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The Invisible Woman: It's Time We Had a Talk

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Far be it from me to offer bishops and priests advice, but let's give it a shot: In thinking about contraception, we need to turn to the scriptures.

I refer here to the ninth chapter of Matthew, verses 20-23, where we find the story of a woman who is healed merely by touching Jesus' cloak -- "the hem of his garment" -- so that she can lead a new life. It's a beautiful story, and even more so if we consider her affliction: she had been bleeding for years.

Now, this is not the kind of affliction one wants to discuss in church (or anywhere else in the public square), but it's time we did. Because it's a woman's story, and women figure importantly in the larger story of who Jesus apparently was. This particular woman had a chronic condition -- she was bleeding, which meant that she was considered unclean. And why was she bleeding? Squeamish men of the cloth might claim that we have no idea, but for women it's a no-brainer. Something was wrong with her cycle.

It can happen to a young teenager whose hormones have not come into balance. More commonly, though, it's a condition of middle age.

If this is too much information for folks, too bad. We've been subjected to the horror of Viagra-induced four-hour erections for too long. There's another side to that coin. Faced with impending menopause, many women bleed. It's not benign, like "low-T." It's more like a body that's begun having a little war with itself.

And according to the book of Matthew, this was something Jesus cared about.

Fortunately, women now have a remedy for this condition. Beyond prayer alone, they have the pill.

And so we have a dilemma, a real tricky case for those who believe that a woman should not take a drug that's called "birth control." Because the most effective treatment for an irregular cycle is that same drug, whether a woman is able to conceive or not.

Ask any pharmacist who shows up at the counter with a prescription for contraceptives. A good many of them have gray in their hair. If it were permissable, they would be joined by women whose clothing choice is a nun's habit.

If this presents a shocking picture, it only goes to show how invisible women can be, even in 2012. Men still can't seem to comprehend what it means to be female, to have a reproductive system that is both miraculous and maddening. It is not only about babies. It is a whole system, as the name implies, and it is governed by hormones.

If a priest were truly to care for his parishioners, he would want all of them to be healthy. Could he, then, permit a woman to have a prescription for birth control pills if they were not for birth control?

A dilemma, then. A solid rock and a hard place.

But it bears asking: What would Jesus do?