Let me start by saying that I understand why people disagree with me about birth control pills. They do cause environmental hazards to fish and amphibians. I also understand that the NFP followers feel comfortable avoiding any potentials of destroying life. I get it.
I also get that my friend doesn't want to bleed to death, and my other friend doesn't want to endure pain every month and surgery every year. Although I cannot say for sure that both of my friends have done everything possible to avoid taking the pills. I can say that from what they have told me, birth control pills are a matter of survival.
Let's take friend #1, we'll call her 1. 1 has a daughter and is married. She also has severe anemia. That is her red blood cells cannot get enough iron. A person with a slight case of anemia (say a pregnant women) would take iron supplements to help with the problem. And 1 does take iron supplements, but when she has a period it's not like normal women. 1 literally bleeds through a heavy menstrual pad in an hour. 1 is always making trips to the bathroom slowing down the progress of work and unable to sleep. 1 told me that her daughter had to tell her one morning that she had bled through her clothes. This is not unusual for many of us, but 1 was getting ready for work and hadn't been up that long. 1's periods also last longer. Instead of one week, her periods can last for two weeks stop for a few days and start again. This is normal for women with severe anemia because without iron it's hard for the body to clot. Because 1 lives pay check to pay check, it's hard for her to afford the necessary medications to make her periods stop. The church won't cover birth control pills and those are the only known medications to stop women from having a period (other than sterilization something the Church also will not cover). For a while her doctor was providing her with samples and simultaneously petitioning the Church to get medical coverage. But her doctor could not provide these pills forever. Because she could not afford the medication every month, 1 was forced to continuously bleed. Because she went a year without relief, 1 ended up in the emergency room where the doctor told her that she could die from a stroke at any time because of the excessive blood loss.
I was very upset when she told me everything that was going on so when I read in the local diocesan newspaper about the bishop's letter concerning medical dispensary I wrote a response on her behalf. The bishop had said that he felt that pharmacists should not be required to dispense drugs if it was against their beliefs. I agree; no one should be forced to do something heinous. However, he mentioned birth control. And I said to the effect that the pharmacist has no way of knowing why these women are taking birth control pills. Some are taking it for medical reasons not for controlling the number of children they have. I also mentioned the plight of 1 and how the diocese was ignoring her pleas for medical coverage. My response was published in the paper (albeit with much cringing). Oddly enough someone who knew my husband read my response. He ran into my husband and said that he wasn't aware that our diocese would not cover 1's medical expenses. He told my husband that if 1 worked for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles she would receive medical coverage if she produced a medical note from her doctor.
I haven't heard if my diocese is still killing 1, but perhaps they have changed their policy. I need to ask her how that is going.
I also understand that some may feel that because 1 is married, she should not be taking birth control pills and having sex. But again this about life and death. The Church only recognizes unions that have sex. Otherwise the lack of sex is grounds for annulment (I'm not sure about throughout the marriage but I know that if there is no sex ever, it is). So women like 1 are in a catch 22. They either can't have sex and have no real marriage but stay healthy and alive. Or they have sex and eventually die. Or they have sex but go against Church teachings. It's a complex moral dilemma.
Let's switch gears and look at my friend #2. We'll call her 2. 2 and I went to college together. We were suitemates. About half way through the year, 2 hardly got out of bed. She was in a tremendous amount of pain. She also started loosing a mass amount of weight. 2 went from a size 10-12 to a size 4. 2 is about 5'7''. She couldn't figure out what was wrong with her so she went to her gyn. The gyn told her that she had cysts. They scheduled her for an operation to remove the cysts on her ovaries. During the operation, they also discovered a condition that 2 did not know that she had. Endometriosis. Normally during a women's period, the uterus lining is shed. It travels down the vagina out of our bodies. In women with endometriosis, the lining "sticks" to parts of the body instead of exiting. It can stick to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, etc. After her period was over, 2 would be in pain. The pain was caused by infections developing in the areas where the lining was "stuck." Her doctor immediately burned with a laser the lining that was caught. After the operation, 2 was informed of her condition. She was told that the condition will sometimes correct itself after child birth (2 was not married at the time). But that for the time being she had two choices: she could take birth control pills to stop having period (thus eliminating the problem) or she would have to face frequent surgeries to avoid infection and possible death. 2 took the easy and less costly choice of going on as she put it "the strongest birth control pill there is."
Again, I want to say that I understand that birth control pills are to some people inherently evil. I want to point out that they were originally developed for good use. The man who created them thought that they would eliminate fertility issues especially for his wife. Instead he discovered that they do the opposite. And if some people want to view them as wrong as a means for not having children, then I have no problem with that. I do, however, get upset that people who are totally against their use for medical purposes because it jeopardizes the lives of my two friends who represent thousands of women with these medical conditions. The only way that my friends would not die is if they stopped having a period. Short of sterilization and menopause, the only other way of preventing a period is through hormones or birth control pills or their equivalents. As far as I can tell, there aren't many alternatives that my friends and others like them have. Even the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recognizes the good that can be done with use of birth control pills for medical purposes.
I also want to make the point that these two friends of mine are not the only two people in my life who have had to deal with these conditions. My mother in law suffered from endometriosis even after my hubby was born, and my own mother went through countless years dealing with her severe anemia. I basically grew up understanding how horrible her condition was and understanding how concerned she was for my own reproductive health. She would often ask the doctor to check for anemia during routine visits. I have been fortunate to never have to deal with either issue but have been blessed to have a unique perspective on these medical conditions.
So I ask you, before you start going on and on about how awful birth control pills are, think about my two friends and the members of my family. Remember to thank God that you do not have to face the decisions that they have had to make. And pray that some medical cure will come about to help eliminate these horrific medical conditions. Thank you.