Ethics Alert: Lying About Birth Control


My best friend, who's 33 and in a stable relationship with a great guy, just told me she sometimes “forgets” to take her birth control pill but isn't telling her boyfriend. She says she'll be fine if she gets pregnant; that she doesn’t need to have the boyfriend involved with raising any child, though she'd hope he would. I'm kind of shocked. Is this common, or is she totally selfish?
He Said: Regardless of how common it is to be casual about birth control, if one partner is trusting the other to be honest, and they aren’t, it’s selfish. While life slips us many surprises as we go along, it’s not fair to give happenstance a helping hand when the outcome will affect someone else. Your friend’s dishonesty could not only burden her boyfriend for the rest of his life, but might leave their child with only one involved parent. Also, your friend’s and her boyfriend’s parents will become grandparents and their siblings will become aunts and uncles and all may feel some responsibility to care for any child. If your friend ends up raising a child solo, your life may be impacted as well. Your friend’s dishonesty, in other words, could commandeer everyone’s life around her which is incredibly selfish even if it’s not unusual.
It's certainly not your place to divulge anything to her boyfriend, but you do have a responsibility to yourself, your friend, and any child she might have to communicate your feelings and intentions. For example, if you believe she is being selfish and dishonest, say something.

She Said: Oh boy. Is her behavior wrong? Probably. Is it common? Yes, I think so. I say this from personal experience. In my late 30s, I wanted to get pregnant and my (now-ex) husband didn't. He insisted on our continuing to use a cervical cap while I wanted to toss it. Of course, the cap went into my body, and he likely wouldn't have known if I didn't put it in. The upshot: I can count on two hands the times I went to a female friend or relative with my angst over this situation, and their advice was, "Just take it out. He'll never know." At first I was mortified (and for the record, I never took it out), but it eventually dawned on me that when it comes to maternal instinct, otherwise-ethical human beings can find themselves driven by forces that lie outside of reason.

So my initial shock at my mother's and best friends' advice has gradually evolved into something like this: For eons, sex begot children. It's only in the past five decades that we've had reliable birth control. And while our cerebral cortexes know that childbirth should be a "choice" "agreed upon" by both partners, somewhere deep in our mammalian nether-regions (especially the female ones), there is a drive to create life. That drive can be chaotic, unspoken, even not entirely conscious—and it certainly isn't always up to Aristotelian standards of discourse. But guess what? Without it, Aristotle wouldn't have existed, and neither would any of us.

Sorry. I know it's hard to swallow.

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