Birth Control’s Invisible Mommy Majority

Check out some birth control ads for popular methods like the
Pill or the
Patch, and it seems the women touting these
products are young gals on the go, untethered to kids. But what
about the moms, asks Tracy Mayor in a piece for
Brain, Child. Mayor considers herself
the perfect audience for a birth control marketing campaign:
educated, employed, household decision-maker, and sexually
active. Yet, in the flood of products geared toward her,
contraception is suspiciously absent.

Mayor argues that pharmaceutical companies’ marketing misfire is
emblematic of a larger social misunderstanding of the birth control
needs of mothers. She insists that the challenges of childrearing
make mothers ‘the most motivated users of birth control,’ noting
that the original champion of contraception, Margaret Sanger,
sought distribution of birth control as relief for ‘sick, harassed,
broken mothers.’ This need is particularly evident when it comes to
emergency contraception, Mayor writes. While
it’s generally pitched as a last-ditch option for ‘Sex-in-the-City
types,’ mothers stand to benefit hugely from its availability.
Consider, Mayor says, that 21 percent of mothers describe their
last birth as ‘mistimed,’ and an estimated 60 percent of women who
have had an abortion are already mothers.

Despite Mayor’s criticisms of the birth control industry, she
notes that it’s also alarmingly clear that there might not be much
of an industry to critique in the future. Some states are moving to
ban abortion and quell emergency contraception — measures that, if
successful, could jeopardize other reproductive rights such as
birth control. It’s this assessment that leads Mayor to the
conclusion that it’s not just drug companies that need to start
paying more attention to mothers’ birth control needs: It’s time
for mothers themselves, perhaps long since removed from their
activism days, to rejoin the fight for reproductive rights. ‘I
started out wondering why mothers don’t have better birth control,’
she writes, ‘and wound up thankful we have any at all.’ —
Rachel Anderson

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Birth Control’s Invisible Mommy Majority

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