A Hard Pill to Swallow
Mircette and I became one shortly before my wedding day. In a way, my union with the wallet-sized green box of 28 pills was more complete than the bond I had with my husband. We devoured each other: I swallowed the little tablet daily, and its hormones penetrated the cells of my body.
There were unspoken vows in our seemingly side-effect-free union. Come sickness or health, I promised to be faithful to Mircette and take it regularly at the same time every day. In turn, the pill pledged to suppress my ovulations.
I could have sex whenever I wanted, without fearing that a pregnancy would impose on my incipient career. We spoke each other's love languages: Mircette met my needs for adventure and protectionsimultaneously; I served as its interactive billboard among my friends. And the wonder drug's makers got my $20 co-pay each month. Everyone was satisfied!
That's when a more captivating lover began to turn my eye.
A Hospitable Womb
It was an emotional affair, the first time I cheated on the pill and everything it stood for. One thing led to another; I didn't really go out looking for a new ideology.
Early in my job as an editor at CT, I worked on a piece by a just-married couple, Sam and Bethany Torode, which they later developed into a provocative little book titled Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception (Eerdmans, 2002). It was a personal narrative about how theysomewhat irresponsibly, I thoughthad had unprotected sex since their wedding. They were so cute, so Bible times!
I had to wonder, though: Did no one tell them that newlyweds are supposed to secure some essentials before risking the intrusion of a baby? Didn't they want to make love without visualizing cribs? Didn't they need to get used to one another as husband and wife before succumbing to the asexual roles of sleep-deprived young parents? How would they find time to travel, to secure academic degrees, well-paying jobs, and a mortgage? And would they be able to afford Starbucks?
Still, I found the Torodes' idealism endearing, and I congratulated myself on my ability to edit even articles with which I disagreed. But gradually, my reservations gave way to fascination with the authors' reckless surrender.
The pill and I had just celebrated our first anniversary. Though I flirted with the idea of abandoning birth control and the ideas it encapsulated, I remained faithful to it as I edited the defiant article. I didn't mind the Torodes' questioning "the contraceptive mentality" of our society. But I scoffed when they accused the pill of causing really tiny, chemical abortions. They may as well have called me an embryo killer.
Science, I thought, was on my side. The way birth control works is by preventing ovulation. No eggs get released; no eggs get fertilized; no babies get made. End of story, no?
The thing is, ovulations do sometimes break through. Just ask the regular pill users who are bewilderedalmost as much as was the mother of Jesusat the news of pregnancy. These getaway ova are, of course, hard to track down. In the rare event that pill users do ovulate, they usually don't notice it. So only a handful of partial studies exist. They find that ovulations happen in between 1 and 5 percent of cycles in which no pills were missed.
"It's possible that an egg might be released and be fertilized in the fallopian tube only to have the embryo arrive at the uterus to find an unfavorable endometrium," the Christian Medical Association's William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn recently wrote in The Contraception Guidebook (Zondervan, 2005). "The hostile uterine environment could potentially be incompatible with human life, and the embryo would die." Yikes! This means that, if I interfere with the embryo's effort to make its home in the uterus, I have on my hands, as these authors say, "a morally unacceptable situation."