Sunday, August 05, 2007

iPLEDGE Program Not Successful

iPLEDGE is a government program that women of child-bearing age have to sign up for before taking the drug isotretinoin, an acne medication more commonly known as Accutane, because the drug can cause horrible birth defects, even in small doses. I just started on isotretinoin 10 days ago, and I hope that, 6 months from now, I'm part of the 80% that doesn't have to deal with the most stubborn of acne ever again. Of course, I had to join iPLEDGE. I had to read a lot of literature about birth control and take a quiz on their website. While registering, I had to tell them the two forms of birth control I'd be using while taking the drug and for one month afterwards. I have to take monthly pregnancy tests at the dermatologist's office. I have to show the pharmacist my special iPLEDGE card as proof that I'm part of the program before getting my prescription, which my doctor has to write up every month (no refills). Not that any of this is too bothersome; even the bathrooms at the doctor's office are surprisingly quiet and, therefore, a good place to pee in a cup.

What bothers me about this is that I have to go through all of this bullshit simply because I menstruate. And, because I don't have sex, I had to choose "abstinence" as my primary form of birth control. (I wanted to choose "my acne-ridden face, assholes," but that wasn't an option). Abstinence is most certainly not my primary form of birth control. I'm not having sex because I don't have a boyfriend, not because I'm trying to prevent pregnancy. iPLEDGE was starting to look a lot like pledges of abstinence made at purity balls and abstinence-only sex-ed classes. Furthermore, it perpetuates this notion that women's sexuality has to be regulated by the government for the good of an embryo that doesn't even exist. Can you say "forever pregnant?"

Part of me once thought that iPLEDGE is simply a way to reduce abortions, miscarriages, stillbirths, and infant mortality. It's a preventative measure, not oppressive. After all, if it works, that's a good thing for all. But it doesn't. According to the FDA, 122 women became pregnant while on isotretinoin this year, which is about the same number of pregnancies that occurred in the years previous to iPLEDGE's inception in 2006. This number is most likely accurate, as part of sticking to the iPLEDGE program means your doctor reporting your pregnancy to the federal government. Apparently, the government monitoring a woman's sexual behavior is about as good as her doctor saying, "Don't get pregnant. This medication causes birth defects." So why not just trust us?

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