BOGUE, Kan. - Full disclosure. It's been a long time since I was pregnant. In fact, I can't remember when. But I was bedside at my oldest daughter's arrival at Doc Limes' home-town maternity clinic.
I claim only to have been an amazed (and nervous) spectator, but I think I began to appreciate more the courage, strength, and miracle of women. Whatever men say, the best of us haven't a clue beyond that. Bill Cosby once asked Carol Burnett what birth pains were like.
"'Grab your lower lip," she said. "Now pull it over your head." Men know little about pregnancy or childbirth beyond the mechanics instigating the fact (and I've heard they're often klutzes there, too.).
Despite that, a gritty bunch of self-assured males in priestly vestment are confident artificial birth control is a sin. Whether they think it's a mortal or a venial sin is hard to pin down. However, their missionary position is this: sex for fun is agin' God's rules. It grates on God's nerves. Good women should wrestle in the hay strictly to procreate and bear children to fill pews today, coffers tomorrow. Otherwise, as Hamlet would advise, "Get thee to a nunnery."
It's surely possible to excommunicate or at least publicly humiliate the 99 percent of fertile American women who are or were, shall we say "doing it," while taking the Satanic pill. Given today's melodrama, I frankly can't see why the ultimate liturgical hammer hasn't dropped. Maybe the repercussions? After all, with all the ladies sent to Hell, who'd cook goodies for the potlucks?
There is a clerically sanctified escape route of sexual bingo, the "rhythm method." It has nothing to do with tambourines or tap dancing.
What you do (you being the female) is to try to figure out when you're fertile and when you're not. If you think you're not fertile, you can have fun and you probably won't bingo--which God would rather you did. Otherwise you'd just be, well, having fun. But God (anatomically a male) is no pushover. He designed females so the rhythm method works only a little better than 75 percent of the time. In this game, BINGO! means God wins. You have to deliver the prize...whatever it is.
Now, we could be talking about how women are not forced to take the pill. We could be talking about reasons women take it other than not getting pregnant -- like money. The average cost of an uncomplicated child birth is somewhere between $5 and $10 thousand, co-pay around $500. Add in monthly visits to the doc at $150 each.
Over 1 in 10 first-borns is premature. A study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 (it's surely higher now) found the average cost of dealing with a preemie was $47,000. One new mother's Caesarian, with 5 days hospitalization, cost $25,000. Co-pay "only" $1,000. Just a start. Then then there's the diapers, the baby sitters, the toys, the noises in the night, the days missed at work. Soon, higher auto insurance rates. College tuition. Rearing children is expensive.
In a recent NPR interview about birth control, Adam Sonfield of the Guttmacher Institute says it simply costs the health care system less money when couples plan their pregnancies.
"And that means healthier pregnancies and healthier infants," he says. "It means fewer pre-term births and low birth-weight baby births. It means starting prenatal care earlier. All those things also can lead to cost savings." Maybe you can begin to see why.
Most men think of the pill as being solely to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I did, too. But there are other reasons, I learned.
Oral birth control can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 40 to 70 percent, depending on how long it's taken. It can also improve the complexion, stop excessive hair growth, and make menstrual periods lighter and less painful. It can prevent or control endometriosis by stopping the growth of excessive uterine tissue. And there are no abortions among women who didn't get pregnant.
I saw a little of Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif) holier-than-thou, "it's-a-war-against religion" political hearing. All the witnesses allowed were religi-ossified males in ties, beanies and collars. They represented a decided minority of Americans. Indeed, they exemplified a reptilian segment of religion destined to evolve or die..
And if the war-on-women politicians hope their one-act play will win an Emmy come November, I think they'll learn otherwise. In the meantime, they should all grab their bottom lips and pull them over their heads.