Environment, Family, and Planning

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Birth control pill

Birth control pill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not that long ago I wrote a blog post called Too Big For Me. I know the world’s problems are too big and too complex to be reduced to black and white. But there is a topic that most people consider closed, no longer worth debating, that warrants another look.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=birth-control-in-water-supply

I’ve shared before what happened to male fish when exposed to trace amounts of the estrogens used in birth control. The question is whether birth control residue is being filtered out of our water supply or not. The Scientific American article above stands a bit at odds with a statement made in another article, which seems to indicate that this is a non-issue. Put those two side by side and I can only draw the conclusion that here is another case of the experts not really knowing for sure. So the question is: is the risk important enough to warrant action?

If there was no option, it might be an easy answer. But here’s my thing: why is it that virtually everyone thinks getting hormones and chemicals out of our food supply is a good idea, but at the same time see nothing untoward about pumping their bodies full of hormones to shut off a perfectly healthy bodily system?

I think the resistance comes from the belief that there’s no other option; without the hormonal manipulation women willingly subject their bodies to, they would be barefoot and pregnant all the time. That would be an even greater environmental strain, all those extra people, right? Because how else can we space/limit family size? We really don’t have any other choice.

Wrong.

People are appallingly uneducated about their bodies and how they work. The fact is, you can space children and limit family size simply by watching the cycle of fertility as it circles, and matching your behavior accordingly. I am, of course, talking about natural family planning.

Now, in general, the assumption is that NFP = rhythm and thus using it is, ahem, ineffective. Rhythm was, indeed, pretty ineffective, but modern NFP has almost nothing in common with rhythm. Modern sympto-thermal NFP has been studied at 99% effective (that’s the same as hormonal birth control, by the way). If you don’t want to wade through the scientific jargon, the summation can be found here, but I wanted to provide the non-“biased” source.

We have been using NFP from the very beginning, through infertility and the subsequent successful planning of three more children. Although I began down this path “because the Church says so,” it has been most of a decade since I have come to realize that in this case, there’s an incredibly practical reason beneath what the Church says. It makes me furious to see the objectification of women in modern society, and to realize that women are participating in it themselves by allowing their value to be defined based on their sexual availability.

In short, I’m all about people planning families, I just don’t see how it’s good for or respectful of human beings in general and women in particular to deliberately shut off a healthy, functioning system in order to do it. I don’t have all the answers; I just want women to wake up and realize that birth control is not the only, or even the best, answer in most cases–it’s only the path of least resistance. And I think it’s irresponsible to ignore the health and environmental risks simply because abstinence is inconvenient.

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9 thoughts on “Environment, Family, and Planning

  1. Good post, Kathleen! I’ve been really struggling lately with the fact that in my immediate influence circles, sterilization is posing a greater threat than even hormonal contraception. Many people find vasectomy to be a “no-brainer” solution. Of course, for young people, not ready to take that step, the hormones are usually the default. WE just need to keep encouraging people to give it a try! 🙂

  2. Excellent post, Kate! When we tell engaged couples about the environmental issues with hormonal contraception (about what happens to male fish when exposed to estrogen in water), they’re shocked but not shocked enough to stop taking their hormonal contraception…

    • I’ve been reading that the horrible drought this year is actually global-warming related. So many people fight tooth and nail against the idea that people have anything to do with global warming, and for a long time I’ve stayed out of it because I’m certainly not in a position to be an expert, but the more time passes, the more I think it’s a matter of people not wanting to be inconvenienced by something that would force them (us!) to make lifestyle changes. This is the same category, I’m afraid.

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