Birth Control: Not Just About Sex

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/spentpenny/46177684/sizes/m/in/photostream/">spentpenny</a>/Flickr


The Guttmacher Institute has a new study out this week looking at why women in the US use birth control. Turns out, less than half of them are using hormonal contraceptives exclusively to prevent pregnancy. A full 58 percent said that they were using “The Pill” for a variety of other medical reasons.

Based on data from the federal government’s National Survey of Family Growth, Guttmacher found that only 42 percent of women who use the pill said they were doing so just to prevent pregnancy. The majority listed other reasons: reducing cramps, regulating their cycle, preventing migraines, and treating endometriosis. The survey found that there are approximately 762,000 women in the US who use the pill but have never had sex.

All of this runs contrary to the idea that women only use the pill because they’re big ol’ sluts who want to sleep around indiscriminately. And it also lends support to the Obama administration’s requirement that health insurers cover birth control as part of preventative health care. That move has provoked outrage among anti-abortion groups that don’t like birth control and that have tried to pass draconian “personhood” laws that could make hormonal birth control illegal. Abortion foes’ objections range from (mistaken) beliefs about what the pill actually does, to medically inaccurate beliefs about when pregnancies begin, to general dislike of sex outside of marriage.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.