnancy — which then turns into a whole other discussion about the choices women make with what they do with their bodies and who they sleep with and so on. It's about so much more than this. Millions of women will vouch for the pill's many other benefits — like making menstruation a little less miserable. I myself miss being on the pill not so much because it prevented pregnancy, but because it made my periods more bearable.
"Imagine losing these women’s essential contributions to our world because of a treatable illness."
Treatable. You hear that? There is no need for women with endometriosis to suffer horrible pain in silence. There is no need for them to lose all of this time every month to a disease that could be at least a little more under control with the help of oral contraceptives. Taking away birth control — or making it harder to get — is the same thing as saying that you don't care about these women, their health, their happiness. Can you look in the face of the one out of 10 women who suffer and tell them that? I hope not.
"If the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress succeed in stripping funding from Planned Parenthood and giving employers carte blanche to deny women necessary medication under murky notions of moral disdain, all paths to health and wellness will disappear for a huge swath of Americans."
Moral disdain — these words are important. We are still so judgmental toward women for the choices they make when it comes to their own bodies. We are willing to let our own opinions get in the way of women just trying to find some relief for a debilitating condition. We are willing to defund Planned Parenthood and deny affordable and accessible healthcare to millions of women (and men) — many of whom have nowhere else to go — just because they provide one service we don't like (although abortions make up such a tiny fraction of what they do). We are willing to withhold the education, physical exams, STD testing, and other services they offer because we're incapable of seeing past our own thoughts.
"At a time when we have no guarantee of health care or protection from our administration, every woman you love, sick or well, is depending on you. Please do not let us down."
Make no mistake about it: this isn't just an issue for women with endometriosis, or women who take contraceptives, or even... women. It's everybody's issue. It's the reason we say that feminism is for everyone — men and women. You are part of the problem and part of the solution. No one is excluded from these matters, because everyone has a voice, and every voice counts. If you don't, in some way, stand up for what's right, you comply with what's wrong.