Thursday, August 23, 2007

Self-Control vs. Birth Control

I'm certain that I have not gotten anyone pregnant in the past three months. I will warn you now that this entry is about something some people find offensive, or at least controversial. But Blogs are supposed to be about free expression, so that's why you get a chance to express your opinion too.

This is sort-of about birth control. Many people who like sex (and that covers a lot of people) are somewhat careless about who they have sex with and when or how frequently they have sex and what kind of sex they have. These lapses are responsible for many sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are more awful than others, and, of course, a great many unwanted pregnancies.

Unfortunately, in all the years people have been having sex, there are not very many ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies except to abstain from vaginal intercourse. Homosexuals are pretty safe in this regard, and those who engage exclusively in oral sex are also fairly assured they won't get or make anyone else pregnant. The other kinds, however, are risky, and unprotected vaginal sex, especially frequent, as in three, four, five times a day unprotected vaginal sex, is higher risk. The numbers naturally increase the risk.

Condoms are not insurance against pregnancy. Guys who use condoms do their partners a big favor, however, by minimizing the risk of spreading or contracting STDs. Condoms are also a help, but no guarantee, against pregnancy. Birth-control pills are not foolproof, and there are sometimes dangerous side-effects, depending upon the kind of pill, the dosage, and whether the pill has contraindications with other medications. Women with certain medical conditions should not use birth-control pills without consulting an experienced gynecologist who knows the patient well enough to understand her hormonal balances. Spermicides are not foolproof. The so-called morning-after pill doesn't prevent pregnancy, but does seem fairly effective at inducing what amounts to a spontaneous abortion. For guys, even the pipe-cut route is not absolutely fool-proof, I am told, if the guy has a high sperm count and motility and is a member of the frequent-flyer program. Abstaining from intercourse when the lady is most likely to be pregnant (calendars and thermometers can help here.)

As a guy, I am probably gonna be criticized for pointing out that it takes two people to make a pregnancy. In fact there are only a few living things (people not included) that can procreate without a partner. So when we say ''unwanted pregnancy,'' we need to point out that both the giver and the receiver need to be on the same page when it comes to how far they are willing to go with each other. So-called casual sex takes on a whole new meaning when the condom pops, or when there isn't one in the first place. The guy who is considerate enough of his partner to use a condom should be able to feel that his partner is also smart enough to know her own body well enough to know when her biological factors are least likely to be in the condition to make babies. Alas, many guys are not that considerate, and all to few ladies are sensitive enough about their own menstrual cycles and subtle but important changes that occur between periods to know if they're likely to get pregnant. Although there are arguably too many humans chasing too few resources already, humans are still built with things that make us (men and women alike) want to have sex the most when we are most likely to have that sex result in more humans.

So we have to be more careful. Guys have to be subtly careful about their partners and ladies have to insist--yes, dammit, insist, that their partners at least wear condoms, and maybe also insist that they agree in advance to pull out before crossing the finish line, so to speak (although again, that's not foolproof either).

I say these things because I am a father. I am very proud to be a father, and I love my child for having come into my life after heart-wrenching traumas with partners who could not carry babies to term. Abortion to save the mother, or to avoid having her bear a child with deforming birth defects, is, I think, a necessary medical procedure. I don't think it is fair or moral to criticize doctors who perform abortions nor the parents who agree to abortion in those circumstances, to be punished or subject to abuse for their decisions.
As a guy, I can't completely know the physical and emotional pain that a woman goes through in having an abortion. It's not only the surgical process (D&C is the most common procedure, involving dilating the birth canal, scraping away fetal tissue from the lining of the uterus and flushing out the tissue.) This is, make no mistake, killing an unborn human. For the father of that unborn human, it is the same as being an accomplice. Being involved in taking the life of another, especially your own child, is not something anyone can do easily. And months -- years -- decades --after, recollection of having been the accomplice, even for the best of reasons, still haunts me.

So I plead with anyone and everyone contemplating sex with the opposite sex to be careful. Sex, as wonderful as it is, is just like any other investment. There are rewards and there are risks. Know your body. Know your partner. Know in your heart whether the reward is worth the consequences.

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