You will notice the title of this week’s column – one woman. That is what I am, and in the end, that is the only entity that I can speak for. As a woman, I am insulted by the comments made in Washington over the debate defending the government’s intrusion into the rights of religious institutions. Those comments continue to be offered in the name of "the women of America", as if we women were a monolithic group incapable of independent thought and in need of the services of these self-appointed advocates.
The advocates call contraceptives a "critical preventative health benefit".
A common sense definition of a health benefit would be something that improves the condition of one’s health. That implies that the health of the person in question needs improvement in some fashion. For example, insulin would be considered a health benefit since it improves the health of an individual with diabetes.
So, are these folks saying that the natural hormonal cycles of women are detrimental to their health? And are they claiming that the contraceptives in question will improve the health of the women taking them?
The rhetoric surrounding the defense of contraception is based on the premise that a woman’s natural hormonal cycles are somehow detrimental to her because they do not allow her to be available to men for sexual activity at all times without the risk of pregnancy. That natural lack of risk-free availability is the perceived health problem for which contraception is the proposed cure.
So the "healthful" thing for the woman to do is to tamper with her natural hormonal balance to correct this problem.
The following list is directly quoted from the "Physicians Package Insert" for the commonly prescribed oral contraceptive called Ortho Tri-Cyclen.
"An increased risk of the following serious adverse reactions has been associated with the use of oral contraceptives.
• Thrombophlebitis and venous thrombosis with or without embolism
• Arterial thromboembolism
• Pulmonary embolism
• Myocardial infarction
• Cerebral hemorrhage
• Cerebral thrombosis
• Gallbladder disease
• Hepatic adenomas or benign liver tumors
The following adverse reactions have been reported in patients receiving oral contraceptives and are believed to be drug-related:
• Gastrointestinal symptoms (such as abdominal cramps and bloating)
• Breakthrough bleeding
• Change in menstrual flow
• Temporary infertility after discontinuation of treatment
• Melasma which may persist
• Breast changes: tenderness, enlargement, secretion
• Change in weight (increase or decrease)
• Change in cervical erosion and secretion
• Diminution in lactation when given immediately postpartum
• Cholestatic jaundice
• Rash (allergic)
• Mental depression
• Reduced tolerance to carbohydrates
• Vaginal candidiasis
• Change in corneal curvature (steepening)
• Intolerance to contact lenses"
Those don’t look like health benefits to me. In fact, they look like health detriments.
And while there are some illnesses in which the side effects listed above are outweighed by the benefits of this medication, the overwhelming majority of women are not affected by those conditions.
For the vast majority of women, the natural hormonal cycles of their bodies are not illnesses. And since they are not illnesses, they do not require medical treatment. They require respect.
In fact, in the opinion of this one woman, a culture that calls turning a woman’s body into a chemical factory solely so that she can be constantly available to a man for sexual activity is not providing a medical benefit to her – it is committing a medical malpractice on her.