One of those methods, and the most common for women to use, is birth-control pills. (For men it is condoms.) The Pill is usually made with estrogen taken from the urine of pregnant horses, though it’s also manufactured with synthetic versions of that hormone and a related hormone, progesterone. Clinical studies show that the Pill (or really, the many variations on it) is between 92 and 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
The Pill’s various side effects include some “desirable” ones, such as regulating the timing and quantity of menstruation, preventing acne and other skin problems, and, in some cases, reducing the risk of breast diseases, ovarian cysts, and uterine cancer.
But the Pill is not an easy answer. Taking it has medical risks, for which there are voluminous pages of warnings issued with every filled prescription. More than that, though, the Pill does not allow its users to avoid complicated questions about lifestyle, health, future, and morality. And in some cases, the Pill brings those questions closer.
In the past year, several lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of Ortho-Evra, a birth-control medication administered through a medication-infused patch that stays on a woman’s skin for weeks at a time, instead of being administered by daily doses of the Pill. The suits have generally alleged that the patch unacceptably increased the risk of stroke in women using it as a form of birth control, and allege that in as many as 20 cases the patch caused the death of a woman on the patch. (The patch’s manufacturer, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has denied knowledge of problems with the patch, though that denial has come under fire as a result of the discovery, in lawsuits, of internal company documents some say refute it.)
Earlier this year, a Michigan man filed a federal lawsuit effectively seeking the right not to be a father. According to the lawsuit, Matthew Dubay was in a relationship with a woman during which he was very clear to her that he did not ever want to be a father or have children. The woman allegedly told him that she was infertile and using contraception (though what kind is not laid out in the suit, some news reports have assumed she was on the Pill). But the woman got pregnant all the same, and carried the baby to term. She then sought a court order for child-support payments, which Dubay is fighting, arguing that he deserves an analogous right to her unilateral right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. That is, he is seeking the right not to be a father, in a case that is being called “Roe v. Wade for men,” just proving that no matter how much — or how little — is ever actually “settled,” there’s always more to talk about, argue about, and figure out.
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Jeff Inglis: email@example.com