I know* it is quite common among observant Jewish couples to use hormonal methods to prolong, shorten, and/or reschedule the woman's cycle to make taharas hamichpacha timing align better with conception times as well as, l'havdil, vacation plans and other matters of convenience.
I am very committed to Jewish law as a whole. I know that the prohibitions surrounding niddah are most stringent, as is the need not to compromise sholom bayis. I know that, for all intents and purposes, we accept these strictures--including their later refinements and extensions through rabbis and by custom--as G-d's law.
However, hormonal contraception, while its benefits probably exceed its costs to the world at large (and thus, perhaps, it is so thoroughly recommended by physicians) is not.without.risks. Instinct and research tell me that these risks should be particularly concerning to a population--namely, Ashkenazi Jewish women--with a very high incidence of BRCA gene mutations.
Furthermore, as someone who is a woman and who talks to women (not all of whom are hysterical malingerers), I have heard a lot, a lot of reports from women who say the Pill wreaks havoc on their emotions, some of whom have suffered significant depressions as a result. There is of course a selection bias involved in what one hears. Still, when one hears enough, the idea that the Pill is a perfectly benign measure--practically a medical free lunch--becomes disrupted.
My question has two parts: one philosophical and one halachic. They concern the potential legitimacy of cutting corners in rabbinic elements of taharas hamichpacha law in situations where the alternative would be to take a hormone-altering medication.
Halachically, I would wonder if there are not issues of v'nishmartem me'od l'nafshoseichem, if not sakanas nefashos, in the readiness to use the Pill to circumvent problems created by the observance of taharas hamishpacha. I understand from the comments here that sex with a niddah is either a death or karet-level offense; still, if it is "only" kareit, there may be a great deal of halachic leniency to prioritize health--especially when we are dealing with a drug that is only about fifty years old, and which is by definition disruptive to the female body's most basic engines.
Philosophically, is it not insanity to alter the healthy workings of a body Hashem has made--moreover, at some non-negligible risk to that body and that life--in order to uphold laws--holy ones, to be sure, but also laws that have passed through centuries of human alteration and arguably random historical influence--we convince ourselves are valued by G-d? The Law, we think and hope, is G-d's--but isn't the body, and, indeed, life itself, even more undeniably so? If we return to first principles, which in theory we should never have absconded from, there seems to be something highly unnatural and essentially destructive about messing with G-d's priceless gifts in the name of received tradition.
Our own mesorah and Law usually do a brave and brilliant job of acknowledging this truth, for example, through Halacha's religiously-unusual emphasis on pikuach nefesh. But I feel there is some lacuna here; something has been forgotten where it concerns this matter.
"It cannot be and is not G-d's will that human intelligence do violence to itself, that man slay this endowment and bring it as his Isaac to G-d. But G-d also does not desire that man be so pleased with what G-d has bestowed on him that he forget the source of the gift and use it to establish his sovereignty [...]" (8)
(from The Body of Faith: God and the People of Israel, by Michael Wyschogrod)
To me, by condoning this use of hormonal medication, we are doing both things.
What are the halachic and/or philosophical justifications for doing so anyway? And does anyone disagree with these?
* This from talking to people (and from reading a lot of Jewish women's health sites and forums). If anyone can provide statistics or other facts that might cast the frequency of this practice into doubt, I'd be eager to hear them.