Sometimes, the physical abuse I endured at the hands of my violent father feels like a distant memory, a bad dream, a life lived by someone else. And then there are the days when I feel like terrified child again, tentatively looking at the nearest clock and hoping the man who comes home from work is in a decent mood. And as president Donald Trump’s administration continues to pose the biggest threat to birth control since it became legal over 50 years ago, I’m feeling more and more like that scared little girl. I’m the girl who just wanted to control one single aspect of her life, including the right to obtain affordable birth control.
An estimated 59 percent of adult women in Alaska have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both in their lifetime. Almost 75 percent of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. The state in which I was born and raised has failed women, in not only creating a safe environment for them to go to school, pursue their careers, raise their families, and simply take up space: it’s failed in providing adequate services in which to support victims. Almost 30 percent of Alaskans are unable to access victim services because they aren’t available in their area.
I was a freshman in high school when I asked my father if I could procure birth control for painful, debilitating menstrual cramps. My mother, aware of just how much pain I was in due to her own reproductive health, suggested birth control as a way to manage cramps, nausea, and intense bleeding. But my father, who was physically, verbally, emotionally and financially abusive, believed there was one reason, and one reason only, for a woman to obtain birth control. And if I was sexually active, I was making decisions about my own body. That freedom was one my father would not allow. I was beaten for making such an unreasonable request.
Reproductive health is not only basic health care, it’s vital to a woman’s ability to control her life and her future. Undermining access to contraception is just one aspect of this current administration’s broader attack on women, and women stuck in the cycle of physical abuse will suffer most. Lack of means to support themselves and/or children financially, or limited access to cash, bank accounts, or assets, is just one of the many reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. But by requiring insurance companies cover 12 months of birth control at a time, we can insure women suffering from domestic abuse have a chance to achieve complete economic empowerment. We can provide a simple life-line, a stepping stone, towards safety. In 2014, more than 41,000 women in Alaska were in need of publicly supported contraceptive services and supplies. But if women in Alaska had access to a one-year’s supply of birth control at a time — on-site if available — an unnecessary, detrimental barrier keeping women from full bodily autonomy would be effectively removed.
Eventually, I was able to leave my abusive father. I made my way through college, started a family of my own, and now I’m living my dream in New York City as an editor and writer. The freedom to make my own medical decisions is undoubtedly one of the reasons why I was able to break the cycle of abuse. If I had continued to miss school because of what was later diagnosed as endometriosis, perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to go to college. If I had become pregnant, I would have been financially dependent on my father for the foreseeable future. But I wasn’t, because of the freedom birth control provided me. Every woman in Alaska deserves that same freedom. That’s why I’m pleased with state lawmakers, like Rep. Matt Claman and other members of the bipartisan House Majority, who are committed to protecting access to birth control in Alaska by introducing a bill that requires insurances cover a one-year supply of birth control at a time.
Access to birth control and bodily autonomy and the freedom from abuse shouldn’t depend on your insurance carrier, or where you live, or the number of services in your area. Because why I am often reminded of the abuse I endured, I am lucky in that, on my good days, it is a distant memory; a bad dream; a life lived by someone else. But for countless Alaskan women, it is their inescapable reality. We must do better for them and by them, and requiring insurance companies cover 12-month birth control prescriptions is certainly a step in the right direction. A step we should all be helping every Alaska woman take.
• Danielle Campoamor is an editor at Romper and freelance writer who contributes to Bustle, Newsweek, and Salon. Born in Eagle River. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York.