The Quest for Contraception and the Plight of the Inbetweener

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When you read about what women did in ancient Greece and Rome to ward off unwanted pregnancies, you’re tempted to do a full-on spit-take! I mean, our doomed sisters had to rely on wild dances and fancy amulets to keep sperm out of the egg’s personal space.

Ever wonder how that worked out for them?

Well, we women of today also face so many nightmarish birth control options – all sorts of pills and devices that could kill us – that the ancient one of crossing your fingers as you open your legs actually sounds like a refreshing idea.

So is it really preposterous for us to want safe and affordable contraception? Is it too much to ask that a woman be able to avoid the dilemma aborting a fetus or not by safely and affordably not getting pregnant at all? Not all of us pine away to be like that ideal reality show rabbit – AHEM! I mean multi-mother – Michelle Duggar.

The struggle for reasonable contraception only gets worse for “Inbetweeners”: that growing segment of women who fall between the cracks of “too poor” and “earns too much income to qualify for…” Inbetweeners defy many stereotypes: they can be married, single, or divorced, childless or not. They can be women who’ve been thrown for a loop yet not knocked down, by huge financial setbacks like divorce, loss of home, death of a spouse, personal illness, depression and/or job loss. Inbetweeners often don’t appear “needy” in appearance or attitude though they are.

You can think of Inbetweeners as the Indiana Joneses looking for what I’ll call The Holy Grail of Contraception. Sure, their jobs might not entail surviving fire pits or jumping over piles of writhing snakes; but they toil long hours for minimum wage and have no affordable health insurance.

This propels them to the doors of Planned Parenthood, where they hope to find some contraceptive security. But Planned Parenthood has it’s own struggles. Often Planned Parenthood is at the mercy of the companies and programs that supply its contraceptives and arbitrarily change their prices. That means countless women suddenly and inexplicably get kicked off programs that have supply reduced cost birth control, leaving these Inbetweeners in the dust because they’re sorely stretched to pay the staggering full price on just a one month’s supply of birth control.  And Planned Parenthood staffers, no matter how sympathetic, can only shrug and say “I’m sorry.”

And Ms. Inbetweener can dream on about the possibility of getting a reduced-cost IUD! If she’s not destitute enough, these programs snatch that possibility from her desperate uterus, ‘cause the regular price for an IUD runs into the hundreds. In many cases, using birth control isn’t totally about avoiding unwanted pregnancy. For example, an IUD stanches periods that can be out of control and create havoc in the life of the sufferer. And many women have limited birth control options due to age or lifestyle habits.

But of course sorry is what an Inbetweener will be if she gets knocked up and can’t provide for the needy little cherub that’s been conceived. Her choices boil down to: Cough up big bucks to stay baby-free, leave the whole responsibility for “protection” with her partner (fuggeddabboudditt!), or have one baby after another, get even poorer and more dependent on public assistance, and find herself accused of  “living off the system.”

Inbetweeners aren’t financially irresponsible; it’s just that once the bills are paid, they don’t have much left for food, never mind paying for reproductive freedom. Yet they wish to make mature choices about reproducing – and shouldn’t that be respected???

Any which way an Inbetweener tries to seek help, she is discriminated. There’s just no way to win at being a grown, responsible and sexual woman in America.

Still, we women have always been more resilient than we’ve ever let on. The ladies of ancient Greece and Rome knew it in their bones as they whirled feverishly to stave off undesirable futures. Their light fingers rubbed the milky amulets while prayers dripped from their quivering lips. Though their choice always teetered between  peril and bliss, they still fiercely claimed it.

Let’s not be lesser sisters than our ancient ones – let’s keep up the good fight for safe and affordable contraception they started as best they could, long ago!

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1 Comment

  1. As a Canadian, I’m always struck by this fundamental difference between Canadian and American women’s affordable access to birth control methods. Our public health and provincial medicare programs make it so much easier for women to access whatever methods they choose at a cost they can afford and often times with a decent health plan, for free. My sympathies to all the in-betweeners.

    Also, as an advocate for better access to non-hormonal birth control, I often think how affordable it would be for PP clinics to have on staff at least one certified instruction in fertility awareness based methods. One staff salary could provide training to hundreds of women a year on a proven effective method of contraception that once learned can be used for decades to manage fertility, with the added bonus of helping women monitor their overall health and wellness. A sliding scale user’s fee could offset the instructor’s salary, and perhaps a sponsor for this service could be found. Just an idea.

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