Thursday 11 July 2019

Contraception? your thoughts on

Remember the Alamo Eighth! Just over a year ago Ireland experienced a dramatic volte face on the rights of women (and the rights of the unborn) when We The People voted to 2:1 to repeal the 8th Amendment to the contraception [Freudian slip there] constitution. The referendum was just the first small step opening the door to a long legal journey that will allow the termination of some unwanted pregnancies. I gather that it is still difficult to obtain a termination across large swathes [geographic, social and economic swathes] of the country. Shipping off to the UK is still an option, unsatisfactory as it might be. Who knows about the consequences of Brexit on this dimension, though?

400 hundred years ago, when WmShagsper wrote Much Ado About Nothing, infant mortality was running at about 1-in-7, and yet more children died between their 1st bday and puberty. In 1600, there were 'only' 0.5 billion people upright and walking. There was accordingly a certain imperative in Benedick's statement "The World must be peopled". Even when Kenneth Branagh uttered the anti-mortal phrase in the filum 25 years ago, a case could be made for the sentiment. In 1993, World population was 5.5 billion; since it's seen a runaway 40% increase to 7.7 bn. Surely now there are just too many people on the planet, each generating unconscionable quantities of carbon footprint while consuming far too much Stuff [not to mention the pizza and ice-cream].

Now that The People have spoken, their decision has to be implemented in legislation, regulation and effective bureaucratic systems. But let's step back a few weeks before that unwanted pregnancy became apparent. Nobody wants an abortion, so could We The State do more to preventing that pregnancy? There are two issues: education and availability.

Education for sexual health and healthy sex. I'm an old hand at this. The first honest dollar (1980) I ever earned was teaching a discussion section on BI105: Human sex, reproduction and development. At The Institute I teach Human Physiology to Pharmacy Technicians, 95% of whom are women. I tell them about the menstrual cycle and the hormonal control of ovulation, with diagrams of estrogen and progesterone swooping up and down every ~28 [95-percentile range 23-32] days. Reduced to the cartoon level at which I cover such a fascinating topic, you'd think it would be easy marks to answer a question about it [Q5b) Describe, with a diagram, the effect of changes in the levels of different hormones through one menstrual cycle] on the exams. Key to the answer:
But Nobody attempts that question, so I assume that I know more about that academic aspect of the process that anybody in the exam hall. I'll shoulder some of the blame as a crap teacher but they must have seen that picture in school. If you really have no clue about when your partner is ovulating [most blokes, surely] then you really need some help with contraception. A vasectomy works really well, I recommend it.

Availability. The Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution has recommended: “The introduction of a scheme for the provision of the most effective method of contraception, free of charge and having regard to personal circumstances, to all people who wish to avail of them within the State.” The implementation of that recommendation is going to be a long time a-coming because The Man is kicking the can down to road a piece by soliciting opinions from thee and me. You can access their questionnaire: Public consultation on access to contraception – have your say! There is no mention of vasectomy in the welter of contraceptive options which is really letting the lads off [again!].

I've had my patriarchal say. If The Blob has any sexually active, pre-menopause, Irish-domiciled readers, they have more skin in the game and should contribute their 2c to counteract mine. An unlimited supply of free government condoms will sort us all out for children's birthday-party balloons.

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