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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chaps of a sensitive disposition, look away now

On Women's Hour, Jenni Murray asks about the new contraceptive wonder-pill, and wonders if its effect of entirely suppressing menstruation might be less than positive. Reply (from Edinburgh academic... shame...):

'If you look at the situation of women - sexually active women - say a hundred and fifty years ago, many would have been pregnant and therefore not having periods, or breast-feeding and not having periods, or menopausal and not having periods, or would have died in childbirth and so - not having periods. So not having periods is not an unnatural condition...'

It does not take a highly trained mind to note that there is a considerable difference between (i) the fact that there are factors in the female life-cycle which naturally mean that menstruation at times does not occur, and (ii) the assertion that not having periods is per se a natural enough condition. It is difficult to see that dosing oneself with hormones could be placed under the former heading.

The mention of death in childbirth was so bizarre as to be amusing. Death as the ultimate contraceptive... there are so many things wrong with that notion... Its inclusion also rather implies the feeling of the contraceptive-abortive lobby that lack of 'control over one's fertility' is essentially death: non-contracepting women are liable to find themselves dead at the hands of both male oppression and the intruder in the womb... - although I doubt (to be fair) that the woman on the radio particularly meant to make this point. Yet it is also interesting, I suppose, that the idea of lives wherein fertility is not seen as something to be overcome is so far outwith the lived or even imaginative experience of the contraceptive lobby that it can only be viewed in terms of mid-Victorian novels and their high maternal mortality rates. Perhaps someone should point out that one does not cease to benefit from modern medicine (if one is fortunate enough to live somewhere where it is available) just because one does not impede procreation in its appropriate context.

(Quoth the scholasticula, who, being neither in the paternal household, married, nor in a college or convent, is obviously in a completely unnatural state of life and cannot speak with personal authority on any of the above matters...)