One of the Great Injustices Against Women
One day history will show that one of the great injustices against women in our time is birth control. There are a plethora of reasons why this is the case. But there is another dimension that is often overlooked. Birth control has led to a woefully inadequate focus in the medical field on women’s health. Ask any woman who deals with debilitating hormone issues that exacerbate other health issues and you will find countless stories of women who were told the Pill was the only answer.
I am one of those women.
I’ve written in the past about my four miscarriages and low hormones that have been a chronic problem for me. Natural Procreative Technologies (NaPro) helped for a while, but eventually I developed severe side effects from my hormone treatments. This led me to have to end the shots that were helping treat my low estrogen and progesterone. The only solution left to me by my doctor was to go on the Pill.
I briefly considered it for medical reasons, which the Church allows, but discovered, after doing research, that I possess a genetic mutation that makes me much more likely to get a life-threatening blood clot if I were to take birth control. I decided to bear with the difficult symptoms and unite them to Christ on the Cross for His greater glory and for those He has specifically asked me to suffer for. That doesn’t mean this path has been easy. The Cross is never easy, but it is the path to love and joy.
As I’ve gotten older, my hormone issues have gotten worse and aggravated other chronic health issues that developed after my gallbladder removal. I am getting sicker as I get older. I currently can’t eat most foods, especially when my hormones drop and inflammation rises precipitously, rendering me ill for a week or two each month.
This is not to complain about my plight. Suffering is redemptive, and a means of sanctification that must be embraced, despite the moments of affliction. This is to point out that the medical community has failed women like me.
There is no interest on the part of the medical industry to figure out how women’s bodies actually work. They are only interested in the multi-billion dollar industry that seeks to suppress the natural functioning of a woman’s body. Unfortunately, many Catholics have gone along with this as they continue to reject and disobey God’s call to give themselves completely over to their spouse in self-emptying love, rather than put up artificial barriers through contraception.
Part of this is ignorance. Too many priests, in the chaos following Vatican II, turned a blind eye or supported the use of contraception despite the Church’s clear teaching that the use of contraception is gravely sinful, unless used for medical reasons not related to intentionally avoiding pregnancy. St. Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, is clear as day on the Church’s teaching. Previous generations were fed the lie that this is an area Catholics should ignore. That lie passed down to my generation, which is now being passed onto my daughter’s generation by Catholics who continue to ignore this teaching.
There has been enough authentic teaching at this point in time that most Catholics should at least have heard that the Church forbids the use of contraception. The case of the Little Sisters of the Poor has been in national news for 7 years. This means that many Catholics have chosen the world over Christ in this area of their lives and it shows in Western culture. It also shows in the woefully inadequate medical technologies available to women. This means that Catholics are not only cutting themselves off from God, they are also willingly supporting a grave injustice against women.
As long as Catholics continue to use birth control and ignore Christ’s teaching, women like me will be left at the mercy of our medical conditions with no solutions in sight. As long as we faithfully go along with the lies of our culture, we cannot bring about any change. If we believe that the best way to treat a woman’s body is by suppressing it, then we cannot complain when doctors fail to treat our underlying medical conditions. We ultimately only have ourselves to blame. We suffer from self-inflicted wounds. We have refused to demand better.
A False Panacea
This may sound harsh—which is not my intention—but it is the truth. From migraines to gastritis to chronic pain to fatigue, every doctor I have seen for the last 10 years has wanted to throw birth control at me as if it is a magical pill that will solve all of my woes. This is deeply distressing because these doctors have little concern about the risks the Pill poses to women or the moral implications of what contraception has done to decimate our culture in the last fifty years.
They also are not interested in figuring out how women’s bodies work. There’s a reason my low hormones cause high amounts of inflammation in my body at certain points in the month, but nobody cares to figure out why. Birth control can simply stop or limit my cycle and Voila, problem “solved.” That isn’t a solution or treatment, however. It’s putting a bandaid on a gaping cut.
The hormones progesterone and estrogen cause widespread issues in women’s bodies. Doctors know these hormones increase inflammation when they are lacking, but there is little research on why this is the case. The issue is still there and the reason for it is completely ignored while also putting someone like me at risk.
Women who have also been in the dark abyss of postpartum depression know what it is like to be utterly abandoned by the medical community. Postpartum is a hormone issue, but instead, psychotropic drugs with a host of side effects are all that are offered.
Nine years ago, when postpartum depression and anxiety hit me with force 10 weeks after giving birth to my daughter, the nurse practitioner I saw looked at me and said: “I’m so sorry. I know there is nothing anyone will do for you.” I appreciated her honesty, but this is completely unacceptable in a time when God has given us access to ethical treatments for many illnesses and ailments.
Thankfully, NaPro hormone treatments took care of my postpartum depression, but this is an area that isn’t funded in a way that has a far-reaching impact on our culture, which means the treatments themselves are inherently limited. I discovered this reality when I had to stop treatments three years ago. There is still much that needs to be done in the area of women’s health, even where advances in line with Church teaching are being made.
Women Deserve Better
I know we are called to turn to Christ Crucified and seek to be sanctified through redemptive suffering. It is also time for Catholics to start demanding more from the medical community. It is a great injustice that women have been fed the lie that we must suppress our bodies to be truly women or in order to treat underlying medical conditions. Why are we not asking more of the medical community?
In an age of multi-billion dollar manufacturers of life-changing and life-saving drugs, why is women’s health so far behind? The answer is birth control. Why seek answers when doctors can throw a pill at a woman that acts as a panacea rather than real treatment?
There are millions of Catholic women in this country. We have to stop buying these lies and turn completely to Christ first. He is the one who will give the graces necessary that will lead women to throw their birth control away and truly live for Him rather than the world.
The next step is to remember that we can bring about change if we work together. We often forget that we have power in numbers, but so long as we go along, we cannot bring any lasting change. The next time your doctor tries to “treat” your medical conditions by simply saying birth control will help, tell them no. That isn’t treating the problem. It’s ignoring it. Demand more from them on behalf of your sisters in Christ, your daughters, and you. Women deserve better.