There was a pretty good discussion yesterday on the FB page about the contraception debate and it really got me thinking: Aside from the extremes on both ends of the spectrum, I believe that the vast majority of women believe that some of the solutions afforded to women in terms of health care could be better.
As I was pondering this post, one of our weekly Prayers of the Faithful popped into my head. Every week at Mass we “pray to end abortion.” If you see billboards or pamphlets or even pro-life websites, most of them say “pray to end abortion.” They don’t say “pray to make abortion illegal,” or “pray to criminalize abortion,” they say “pray to end abortion.” If you listen to some of your “pro-choice” friends, you might hear the same sentiment echoed: “I feel bad for anyone who has to choose abortion, but it’s still a valid choice,” or “I wouldn’t choose it myself, but I’ve never been in that sort of situation,” or “If it’s going to make her life better, who am I to judge?” What if we changed our argument? What if we looked at things from another perspective? What if there was not a need or reason for abortion? What if we really made some in-roads into women’s health, ones that did not involve altering natural processes or rendering body parts unusable?
Let’s face it: the current solutions to “women’s health issues” pretty much suck. Think about it, what are some of the non-contraceptive reasons women take hormonal birth control? Endometriosis, PCOS, migraine headaches, to clear their skin, etc. So, instead of looking for the cause of these problems, we are content to swallow a pill to make us feel temporarily better? It’s kind of like putting a band-aid over arterial bleeding. Will it stop the bleed? Kind of. Will it fix the problem? No. Taking HBC does not fix endo or PCOS or migraines, it just makes them more tolerable. Why are we content to settle for “eh, it works, kind of.” Why aren’t we, as women, saying: “What is the cause of these issues? And how can we fix them?”
What about HBC as birth control? From the Guttmacher Institute:
• Fifty-four percent [54%] of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use
This would lead one to believe that birth control/ barrier methods is not a good enough solution to avoiding pregnancy. We know saying “Just don’t have sex” is good enough either. What if we started teaching women (and men) exactly how their bodies worked? What if we all learned that the lifespan of an egg after ovulation was only 12-24 hours AND that sperm can live in a hospitable environment (higher pH, lots of slippery mucus) for 5 days OR MORE (giving a couple a fertile window of 5-7 out of 28 days- for a normal cycle. If your cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days, charting can help you your personal fertile span as well, accounting for longer or shorter pre and post-ovulatory phases. (to be clear, the luteal (post-ovulatory) phase for the most part remains consistent in a woman, but different women have differing lengths of luteal phases.) Another fun fact? Your luteal phase has to be at least 10 days to sustain a pregnancy!)
When I was teaching in Chicago, I can tell you that the human reproduction unit wasn’t until the end of the school year and was only maybe 1 week long. Is it possible to cover all there is to know about reproduction in 5 hours? Yeah, not so much. As a woman, learning about my fertility cycles and how my fertility worked was so much more empowering than just popping a pill every day or slapping on a patch or slipping in a ring and HOPING it didn’t fail. I was the one in control of my fertility (for the most part, because God has a huge role in it!) Check out Taking Charge of your Fertility for more information.
Excuse me, while I step onto a soapbox *step, step, step*
Then again, what if we changed our mindset to reflect that sex is not equal to love? Sex can be described as an act of love, but it is not love itself. When I was in college, things were bad. I was happy-go-lucky on the outside but dying on the inside. My goal on the weekends was to get drunk enough to go home with some random guy and to feel “loved” for a few hours. Of course, when the beer goggles were gone and I made the walk of shame the next morning, I was even lower than before. And the cycle would repeat.
Sex is not equal to love. If a man pressures a woman into sex, it is not love. If he tells her that abstaining because she is fertile is impossible, it is not love. If he mocks her or belittles her or tells her that her choices are outdated and that she is not a “real” woman, that is not love. Love is knowing and respecting someone so much that you wouldn’t mind making another person with them. I think about those encounters of my past… would I have wanted to make another person with them? How long are we going to let ourselves be deluded and blinded with this farce that casual sex or sex with no strings attached is no big deal. Sex leads to a release of oxytocin… the bonding hormone. It makes mammals want to bond with the person they are with. Oxytocin is released to trigger childbirth and is released when breastfeeding. Oxytocin is what makes sex a big deal. Sex is not equal to love. You can’t make anyone love you by sleeping with them… no matter how hard you try.
Off soapbox. *jump*
Back to how we can do better: What if we did more to support women if they find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy? This is about so much more than just throwing money at the issue, it also means physically helping out. What if more schools offered child care options? What if child care was easier to obtain? What if maternity leave was longer than 12 weeks? What if we had actual paternity care? What if children were looked at as gifts rather than burdens? What if women rallied around each other to celebrate each and every pregnancy? What if doulas were not just for “well-off” women? (It’s funny I type that because I can’t help but think how wonderful it would be to have a volunteer doula group to offer doula services to women who couldn’t otherwise afford one. There probably is one!) What if we stopped treating men like mindless brutes who only think with their penises? What if we held men to higher standards of behavior? What if courts really enforced child support? What if we looked at the status quo and said, “We can do better.”
The tag line for Feminists for Life is “Women deserve Better.” I don’t think any of us can argue with that.
How else can we do better? Let me know here or on the FB page!