In medical news, women around the globe might be interested to hear about a new birth control pill which the FDA has just approved: Lybrel is the first pill that is supposed to put an end to women’s menstrual periods INDEFINITELY. No one can dispute the benefits of such a pill for many women whose lives are turned upside down once a month at the onset of a period, but the question that is preying on my mind relates to the halachic ramifications of taking such a pill.
Taharat HaMishpacha is a mitzva, a commandment, that is given to women. For two weeks of the month, at the onset of a woman’s period, a married couple are supposed to refrain from physical contact. During this time, a woman is considered to be a “niddah,” meaning “to be separate.” Seven days following the end of her period, a woman immerses herself in a mikvah, a ritual bath, after which time she can resume physical contact with her husband. These laws of family purity are designed to enhance the physical and spiritual relationship between a married man and woman.
I am wondering what the rabbis will say about the permissibility of taking such a pill that will suppress the period, thereby rendering the laws of family purity irrelevant. Although taking birth control pills is not ordinarily permissible according to the Jewish law, exceptions are frequently made when couples are not capable, for either emotional or financial reasons, of having more children at that stage of their lives. But I can’t imagine what the Jewish Orthodox perspective would be regarding a pill that puts an end to the menstrual cycle altogether.