Birth control is NOT like pork chops

Feministe has a round-up on the recent squabbling about whether or not religious organizations that don’t approve of birth control should have to have health plans cover it.
Aside from the misogyny and offensive attitudes on display in general, let us analyze the statement made by a few people that requiring such organizations to require it would be like serving bacon at a Jewish barbeque. Well, let’s see: suppose someone attending the barbeque had a life-threatening illness that required them to eat pork. And supposing that person had to attend the barbeque and to eat while there. Well, now, I suppose they’d just fire up a separate grill upwind, since under those circumstances, Jewish law requires them to eat it. And if they weren’t Jewish? All the more so.
Now, shut up.

66 Responses to “Birth control is NOT like pork chops”

  1. are you seriously making the statement that the potential of becoming pregnant is a life-threatening illness?


    justin · January 30th, 2012 at 5:44 pm
  2. “are you seriously making the statement that the potential of becoming pregnant is a life-threatening illness?”

    Are you seriously making the statement that pregnancy is NOT a potentially life-threatening condition?


    Jared Goldberg · January 30th, 2012 at 5:46 pm
  3. illness
    it is by no means appropriate, ethical or healthy to take birth control in the name of preventing pregnancy that may be life-threatening. what’s more, pregnancy does not have to be AS life-threatening as it is in the US, but that is a different issue. There are so many complications with contraceptive birth control that effect the health of a woman and any future children, but that is not my point. the word “illness” was used, and I know KRG knows the halakhot involved here well enough to know that potentially life-threatening things such as pregnancy and illness are very different.


    justin · January 30th, 2012 at 6:05 pm
  4. sorry, that should have said “in the name of preventing pregnancy because it may be life threatening”


    justin · January 30th, 2012 at 6:08 pm
  5. I haven’t been following this particularly debate very closely, but I sort of think it might require slightly more thought than one facile analogy followed by a command to “now, shut up.” Anyone want to take a stab at writing that post?


    miri · January 30th, 2012 at 7:17 pm
  6. @justin: it is by no means appropriate, ethical or healthy to take birth control in the name of preventing pregnancy because it may be life-threatening.
    er, care to explain why? Especially given
    There are so many complications with contraceptive birth control that effect the health of a woman and any future children…
    All of which is also true of pregnancy. Hormonal birth control, according to the best current evidence, appears to slightly increase the risk of some cancers and decrease the risks of others. Pregnancy and birth, meanwhile, carry with them potentially life-threatening risks (ever hear of pre-eclampsia?) and may in some cases affect the ability to bear future children. There also may be some evidence to suggest that in the absence of pregnancy, the use of hormonal birth control to suppress menstruation is a net health positive.

    @miri: Which analogy are you talking about? Because I agree with KRG that Mr. Galligan-Steirle’s original analogy sucks on multiple levels. In addition to the point already mentioned, some further elaborations:
    1. Jewish events are not often the only source of food in a particular area; the same cannot be said for Catholic healthcare services. Which means that in these areas, particularly those with shitty public transit (e.g, my hometown), if you need the affected reproductive services and don’t have a car (or work hours such that you can’t take the time to go elsewhere)–then you, sister, are SOL.
    2. I’d imagine that most kosher Jewish events are primarily intended to cater to other Jews who keep kosher. Once again, this is not the case with the Catholic institutions in question. People use Catholic hospitals because they’re the only game in town, or the best, or most convenient; people study at Georgetown or Fordham (and thus require their health insurance policies) for the same reasons anyone chooses a particular school. And the institutions know this.
    3. As far as I’m concerned, the issue comes down to this: is a government’s primary responsibility to provide healthcare (yes, this includes women’s healthcare) to its citizens, or is it to protect religious institutions. Religious freedom is important to me, but I believe the responsibility to provide comprehensive healthcare, or at least access to it, comes first.


    Alcharisi · January 30th, 2012 at 8:49 pm
  7. actually, you all missed an important issue which is that there are reasons to take birth control that have NOTHING to do with pregnancy and do in fact, prevent life-threatening illness.

    That aside, yes, pregnancy can, indeed, be life-threatening, even today.

    And yes, saying that requiring institutions that provide health insurance to employees many of whom may not be of that religious persuasion, let alone that they might be and not buy into that particular belief – is comparable to serving bacon at a Jewish barbeque – yes,I stand by my “Now, shut up.”


    KRG · January 30th, 2012 at 10:40 pm
  8. Also, Justin, I must be misunderstanding you, because I can’t believe that you are arguing that taking birth control to prevent a life-threatening pregnancy is not ethical, appropriate or healthy. Or even one that MAY be life-threatening. Certainly according to Judaism, it is. The sources are quite clear on that. In fact,they go farther than I might.


    KRG · January 30th, 2012 at 10:44 pm
  9. I would absolutely argue by the points I made. Contraceptive birth control is incredibly dangerous to the hormonal health of a human being. It has long term effects on the reproductive system and has potentially devastating effects on the life of future children once a woman stops taking it. I am not saying I am opposed to careful family planning. I am saying that the notion that birth control saves lives is a hard one to swallow for me. I think it’s a travesty to the human body that a person would fake their body into thinking it’s pregnant. I also think it’s a travesty that feminists claim that people who do not like the idea of contraceptive birth control are somehow sexist. Birth control in the US was pushed through congress by a group of fascists (literally) who sought to use it as a means to control the population of people of color. That’s a fact.

    A truly healthy diet and exercise will do more to prevent life-threatening pregnancy than a pill. And if a woman is inherently at risk of any pregnancy being life-threatening in my opinion they should take measures other than contraceptive birth control to prevent from being impregnated. I don’t know how many women are inherently at risk of any pregnancy being life-threatening, but I imagine it’s probably not that large of a number.

    My issue with your comments was in comparing pregnancy to an illness. We live in a world in which birth has been medicalized and the result has been devastating for women and babies. The medicalization of birth in the US has led us to have the #1 infant mortality rate in the developed world. Medical intervention in birth is responsible for more deaths of laboring women than anything else. More and more information is coming out that contraceptive birth control causes complications in future pregnancies and often causes infertility. I believe that if more Jewish bioethicists took a holistic look at the issue and considered its wide reaching implications the short-sighted positions put forth would change.

    Again, I’m not opposed to family planning. But I absolutely oppose characterizing pregnancy as an illness and, yes, in most cases I oppose the unnecessary use of contraceptive birth control. More than any of that, I oppose the medicalization of birth and pregnancy. It has caused way more problems than it has helped. It would serve people to look long and hard at the history of contraceptive birth control, where it came from, why it was introduced, by whom and for whom.


    justin · January 30th, 2012 at 11:57 pm
  10. I’m not opposed to family planning [but] yes, in most cases I oppose the unnecessary use of contraceptive birth control.

    Justin, could you please identify what methods(s) of birth control you support as an alternative to contraceptives?


    david · January 31st, 2012 at 1:13 am
  11. Justin, First of all, as you’ve now missed twice, I wasn’t actually referring to pregnancy as an illness. I was referring to other physical problems which are managed by pills, which are in fact mentioned specifically in the Feministe piece.

    Secondly, birth control as a whole have a mixed history, true, but birth control of any kind that a woman chooses for herself with the help of her doctor is none of the business of her employer. In fact no medical decision whatsoever is the business of her employer (which i why I favor a universal single payer and was really pissed when that got taken off the table before it was even discussed, but that’s a whole nother can of worms), and as long as one gets one’s health insurance through one’s employer it’s none of the employer’s business to inquire, and not their right to specify what kinds of treatments are available to their employees.
    Nevertheless, your fats are just frankly incorrect. While pregnancy is not an illness, just a brief survey of history should make clear just how dangerous pregnancy can be. Sure, diet and exercise can do a lot, but a significant number of healthy women end up with high-risk pregnancies. And I would just love to see some reputable sources on your claim that “More and more information is coming out that contraceptive birth control causes complications in future pregnancies and often causes infertility.”
    As for whom birth control is for? Well, until there is a kind of birth control that isn’t medical but still under the control of women, hormonal is what there is, and the consequences of making it unavailable are appalling. Even in the US, there are so many women who don’t have the power to say no that or to insist on a condom, that it just infuriates me to hear a man involved in Jewish leadership suggest that birth control is bad. IN the politest way possible, let me say, (so that I don’t say anything worse) the alternatives are significantly worse, and the only ones who wouldn’t agree with that, simply haven’t read enough history. Birth control was a hard-fought battle in this country, and I’ll fight anyone with my nails and teeth before anyone can take that away again.


    KRG · January 31st, 2012 at 8:50 am
  12. David, I should have been much more specific that I was referring to oral contraceptive birth control.
    KRG, I can respond to you when I am not at work.


    justin · January 31st, 2012 at 9:39 am
  13. here’s a link about the health risks to future children posed by the pill: www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/how-the-pill-can-harm-your-future-childs-health/
    here’s a link about the health risks for women who take the pill:
    www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/35663.php

    There are many more out there, but I don’t have the time to gather them right now.


    justin · January 31st, 2012 at 11:28 am
  14. @Alcharisi — again, healthy diet and exercise can do more to prevent pre-emclampsia than anything else. the medicalization of pregnancy and birth has been more damaging and risk inducing than it has been helpful. And you and I simply hold different worldviews if you believe there is any positive result of suppressing menstruation. in terms of my first statement, I believe that birth control should be used as a means of family planning, not as a preventative measure. Right now a majority of women of child-bearing age are on the pill. That is not a positive thing by any measure, in my opinion. Without having the time to get into the details, let me just say that like the matter of suppressing natural biological functions, we are likely discussing this matter from two different worldviews, in which case the debate becomes futile since neither of us is likely to accept the view of the other. My basic premise is that our bodies were made to fulfill certain functions — 51% of the globe was created to menstruate and become pregnant and the two go hand in hand. When we mess with our physical biology, it comes with a cost, costs that I am not willing to accept.


    justin · January 31st, 2012 at 11:39 am
  15. Okay, first of all, “The Healthy Home Economist” is in no way a trustworthy or accurate source of health information of any kind. A quick look at the link reveals that some of the other popular posts there include several anti-vaccination ones.

    As for the actual risks of hormonal contraception, the best conclusive summary of data demonstrates that there is an increased risk of some cancers (though the risk of cervical cancer has more to do with increased exposure to HPV, so the increased use of Gardisil ought to greatly reduce or nullify that one) and a decreased risk of others. Statistically, all of these risks are far smaller than those incurred with a low risk pregnancy, your assertions notwithstanding.
    (sources: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19414526, www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/oral-contraceptives)

    Which brings me to my next point:

    the medicalization of pregnancy and birth has been more damaging and risk inducing than it has been helpful…My basic premise is that our bodies were made to fulfill certain functions — 51% of the globe was created to menstruate and become pregnant and the two go hand in hand.

    Generally speaking, if you’re appealing to the “natural” or “biological” status quo wrt human health as the default moral good, it means you don’t know much about “nature” or “biology.” Any honest look at the data belies this statement. Maternal and infant death was heartbreakingly commonplace right up to the introduction of modern obstetrics. This did not, as Natural Childbirth activists like to claim, primarily have to do with sanitation, and everything to do with the fact that we figured out how to safely extract babies who got stuck. Between the late 1930s and the present day, maternal mortality in the US has fallen drastically; between 1939-1948 it decreased 71%. Similarly, neonatal mortality dropped 40% between 1930 and 1949, and 41% between 1970-1979 (source: CDC on Infant and Maternal Mortality in the United States: 1900-99). This steep decline cannot be accounted for merely by the adoption of aseptic practices–or a change in diet and activity level, which I imagine has, on your estimation, actually gotten worse during that time period.

    The reproductive system of the human female is a shitty-but-functional evolutionary compromise between large brain size and walking upright. A pelvis can only get so wide before the latter becomes very difficult; but large neonatal brain size is, for obvious reasons, evolutionarily selected for in humans. Pretty often, this means that you have a head that’s too big for the relevant pelvis…and before the dreaded “medicalization” of pregnancy and birth, if this happened to you, you were SOL. This isn’t even getting into all the other moving parts involved in pregnancy that can go askew. Suffice it to say that, but for the medicalization of birth, my mother and I would both be dead right now.

    So your basic premise is, forgive me, hogwash. Furthermore, the two parts of it are incompatible with one another. If we’re meant to get pregnant regularly, that means we actually menstruate very little– and it’s from this observation, in fact, that many conjecture that menstrual suppression may be a net health positive.

    When we mess with our physical biology, it comes with a cost, costs that I am not willing to accept.

    Fortunately, whether or not to accept it isn’t really up to you.


    Alcharisi · January 31st, 2012 at 1:08 pm
  16. This is a disturbing thread. Women take birth control for power and security, very often as a second line of birth control which backs up condoms. I don’t know how to state the fundamental importance of this to someone who clearly doesn’t get it. Sometimes you just have to shake your head.

    On to some other things. Pregnancy, all other things being equal, is obviously not an illness. But that is completely irrelevant to the most of the issues being discussed here. Only if one assumes that the point of medicine is to manage illnesses instead of manage the health of a person (or people) is it relevant. The problem with healthcare and insurance is that it is often engineered to manage illnesses and not the health of people. Again, I’m not interested in arguing with people who take the opposite position. They are hopelessly behind the times.

    I’m going to contact my pediatrician friends with respect to whether they see kids who are anemic because of their mothers’ history of taking oral contraceptives. I will report the answers, but it sounds like the most bizarre humbug I’ve ever heard. Every kid that I know, including mine, were born from mothers who took oral contraception for long periods. I don’t know one child with anemia or other problems absorbing nutrition. I suppose the fact that my toddler daughter will only eat macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, carrots, fruit, and a few other assorted things is my wife’s pill-popping fault. Or not.

    The health impact of oral contraception on women is well-documented. Absent coincidence with smoking, it’s basically neutral. So, bullshit there. And I mean that in the strongest possible terms. Bullshit.

    My wife didn’t get off the pill until we underwent genetic counseling and tests (concern for Tay-Sachs as my wife is Ashkenazi heritage, and I’m half Ashkenazi + 1/4 Quebecois), and counseling over Category B medications, which do *not* have written warnings. I think these were good decisions. If it matters, my wife and I had only done those things once, and yeah, neither of us were virgins when we met, nor did we wait to have said counseling before we had sex (condoms + pill). Yeah, I bet that’s pretty ordinary.

    I understand about the *often* (but not at all always) unnecessary medicalization of labor and delivery more intimately than anyone in this thread who hasn’t delivered a baby. (I was the only one “attending” my wife’s delivery of my son just over a month ago, when we couldn’t get out of the house fast enough to get to our hospital’s midwifery practice – 11-min apart 30 second contractions to birth in 40 minutes.) Thank God for medical personnel, though, because I could not stitch up my wife’s tear, nor could I have treated her for an infection or hemorrhaging were she to suffer *either* (which, thank God, she did not). Nor could I have done more than the minimum to help inflate my son’s lungs had he not brilliantly succeeded himself. So, the dichotomy between medicalization and labor and delivery being natural or normal is completely false. Not being a doctor, nor in the presence of trained medical personnel at that time made me afraid in a way I have never been (my wife was too in the moment to feel that fear). Which is why the availability of medical interventions that are *not* considered routine and are used only when indicated is pretty obviously what we all should be aiming for.

    BTW, I defy *anyone* to lecture women on prenatal diet and exercise until they know what it’s like to have a hangover for 3 months straight where any unpredictable smell can set you off on a puke parade. I mean, I can’t say I know exactly what it’s like, but I have cleaned up the puke.

    I also brought that up to show the complete stupidity (that’s right) of a thoroughgoing teleological view of biology. Because only idiots think pregnant women were meant to feel like the morning after tequila shots.


    Dan O. · January 31st, 2012 at 2:07 pm
  17. and what will you say to my wife who is a birth professional? or to my experience as a father delivering my own child on our own bed in our own home? I can tell you that there are more connections to our health concerns dealing with allergies and food intolerance that are connected to birth than we realize. for example, speaking from my own experience, I am a severely allergic person. Many naturpathic doctors have found intimate links between allergies and lack of gut flora, it is also the case the the natural birth process was “designed” to create processes by which certain things are gained, such as the introduction of gut flora by traveling through the birth canal. so, my having been born c-section and my allergies — no connection? our society has such incredible ignorance when it comes to health and nutrition. and conventional medicine absolutely treats illnesses rather than maintaining health. it is designed to do such. doctors know what they are taught very well, but what they are taught is insufficient. I do not have a teleological view of biology. I respect biology. I also don’t see how calling me an idiot adds to this conversation at all. I believe women were meant to have the potential of being pregnant. I believe that pregnancy causes hormonal shifts which lead to physical and emotional discomfort. Why? I have no clue. I do not pretend to know. Nor do I ever lecture women on their personal choices. Nor have I in any of my comments. I bemoan that over 60% of women between 18-24 are on birth control pills. I hate our societies treatment of menstruation and menstruating women. I think the best solution to all of these issues is educating children, boys and girls, to have a healthy and respectful view of menstruation. To be comfortable with it and to embrace it as part of the human experience. I have no resorted, and rarely resort, to name calling. I’d appreciate the same respect. You can disagree with me all you want, but please do not dismiss my opinions because you disagree with them. Argue against them on the merit of your ideas, not offensive name calling.
    I can tell you that my wife, in her capacity as a birth professional, recommends women take vigilant care of their bodies in making healthy food choices and in exercising regularly, including 5 mile walks a day. I did these walks daily with my wife. Her labor was fast and easy, it’s all I can say. She has been to over 30 births, and in all of them which she has witnessed the labors with complications generally happened to women who did not maintain healthy diets and exercise regimens. Circumstantial? yes. But still her experience.
    Again, I have never advised women to not take birth control, I have never lectured any person on any of these things. But I would like to believe that alternative viewpoints can be respected and that I can be given the benefit of the doubt that I am not making statements from ignorance.


    justin · January 31st, 2012 at 2:40 pm
  18. Justin,

    “51% of the globe was created to menstruate”

    That’s teleological. And 30% of pregnant women were created to feel like ex-junkies on methadone for 3 months. The analogy is valid.

    But if you honestly believe that most women take the pill not to menstruate, or to reduce menstruation, you really need to get a clue. Women take the pill because it increases their freedom.

    When you make ridiculous blanket statements that imply that most usage of birth control is ‘unnecessary’, you are saying either something completely vacuous (i.e. because they all are necessary, given the considered decision of a person and her Doctor) or something that utterly deserves ridicule.

    BTW, I also delivered my own son. (Rather, I caught him, my wife did the work).

    Also, I’m allergic to tree nuts, raw onions, most raw fruit, dogs, cats, trees, grass and more. My parents kept an organic garden, and ate lots of wheat-germ. I was born vaginally and breast-fed till 18 months. Wow, anecdotes are totally rad.

    Oh, I wish Brooke Shields could read this so she could totally punk your Tom Cruise trip. It is true that medicine is procedure and pathology oriented and needs help reorienting. But you think women should give up their reproductive freedom because one doctor published a study? Brilliant.


    Dan O. · January 31st, 2012 at 3:21 pm
  19. BTW, what I should have said is when is that you disapprove of ‘unnecessary’ uses of birth control that’s either vacuous, or – given what else you’ve said – completely open to ridicule. I didn’t make sense there.


    Dan O. · January 31st, 2012 at 4:05 pm
  20. I never said any of the things you said I did. Nor did I say that c-section was the sole cause of allergies. I never said most women take the pill to stop from menstruating. I simply said that 60% of women in the US between the ages of 18-24 are on birth control. I said there are people who take birth control unnecessarily. If you interpreted my words to say that 60% of women take birth control unnecessarily then you have some issues with analysis. Nor have I ever claimed that women should “give up their freedom.” I have never once advocated in any of my comments that I think birth control should be illegal or that women should not have the choice or right to take it. Saying that women are supposed to menstruate is not teleological. Women menstruate, it’s a biological fact. Perhaps we define teleology differently — my understanding, having studied Plato and Kant in depth, is that it means that it is the way it is for the sake of its end result. I never said women were created for the purpose of becoming pregnant. I was making a statement of biological fact. 51% of the human population are women. the female body naturally experiences menses. That is not a teleological statement. Again, you have completely misunderstood my words. Let me recap because this has all gotten so immensely jumbled.

    KRG compared, as I understood the words, pregnancy to illness. I questioned that comparison. I stated that I personally viewed it as inappropriate, unhealthy and unethical to take birth control pills as a means of preventing pregnancy under the rubric that said pregnancy may have the potential of being life threatening; in other words, if someone is preventing the risk of pregnancy because pregnancy may be risky — very different than choosing to prevent pregnancy because of unwanted children. I then responded to KRG that I thought some bioethicists take a short-sighted view of the ramifications of birth control pills. I was asked for sources for my claims of dangers, I provided the two links I knew off the top of my head in the short time I had — there are more. You called me an idiot and accused me of being teleological. I rejected the abusive language and defined teleology as it is understood by the philosophers I am familiar with who used its logic. You then compared me to Tom Cruise (i.e., called me crazy, I presume) and invited a movie star to “punk” me and accused me of telling women to “give up their reproductive freedom.” I rehashed my comments to show that I never once stated such a thing.


    justin · January 31st, 2012 at 4:31 pm
  21. “I stated that I personally viewed it as inappropriate, unhealthy and unethical to take birth control pills as a means of preventing pregnancy under the rubric that said pregnancy may have the potential of being life threatening; in other words, if someone is preventing the risk of pregnancy because pregnancy may be risky — very different than choosing to prevent pregnancy because of unwanted children”
    I’m going to focus on this as the heart of the statement since you appear to have stated that it’s the heart of your argument. I am going to respond that I don’t see a reasonable distinction here. If a woman wants to avoid pregnancy because her doctor has told her that pregnancy is medically risky, I don’t see how that’s better or worse than avoiding pregnancy because you don’t want children. In both cases, she’s avoiding pregnancy because she doesn’t care to get pregnant.
    I happen to agree that pregnancy is over-medicalized in our country, and I have the probably read all the same books about it as you.
    I have in fact been pregnant and given birth, and I don’t really see what that has to do with my original point, which is that a Catholic’s saying that they have a right to limit birth control and analogizing it to serving bacon at a barbeque for Jews is not only offensive as hell,it’s just way off as an analogy. For the rest of it Alcharisi summed it up pretty well.

    In terms of whether it’s a shame that so many women are on birth control and suppressing their menstrual cycles? Well, I can tell just-so stories too. The female body was probably not built for all those menstrual cycles as a matter of fact – it’s a lot more likely that it was built to bear from the onset of menarche, every year or so until her body wore out and she died fairly young. Which is exactly what happened to the great majority of women throughout history. And is also a complete non-sequitur.

    What’s not a non-sequitur is that for many women, birth control that is under their control has to be hormonal, because their sexual partners are too unreliable to wear condoms, which is the only other reasonably functional choice. And if you bring up the rhythm method, I will puke, so if you were going to, please. just. don’t. I am going to assume that you weren’t and there was no need for me to say that.


    Kol Ra'ash Gadol · January 31st, 2012 at 8:38 pm
  22. See how much more reasonable a discussion and debate can be when we actually take the time to consider someone’s argument instead of reacting from pure emotion? We aren’t going to agree, but I’m glad that some respect was finally brought into the conversation.


    justin · January 31st, 2012 at 10:27 pm
  23. Round of applause to Justin for teasing some utility out of this post, which, may I remind everyone, first analogized being forced to eat pork for the purpose of combating a life-threatening illness with birth control, and then, in a Jewschool original, told us all to shut up.

    KRG, I want to hear you clap loudest.


    Victor · February 1st, 2012 at 1:23 am
  24. JUdtin,
    I don’t believe I was insulting to begin with (at lest, I wasn’t trying to be, and in looking back, I don’t see it, but if I was I apologize). Nevertheless, I really am finding it difficult to figure out why you think it’s inappropriate (and that word really grinds me) for a woman to take hormonal birth control – especially given the scenarios I have carefully explained (non-pregnancy related medical treatment – yes, Illness- and pregnancy prevention – I understand that you think that hormonal birth control isn’t ideally healthful, nevertheless, it is singularly the most effective pregnancy prevention. UNless you’re advocating for abstinence for those who don’t want children – which we have excellent data on, and while effective, is not practical, since it isn’t in the hands of many women to make that choice, and even of those who could -well, let’s be frank, it mostly just doesn’t happen. Pleasure seeking is a human drive). I also fail to see how it could be unethical.
    I’m not willing to grant unhealthy either – I am suspicious of the studies you suggested (are those even juried science journals?) but let’s put that one aside, since it’s an empirical question – but inappropriate and unethical? Phrasing it that way really makes me want to ask “Where do you get off?” which I won’t because that *would* be rude. but I do think the choice of those words, in light of the reality of women’s lives, needs an awful lot of explanation and support.


    KRG · February 1st, 2012 at 7:00 am
  25. @justin,

    Don’t get all high and mighty. Do you remember when interested outlets were advertising high and wide that women who take oral contraceptives will die suddenly of heart attacks caused by blood clots? Yeah, well, **it didn’t happen**, although it was used repeatedly as a cudgel against women’s reproductive freedom. You should know that history before you enter this territory. You should know also know that intimating to mothers on the basis of scant evidence (being generous here) that they harmed their children invokes this cudgel in a even more offensive way. Whether you intended that offense or not is really quite beside the point. That’s what you did.

    I don’t have KRG’s disposition to civility in these matters. I obviously agree with KRG’s point. I just regard it as obvious that any situation where birth control is taken can be interpreted as an intention to forestall the negative effects of child bearing. A women’s health, after all, is her life. She may or may not have the wherewithal (financial, institutional, and in other ways) or support available to help her handle pregnancy to term, or abortion, and the care required for each and their consequences. The fact that pregnancy is not a disease or pathology is totally irrelevant.

    Do you really need it explained to you that a person who is forced to do something (and a really big something) she doesn’t want to can obviously have negative impacts on her life and health? Really? Come on.

    About teleology – I *am* a philosopher. Your statements were paradigmatically teleological. And while teleology is not a term of abuse, using it in the context you have used has been out of the mainstream since Herbert Spencer got smacked down by people who actually understood natural selection.

    (Teleological language is rampant in biology, though. And philosophers like Ruth Millikan have done lots to explicate this. She has done that, for example, by indicating proper functions of organs, behaviors, or biological processes. That language, however, is always niche-specific in the sense that an adaptation has a purpose relative to selective pressures within a niche. Once that niche is significantly changed, we abandon function-speak relative to that biological process. Human beings have changed their biological contexts so radically that proper function speak with respect to our processes almost *never* makes sense apart extremely generic processes (i.e. respiration). And human reproduction is just about he least-generic process we can talk about for obvious biological reasons (long gestation, big brains), and social reasons.)

    It is instructive that lots of philosophers of biology are non-literalists about teleology. I am inclined to this point of view.)

    BTW, you indicated that problems with pregnancy can be handled with diet and exercise. The Tom Cruise comparison was an attempt to get through to you about your crude and unconsidered remark about preeclampsia. Given that, the idea that *you* think that bioethicists ought to be more considered is ironic, to say the least.


    Dan O. · February 1st, 2012 at 8:01 am
  26. I’m sorry you feel like I was high and mighty. The thing that I learned the most from this experience is that people, no matter how intelligent they may be, have a very difficult time considering alternative viewpoints to their own — perhaps the most true statement any right-wing proponent has made of “liberals” and why I distance myself from the term as much as can. I also learned that I will never engage you in this forum again.


    justin · February 1st, 2012 at 10:58 am
  27. and if you *ARE* are philosopher, you should go back and relearn teleology.


    justin · February 1st, 2012 at 10:59 am
  28. When I learned my four causes, you were still in grade school. But thanks for the concern.

    BTW, apart from teleology, attributing “natural” *purposes* to women’s reproductive systems apart from the purposes of the people who own them has another designation, namely, objectification. I better brush up on that too, because I obviously don’t understand it.

    Also, for other people – I’ve always considered the pill to be a secondary (or tertiary) contraceptive to condoms (and spermicide). I’d also like to note that Justin’s claims would also make the use of condoms dubious if the purpose of using them is to prevent pregnancies that are potentially harmful to a woman. Which basically means that woman with a mood condition, for example, who takes a category D drug should not have sex. Yeah.


    Dan O. · February 1st, 2012 at 12:33 pm
  29. Justin, the “alternative viewpoints” argument carries no water if the facts behind the viewpoint in question are wrong. There are many legitimate cases in which, I will grant, many people in all places on the political spectrum could stand to be far more open to hearing viewpoints other than their own.
    In your case, as I pointed out in a comment still in moderation, the facts behind your viewpoint are demonstrably incorrect. You made an empirical assertion, characterizable as “oral contraception is more dangerous than the average pregnancy” (I’m paraphrasing here). Furthermore, you didn’t couch that claim in relative language (e.g, “In my opinion…”) but as a statement of fact.
    When asked to support it, you provided a link to one inconclusive study that indicates a possibility of heightened risk in *one area*, and a link to a website replete with specious and/or thoroughly debunked health claims. When pressed further, you turned to anecdotal evidence and began to frame your argument in less definite language. It was at this point that you began to argue for respect for alternative viewpoints. But you began with a factual claim, and your subsequent ethical claims stem, as I read them, from that.
    Civility and intellectual honesty require me to respect the person making a claim in almost all cases; they also require me to entertain and respect the possibility your viewpoint may have merit when it concerns an issue actually up for debate. It does not require me to respect or entertain the possibility of a viewpoint that is demonstrably wrong. When someone says “I believe that funding NASA is ethically problematic because I believe that money is better spent elsewhere,” I’m required to respect that position, even if I disagree. The claim “The moon is made of green cheese” commands no such respect.


    Alcharisi · February 1st, 2012 at 12:37 pm
  30. Alcharisi,
    First, to your point on modern obstetrics, I completely disagree. Modern obstetrics have not made birth a healthier or safer process, and in many instances has made it more dangerous. Second, I am welcome to the notion that any given individual’s opinion may be “demonstrably incorrect,” although I personally disagree in this case. My comment on civility was directed solely at Dan. O. who clearly needs a lesson in the matter. My basic point is that people are often short-sighted, especially when it comes to medical health. In terms of the links I provided, I did so, again, utilizing the two that I had on the top of my head. I am a busy person with a busy schedule and I wasted so much time on this thread already. SO much time. My feeling on the situation stays the same. Birth control is used by a significantly large percentage of the population. The long term health benefits to women and their offspring is yet largely unknown. Preventing menstruation HAS to have biological ramifications. Women should have the right to choose how they treat their bodies, but to declare someone who may have questions about the application of oral contraceptive birth control as an idiot or immoral or what have you, this is just ridiculous. People have the right to their opinions.
    KRG, I never felt you were rude beyond your typically terse tone when it comes to many of your blog posts and comments; but I never felt you were rude to me as a person.
    Dan O., I will entertain you this one last time simply to point out that a) age is irrelevant to this conversation, b) making the statement that 51% of the global population have organs which serve the purpose of creating eggs which will be fertilized by sperm and then progress into fetuses, I’m still don’t see how that’s teleological. A teleological statement would be that since women have these organs they must/should have babies. I never said such a thing. Now, we’re done you and I.


    Justin · February 1st, 2012 at 2:38 pm
  31. Justin –

    We’re never going to agree. I need a lesson in civility, and you need a lesson on the history of reproductive rights. I’m cool with that.

    “I’m still don’t see how that’s teleological. A teleological statement would be that since women have these organs they must/should have babies. I never said such a thing. Now, we’re done you and I.”

    You’ve confused ‘teleology’ (relating to purpose, final cause, or end) for ‘deontology’(relating to duties or obligations). X-ogy’s can be as confusing as X-isms. If you trust me on nothing else, trust me on this one.


    Dan O. · February 1st, 2012 at 3:45 pm
  32. yeah, it’s true that I am stylistically, er, terse.

    But, one final thing – hormonal birth control doesn’t prevent menstruation for most women, it simply channels it. OTOH, there is some question about whether having too many menstrual cycles might actually be worse for women than not, since women’s bodies evolved to not have all that many – but rather to be pregnant most of the time after menarche, which would make birth control pills especially healthful. I’m not gonna argue that, but you can see the just-so story emerge, here, yeah?


    KRG · February 1st, 2012 at 5:34 pm
  33. “Now, shut up.”

    It’s nice to see that this site welcomes reasoned debate from a diverse spectrum of differing viewpoints…


    Eric · February 1st, 2012 at 8:21 pm
  34. I have to admit I’m curious about why everyone thinks I was telling them to shut up, rather than the jerk with the offensive analogy that I was pretty sure that I was addressing, since no one else was commenting on the thread that I hadn’t yet written.


    KRG · February 1st, 2012 at 8:41 pm
  35. I am, frankly, shocked at the pushback on this post. Reproductive rights is so fundamental to women’s rights EVERYWHERE that I can’t believe that this is even being debated. You can discuss the merits of various methods of birth control (personally, I use a non-hormonal, proscription method) but to write them off wholesale is offensive. To minimize the risks of pregnancy is offensive. To ignore the many reasons why women may need to be on hormonal contraception is offensive. Should non-hormonal methods be more available? Yes. Yes, a million times. But that does not discredit the need for contraception. Period. Women want to have sex. Women want to avoid pregnancy, for many reasons. Ergo, contraception.

    Comparing bacon to contraception is offensive. Especially given that the Catholic Church used to force Jews to eat bacon, on pain of death.


    Shoshie · February 2nd, 2012 at 1:28 pm
  36. Justin, please grow a uterus and then decide for yourself what birth control methods you’d like to use. As it is, your judgemental attitudes about when and how and for what reasons women should use birth control are not relevant.


    Alyssa Goldstein · February 2nd, 2012 at 4:39 pm
  37. Oh, and just FYI, I am a huge proponent of copper IUDs, which are highly effective, non-hormonal forms of birth control. However, they do not work for all women because of uterus size and whatnot. Just throwing that out there.

    However, I couldn’t not get a copper IUD from the Catholic insurance plans that are the subject of this post. And those have no medical uses aside from contraception, so there you go.


    Shoshie · February 2nd, 2012 at 5:18 pm
  38. Shoshie –

    My wife and I were talking about IUD’s vs. vasectomies the other night – we probably won’t have more children. My point of view has been that it’s time birth control was my problem, but our research has indicated greater risk of pain and complications from vasectomies than from IUD’s (especially considering my wife has carried children). IUD’s reversibility is also in its favor, should we change our minds. I’m curious if you have thoughts about other considerations.


    Dan O. · February 2nd, 2012 at 6:05 pm
  39. TMI warning ahead:

    I love my copper IUD. I’ve had it for 3.5 years. It made my period a bit longer and heavier, which is a common side affect and can be annoying if you follow taharat hamishpachah. The adjustment period is also pretty obnoxious, though may be better for your wife since she’s given birth. For me, it was about a month, month and a half of nasty cramps, with the first two weeks of REALLY nasty cramps (only time I’ve ever eaten on 9th of Av, so that I could consume massive amounts of ibuprofen). During that month, I self-medicated with heat patches and NSAIDS. After the first month or so, I stopped noticing the IUD at all, though. I did have to get it replaced once, due to some weird complications. The second time getting it in was a lot easier, though, and the adjustment period was only about two weeks total. Anyways, I love that I don’t have to think about it, especially since I’m awful at taking medication on time. I love that it doesn’t disrupt my normal cycle or hormones. I love knowing that it’s one of the most affective measures of birth control with almost no use error. And I love knowing that if I were to ever remove it, my fertility would return immediately. Really, can’t say much bad about it, except for the adjustment period.


    Shoshie · February 2nd, 2012 at 6:33 pm
  40. Shoshie –

    Thanks, I appreciate the info. From the way you describe it, the adjustment sounds more unpleasant than what I’d heard. And stronger menstrual cramps don’t sound like any picnic, particularly when regular cramps trigger visceral memories of labor contractions (I imagine stronger menstrual cramps would trigger more vividly painful memories). Of course, it also seems as if the adjustment could be significantly different for experienced mothers.

    I think, and I’m speaking for myself here, that as I get older pain avoidance (therefore avoiding risks of pain) is becoming a greater priority. So it kinda sorta seems that condoms are the best option, at least for now.


    Dan O. · February 3rd, 2012 at 9:28 am
  41. Shoshie –

    Thanks for the honest and detailed information. From the way you describe it, the adjustment sounds more unpleasant than what I’d heard. And stronger menstrual cramps don’t sound like any picnic, particularly when regular cramps trigger visceral memories of labor contractions for my wife. Who knows what memories stonnger contractions could trigger? Of course, it also seems as if the adjustment could be significantly different for experienced mothers.

    I think, and I’m speaking for myself here, that as I get older pain avoidance (therefore avoiding risks of pain) is becoming a greater priority than it was previously.


    Dan O. · February 3rd, 2012 at 9:32 am
  42. Heh, no worries. I got my IUD at 22, so I was willing to put up with a lot. You should definitely look into what experienced mothers have to say about it because, as I said, the second time around was way less painful with a way shorter adjustment period.


    Shoshie · February 5th, 2012 at 12:36 pm
  43. Last week, I had this whole rebuttal to Justin all planned out, but work and life got in the way, and I lost interest in explaining to him why he’s wrong. But I would like to share some TMI for the benefit of Dan and his wife.

    I got a copper IUD after my first kid. Insertion was like a bad pap – not nearly as bad as I had heard. Adjustment was maybe 3-5 days of bleeding, some cramping. I did get mine relatively soon postpartum – I think around 8 weeks – which is supposed to be the easiest time for insertion. However, everything I have heard is that women who’ve had kids have a much easier time getting it put in.

    I had much heavier periods, but they were actually shorter. I don’t recall my period cramps being any worse. I LOVED that IUD. As effective as sterilization, totally reversible – and I pretty much never thought about it.

    I was going to get another one after my second (and probably last) baby, but there was a mix-up at the doctor’s office and they accidentally gave me the Mirena, which is the one which has a small amount of hormones in it. The hormones are released locally, not throughout the body like with the pill, so women who can’t take the pill often can use Mirena and there usually aren’t any of the side effects that people associate with the pill. It’s far and away the more popular IUD because many women taking it have very light or no periods. However, I have had a number of mild, but annoying side effects from the Mirena, mostly unpredictable spotting along with period-like cramping and lower back pain. In the second year, that seems to have gone away. I’m not getting this one out early but I wouldn’t get it again either.

    However, lots and lots of women really like their Mirena IUDs. Problem is, it’s always a little hard to know how your body will react.


    em · February 7th, 2012 at 8:13 am
  44. Shoshie, and em – thanks for all the info! Our midwives recommended the Mirena. We’ll see. I still wish there was a reversible male secondary contraceptive.

    d


    Dan O. · February 7th, 2012 at 8:59 am
  45. I do want to say to Justin, though, that there is more to civility than snark or tone.

    It is very insulting to tell people that if they would only eat like you eat or do what you do, they could have perfect, uncomplicated homebirths. It is very insulting to say that women only take birth control because they have been duped by Congress or male doctors or fear of menstruation. It is very insulting and also simply wrong to say that women had birth control forced on them. Women fought and went to jail to secure the right to access the birth control options of OUR choice.

    Women are smart enough to weigh the pros and cons of how and when to plan their families, and to substitute your judgment for theirs, when you know nothing of their health or life circumstances, is not particularly civil.


    em · February 7th, 2012 at 11:33 am
  46. As the mother of a healthy, beautiful child delivered by forceps, I would like to give a cheer for those modern methods that “have not made birth a healthier or safer process”.


    Judy · February 7th, 2012 at 5:02 pm
  47. em- Right on!


    Shoshie · February 8th, 2012 at 7:24 pm
  48. Warning: conservative viewpoint following

    Jewish law does not permit fornication. Jewish law does not categorically forbid abortion. However, it is considerably closer to being pro-life than pro-choice. Condom use is forbidden by Jewish law. The pill is permitted. None of this is required of non-Jews by Noachide laws. I do not think Religious institutions to be required by US law to violate their teachings. I believe that Americans have a right to use contraception, however they also need to be able to pay for said concraception out of their pockets.


    Aharon · February 8th, 2012 at 10:44 pm
  49. i cannot believe i am so stupid to jump back into this discussion, but I just want to clarify that my feeling about hormones in the pill and hormones in, for example, meat are identical. my concern is more about the long term physiological consequences of hormones being introduced into 60% of the female population of the US between the ages of 18-24. I am not saying women do not have the right or wisdom to choose. The only place in which I place the blame of a lack of wisdom is the FDA.


    justin · February 8th, 2012 at 10:56 pm
  50. @justin, I think the point that you’re missing is that for most women, it’s worth the trade off- pregnancy and birth are huge things – and historically speaking extremely dangerous – not because o hormones, but because the human head is rather too big for the human birth process, but also because there are a million other things that can go wrong too – and that’s only for women who, at that, time, want a child.

    Imagine if you didn’t

    Sure, condoms have been around for a long time (And @Aharon, your summary is a bit overgeneral)but the problem with condoms is that the woman has no control over their being used, and lots of people use them improperly, distinctly raising the chance of unintended pregnancy. The pill is something that is in the woman’s hands – and they are very effective. Moreover, they also help with some medical conditions unrelated to pregnancy.

    Frankly, if someone told me that the pill was dangerous(a notion which has very little scientific evidence in its favor) I’d say, fine. Post a list of its side effects and possible outcomes on every streetcorner. I’d still want them to be legal, because sometimes, it’s still the best choice. Without the pill, far fewer women would be able to finish school, let alone college and graduate school, fewer women would be able to have successful careers; it would be difficult to plan out one’s family, and women would have to rely on the trustworthiness of their partners, and frankly, history has not shown this to be a generally good idea.


    KRG · February 10th, 2012 at 9:10 am
  51. I think the point that you’re missing in my point is that I’m not trying to take the pill away from anyone. I do not think, as I stated from the outset, that someone using it is necessarily partaking in unethical or inappropriate behavior. I think that over-prescription of it is unethical and irresponsible. this is one of those issues that people come from a place of emotion of defense and feel judged when I never intended to judge anyone. the human mind is very good at closing down when confronted with viewpoints that disrupt someone’s preconceived notions.

    I believe fully that a huge number of the dangers of birth are not inherent in the birthing process at all, but in the manner in which we birth in our society. much, perhaps most, of the modern dangers of birth are created by the medicalization of birth. that if our society took a different approach to the entire process, I wonder if we’d need 60% of young women on birth control. I am not trying to attack reproductive rights, I am simply proposing that there is more to the picture than people usually consider.

    Just like people rely on dairy and meat products pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and tend to not question it out of convenience and ignore the consequences for a myriad of reasons, top amongst them being the desire for convenience, the same goes for the medicalization of society. we take pills for any number of things and ignore the consequences for a myriad of reasons, top amongst them being the desire for convenience. in terms of scientific evidence, that relies on testing, and lobbying groups regularly squelch attempts for testing and if those tests are done, many prevent their publication. it is the case for the food industry and it is the case for the pharmaceutical industry.


    justin · February 10th, 2012 at 9:52 am
  52. Civility: Birth control is a convenience for lazy women.


    Dan O. · February 10th, 2012 at 11:27 am
  53. Women aren’t being unethical by taking the pill but doctors are overprescribing them? How do you think the women get the pill? They get it by asking their doctor for a prescription. Should the doctor refuse to write a prescription for a woman who wants one?

    Again, you are treating the 51 percent of the population that menstruates and gives birth like moral and intellectual children who need to be protected from themselves.

    And you don’t want to take the pill away, but you blame the FDA for it being available? So should the FDA not allow the pill to be available? Or it should allow it, even though it’s unsafe? What are you actually arguing, other than that hormonal birth control makes you personally uncomfortable?


    em · February 10th, 2012 at 12:15 pm
  54. Dan, for a “philosopher” you don’t seem to be very adept at textual analysis. Speaking of which, when you say you’re a philosopher, does that mean you teach philosophy? write philosophy? studied philosophy? Is there a place I can find your philosophical writings? I’d love to see what you’ve put out that might be more flattering than what you’ve contributed to this conversation.
    Em, I think that it is a societal ill that is much more complex than a matter of doctors or women are being unethical. In no way is my intention to treat women as moral or intellectual children. Again, I think the question is much larger about our societal drive towards convenience. I have never argued anything other than that hormonal birth control makes me personally uncomfortable. And it’s really more, for me, about the high percentage in which it is doled out. Again, just as in the reality of hormones in our dairy and meat supply, I have a hard time believing that long term consumption of synthetic hormones will have no physiological effect on the human body. None of us know at all because we’ve not been consuming synthetic hormones for a long period of time. I think the issue with the FDA (and USDA) is a question of the corrupting effect of industry lobbyists in preventing productive scientific testing for things that make companies LOTS of money. I am not advocating for making the pill illegal nor am I saying it should necessarily be allowed under any circumstances. I have merely been presenting my personal discomfort with the introduction of synthetic hormones into the human body. I’m not really sure what is so offensive about me having an opinion, which is why I said “the human mind is very good at closing down when confronted with viewpoints that disrupt someone’s preconceived notions.”


    justin · February 10th, 2012 at 12:53 pm
  55. Justin, given how many people on this thread have reacted strongly to what you wrote, perhaps the problem is how you expressed yourself and not that we just can’t handle your inconvenient truth. You expressed yourself in a way that came off to me and to apparently to a bunch of other people as very condescending and judgmental, while at the same time seriously lacking in both medical and historical/social knowledge.


    em · February 10th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
  56. Justin,

    I’m all but dissertation from Syracuse University, taught philosophy for 4 years, including my own classes for two, with the last as the department’s head TA. I got tired of being poor and left, especially after seeing the job prospects of my colleagues. My research concentrations were philosophy of mind and metaethics, both within the rubric of analytic philosophy. I doubt that my writings would be of any interest to people here. If you are that interested in them, you are welcome to email me.

    You compared doctors prescribing birth control to milk producers injecting milk cows with hormones. Apparently I got that wrong. So, please, clarify this little textual point. Are you comparing women to cows or to consumers of mass produced milk? I had assumed you mean the latter. Imagine my surprise.

    BTW, and this is em’s point, birth control is not “doled out”, it is *demanded*. You make this sound like it’s some pharma rep gives a psychiatrist kickbacks to prescribe some marginally effective SSRI. It’s beyond ridiculous.


    Dan O. · February 10th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
  57. I’m curious what family planning methods you think are okay, and I’m curious what you mean by convenience. The “convenience” of a smaller family size? The “convenience” of not having to check your cervical mucus on a daily basis? (And, since this is a Jewish blog, natural family planning, whatever its pros and cons, is a particularly poor fit with observing taharat hamishpacha.) The “convenience” of not having to fuss with barrier methods? (The most significant complications I developed from any birth control method I’ve used was from a barrier method.)


    em · February 10th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
  58. Dan, again, some more refined analysis? I was comparing dairy and meat industry with the pharmaceutical industry, and I’m not the only one to make such a comparison. Many more wise than I have done the same.

    Em, I would say the convenience of all of those things, and most of all the convenience of the instant gratification of the ability to have sex whenever one wants with whomever one wants. This is not a value I personally subscribe to. I initially wrote “it is by no means appropriate, ethical or healthy to take birth control in the name of preventing pregnancy that may be life-threatening.” I should have inserted “in my opinion,” that is for sure. What I meant by that statement was the the decision to take birth control to prevent an unwanted pregnancy because that pregnancy MAY OR MAY NOT be life threatening doesn’t seem appropriate to me. The shit-storm ensued from there. It should also be noted that my very first comment was simply on the comparison of pregnancy to illness — this is how our medical system treats it, and I believe is the origin point of taking birth out of the hands of women and putting it in the hands of (usually male) doctors.

    My own family’s choices of family planning is neither here nor there, but as I eluded to earlier in the thread, ‘natural family planning’ worked for my wife and I for ten years. I think the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ had many positive affects on society, I also think it had many negative ones. sexual activity is a responsibility that people should not take lightly. It’s much easier to take these things lightly when birth control is so easily accessible. There is also an apparent correlation between the availability of birth control and the decrease in average age of sexual activity. I’m not looking for anyone to adopt my worldview, but it might help to understand my perspective more to understand that I do not think it’s a positive thing for our society to have highly sexually active teenagers, and as I stated multiple times by now, I do not believe it to be a positive thing to have synthetic hormones widely introduced into our bodies.


    Justin · February 10th, 2012 at 4:41 pm
  59. As if the patriarchal connotations weren’t clear enough (poor little women are the victims of the big bad pharma industry), that little slip from the deliberate decisions of women to the behavior of adolescents is there to make it even more obvious.

    Not only are we corrupting the order of nature and damaging our offspring’s ability, we’re setting them up for moral degradation (that is, if they happen to survive that long). Whap, whap, whap!


    Dan O. · February 10th, 2012 at 5:30 pm
  60. you have got to be f’ing kidding me.


    justin · February 11th, 2012 at 10:22 pm
  61. “the decision to take birth control to prevent an unwanted pregnancy because that pregnancy MAY OR MAY NOT be life threatening doesn’t seem appropriate to me”

    I’m trying to figure out if this is the main point of your posts. If it is, it doesn’t make much sense, since, sure there may be women who take birth control specifically for that reason, but I don’t see how that differs from taking it for any other reason of not wanting to get pregnant.

    Secondly, natural family planning is difficult to do correctly, and often doesn’t work based on the vagaries of individual women’s biology and situations. I’m glad it worked for your family, but I suppose that had it not, you wouldn’t have, say, abandoned your wife, or if it didn’t work for your daughter, you wouldn’t throw her out of the house. It probably isn’t also the case that you feel it’s entirely your decision about whether sex is to be had, e.g. if you feel like it and she doesn’t want to, or it isn’t a good time, due to fertility, tough noogies on her. For many women that is the case. The pill works a lot better for that.

    Third, while I certainly agree that “the convenience of the instant gratification of the ability to have sex whenever one wants with whomever one wants” could be problematic ethically speaking and certainly is spiritually speaking, prior to the pill, it was a problem for women and not for men. The pill freed women from a great deal of misery, poverty, and judgement that you and I given our ages, have blessedly missed historically. However, my parents and grandparents didn’t, and neither have some mentors of mine who were active feminists in the 50s and 60s, and let me tell you, it was not a pretty place for women to have those moral standards enforceable. On them, anyway, if not for men. Actually, let me rephrase that: it was ugly,ugly, ugly.

    I’m also pretty impressed by the statement that you disapprove of the drive for convenience and include as inappropriate the convenience of a smaller family. In fact, I’m nearly speechless at it. SO, I will only point out that the economy hasn’t been so good lately, lots of people are out of work, and the cost of raising one’s children (especially Jewishly) can be rather high (and I say this as a person whose family does without a lot of things that many people consider “basics”).

    Oh, also, that doesn’t usually stop people from wanting or having sex. Feel free to disapprove all you like, but the reality of the world is that sex happens a lot and what the pill does is make its consequences less horrible for women. It has also had the benefit of freeing women to be able to do things like go to college and grad school, have careers and not worry that they’ll have to depend on a man to support them once they start having children – because they can be sexually active but still put off child-bearing. This has enables us to have a world where there’s a great deal more equality between men and women, and has made our world better in innumerable ways. yes, I do mean the pill, and not just birth control in general (Although having more methods rather than fewer is always good).

    The (western) world we live in today was built in no small way by hormonal birth control. Is it perfect? no, probably not, but its effect has been so far-reaching, that given the relatively long and sophisticated studies we have of it, the number of women who have been able to use it for along time without extreme side-effects, it’s worth it to most of us. In fact, it’s probably worth it even if it does turn out to have more significant side-effects than we know of today.

    The recent brou-ha-has over birthcontrol are not about protecting women from the mythical side-effects of hormonal contraception – they’re about rolling back women’s control over their lives – that’s why your statements have offended so many of us. If you want to practice homeopathy, or rolfing, or eat nothing but wheatgrass, feel free. I myself have been known to drink herbal teas and like them, and I have nothing against holding modern medicine to a high standard and demanding accountability of it – it certainly needs more regulation than it’s had since the various Republicans have been dismantling all sorts of regulations over the last 30 years on and off. But expressing your personal preferences for inefficient methods and untested hypotheses(if I can dignify them so far) as moral imperatives? I’m having trouble understanding why you don’t see the insult implicit in your “concerns.”


    KRG · February 11th, 2012 at 11:59 pm
  62. Justin -

    What you completely fail to understand, and I have been trying to make clear to you, is that your opinion does not occur in a vacuum. What you say does not derive meanings merely from your intentions. You no doubt think I am twisting your words, but you are, I suppose independently (that’s charitable), hitting nearly every browbeating rhetorical strategy used to resist increases in reproductive freedom over the last 30 years.

    I also want to note, as should be obvious, that natural birth control or condoms or whatever are not under the control of women who have been slipped roofies or otherwise date-raped or relationship-raped. It is hard for me to imagine a person being ignorant of the legitimate fear that women have of these threats, and the way in which a pregnancy both compounds these fears and potential consequences. In a way, birth control pills provide a bullet-proof vest against the eventuality of a violently produced unwanted pregnancy. I think it is, further, obvious that this is easily described as preventing pregnancies that will have negative health impacts.

    Imagine the psychological strain of having to undergo the hormonal shifts involved in early pregnancy, possibly followed by its termination, all the while determining a confrontation with a violent offender who – more likely than not – one was previously intimate with.


    Dan O. · February 13th, 2012 at 9:29 am
  63. what you have completely failed to understand and what I have been trying to make clear to you is that I am not opposed to reproductive freedom. I am not opposed to the use of the pill or any other form of birth control. All I have tried to state, and this is the last time because I am so bored with this conversation at this point, is that I believe it is something that should be used with more moderation than our society uses it. That’s all! I don’t see why that is so controversial a statement, but it doesn’t really matter, because, after all, I am merely a talking-piece for the catholic church, far-right evangelical politicians and the voice of patriarchy. If you only knew me you’d know how utterly ridiculous what you’ve accused me of believing is.


    justin · February 13th, 2012 at 10:52 am
  64. While I agree that there is little point in continuing this, all your previous comments are still here in the thread for us to read and see the very broad argument you made at the outset, as well as the additional levels of offense that you tacked onto your argument as the discussion progressed.

    KRG made a very eloquent defense of the pill.

    All I will add is that the sexual culture we have today, for all its problems, is far more moral and life-affirming than the sexual culture we had before reliable birth control became widely available.


    em · February 13th, 2012 at 12:35 pm
  65. “I think the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ had many positive affects on society, I also think it had many negative ones. sexual activity is a responsibility that people should not take lightly. It’s much easier to take these things lightly when birth control is so easily accessible. There is also an apparent correlation between the availability of birth control and the decrease in average age of sexual activity. I’m not looking for anyone to adopt my worldview, but it might help to understand my perspective more to understand that I do not think it’s a positive thing for our society to have highly sexually active teenagers, and as I stated multiple times by now, I do not believe it to be a positive thing to have synthetic hormones widely introduced into our bodies.”

    I wonder if there has been any increase in understanding over the last week why such statements might raise hackles, particularly when the accessibility of birth control is in question. I mean, one hopes…


    Dan O. · February 18th, 2012 at 11:36 pm
  66. great points DanO. excellent debate here. I think most (all) of us agree that the pill, which pbrought on a highly sexually active teenage population is not a positive thing. it’s also brought on a host of negative consequences nationwide. Justin is right on in his objections to it. kudos! KRG, you need to see the real facts objectively. sorry.


    Jesus Cano · April 30th, 2014 at 6:58 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik