When I Can’t Talk to Josh

Josh is the first person I turn to when I want to talk about any question related to theology, philosophy, or ethics. Josh shares my values, is somewhere between much smarter to infinitely more intelligent than me depending upon the day, and has a distinctly different education than mine. Josh also tends to zig traditionalist where I zag feminist, and can be counted on to be annoyingly “good” when I am rebellious.

But there is one issue that I cannot discuss with him. In the past we could talk about it, but then he realized something a few years ago, and ever since then his eyes glaze over in boredom and I can tell that there is no way to get him to pay attention to what he considers to be such a ridiculous non-issue.

That topic is, of course, all questions surrounding the supposed abortifacient properties of the pill. One day I was saying something or other to Josh about it, and he stopped me mid-ramble. What I was saying referenced the fact that no half-way reasonable source suggests that the absolute chance of miscarriage is higher for women on the pill, it is simply a question of whether the relative risk is higher per ovulation. Josh clarified the facts behind this (you can look up the numbers for yourself if you care to do so) and that is where I lost him.

Josh believes that it is absurd to call something an abortifacient unless it raises the absolute risk of miscarriage (or spontaneous abortion, if you insist on the term). I delight in the nuances of bioethics and like to torture myself by thinking about things such as a potential duty to avoid pregnancy when one is overweight. But while Josh is by far the most conscientious man I know, he does not enjoy wasting his time with stupid questions. He will talk with me for hours about when it is and is not permissible to prophylacticly treat menstrual or ovulatory cramps with NSAIDs (because there is evidence that NSAIDs actually increase the absolute rate of miscarriages and birth defects), but he simply can’t be made to care about these sorts of arguments over the pill.

And this is why I find myself in ridiculous discussions online. You see, I simply can’t stand it when Josh won’t talk to me, and thus I am driven to bash my head against a stone wall. You can’t blame me, can you?

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3 thoughts on “When I Can’t Talk to Josh

  1. waywardson


    Never thought of it that way, but Josh has a good point. You’ve read my own positions on the matter.

    I’m not one for bioethics, but I’m one for old fashioned ethics.

    I think there is a lot of legitimate anger toward the pill. The drug industry medicalizes “being female” and the pill is sold as a cure for all of life’s problems. I’ve read quite a few stories about how women were put on the pill as teenagers; suffered through the side effects; made bad decisions because they couldn’t get pregnant on it; then found out that all they needed was to eat better and exercise. They were never told anything about the pill other than that they needed to take it. The belief that “birth control pill is abortifacient” was what prompted them to look for other options.

    But is this not the end justifying the means?

    The problem with this thinking is that while truth can be accepted or rejected, untruth is far more unpredictable. When we heard “the birth control pill is abortifacient”, then did the research, it made us not trust our practitioner or NFP promoters. We were interested in NFP for health reasons and felt like they didn’t care about that, but wanted to recruit us into the pro-life/anti-contraception movement. (I am quite pro-life, but not pro-”pro-life movement”. But that’s another discussion.) We were hurt because we felt we could not trust those we needed to be able to trust on such a sensitive and (for us) complicated issue.

    And then there are women for whom the Pill really is the best treatment option and, one way or the other, are the collateral damage of such rhetoric.

    Is it too much to ask for those who don’t think the Pill is good for (most) women to stick to the truth?

  2. Rebecca

    As someone who had never been told this was even a possibility and learned of it by reading the insert in a pack of birth control pills, I can say that I was upset no one – no doctor, no priest, no marriage preparation person – ever mentioned it as a possibility. I am also upset with myself for not reading that insert years earlier than I did. I think it is important to completely and honestly share the data and the specifics, including that it may happen rarely. I also think not owning up to the fact that this is a possiblity is eqally as wrong as exaggerating it.

    Scare tactics are wrong. Always. And had someone come at me with this information to start, I would have been very defensive and it may well have caused more harm than good. As it is, I’ve struggled with the fact that someday I might meet children in heaven who were conceived, but did not ever implant (yes, I realize this is unlikely given that we never had a “scare” and have since discovered our infertility – especially my blocked tubes).

    In all of this, I just think we must speak the Truth. In Love. What do we know? We know the pill thins the lining of the endometrium, it is in black and white. We know this might cause early miscarriage. Period. I personally think there are a thousand more compelling, well-documented reasons to not use the pill. Do I think this can be a reason to not use it? Yes. Should it be the whole reason? No. There is much more beauty and depth than “it might cause an abortion.” (I’m leaving this exact comment on two blog posts on the same topic with different points of view. I love both of you ladies, but I think we must find some middle ground :).)

    1. waywardson23

      Yes. This.

      We were one of the couples hurt by the scare tactics. We don’t know if we lost any to contraception, but we know we lost at least one, possibly two more, from TTC. Natural early pregnancy loss is real and relatively common. Ovulation + sex does not always equal baby.

      But I also see some people being VERY uncharitable toward women who have very serious health problems. Rae knows Church teaching quite well, but others get very confused and doubt their faith. “Does the Church want me to be in pain?” “Are we really using each other for sex because I have to be on the Pill?” As if having a chronic illness isn’t bad enough.

      Yes, informed consent means that women should be informed of the risk. But it also means they should be informed of the size of the risk. And morally loaded words such as “abortifacient” shouldn’t be tossed around lightly.

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