Rebecca had this idea that perhaps we could pick a topic, and the ProWomanProLife team would weigh in on that topic.
We decided for the first round to go with something completely uncontroversial: The Birth Control Pill. Not birth control in general, but The Pill.
So here you have our uncensored, unfettered views on the Pill, in alphabetical order. There were no consultations prior to filing with me.
Nowhere have I experienced such a 180 degree turnaround in opinion as I have on the birth control Pill. Ten years ago, I would have said if you are pro-life you ought to be in favour of preventing pregnancy. Today I am against the birth control Pill.
A combination of factors. I read the book The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women by Barbara Seaman and other studies. I didn’t like what I learned regarding the history of the Pill, how it was developed and what the effects are on women.
I also consider that the Pill aids and abets our pro-abortion culture.
The Pill has created a world whereby sex and babies are entirely separate enterprises. They aren’t. A virgin birth? Very surprising. Pregnancies that follow sex—not very surprising. Planned parenthood (the idea, not the organization) is, in large part, a myth.
There’s nothing wrong with taking some measures to plan a family, and/or prevent pregnancy. But an entire culture that depends on a little Pill to be sure that sex never results in kids except exactly when you want it to? A culture courtesy of pharmaceutical companies, who always had their profits, not our best interests, in mind (read Seaman).
I also harbour concern that the Pill functions as an abortifacient some of the time.
Et voila, a very condensed description of my ten (plus) year evolution of thought on the birth control Pill from fully in favour to fully against.
BRIGITTE WEIGHS IN
Where I’m from (Modern Late 20th-Century Suburbia), good girls are the ones who are on the Pill. The other ones are irresponsible idiots or (worse) cloistered religious types.
It didn’t occur to me to question this proposition until well into my 20s. But once I did, it was impossible to look back, and it was (and still is) impossible not to feel angry and betrayed.
For the Pill is not good.
Oh, sure, it beats using abortion as a form of birth control, like so many pro-choicers say never happens (yeah, right). Preventing the creation of an embryo beats sucking its brains out and dismembering it. Absolutely. I am not for one minute advocating abstinence from the Pill on the grounds that preventing the creation of life amounts to a sin, for that is not what I believe.
What I believe is that the Pill is bad for women – both in the straight physical sense and in the more complicated metaphysical sense. And that far from liberating us, it enslaves us.
I have been on the Pill, when I was younger and stupider. And it wasn’t until I stopped taking it that I realized what a noxious hormonal cocktail it was, and how idiotic it was to watch what I ate but not care about ingesting drugs that would prevent my body from ovulating. But that’s far from the worst.
The worst is the idea that women ought to be on some form of “reliable” birth control so as to be available for sex at a moment’s notice. How is that empowering? No, there’s nothing wrong with sex; it’s just that sterile sex isn’t real sex. When they tell you good girls who want good sex ought to be on the Pill, they’re lying to you.
Even for those women who eschew artifical birth control, the efficiency and ubiquity of the Pill bring consequences. Until its arrival fertility and children were irresistible forces of nature for virtually all women, and therefore for the culture. Today, fertility and children are mere options for self-actualization, commodites for which women may or may not make space in their lives. This is the culture today, whether or not you accept it.
With respect to the place of children, this cultural shift seems to me the most remarkable and unremarked upon aspect of the birth control revolution. Until the 20th century, children grew up knowing at some level that they existed because their parents opened themselves up to the mystery of human fertility in some way. Today, sooner or later, most children will realize that they exist because their parents decided that now would be a convenient time to have one of those. Doesn’t this seem to represent a radical change in the parent-child relationship?
Much of this blog concerns the consequences of viewing children, women, and human life in general, in this way. While artificially controlling fertility may make our lives easier, especially if we want to have a lot of unconnected sex, it does seem to offer a radically impoverished view of children, of the women who bear them and of humanity in general.
I’m deeply ambivalent about the birth control pill. My concerns fall into three general categories. First, the mechanism by which some pills act isn’t clear: do they prevent ovulation, or do they prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg? These are two very different things. My understanding is that some pills are more likely than others to suppress ovulation, so for some versions of the drug, women are not avoiding conception each month but quite possibly releasing an egg, which is fertilized, but is prevented from implanting. I don’t believe that this is the equivalent of abortion, because apart from questions of viability, intentions do matter; there is a big difference between injecting someone with morphine for the sole purpose of killing them, and injecting them with the same amount of morphine to alleviate pain because lower doses have failed to do so, with the understanding that death could be the result. Nonetheless, this is a choice that women should make for themselves, and currently, they’re seldom given the facts about this aspect of the Pill.
Second, we know very little about the long term health effects of using the Pill, especially when taken for a protracted time. This should be of huge concern to feminists; and in fact they took on HRT for menopausal women by criticizing it as an attempt to make money off a natural part of women’s lives, by pharma companies who hadn’t done enough testing to demonstrate its safety. The same critique applies to hormonal contraceptives, but very few feminists are asking these questions.
Finally, I dislike what the Pill has done to our culture. By creating a quite reliable barrier between sex and procreation, it helped to separate sex from marriage (or a committed loving relationship) and started us down the slippery slope to the hook-up culture. It also gives us a false sense of power over our own reproductive lives, which manifests itself in the heartache felt by women in their late 30s and 40s who find that, after a lifetime of ensuring that they don’t conceive, the choice to bear a child is much more complex, and less within our control. Marriage, sex and procreation are tightly knit together. Different cultures in different times have created different approaches to this aspect of society, but always, the connection between these three things has been at the foundation of family and social structure. In the space of a generation we’ve declared that none of these need have anything to do with the others.
Married couples are free to choose not to have children – fair enough at the individual level, although problematic at the cultural level. Single people may choose to have children, married people can have sex with people other than their spouses, lesbians may choose to be artificially inseminated – all of these start to undermine the stability of families. In its own way, the Pill was a necessary condition for the sexual revolution and its legacy.
I don’t like the birth control Pill. Not when I used it, and not when someone I love uses it. Mind you, I don’t dislike the Pill any more than the ring, the patch, the shot, or the IUD with that hormonal release action.
It – my disdain for the Pill – does have some to do with the nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, weight gain, sexual side effects and mood changes I and others have suffered at the hands of hormonal birth control. Not wild about blood pressure spikes and heart palpitations, either. And why is it that women with a history of breast cancer are discouraged against using the Pill? Then there’s the fact that many women using hormonal contraceptives get pregnant anyway. And when that happens to us, we tend to feel guilty, like we did it on purpose. How, I ask, is any of that at all empowering?
Against abortion and against the Pill… seems to the naysayer like I want to have my cake and eat it, too.
But who is the Pill for? The ads would lead us to believe it’s for the “every woman.” (Key Whitney Houston ditty now). Aren’t ad agencies clever? Those same ad agencies help us forget about the coronary that’s likely to ensue from eating McDonald’s regularly. The Pill, we’ve been taught, can free us from the worry of getting unexpectedly pregnant while continuing to engage in sexual encounters. The encounters can be with one person or a variety of partners. It can be as rarely or as often as we like. And I’d say that’s the only “have your cake and eat it, too” delusion around here.
AND LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, VÉRONIQUE
My views on the Pill separate between the personal and the general, the theoretical and the practical. On a personal level — it may not surprise anyone — I do not take the Pill. My personal opposition to the Pill started with first-hand experience gone bad. There was the condom I got pregnant using, the IUD that caused 3 months of bleeding and cramps and the pill that made me pack-on 30 pounds and throw-up every morning. As a result, I was not exactly compliant with my pill-popping and got pregnant with my third child. My breaking point came when my third – and I thought last – baby was 6 months old: I read the fine print on my new Pill prescription. The nausea, the headaches, the spotting, the mood swings, the aneurysm hit me like a ton of brick. I looked at my husband and said: “Please tell me you don’t want me to take that shit. Please tell me it’s okay, we’ll learn natural family planning and welcome any unplanned pregnancy like they were meant to be. Please, I can’t do this to my body anymore.” We took the jump and never looked back.
But that’s where my personal choice not to take the Pill is difficult to extrapolate into a society-wide one. I love my husband. I love my children. My husband is unequivocally committed to his family. In other words, it’s easy for me to speak. In a world of recreational, unmarried, uncommitted sex; in a world of easy access to abortion with all its physical and psychological baggage, it is hard not to see the Pill as the lesser of two evils. But I do not want to adopt this over-simplistic view of the Pill. As much as our culture of recreational sex needs the Pill, it was also created by the Pill. And as much as we need the Pill to reduce abortions, we also need abortion because of the Pill’s promise of inconsequential, uncommitted sex.
The link between the Pill and uncommitted recreational sex has never been so clear to me now that I have a 13-year-old daughter. She was asking me recently what the Pill was and I answered: “It’s a pill that women take to render themselves infertile so they can have sex without having children.” Then she asked: “But women are not fertile every day of every month, so why do women need to take a pill when they can just avoid having sex on the days they are fertile?” “Well” I said “Abstinence during fertile periods requires a lot of respect and communication between partners. It also requires some self-control and a daily discipline of charting your cycle or else you get pregnant pretty darn fast. Case in point: your last three siblings. With periodic abstinence, pregnancy cannot be the end of the world.”
“Why would people have sex if they didn’t respect each other and communicate well?” she asked, “It seems a little animal otherwise.” “That’s a good question.” I said. And one I didn’t feel like answering.by