Boston, The Catholic Church, and The Pill

birth control pills(Image via ThinkStock.)

To bleed or not to bleed? That was the question. Apparently, when the Pill was first invented in the 1950’s, Boston’s researchers saw no scientific reason for the women who took it to have periods at all. So why did menstruation become part of the package?

Because of the Catholic Church.

Yes, knowing that Catholic discourse was all about keeping things “natural,” scientist Gregory Pincus saw how maintaining a woman’s “natural cycle” would increase the likelihood of the church’s approval. This is why the monthly packs of contraceptive pills, which were originally planned to contain 21 pills, were actually distributed in packs of 28, including 7 placebos that triggered a week-long menstruation period.

The Catholic Church’s involvement in contraceptive history isn’t so surprising, especially given the slut-shaming and boycotts of this past week, and the religious right’s attempts to shape policy. But the notion, however, that the church helped shape the Pill as we know it, not to mention the cycles of countless women, leaves me amazed.

So when Sandra Fluke told Forbes, “Sadly, I think what I have learned is how willing some members of our government are to play political football with women’s health …” her metaphor of game-playing couldn’t be more apt. Women have too often been used as political pawns, even giving blood for the cause without realizing it. Thank heavens for smart feminists like Fluke who won’t stand for slut-shaming and insincere apologies, and who want to put the “care” into healthcare by supporting our ability to look after ourselves.