The War on Women: Personhood and Birth Control

The War on Women: Personhood and Birth Control

By: Amanda K. Fox

When discussions concerning the War on women arise, the first thing most people think of is abortion. A real and pressing concern in it all, however, is contraception. As misunderstood as personhood laws are regarding abortion, they are potentially even more misunderstood regarding birth control. We’ll save what this means for IVF for another day.


Pilule contraceptive by Ceridwen

The argument that keeps coming up in response to legislation which would outlaw some forms of contraception is that too many people don’t understand what they are reading or are guessing at what the legalese means. Most commonly, I hear “The government shouldn’t be funding birth control.” If that was what personhood legislation regarding birth control was about, it would be a valid point. The problem is that it is not really about that.

As you read through the mess that is  personhood legislation, you quickly begin to realize that the language used regarding birth control is very explicit in terms of what forms of contraception would be banned. If you use the pill, Ortho Evra, Depo-Provera, Implanon or neplanon, NuvaRing or any form of birth control which hormonally or chemically cotrols ovulation or the ability to conceive, you’re out of luck. Those would all be illegal. Condoms, spermicidal gels and foam would all be legal though.


As Rachel Maddow pointed out in her February 2012 Washington Post column “War on Birth Control”:
“. . . personhood” for a different reason — legally redefining a “person” would not only criminalize all abortion but would probably outlaw hormonal forms of birth control as well. Hormonal contraceptives generally prevent an egg from being fertilized in the first place, but the at-least-theoretical possibility that they might also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus was enough to raise the specter of birth control pills being viewed as an instrument of homicide.”

Since that column went to press, the concept of birth control pills being an “instrument of homicide” only became firmer in the minds of the conservative right and expanded to more forms. Birth control is very much at risk depending upon who takes control politically. Still, many people, primarily men because they tend to be less acquainted with the variety of female contraception, don’t believe there is any risk of women losing the right to choose contraception.

In a recent conversation on our Facebook page, we received some interesting feedback about the issue of birth control being in danger.  RS of New Mexico said: “Contraception is at risk? What a load. Back that up with facts.” When supplied facts, RS disappeared from the conversation.


VM of Boca Raton, Florida, stated: “. . . her point remains valid- unless, of course, your prioritize federally-subsidized contraception ahead of your job and your family.” VM tried using misdirection to make it an issue of governmental financial support for contraception somewhat subtly alluding to the women in the thread being more concerned with risk free sex than their family or career.

These are both examples which reflect what we found after scouring several discussions online prior to our audience getting involved in the discussion. Too many people do not understand what personhood means and how many forms of birth control work. In simplest terms, personhood endows the ova with civil rights whether it is fertilized or not. It is, legally, a person. Any form of birth control that stops the ova from implanting on the uterine wall would be considered a lethal weapon – it is killing a legally defined person. The same goes for any birth control that prevents an ova from properly releasing of being fertilized.

The sad thing about all of this is twofold. The full array of reproductive rights available to women is in danger and too many people are too wrapped up in misdirection to realize it or just don’t care. If you think there isn’t a concerted movement to outlaw the bulk of a woman’s birth control options, refer to the demonstrations littered with protestors holding signs reading “The Pill Kills” on the anniversary of Grsiwold v. Connecticut and that Romney and Ryan have pledged to pursue personhood at the federal level if elected.

If this still seems too fanciful to be real for and fails to terrify you, you either don’t have a uterus or you still don’t get the point. Birth control is not a political cudgel, or at least it shouldn’t be. Rather, it is one of the most basic forms of control a woman can exert over her body and life.

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