GLOBAL.CH squareOne of my friends – we’ll call her Erin – became sexually active at the age of 16.

Her Protestant parents were regular church-going types, involved in their congregation and seemingly attuned to Christian teachings on premarital sex. Still, when her mother found out about Erin’s activities, she didn’t put a stop to the relationship. Instead, she put her daughter on birth control and washed her hands of the matter.

In her early 20s when I met her, Erin still resented the hypocrisy of her mother’s purely pragmatic response. By then she had ended her relationship with her high school boyfriend and reclaimed her sexuality as a gift for her future husband. She was grieving the loss of her first love and dealing with the aftereffects of taking contraceptives that didn’t agree with her body.

Hers was one of many such stories I heard at school and while cooking in restaurants. Growing up in a strict Catholic household, I never had to worry about teenage romances or contraception. Birth control just wasn’t an issue – abstinence was the only method promoted in our home – and I didn’t think much about the Pill (or any other version, for that matter) until the news stories on blood clots, cancer and environmental damage started to multiply. Then, my view of contraceptives dimmed considerably.

But, after several conversations with Dr. Mark Druffner, the NFP-only doctor who contributed his expertise to this issue’s article on contraceptives, I see more clearly why it is important to affirm the value of life rather than simply condemning mainstream family planning. I also see why I – not as an evangelist, but simply as a woman – must continue to challenge others of my gender who equate any questioning or criticism of contraceptives with a “war on women.”

First and foremost, we women must be educated about what we put in our bodies and what we permit to be given to our children. It’s “unbelievable the number of pediatricians who put young girls on birth control,” Dr. Druffner said, and I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal evidence to support it. Erin’s story is far more common than mine, and many of my friends who were not sexually active in high school were still on contraceptives for acne, irregular periods, or “just in case.”

As girls grow into young women, they continue to do as they were taught – they go in for annual check-ups and take contraception in stride. Perhaps they choose Depo-Provera, as did another friend of mine. She was furious when she saw the first article linking the shot to osteoporosis. When she confronted her doctor, the doctor said it was new research, and she, the doctor, didn’t know.

Perhaps what we need, more than anything else, is to know. When the women of our society finally assess – objectively – whether birth control is worth the costs, we can have an honest conversation, minus the political blather, and fertility awareness-based family planning might gain popularity.

Until then, why worry about the risks, the side effects and the unknown costs? We have a better option – one that values our bodies and the lives we are gifted to create.