The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

3 January 2005

A case for doing without

"Your modern girl," wrote columnist Cynthia Heimel, "is often pondering the perils of birth control. As well she should be, since each and every method sucks."

This observation of hers dates from the early 1980s, but after looking at the Consumer Reports "Guide to Contraception" (February 2005; you'll have to be a subscriber to read it online), I'm inclined to agree: there is indeed a high level of suckage inherent in the process.

The highlight of the piece is bannered "Your comparative guide to contraceptives": it's one of those trusty CR charts, just like the one you look at when you're buying a used car. "Between the polar opposites of contraception, abstinence (0 percent failure rate) and doing nothing to prevent pregnancy (85 percent failure rate), there are myriad choices." Indeed there are. And to make it interesting, where there is the possibility of variability, two failure rates are cited for a method: one for when used "perfectly," another for when used "typically." Some of the users, I conclude, you really have to wonder about.

Each method, apart from the two listed in the banner, is listed with a failure rate or two, price, usage notes, "how it works," advantages and disadvantages. For most methods, the list of disadvantages is longer than the list of advantages, and when there are two failure rates, the variance is striking: the diaphragm, for instance, fails six percent of the time when used according to instructions, and 16 percent of the time in Real Life. These are not wonderful odds, yet this is one of the methods with the fewest drawbacks.

When I was married, we went through a number of these concoctions and contraptions, and didn't much like any of them: the Pill made her ill, various IUDs were rejected as too intrusive, and marketing efforts notwithstanding, no one, I submit, actually likes condoms. With the second child on the way, we decided on sterilization, and of the two possible paths, one was clearly easier.

While this has worked out well enough, I suppose, it's still a fairly drastic step. Then again, any of these methods should be considered drastic: having children is presumably not everyone's goal in life, but whether we like it or not, the biological reason we have the sexual drive we do is to produce those very children, and biology doesn't take being thwarted lying down, so to speak.

Oh, yes, they did mention abortion in a sidebar. It was, I think, a reasonable assessment of the actual process, though I'd question their definition of "fatality risk."

Posted at 8:26 AM to Life and/or Death

TrackBack: 5:51 PM, 5 January 2005
» Now take your pill like a good girl... from Accidental Verbosity

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