Written by Martha Kempner for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

In the last few weeks, I learned that Bristol Palin was on the pill and all of the stars of 16 and Pregnant used condoms.  I find this slightly curious because, as we know, all of them ended up parents before they were old enough to vote. If I didn’t know any better, I would start to wonder if contraception just doesn’t work.  But since I do know better, I am instead left wondering if the media is letting our most famous teen parents get one over on us and in the process perpetuating myths and misunderstandings about birth control.

Birth Control Pills Work

In her book Bristol Plain explains how the first time she had sex took place while drunk on a camping trip and she feels that Levi “stole” her virginity, though she was not raped.  (I have already admitted that I’m obsessed with Bristol and discussed this odd explanation of hers in an earlier piece.) Despite this, she went on to have a sexual relationship with him for the next two years and became pregnant with their son, Tripp.  In her book Palin explains that at the time she got pregnant, she was on birth control pills that “had been prescribed to her for cramps.”

That reminded me of a sex ed lecture that I had during my senior year in high school (yes, senior year, because when it came to sex, East Brunswick High School didn’t like to tell us about anything until after they were sure we had already tried it). The health teacher held up a packet of pills and said “Some of your friends may be on these, but that’s just for cramp control.” We all stifled our laughter and fought the urge to say in our best sarcastic teen voice “yeah, right.” Some of our friends were on it, hell, some of us were on it, and it wasn’t just for cramp control.

Sure some women use the pill for the benefits it provides other than birth control—it regulates one’s period, can reduce cramps and other premenstrual issues, and some brands can actually help control acne. The good news is that even if the motivation to start or keep taking the pill is something other than contraception, if taken correctly, that very same pill will prevent pregnancy.  When pressed by Barbara Walters in a recent appearance on The View, Bristol said: “I was on birth control when I got pregnant yeah, but it obviously was not used effectively.” 

It’s in the passive voice but I guess it’s as close as we will get to some personal responsibility.

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