‘Schitt’s Creek’ star Annie Murphy talks about educating and empowering women


My father was eight years old when his mother died. Black and white photographs of my paternal grandmother from 1940s India hang in my parents’ living room. Growing up, I had always noticed a sad expression on his face. Today I understand why. She died during childbirth – her 7e child (a body of a baby who died a month later). My grandmother was 28 years old. How different her life might have been had she had access to contraception. The erosion of women’s rights to make decisions about their bodies has people in all sectors speaking out, including the entertainment industry. Celebrities like Schitt’s Creek star, Annie Murphy, is on a mission to ensure girls and women everywhere are empowered to make informed decisions about their birth control options. Options my grandmother never had.

I recently interviewed the Emmy-winning actress on my YouTube health show about her promotion of an FDA-approved non-hormonal contraceptive, Phexxi©, in partnership with Evofem Biosciences whose CEO, Saundra Pelletier , also joined in the conversation. Both women are fierce champions of bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to choose, especially when it comes to reproductive health, including choice of contraception.

“I think it’s so, so incredibly important for everyone to have bodily autonomy, and it’s been taken away from almost half of the American population,” the Canadian actress said. “And that, to me, is more than disturbing. The more we talk about it, the more we educate ourselves, the more we actively support each other. This is the only way out of this real hell that many people are living in right now.

Like many women, Murphy suffered several side effects related to hormonal contraceptives. “I was on the pill at 16 and had super huge mood swings,” described the ambassador for global relief agency Care Canada. “I felt very sad and very weak at the time.” Murphy is aware of the motto that one size does not fit all. “While Phexxi works for me, it might not work for everyone.”

The health and social impacts of contraception cannot be overstated. The CDC lists family planning and contraceptive services as one of the ten greatest public health achievements in the 20e century. Guttmacher Institute research shows that the benefits of birth control include reducing global maternal mortality, increasing women’s engagement in the workforce, and improving women’s economic self-sufficiency.

The effectiveness of contraception depends on the method used. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs, hormonal and copper) are the most effective, resulting in less than one pregnancy per 100 women per year. Sterilization is just as effective but is considered permanent. Next come hormonal methods such as the injection, the pill, the vaginal patch or ring, or the diaphragm (non-hormonal), which are all associated with 6 to 12 pregnancies per 100 women in one year. The least effective methods are condoms (male and female), cervical caps, sponges, “natural” means such as the rhythm method and non-hormonal gels (eg spermicides, Phexxi), associated with 18 to 27 pregnancies per 100 women per year.

Evofem officials point to internal studies showing that Phexxi “prevented 99% of pregnancies through sexual intercourse”.

Some OBGYN doctors like Mishka Terplan, MD, MPH, FACOG, find the use of non-hormonal contraception like Phexxi – which contains lactic acid, citric acid and potassium bitartrate – interesting and quite elegant. But he believes Evofem’s data should be clarified. “It might be ‘99% effective in preventing pregnancy through intercourse’, but [the reality is] that most sexual intercourse does not result in pregnancy and that the likelihood of pregnancy differs depending on the time of the cycle. Dr Terplan added: “The probability of pregnancy is at best 10% from intercourse at the time of ovulation.”

Somya Gupta, MBBS, MD agrees. “Contraceptive efficacy is tested on long-term studies and is not just based on the total number of sexual acts,” says Dr. Gupta, an OBGYN physician from Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in India. “The chances of pregnancy vary depending on when intercourse occurs in relation to a woman’s cycle. It would be more interesting to know over what period these 24,289 female sexual relations were followed.

As a physician, I believe in giving patients options and helping them make informed decisions. A patient should be presented with all options to prevent pregnancy. Some options include medication in the form of pills, gels, and patches; others are physical barriers like a condom or a diaphragm. Among the drugs, some contain hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Like ALL treatments in the field of medicine such as albuterol for asthma and ibuprofen for pain, contraceptives also have trade-offs or pros and cons. Phexxi would be the preferred option for women who cannot tolerate or choose not to take hormones; it can also be taken on demand, i.e. at the time as opposed to daily use like the pill. Ultimately, women and all who give birth should be educated and empowered to make the family planning decisions that are best for them.

Murphy feels “very, very lucky” for her fame and thinks she wouldn’t be doing her “human due diligence if I didn’t use my platform to help educate women about all the choices they have.” have”. The Golden Globe nominee is also aware of the current political climate: “We are in a time when women have suffered a huge, huge blow on [many] weeks and deserve all the education they can get. So I’m just happy to talk about it.

Women’s health pioneer Pelletier wholeheartedly agrees.

“Now more than ever, with the SCOTUS decision, access to contraception is essential,” shares the single mother and breast cancer survivor. “We know birth control saves lives, and the idea that women should have that taken away from them is archaic and draconian.” Pelletier added that every woman should have autonomy over her body and be able to choose when, if and how often she has children. For Pelletier, Phexxi is a way for her and Evofem to contribute to women’s right to make personal health decisions.

While access to birth control has improved dramatically over the past few decades, the reality is that we live in precarious times; a time when some conservative American politicians are trying to restrict access to birth control. A few weeks ago, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt to create a federal birth control law. Additionally, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion (with the decision overturning Roe v Wade) that the Supreme Court should reconsider past precedents such as Griswold v Connecticut and Eisenstadt v Baird which both guaranteed access to control of births. We also know that access to contraception is more difficult for Black women due to decades of stigma, discrimination, and systemic barriers in the healthcare system.

Fortunately, the United States House of Representatives has taken action to protect access to contraception. But Pelletier has a message for our elected officials.

“When considering the economic impact of unwanted pregnancies versus the cost of contraception, legislators should be aware that many health care plans still deny women access to contraception,” says the entrepreneur. “AC [Affordable Care Act] makes it clear that an FDA-approved product should be provided to women free of charge. The longtime women’s rights advocate added: “If you’re going to take away the right to safe abortion, at least give women access to contraception for God’s sake, right? Pelletier pointed out that sildenafil (Viagra) is covered by insurance.

As a physician to marginalized populations, a woman of color, and the daughter of Indian immigrants, I resent the continued eradication of women’s rights by legislators whose agendas perpetuate the oppression of girls and women. We must come together – activists, students, teachers, health and justice professionals, business leaders like Saundra Pelletier and artists like Annie Murphy – to defend bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. A right that my grandmother never had, but that every woman in the world should have.


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