Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jagged Little Pill

A lot of people use it. This site tells us that these methods are by far the most common used. But do people really know how chemical birth control works? Birth control pills, patches, IUDs, and all other chemical birth control methods work in three main ways to prevent pregnancy.

  1. They make it unlikely that ovulation will occur
  2. If ovulation occurs, they also make it unlikely that sperm and egg will meet
  3. If sperm and egg meet, they also make it unlikely that the egg will implant in the uterus
That third item is a subject of much controversy, or would be if it weren't kept so hush-hush due to politicking, because it means that the pill interferes with a pregnancy and leads to the death of a developing fetus. When a sperm and an egg meet, life begins. A unique human being is created with unique DNA. No one who has ever existed before or will ever exist again has precisely the same genetic makeup - scientists have shown that even the DNA of identical twins differs slightly. There may be dispute over whether that particular human life has rights or value in those first moments (and this particular blog post makes no pretense about trying to address that particular question at this point in time), but there is little dispute that conception marks the beginning of human life.

However... an actual pregnancy may not begin for another 7-8 days as the egg travels through the fallopian tube to the womb. If the lining of the uterine wall, called the endometrium, is affected by use of The Pill, then the fertilized egg will not be able to attach and a pregnancy will not occur. Thus, the pill is not really a "contraceptive" in all its functions. For those who believe in the sanctity of human life, the fact that the pill can interfere with a pregnancy - that part of its function is as an abortifacient - should be unconscionable.

The pill is between 92 and 99.7% effective if used correctly. What we don't know, and the pharmaceutical companies will not tell us, is how frequently the first two methods of preventing pregnancy fail, and the third one succeeds. That third option terminates a life, and knowing how frequently that happens is information that should not be kept from women.

Though we don't know the exact effectiveness numbers, we can work with the math a little bit. Lets say for the sake of simplicity that the three functions that chemical birth control uses to prevent pregnancy are each effective 57% of the time. Thus, each function will fail 43% of the time:

43% * 43% * 43% = 8% of the time pregnancy will occur

So, we can see one possible set of values showing that previously mentioned 92% effectiveness number. Now, lets look specifically at how often that third method of preventing a pregnancy will happen.

43% * 43% = 18% of the time the first two functions will fail and the 3rd will have a chance to prevent pregnancy

18% - 8% = 10% of the time a fertilized egg will be destroyed with chemical birth control if these are the actual numbers

And this will all happen silently. Without the woman's knowledge. Now granted we don't really know for sure what these precise effectiveness numbers are for each of the individual functions that make up the whole, but the concept behind the equation holds. To achieve its overall effectiveness rating, the pill may be really good at blocking ovulation and fertilization, or it may be really bad at those two and really good at altering the lining of the uterus. We just don't know what goes into that 92-99.7% rating because no one will talk about those details.

There are other resources out there that explain this situation in clear, concise language. Here are a couple of quick Google results on the topic: Link one, and Link two. Regardless, you have to ask yourself and your partner if this happening - even once - is acceptable to you. If you look through the second link, you'll find this remarkable tidbit of information:
Q. So how do you prove that the pill acts as an abortifacient?

A. The answer to this question can be found by comparing the rate of break-through ovulation and the detected pregnancy rate. The ovulation rate has been reported to be about 27 ovulations in 100 women using the pill for one year. But the detected pregnancy rate is much lower at around 4 pregnancies per 100 women using the pill for one year.

As you can see, there is a big difference between the number of women who ovulate (27) and the number of detected pregnancies (4). What has happened within the woman’s body to reduce the high ovulation rate to such a low number of detected pregnancies? I suggest that one answer to this important question is that pregnancies have begun, because ovulation and fertilization have occurred, but some of these pregnancies are terminated because implantation cannot take place. The pill has damaged the lining of the womb, stopping implantation.

If these numbers are accurate, then depending on how effective the pill was at blocking fertilization after the egg was released, the pill could be acting at an abortifacient as high as 23% of the time.

There's a good chance that you're reading this and have never heard this truth about chemical birth control before. People are more likely to know that you're at risk for blood clots than that you're at risk for conceiving without getting pregnant. I won't go into all the specifics, but you don't have to dig very deep on your own to uncover the truth. It's no farther than page 2 in one of the product guides. But even with it right there in the open, no one seems to talk about it.

If you are pro-life and are on the pill, you cannot bury your head in the sand and pretend that this isn't a very real challenge to your beliefs. There are alternatives to the pill that are just as effective, though they may lack the convenience. Barrier methods and NFP are two options that do not affect a developing baby. If you are pro-life and don't use chemical birth control for this very reason, then maybe it's worth considering speaking up and sharing with other close couples in an appropriate way. Knowledge is power. And, if you are pro-choice or believe that life at these early stages is without rights or value, I challenge you to at least consider that all women should have the right to make a fully informed decision about their method of birth control. And that means that all the information needs to be available and actively communicated, and that doctors and drug manufacturers need to be truthful and forthcoming about birth control methods that employ an abortifacient.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life's currency

Every day, we are given 24 hours to spend. We can't save it. We can't borrow against it. There's no such thing as a credit card for time. Whether we're intentional about it or not, we will spend our full allotment of time each day. Our daily income and outgo of life's currency will always balance to zero.

Obviously, on the larger scale, some of us will have more time on Earth than others. But daily - unless it's your last one - we all receive the same amount.

Much like taxes, we are compelled to spend some percentage of time on food and sleep. Often, we will waste large swaths of time here or there on meaningless drivel - spending it on things we will neither remember nor care about later. Anticipating tomorrow's allotment. Promising ourselves that we'll manage our time allowance better the next go around.

But we can invest it. And that investment usually produces the best return when we give our time to someone else. Serving. Teaching. Caring. Loving. Listening. Sharing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

And what about a pirate voice option?

We've been using the Garmin my mom lent us (thanks mom!!!) during our vacation travels. Beth and I have used this little miracle of science before, but always with mixed results. This trip was no different - it (usually) gets us where we're going, and we don't have to stress out too much about it if we miss a turn. But this trip I think the Garmin was nothing but trouble.

Sometimes it can't "acquire the satellites" when we're beneath some trees in the park. It cannot seem to figure out that our hotel is really on the right side of the road as it keeps telling us to "turn left and arrive at our destination". It picked what I would consider to be the wrong Pizza Hut when asked to choose the closest one to our hotel - yes, there are two of everything down here and it chose the one 5 miles farther away. It is fully convinced that there's a road in the park which doesn't actually exist, and little Ms. Garmin gets really sassy with her "recalculating" when we choose to ignore her and not drive pell mell through the park's foliage on her imaginary road.

And, in her most egregious offense -the one in which I can't hardly bring myself to forgive this technological wonder - Ms. Garmin led a van fully of hungry, travel weary people a mile and a half down the road past our true lunch destination! A mile and a half to a Dollar Saver store which Ms. Garmin stubbornly swore was a Cracker Barrel. Not-uh, Ms. Prissy. Not-uh! At least she had the phone number right, and we called and explained to a confused hostess that the checkered flag we trusted is not right, and that we need assistance from a real human to fill our bellies. Perhaps Ms. Garmin is a little resentful that her head is full of restaurants, yet her secret pain is that she has no stomach of her own.

I'm glad I don't own one of these myself. It's nice to borrow (seriously, thanks mom!!!), and certainly it can be helpful at times, but it has a tendency to get you to trust it when it is not at all trustworthy. I seduces you with its maps and its apparent foreknowledge of your travel futures. And just when you turn your mind to something other than directions, she leads you astray. As far as directions go, you really can't trust her. But that is her primary purpose! Alas, she's just not good enough to be a real navigator. I wonder if Tom-Tom got this right, cause Garmin sure didn't. Or maybe I'm too apt to anamorphize my navigation tool and then expect too much. She's only human... er...

And seriously, what about a pirate voice option? "Turn to starboard ye land lubber!" "Land ho!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Eye for Adventure

We've been trekking through Mammoth Caves in Kentucky for the past couple of days. It's been great fun, but we're all pretty tired by the end of the day.

Beth's been carrying her camera around, and she got a shot of a bat today quite by accident. But, for the most part, she's not had much luck with the camera. It's pretty wonderful to realize that our eyes are much better designed than the modern digital camera. This becomes most apparent in low light situations. While the camera struggles to focus, thirsty for light in these caves, we are still able to behold the wonders of creation, using one of the great wonders of creation - our eyes. Now, it's too bad the pictures in our minds aren't downloadable. There, the camera clearly wins.