I don’t know exactly how I got it, but I have this heightened sense of fairness. Being the third of seven children probably contributed to the creation of my “fairness radar”. Either way, I tend to pay a little too much attention, and get a little too emotionally invested when I feel things are out of balance.
That sense of fairness was about to be challenged in an unexpected way as my husband and I prepared for our first real adventure.
I’d considered becoming a Peace Corps volunteer a year or two after graduating from college. But, the 27-month commitment was a little daunting as a single woman and I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of going by myself. While dating, the Peace Corps came up in one of our first conversations and in the back of my mind I kinda hoped we could just go together. Fortunately, the Peace Corps turned out to be the ideal stepping stone to my husband’s career. Perfect.
There was just one thing. You can’t start a family and serve in the Peace Corps.
I’d always imagined myself getting married and having kids. That’s what you get married for, right? “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” At least, that’s what I thought. I didn’t expect to have kids right away, but, you know, like, sooner than later. The thought of having to wait a total of three years made me a little uncomfortable. And there was the question of prevention.
I talked it over with my mom. She was raised in a conservative Christian religion that didn’t support the idea of birth control. As we discussed my options, I brought it up and I remember her saying, “I didn’t teach you that.” Yeah, well, mom… abstinence isn’t really going to work anymore…
I started researching the varieties of birth control and found a surprising number of options for women, and only a handful of less reliable options for men. My fairness radar was working overtime trying to make sense of the fact that not only does a woman have to worry about the pregnancy part, like actually being pregnant, she seems to be mainly responsible for the prevention part too. My husband and I had long conversations about the whole thing, where I just couldn’t fathom why society had poured so much research and investment into birth control for women and had done so little for men. And, of course, along with all of that research, there were tons and tons of anecdotes and clinical trials about the negative side effects of various birth control methods. Weight gain, emotional problems, difficulties getting pregnant after stopping birth control are just a few of the reported issues. I was starting to feel real anxiety about the whole thing.
As I’ve reflected on my disgruntlement and frustration with carrying the weight of prevention in my own relationship, I remember when I first started paying closer attention to the abortion issue, birth control came up. I would often find the pro-life box included something against birth control too. That seemed contradictory since prevention should be the first line of defense against abortion.
Society plays a huge role in contraception perception and how likely people are prepared and empowered to make these decisions. Have things improved? Do we support those who decide to use contraception and make sure education is positive and complete? Are there people who still kinda frown upon prevention? Do we respect and support differences since most methods still focus on a common goal of wanted pregnancies?
As far as men and contraceptives, and the fact that we’re relatively in the dark ages (which I still feel is totally unfair), I want to give a growing number of men some applause and credit. Men are stepping up to help with clinical trials that could one day give couples more options. Men are recognizing the imbalance and doing more to support their partners, sharing the responsibility in whatever ways they can. Guys who face ridicule on how contraceptives might change their “masculinity” are shrugging off those jabs and jokes to stay focused on what matters most. Some are doing what they can to spread this message and attitude to others. Attitude is the catalyst for real change. It’s clear that there is a growing number of men, not only willing, but actually doing their part to make things better.
And to them I offer my sincere thanks. It not only means a lot, it makes a difference.
So, abortion. Remember that abortion becomes a non-issue if there’s no unwanted pregnancy. When taking on the abortion debate, let’s consider the whole picture.