Saturday, May 06, 2006

What pro-choice means

Some women inherit serious problems when they go through puberty. I started taking birth control when I was in high school, not because I was sexually active but because of terrible pain. Often doctors will use a birth control pill to regulate problems with menstrual cycles. Luckily, this worked for me.

People may not know this, but birth control pills are often used to treat a variety of non-family planning issues: Endometriosis (prolonged and painful bleeding) or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome-- my friend who has PCOS takes the pill because otherwise her uterus does not shed the lining, she has no cycle and she can become very ill. Some women even take low dose progesterone-only pills to regulate a period if they are in sports and want lighter, easier to manage/schedule cycles. Some people take it to clear up acne!

Recently a conversation with a friend of mine (we'll call her Nora) made me think about what pro-choice really means.

Nora was telling me recently about an experience she had with a hospital. I love and respect this girl but we are very different. She is conservative and has deep religious beliefs about contraception. When she went to the hospital with debilitating cramps and complained of feeling weak and sick during her menstrual cycle, her doctor gave her the pill. Nora, desperate for a better quality of life, decided to try it but unfortunately it didn't work for her. This is a setback because the pill would often be used to clear up a problem like this.

When Nora went back in to explain to the nurse that she needed more options, the issue of birth control itself came up. Nora was asked if she objected to using birth control. She was honest, and answered, "Yes, I am Catholic. I want to use natural family planning and I don't think this is right in case it could interfere with a possible pregnancy."

At this, the nurse became very haughty saying, "You need to get over this and take care of your body." When Nora explained that she had been on the pill for several years with no results the nurse cut her off saying, "Look, this is what works for women. You need to push these ideas out of your head. There is nothing wrong with taking the pill."

This upsets me because if you are really pro-choice then you understand that EVERYONE gets a chioce.

If a woman comes to a hospital and doesn't want to take birth control, you cannot push that on her and give her a lecture. It is her choice what she puts into her body, especially if it's a chemical hormone that could control pregnancy options and she objects to that morally.

Not only that, but this shows an inadequate hospital staff. Moral beliefs aside, the pill was clearly not working to solve Nora's medical problems anyway.

When I hear things like this, I get frustrated. Medicine needs to offer options to women like Nora, who didn't want to take a birth control pill but still needs help managing complications in her reproductive organs.

Pro-choice goes both ways. Just as I don't want a pharmacist refusing my pills or a doctor lecturing me on taking the pill, Nora shouldn't be lectured for her beliefs either.

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