Sunday, March 16, 2014

What Women Know

My best friend and I attended a Catholic high school together. Given that the Catholic Church is staunchly anti-abortion, we were blasted with moral arguments in our theology classes as to why the Church takes this position. Naturally, being 15 or 16 years old and rather impressionable, my friend went home from school one day and promptly told her mother she was pro-choice. Now, my friend’s mother is from Ghana where, in her lifetime, abortion was illegal (it is now legal, though with restrictions). She promptly sat her daughter down and explained to her the often dangerous realities women have to face when access to abortion is restricted. Needless to say, my friend thought about abortion a lot differently since that talk.

I don’t think it’s any surprise that it was my friend’s mother and not her father who spoke so frankly with her on this subject. Women know something you don’t. Childbearing and birth control are facets of every woman’s life whether she decides to have children or engage in potentially-reproductive sexual activity or not. More often than not, ideas regarding control over a woman’s body are passed down from other women in the family. After all, the onus of birth control is more often than not placed in the woman’s hands, and it is she who must deal with the consequences of a pregnancy most directly. Women know something you don’t because they have to.

Ironically, many women remain surprisingly unknowledgeable about their bodies. For example, relatively new types of birth control that can reduce or even eliminate altogether menstruation are often viewed with no small amount of skepticism by women. I’m a little ashamed to admit even my reaction upon first hearing about Seasonique (the “four periods a year pill”) was to invoke the naturalistic fallacy: Isn’t it unhealthy not to menstruate naturally?

Well, no. It’s perfectly fine not to. While hormonal contraceptives can pose their own potential health risks, using hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle isn’t in and of itself harmful. Nothing “bad” is going to happen to you if you don’t ovulate. Yet, as a culture, we seem to have this notion that not menstruating each month is unnatural and therefore unhealthy.

However, today more and more women and girls are opting to take some form of hormonal contraceptive, whether as birth control or to alleviate painful pre-menstrual symptoms. Perhaps this common misconception will soon dispel itself as women start passing on this knowledge amongst themselves.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree that proliferating knowledge about abortion and contraceptives is a good way to handle the related misconceptions. I especially agree with your underlying point that we should better instruct people on proper critical thinking, as to improve their abilities to detect biased information and fallacies.
    I have never menstruated in my life, so I cannot give any firsthand experiences with abortion or contraceptives. I did take an ethics class that dabbled in the morality of abortion, though. Before I took that class, I was well-informed about male and female reproduction. I got a solid B+ in my middle school’s mandatory sex education course. Even though I had such a firm grasp on reproduction, I had always bought into the pro-choice arguments of my friends, and let me say, these arguments were pretty flawed.
    The ethics class I took encouraged the use of coherent, logical arguments to support a conclusion. We read a collection of abortion articles with conflicting viewpoints and I was able to form a logical opinion on the morality of abortion based on my own critical thinking.
    What I want others to take away from my experience is that knowledge by itself will not erase misconceptions regarding abortion and contraception. Proper examination and analysis is also necessary.