Friday, October 3, 2008

Abortion and Contraception

I'm always delighted to meet and speak to fellow pro-life Americans, whether they are Catholic or not, and whether I meet them in real life or online. It's good to share our love for human life, our commitment to the unborn, and our passion for reversing the unjust SCOTUS decisions, especially Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which remove the protection from unborn humans and make it legal to kill them without any due process and for no reason other than that their mother wants them to die.

But sooner or later the issue of contraception comes up--and that's where I find the biggest difference between passionately pro-life Catholics and passionate pro-lifers of other religious beliefs.

It's true that there are lots of Catholic "dissenters" from Humanae Vitae who try to claim that one can be a Catholic in good standing with the Church while demanding that the Church change her teachings on the intrinsic evil of contraception; I've run into lots of these people. But your passionately pro-life Catholics, or at least most of the ones I've met, tend to be faithful to the Church's teaching which opposes all artificial means of birth control as being inherently sinful and an attack against the dignity of the human person and the integrity of the family.

So it can be a bit jarring to be trading pro-life "war stories" with Protestant Christian or other pro-lifers and have one of them ask the question, "But what about contraception? If we're serious about ending abortion, don't we have to keep artificial birth control on the table of options?"

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has issued a message which discusses the importance of accepting the Church's teachings on contraception:

Pope Benedict said technical responses to "the great human questions" such as life and death often seem to offer the easier solution.

"But in reality (a technical solution such as artificial contraception) obscures the underlying question concerning the meaning of human sexuality" and the need for couples to exercise "responsible control" over their sexual desires so that the expression of those desires may become expressions of self-giving, "personal love," he said.

When talking about love between two people, technical responses cannot replace "a maturation of freedom," the pope said.

Reason is not enough for understanding the true meaning of conjugal love, he said, as "the eyes of the heart" also are needed to grasp the demands of true love and "embrace the totality of the human being."
The truth is that once you seek to use technology to close completely any chance of a human life being called into creation by the marital act, you create the environment which makes it possible for abortion to flourish. It is the fact that couples seek to say "No!" when God and nature intend for them to be saying "Yes!" that creates the terrible disconnect between sex and procreation, the disconnect which leads to the objectification of the other, to seeing sex as a form of entertainment, and to the rise of sterile activity like that seen in homosexual activity.

And this technological approach also creates the severance between procreation and sex, which allows such evils as IVF, discarded embryos, and the complete lack of respect for the innate dignity and humanity of children who are called into being not by their parents' loving embrace but divorced from it in a cold laboratory.

So opposition to abortion will always, in the end, become opposition to contraception. Nothing less than the embrace of God's beautiful plan for each of us, whether He calls us to have children or in His mysterious love does not allow us to be biological parents, will ever truly respect and protect the unborn human lives we seek to save.


Jennifer F. said...

This is a great post. As I wrote about a while back in this post, I used to be rabidly pro-choice, and that worldview stemmed directly from my acceptance of contraception as a good thing. It was only when I re-thought contraception that I could open my mind enough to re-think abortion. I'm now a big believer that the fight against abortion is critically entwined with changing cultural attitudes about contraception.

Great post.

Irenaeus said...


Got this in my mailbox; thoughts?

"Not that you have time for this, but I’d be interested to know if you know of any real arguments for the connection of the approval of contraception and the sexual revolution. I was disappointed in Mary’s argument, because she didn’t really show any causal connection between the two. The fact that official people starting approving contraception and then more and more people began misbehaving is suggestive but not conclusive. We see the causal connection bec. we have a better understanding of the thing, but most other people don’t.

"This is esp. important for me bec. over the past few years I’ve had several serious conversations with Protestant friends who had some dim feeling that the Catholic teaching might be right, but had read and were worried by, but definitely not convinced by, this kind of argument. The kind of arguments about the nature of sexuality that convinced my wife and I don’t appeal to them, at least at this stage, whereas an effective consequentialist argument might, or at least might move them to the point where they began to understand the deeper arguments about sexuality and marriage.


Red Cardigan said...

Irenaeus, I've got lots of thoughts about that, as you might expect. :) I may write a post on the topic, but for now, I'd say the following:

1. Until the Lambeth Conference in 1930 all Protestants agreed that contraception was sinful. This conference opened the door to the use of contraceptives by Anglicans.

2. From 1930 until 1960 more and more Protestant denominations approved birth control, and the invention and marketing of the Pill along with Griswold v. Connecticut made the Pill and contraception in general a mainstream topic.

3. By the time Humanae Vitae was issued in 1968, most Americans had already accepted birth control, and more and more unmarried couples were using forms of contraception in order to experience so-called "free love" which promised all the pleasures of sex with none of the commitment and none of the consequences.

4. Griswold, as already mentioned, struck down the ban against contraception in Connecticut, but only applied to married couples. Griswold was decided in 1965; in 1972 another decision, Eisenstadt v. Baird made marital status irrelevant to contraceptive use.

5. Since these two decisions not only overturned the ban on contraception itself but also the ban on advertising/marketing contraception, contraceptive advertising took off in the late 60s through the 70s. Instead of being something it was illegal to sell openly and that was often spoken of in euphemisms ("women's health," etc.), contraceptives became mainstream enough to be prescribed by your doctor and filled at the neighborhood pharmacy--or you could simply choose from among the selections on the aisle that featured various prophylactics and spermicide creams.

I think the sexual revolution can definitely be connected with the dramatic societal change that occurred over a mere forty-two years; in 1930 most if not all Christians believed that contraception was evil even for married couples, yet by 1972 it was simply accepted that even unmarried couples could have total access to it without any legal prohibition.

Maria said...

Ireneaus, I agree with your call for more clear research on the issue. Actually, my husband works at a government agency and is actually working with some of the stats guys on closely examining similiarities and differences between increasing in state funding for family planning servies and abortion rates in those states. I'm hoping they get at least the raw data together before the end of the administration.

Irenaeus said...

RC, thanks for the point-by-point. I agree, of course; contraception's ready availability changed the culture.

I find the question difficult to answer because it's difficult to understand. Again: "The fact that official people starting approving contraception and then more and more people began misbehaving is suggestive but not conclusive." The guy wants a knock-down causal argument.

First, I think it's just patently obvious that the correlation here is largely causal. Second, I think talking about cause and effect with regard to societal/cultural issues is incredibly difficult. How could you *show* that? With what method? Go back and find old surveys? Compile anecdotal stuff from magazines and newspapers and books, etc?

I guess I wonder if the guy's asking an impossible question or if I simply missed the import.

DJB Rizalist said...

Contraception prevents abortions. It is by far, the lesser of these two evils, if you will. In our neck of the hollers there are half a million preventable abortions annually, if only the Church would see the sense in condoms, pills and iuds.

John Thayer Jensen said...

djb rizalist:

Hmm... Contraception prevents abortions? This seems to me to require a connexion between the sexual act and the abortion. And the only connexion I can see is the act of the human will that chooses to abort.

But such a choice is not inevitable, not forced on anyone, ever.

This sets aside the question of whether contraception is an intrinsic evil - which I think it is. If it is, then, of course, you can no more contracept in order to avoid some evil down the line, such as an abortion, than you could shoot the young teen-ager who might later turn out to be a murderer himself.

But even if contraception were not intrinsically evil - I do not see how becoming pregnant forces anyone to have an abortion.


Red Cardigan said...

John is absolutely right.

Also, djb rizalist, both the pill and the iud are abortifacient; one of the ways they act is to prevent the implantation of an early embryo. Many non-Catholic Christians reject abortifacient contraception even if they don't reject all contraception.

eulogos said...

Besides, if you are still reading, person with a web name with many consonants, once people are using contraception they are thinking they can have sex but make plans for their lives which definitely do not include a baby. When contraceptive methods fail, or people get careless with them, they still feel that they have a "right" to carry on with their plans which a baby would disrupt.

If contraception is not in the picture, people know they can't engage in sex without always having to take into account the possibility that they might be welcoming a new life.

And, in fact, where ever there is an increase in the use of contraception, especially among the unmarried, there is an increase in abortions also.

Susan Peterson

This_Cross_I_Embrace said...

I love your blog!

I have found that it is always beneficial to have an alternative option for those who wonder how we can possibly advocate a "no contraception" society. As strong as our theories are, rested in solid research (statistically how contraceptive use LEADS to abortion, and so forth), and also in Church doctrine, it tends to lose effect on those who feel they have "no other choice" but to contracept if they don't want 15 babies.

Thankfully, a Dr. has responded to the challenge in Humanae Vitae. Dr. Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute has founded the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, and its medical component, NaPro Technology as alternatives to both contraception and artificial reproductive technologies!! Here are some websites where you can learn more about this amazing, safe, effective, and moral system:

Keep this info on hand in case anyone DOES ask you what the alternative is to not using contraception (and not having 15 babies).
Feel free, too, to visit my site. I am a Creighton Model Practitioner, and also a woman battling infertility. My blog speaks to the appreciation of fertility and life much like yours does, but from an "infertile" perspective.