Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Pill? No Thanks

The blog "ProWoman ProLife" is an excellent source of "against the stream" thinking done by a team of nine women who come from quite different perspectives but who often agree on social issues. All are pro-life and all seem to have misplaced their membership cards in the official second wave feminist movement, although most are not about to give up the term "feminist" without a fight. (And seeing that Brigette Pellerin has a black belt in karate, one would be well advised not to disagree too vehemently!) You can see their profiles here.

They recently had a colloquium on the issue of the Birth Control Pill. Six of the contributors gave their perspectives and all were anti-pill. This is interesting. Here are some quotes, some longer than others. By all means read the whole thing.

Andrea Mrozek
"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. Why?

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."

Brigette Pelerin
"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. . . .

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."

Patricia Egan
"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."

Rebecca Walberg
"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. . . .

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. . . .

Tanya Zaleski
"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?

Véronique Bergeron de Grandpré
"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."

In closing, let me just add this quote from the comment thread from "Husband." I think it is right on.


Permit me to provide one husband’s perspective.The pill demeans men. It permits us to indulge an appetite without any consequences at all, and that is demeaning.

Were I single and knowing that I could get what I want (sex), pretty much when I want (most days of the month except when she’s ….er… cranky), without having to fear what I don’t want (being tied to this chick indefinitely because of a kid) would be pretty darn hard to resist. I can gloss over the baseness of my pursuit by pretending to be sensitive along the way. (Sure, I’m fine with having the vegetarian thai instead of the beef…. Hell, I’ll even drink one of those damn coolers instead of a beer – just as long as I get sex later on). That sensitivity can then extend to other things – like co-habitating (I just think we should take the time to get to know one another….) or abortion (you know girl, I don’t want to interfere with your right to choose….) and man oh man am I scoring big time. Then, a few years later, when I get tired of her, I can toss her over (we just seemed to stop communicating….) without consequence, for another one, preferable a few years younger.

This is one hell of an arrangement. Except that it isn’t, because I am something of a Dorian Gray, apparently all good on the outside, pretty rotten within. If I’m married, it isn’t quite as bad, but almost, because I can continue to objectify her.

Sex with consequences is an extraordinary means to help men to continue to reflect on the inherent dignity of women. The act of reflecting helps us maintain our own dignity. The pill erodes that reflection, and demeans us as a consequence."

If you read the women's comments, you wonder how on earth the drug companies sell so many of these stupid little pills. But if you read "Husband's" response, I think the answer comes into focus. It is not empowering women, but irresponsible men.

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