Birth control has been nothing short of revolutionary. Since it became legal across the country a half century ago, birth control has materially improved the lives and conditions of women and families, as well as the US economy at large, to such a dramatic extent that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named it one of the top 10 public health achievements of the past century.
But barriers to birth control still exist for far too many women in this country. It is politicized – with some members of Congress and some states attempting to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control to 2.1 million women each year, attacks on the nation’s federally funded family planning program that nearly 4.6 million people rely on, and pushback by some companies that don’t want to provide their employees with no-copay birth control, which is required by the Affordable Care Act.
Empowering people to share their own birth control stories is a key part of keeping the US moving forward on this issue. To broaden this conversation, this summer Planned Parenthood Federation of America launched a social media effort, #BirthControlHelpedMe.
We launched the campaign with digital billboards in Times Square in New York City that asked passersby to share their stories. We also asked our followers on social media to talk about how birth control has helped them finish school, land their dream job, and have children when they were ready.
Within a matter of hours, more than 1,500 supporters wrote comments and posted selfies on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, including Teri, who shared the following message: "#BirthControlHelpedMe deploy to a combat zone and serve my country. #armystrong #NotEveryGIIsAJoe," and a woman named Elizabeth, who wrote: "#BirthControlHelped Me be the first person in my family to graduate from college & to have control over my body."
Actress Lena Dunham also posted a photo on her Instagram with the hashtag. This campaign gave folks a space to share their experiences, which brought this issue to life and generated media coverage from Seventeen, Parenting, Teen Vogue, The Huffington Post, Politico, and Daily Mail online, among others.
It is a conversation we expect to grow stronger as we push forward to try to expand birth control access to those who need it.
Eric Ferrero is VP of communications, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.