Monday, March 5, 2012

Here, have some free birth control

Rehberg IV, coming this August to a theater near you
Just to clarify, I am a religious Jew who is very family-oriented.  I have three amazing children that I love with every speck my existence and am joyfully awaiting the arrival of the next.  And I am in support of birth control being included in public health care plans.

The fight over this issue has been nasty and politics have gotten way too far into it.  Does using birth control make you a liberal?...a democrat?  Does avoiding it make you G-d fearing?  I had to laugh when my cousin shared a picture of this lady holding a sign that said "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd [hmhm] a senator."

Judaism has also had some birth control debates.  You know what we did?  We found balance.  There is a beautiful mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply.  It was the first command ever given by the Creator, who also instilled desires in us to make sure that we would follow the instruction.  I think it's important to point out that there are two parts here: being fruitful, and multiplying.

Before my third wedding anniversary, I had already been blessed with two children.  This was a big leap, but I felt ready for each one.  Adjusting to life with two kids in diapers, I wasn't sure I needed more than two...ever.  Only a few years into the whole Torah-observant scene, I also wasn't sure what my options were.  My husband was very supportive and explained that we had fulfilled the mitzvah, and if that was enough for me than it was enough.  There are some Jews who hold slightly stricter or more lenient opinions on this matter, but the woman's needs are respected.  Of course he really did want more, and nearly four years later so did I, but G-d has given us the wisdom and tools to decide what we can handle and then act on it.  It's my choice, it's your choice, it's her choice--not to be challenged by any employer or elected official.

Multiplying is pretty easy.  Just about any girl and guy can multiply all they want.  But what about the fruitful part?  I think that's telling us that there is more to reproducing than having someone around to do it with.

What would you say a fruitful person is?  I could think of a few words: healthy, emotionally balanced, spiritually grounded, caring, sensitive.  Creating a life is the truest way of representing that "image of G-d" that we were created in.  If a person feels the need to work on being fruitful a little longer, then maybe that's what they should do before running ahead to multiply.

Oh, you can say "well don't have sex then" 'til you're blue in the face, but I know a woman who was recovering from a third miscarriage and needed time to heal before conceiving again.  She's married.  Is she really supposed to just wait a year before acting like it?

Now I'm not a fan of any of the millions of little colorful pills that people take, but I can see how some people feel that they help those seeking treatment to lead a longer or better quality life.  Each person has to make their own choices about these things.  If a healthcare package is going to include pills to make your blood change consistency, your hot flashes subside, your sneezing go away, and so on--then it might as well include these ones too.  To allow religious conviction or sexual bias to dictate public health care rulings would be so very un-American.

Maybe a woman who has ovarian cysts, which can permanently damage her future ability to procreate, should be able to use the pill to get herself through this horribly painful condition and back on schedule.  Maybe there are people in the government who think that fewer orphanages, abortions, or WIC funds will be a good thing for a sexually active teen who should really finish high school.  Maybe a woman who was raped needs emotional healing more than forced motherhood.  Maybe a devoted wife who is a mother to several little ones deserves some time to let her body and spirit find peace.  Who are we to judge?

So calm down, everybody.  The "moral fabric of society" isn't ripping apart.  Women's health care needs are simply being assessed, and everyone is realizing that they are different from men's.  It's no surprise that they are only now receiving that recognition.  After all, it took until 1978 for US Congress to pass the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  We live in an era with so much freedom and progression in certain countries, we can easily forget that some of the ugly parts of our collective past are not so far behind us and that they still run wild in many other corners of the world.  Life moves slowly, but we are still moving forward.


  1. B'shaah tova!!! You know, rivkah just had her fourth, Brit is tomorrow morning - and I am due with twins in June!!! It's baby season!!! I'm coming to you for clothes :)
    On the birth control aspect, yesterday at the OB I saw a 14 year old boy (I thought he was about 11) waiting for his girlfriend and it was pretty obvious it was pregnancy related. So sad. I don't think birth control is free in Israel.

  2. This was a great blog post. I understand all the reasons why a woman or a couple may not want children. I wish more people were aware of teachings of fertility awareness. There are many different classes and methods to teach natural fertility so a couple can avoid or try for a pregnancy instead of using chemicals or surgeries to avoid pregnancy.

    I am pro-life and have several children. My view is that at the moment of conception God has created a soul.

    The above post is quite sad about such a young child being a dad already. I do hope that those children give the child up for adoption. Very few young teens can truly raise up a child.

  3. Such a smart, wise, and articulate woman! Our future will be safe in the hands of the children you & Aaron raise. ~ Auntie V

  4. G-d doesn't create a soul at conception. All the souls have long been waiting for a receptical. Body and soul are joined at conception from the pool in the many worlds of creation. Read Rav Steinsaltz on the 13 petal rose.
    Our grandparents knew hardship to give life to large families. It is a shame that Jews don't continue to build new lives by having more kids, but yes, I agree with Shayna that each family must decide on this issue and especially the woman whose health comes before that of the unborn child. ABD