Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ideas Matter: Contraception as True Misogyny

The most striking and obvious physical differences between men and women are their sexual organs. A man has the ability to give his semen. A woman, on the other hand, has the ability to receive it and then conceive and bear a child. This means that a woman is much more physically involved in the child bearing process than a man, at least biologically speaking.

But isn't this unfair? When a child is conceived, a man can literally run from the situation. A woman is stuck with a (possibly unwanted) child growing inside of her body. Conceiving a child does not necessarily physically disrupt anything that the man is doing. While the child is developing and growing, it is possible for him to continue to go about his life as he was. On the other hand, pregnancy can have drastic effects on a woman's life. Both the man and woman have new responsibilities, but a woman has the additional burden of the child effecting her very body - a burden that is unavoidable once it has begun (save the option of abortion).

Oral contraception levels these inequalities. It helps a woman to fully express herself sexually without the fear of an oppressive unwanted pregnancy.
Other types of contraception can do this, but oral contraception is much easier and uninvasive. In light of the social freedoms it gives women, those who are against its use must be misogynists who want women to remain oppressed.

In short, oral contraception is important and necessary to the full liberation of women.

But liberation from what? Liberation from the slavery of their own female bodies.

The slavery of the woman is that sex can lead to conceiving and bearing a child. Oral contraception is the solution to this problem of the woman's body. It is designed to cure the disease that is it's natural functioning. But in actuality, it is the oral contraception that makes the woman's body operate as though it is diseased (aka unable to conceive). And the diseased operation of the woman's body is often preferred to the natural operation of the woman's body.

Contraception is often held up as a way that women can gain equality with men. But what the use of contraception is really saying is that the woman's body is problematic and that women need to fix their bodies so that they actually function more like a man's body (aka not have to bear a child). The woman needs to deny who she is as a woman. The woman is not good as she is. Instead, the ideal is functioning as a man. This is not true equality with men. This is the degradation of women by saying that they are equal when they change their bodies to be more like that of a man.

But the woman's body is not inherently diseased. It is wonderful and beautiful and has a dignity in its own right that is equal to and distinct from men.

Our country has made desperately needed progress against sexism, especially sexism in the workplace, and still has more work to do. But such progress should not come at the expense of devaluing the woman's body. True equality is achieved when we show respect for the inherent and distinct dignity of both sexes and create a system that allows for their unhindered participation in all spheres of society as men and women.

There is another way in which contraception is bad for women. Pope Paul VI wrote in Humanae Vitae:
"Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."
As I have explained in more detail in a previous post, sex has two purposes: unity of the couple and the procreation of children. These are actually two sides of the same thing. Full unity comes from full self-gift, and full self-gift occurs only when a couple is fully open to the possibility of procreation. Thus, when a couple purposely disrupts the procreative aspect, they are unwittingly also distorting the unitive aspect. When sex no longer has either aspect fully, lust often fills the space. Both persons can use the other, but most often the woman is the one who ends up being used by the man for his own sexual gratification.

Being a man is good.
And being a woman is good.

In devaluing the inherant goodness of a woman's body, the use of oral contraception is not liberation but is true misogyny.

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." - Isaiah 5.20

25 comments:

  1. A bitter pill indeed.

    A third "purpose" of sex: sacramental (or so Lauren Winner, reflecting the tradition, writes in Real Sex). I had never considered it til I read her book, but I like it.

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  2. Thank you. What a wonderful post. I can never seem to find the words. God has certainly blessed you and your wife with this gift.

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  3. This is by far the best argument you have made on this blog.

    I think we can all agree that the sexes are inherently different.

    We have a patriarchal society beacause of this difference. For all of history (which has been written by men) men have provided, men have waged wars, men have ruled countries and instigated revolutions, men have written and enforced the law, while women have had babies.

    Our fundamental disagreement comes from WHY this is the way it is. The traditional church view is that, since woman sinned first, she is punished with the responsibilities of childbirth. The modern evolutionary view says that this difference exists simply because one of the sexes had to have children, and that sex happened to be what we now call female. It is BECAUSE they have the responsibility of childbirth, that they are "punished" in society, due to the loss of time and energy associated with this. Do you see the difference?

    The 20th century saw an enormous change in the role of women. They now vote, own property, contribute to science, lead governments, and are viewed as intellectually equal to men. This all began at the exact same time contraception began to be used. This is not a coincidence.

    Another fundamental disagreement we have is in the "problem" of a woman conceiving a child afer sex. You argue that the pill makes a woman's body act as if it were diseased. I have two responses,
    1) Thats how vaccines work
    and 2) In our society, having a child before you're ready IS A HUGE problem, and contraception is the cure. Besides all the teenage moms, I know several women who are smarter and more determined than myself who are on their way to becoming doctors and scientists. Or they could have 7 babies. Now which option is more beneficial to society?

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  4. Hi Evan,
    I have to say that there is a third view that you're missing about why women bear children, and that's the view that it is a blessing and a privilege that women can receive and bring forth new life. (Of course far too few people hold this view!) Remember, childbirth itself wasn't Eve's punishment - it was pain in childbirth.

    I'll leave it to other bloggers to address the rest of your comment.

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  5. A question and a comment on birth control.
    Did you know the original inventor of the birth control pill was a devout Catholic named John Rock who attempted to pattern the drug after an earlier decision that natural family planning was acceptable as a form of limiting procreation (Pope Pius XII in 1951)? (He later left the church as a result of their position on his invention) Did you also know that the pill almost became something acceptable under Catholic theology? In 1964, Pope Paul VI convened a church council to look at the church's position on contraceptives. It became leaked to the National Catholic Register that the majority of the committee was ready to approve the pill as acceptable contraception under Catholic theology. However, as you know, in 1968 the Pope's Humanae Vitae declared all artificial contraception to be against Church teaching. The Catholic teaching on contraception, however, came within a hairsbreadth of being changed. Of course, given my opinion on papal infaliability (That it is extraordinarily unbiblical and just plain wrong in ANY sense, no matter how limited), it leads me to think that Church dogmatics leave way too much power in the hands of one person. (Regardless of which way he ruled, there would be profound implications-- as we've seen.)

    Here lies my question. The pill has been found to lower rates of ovarian and breast cancer in women. In your opinion, is it acceptable to take the pill for such a use? If such a pill can save lives, why would the church be against it? (provided the motivation was therapeutic and not contraceptive) I see no way that a use of the pill in this way would "reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires". Of course, I am biased, and I am man, so it is not only possible but likely that I have forgotten something;)
    God Bless,
    Andrew

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  6. Hey Andrew,
    Yes, I am aware of the history of Humanae Vitae. Humanae Vitae was not a new teaching, however. It merely reaffirmed what the Church had always taught, which is that contraception is immoral. (As I have pointed out in previous posts, not only has the Catholic Church throughout its history always taught that contraception is wrong, but ALL Protestant denominations did as well until 1930. Their acceptance of contraception required them to fundamentally change their doctrines concerning marriage and sex. See my post "Ideas Matter: How Acceptance of Contraception is Acceptance of Homosexuality" for more)

    You brought up a great point about therapeutic uses of the pill. Here is the Church's teaching from Humanae Vitae itself (paragraph 15):
    "[T]he Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever"
    In other words, the Church has no qualms with legitimate medicine, even if it has the foreseeable affect of impediing procreation. An example: The Church teaches that it is wrong for a man or woman to have themselves sterilized because they just don't want to have any more kids. However, let's say a woman has uteran cancer- if she needed to she could have a hysterectomy even though it would result in her being no longer able to procreate.

    Thanks for the comment
    Brantly

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  7. Hey Evan,

    Eve wasn't punished with childbirth because she sinned first. Just read Genesis 3. Prior to the fall, humans were commanded to procreate anyways (Gen 1.28).

    "It is BECAUSE they have the responsibility of childbirth, that they are "punished" in society, due to the loss of time and energy associated with this."
    I don't think motherhood is a punishment. If someone doesn't want it anyways, don't get married and dont' have sex, or be very careful about when you do.

    "I have two responses,
    1) Thats how vaccines work
    and 2) In our society, having a child before you're ready IS A HUGE problem, and contraception is the cure. Besides all the teenage moms, I know several women who are smarter and more determined than myself who are on their way to becoming doctors and scientists. Or they could have 7 babies. Now which option is more beneficial to society?"
    1) By diseased here, I don't mean with a pathogen, I mean improper functioning.
    2) People don't just become pregnant randomly. They have sex and then become pregnant. You're saying that the fact a person can't have sex whenever they want without the possibility of procreation is the problem. This is has been one of the main points of these three blog posts on contraception. Procreation is one of the intrinsic purposes to sex that has been lost because of the change in thinking that contraception brings. I'm saying that we must reclaim this connection and actually show respect for the way our bodies work.

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  8. Okay, so saying childbirth was punishment for Eve was a bit of a staw man, but my point still stands about why women have this role. I agree that motherhood isn't a punishment, that's why I put it in quotation marks. It's a more of a consequence.

    As I said on your last post, the Pentateuch is hardly a bastion of morality that has bearing in today's world. Telling women their role is to have babies because God made them that way is not fighting sexism, it is prolonging the status quo that has existed since the bronze age.

    I absolutely respect the way our bodies work. I am studying biochemistry because how life works is the most fascinating thing I have ever heard.

    The fundamental disagreement you and I have on this issue is that you think the human body is unchangeable because it is designed in the image of God, while I think it can (and should) be improved. The idea that organisms can be improved is the basis for the entire theory of evolution.

    Your argument in this post makes sense, given the premise that mankind is perfectly designed, but I reject that premise.

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  9. Hi Evan,
    I wonder if you could clarify for me.

    Do you believe that God is the Author/Creator of all mankind?

    You say that you reject the premise that mankind (apparently in the case of fertility)is perfectly designed.

    So...the fact that God made women fertile only a few days out of the month for only a certain number of years...are you saying that His design is imperfect?

    I am just trying to understand your position.

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  10. Michelle,
    Do I believe God is the author of mankind? Probably not, although it is certainly a possibility. I can confidently say that if he were, the story of Genesis is not how it happened.

    Yes, I think that mankind is imperfect, to say the least. Not just in how we reproduce, but in every area, do you not think there is room for improvement?

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  11. Question for Evan:
    I'm studying medicine, so I share your opinion that the human body is quite amazing-- only I would argue it's too amazing to have happened solely by chance. However, I remain open to the idea of God working through evolution in a limited sense (which is pretty incredible in and of itself, and does not seem to me to be contrary to the biblical picture of humanity in any way), I completely affirm that humans are created in God's image, and the reason why mankind is imperfect is precisely because of the fall and original sin.

    Here's my question: How would you improve the human race if you could "play God"? More to the point, what would you base "improvement" on?

    Brantly-- I appreciate reading this blog quite a bit, and while I am not Catholic (again, that darn papal infalliability thing is a huge stumbling block to me, and I haven't heard a convincing biblical reason for it to this day-- the seeming flippant nature of American Catholics who see Catholicism as solely cultural also turns me off), I respect the Church quite a bit-- especially the fact that they have thought about issues across the spectrum (and are willing to take a stand for them), which is something that unfortunately is a "scandal of the evangelical mind" to borrow a cliche;)

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  12. Thanks for your answer, Evan. I believe in God as the creator of man/woman in His image. So I have a hard time believing that He made a mistake by making women fertile for the limited amount of time that He did and I also have a hard time believing we should mess with that part (i.e., messing with hormones to thwart conception or mutilating body parts - male or female - to remove the capability that God gave us).

    As far as the imperfections of mankind go, I am definitely of the belief that the imperfection came about as a result of the Fall of Man into sin.

    Anyway, it's nice to know where you're coming from regardless. Makes it easier to understand what you mean in your comments.

    Thanks.

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  13. Hey Brantly, congrats on the family you've gotten started! Hope all has been well for you these last few years. You can blame Evan for giving me the idea to get on here.

    My background is biochemistry and anthropology, and my career is going in the direction of medical science. So I'm going to respond to Andrew and Michelle and get Evan's back on this one:

    “How would you improve the human race if you could "play God"? More to the point, what would you base "improvement" on?”

    Mankind has been gifted with the ability to understand and manipulate his/her surroundings in ways which no other creature has been capable of doing. I believe it will be possible to eradicate rare genetic diseases and disorders in our lifetime (in the first world, if such treatments prove affordable...another ethical issue for an entirely different day). If you want a scenario of such science taken too far – I suggest you watch the 1997 film Gattaca.

    I however, am optimistic. One mutation in the wrong place, in a gene coding for an essential protein, can result in terrible disorders such as cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, Niemann Pick disease, or muscular dystrophy. Millions of people suffer from these and many other conditions. If a loving God exists, then it is necessary that he does not enjoy seeing people afflicted with such disorders (fall of man or not). Rather, genetic disease would simply be the product of natural laws and forces in the universe he created. These diseased states are then not the natural state of human beings.

    Following from this - would it not be the desire of a loving God to create a species that was capable of conquering these issues? When complete genomes become available (there are already companies working on a “$1000 genome”), it will be possible to know if a couple could produce a child at risk for any of the recessive genetic disorders mentioned above. It will also eventually be possible through genetic engineering to selectively avoid these mutations by laboratory procedures. Fertilized eggs could still be implanted in the mother and result in natural births. This would not improve the human race, but rather allow people to be born with the complete functionality of a being created in the image of God. In my opinion, this is not playing God – but correcting an error he gifted us with the ability to fix.

    To tie it into your theme for the week - would it not also be the responsibility of an at risk couple to use contraceptives to prevent the chance of a diseased child? In my opinion – it would be morally obligatory to prevent such suffering by only having a birth engineered to not be at risk for genetic disease. To assume God will prevent such diseased states is ignorant; they aren't prevented today. When it becomes possible “improve” the human race – we should. Doctrine could change to compensate this.

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  14. Tyler- fertility is still not the diseased state. It's the normal state. Infertility is the diseased state.

    Actually, your whole comment was interesting to me; I'm glad you jumped in on the discussion. I don't know quite how to respond to it, though. I agree that genetic mutations are not the way that things are supposed to happen. I agree that they are a product of natural processes and something that we should fix if we can (although I have issues with some genetic engineering that you mention- it's an area that requires a huge amount of caution).

    Anyway, what you write also breaks my heart. I am a physical therapist, and I work with people with all sorts of diseases, genetic and otherwise. They do suffer. I want to do all that I can to alleviate that suffering, and I'm glad that there are people in your area of the business working on the roots of these problems. However, each of these people are precious, and I hate the thought that eliminating the disease means eliminating the people that have the disease. Rest assured that the lives of these people have much to offer each of us as well.

    Sorry, I don't really get the feeling that you are trying to belittle the lives of these people, but that you are trying to eliminate suffering. I just get concerned when eliminating suffering might result in devaluing the lives of those that suffer. While that's never the intention, it seems to happen anyway.

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  15. Andrew- There are many people who share your view that evolution was guided by God to arrive at man, including the head of the Biochem dept where I go to school. But for me, it breaks down when you ask "When exactly in the evolution of man were the soul and/or original sin introduced?" Every answer I've heard to this question is neither biblical nor scientific, which leaves it in the completely made up category. Perhaps you can answer this?

    AS for playing God, talk about a can of worms. The important question is what constitutes an improvement, since every possible "improvement" has all kinds of unintended side effects. But that is too big of a debate for here.

    Tyler did a good job of presenting possible physical improvements. I would add that there are psychological idiosyncricies of man that are open to improvement.

    Would it be a bad thing if we could naturally pay more attention to the long term consequences of our actions, rather than the immediate gains?

    Couldn't there be a safeguard against depression so deep that it leads us to suicide?

    Would it be bad if people were naturally more intelligent?

    Maybe, maybe not, but to claim that mankind is naturally the pinnacle of perfection is a losing battle.

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  16. Hey Tyler! Great to hear from you. Sounds like you're studying some great stuff.

    I would actually not disagree with much of what you've said, Tyler. But you're confusing healing with improvement in the senses that I've been using them.
    Here's a quote from my previous blog post which talks about this issue more specifically:
    "Because of the presence of sin in the world, our bodies will sometimes have diseases and defects and will not function properly. Medicine is the legitimate attempt to correct these problems so that our body can resume its normal, proper functioning. True medicine, however, is not found in attempts at "improving" or manipulating the normal functioning of our bodies. This offends the dignity of the natural functioning of our bodies and reduces them to an instrument to be controlled rather than truly a part of us to be respected as a gift from God."

    I'm totally for correcting genetic disorders, etc (as long as they are done in a morally permissible way). But, as CM pointed out, the fertileness of the female body is not a disease. The very fact that the normal functioning of the female body is compared to the diseases that you mentioned is exactly the problem that I've talked about in this particular blog post. It means that women AS women are flawed and need to be fixed. I say that women AS women are beautiful and wonderful as they are, and that we should respect their natural functioning (as well as the natural functioning of men).

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  17. Brantly.

    I enjoyed the quote from Paul VI used in the post, and though I am still in favor of oral contraceptives - don't really know how to respond to that example right now. Any arguments I want to go into will be societal, and I will give one in a moment. However – I want to admit in advance that it is a poor argument for the use of premarital contraceptives. You have presented what I feel is a very strong case in opposition to that.

    A societal argument for contraceptives in a marriage:

    As our population approaches 7 billion, it becomes very obvious that a doubling of humanity every hundred years is not going to be sustainable. People simply are a lot better at keeping themselves and their children alive than ever before. A good thing I think! But it would be exceedingly disrespectful to the Earth to increase in population until only we and the agriculture to sustain us remain upon it. I'd like there to be some natural places left, and I'm sure God would appreciate some of creation remaining too.

    One example an anthropologist may give of smart resource use would be the small Pacific island of Tikopia. It is only 2 square miles, and its traditional inhabitants have carefully regulated their population to 1200 for many generations through infanticide, designated celibacy, and sending people off of the island. As we can't leave yet, a significant portion of the population will never be celibate, and infanticide is considered immoral – there needs to be birth control. Contraceptives make this easy for millions of couples. This is how affluent societies such as our own have begun to be population stable. Don't get me wrong – I love big families! My mother is one of 11. But aren't such levels of reproduction selfish? They will not be sustainable forever.

    Enter your likely counterargument (I'm at a Catholic school you know!): Then within a marriage, you should pay attention to natural biological rhythms and only have intercourse when it is not likely to result in pregnancy. But doesn't this run counter to the “sex is only for reproduction” argument too? Does this not also require a knowledge of biology which not all human generations have had, and is thus itself somewhat of a scientific advancement much as an oral contraceptive? I know you would still say that one is diseased, but both methods are unnatural. A couple's love and physical desire for each other will be no different on the days of decided abstinence. In my opinion, voluntarily abstaining from sex within a marriage is itself disrespectful to the natural functioning of men and women and the very nature of what such a relationship stands for.

    For thousands of years human generations had little reason to be abstinent; many children would die in infancy or childhood. Populations kept themselves in check. In a committed relationship, contraceptives allow modern couples to behave with our spouses just as people always have: to have intercourse when love and desire lead to it while never worrying about having a family so large that you, or the Earth, cannot support it.

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  18. CM,

    You've brought to mind a very valid point, and one that reminded me of something I read some months ago from an article in Newsweek. This was published in May of 2009 on autism. A young autistic man by the name of Ari Ne'eman believes the following:

    “Autism is not a medical mystery that needs solving, he argues. It's a disability, yes, but it's also a different way of being, and "neurodiversity" should be accepted by society. Autistic people (he prefers this wording to "people with autism," a term many parents use, because he considers the condition intrinsic to a person's makeup) must be accommodated in the classroom and workplace and helped to live independently as adults—and he is pushing to make this happen for everyone on the spectrum.”

    There is a lot of suffering that goes along with many disorders neurological and physical...but the people that have them can enrich the world in which we live. I do not believe it worth the suffering of a child with muscular dystrophy that we might benefit from observing their resilience. But in turn, though Down syndrome is debilitating: such people tend to have rather happy lives. My mother has a cousin with it who just celebrated her 40th birthday. There is something about it which I too would agree is precious, and many members of my family would agree we are all enriched by her presence. It is an incredibly complex issue, and one I hope people continue to debate.

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  19. I've noticed, Brantly, that you tend to use the phrase "oral contraception" a lot. You know that there are other kinds of hormonal contraception out there, right?

    Not sure if there's much sense in debating the matter, seeing as you don't really seem to be willing to consider anything outside the purview of the RCC, but I figure I might as well try. Pretend for a minute that sex is a natural evolutionary instinct. Fighting it would be like trying not to eat food (okay, so maybe it's more like being a vegetarian, difficult, has some health benefits, can make you almost intolerable to be around). I think you and I can both agree that there are people who are not equipped mentally, financially and (among the very young) physically to bear children. Also, unlike some more permanent forms of sterilization, women can bear children after a lengthy stint on hormonal birth control.

    Oh, and fun fact. Eighteen years after abortion was legalized, the crime rate dropped significantly. Some sociologists theorize that it was due to the decrease in the number of unwanted children (who would likely have reached adulthood and gone on to commit crimes). Just something to think about.

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  20. Birth control is not only about the woman. Before modern medicine and birth control, the population was kept in check largely with disease. Antibiotics eliminated a lot of that death, so the population has expanded. It will continue to expand, but the Earth can't support a limitless population. At some point, there will be a 1:1 ratio of births preventable by birth control to deaths due to overpopulation (starvation or wars over scarce resources).

    Sex is a natural biological drive, and people are not going to stop just because you call it a sin. Especially not those who don't believe in sin in the first place. Birth control allows the inevitable to take place (and it will take place, no matter how hard you protest it!) without increasing the population. Unless you honestly believe that a decrease in overall human suffering is not a good thing, this is a good argument for birth control.

    If not, well, I would just like to point out that a lack of birth control would lead to a lot of starvation, war, and other humanitarian crises.

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  21. I've appreciated the (mostly) civil discussion on here so far. As far as the whole overpopulation argument goes, I would suggest checking out the short video at

    http://overpopulationisamyth.com/overpopulation-the-making-of-a-myth

    It is certainly true that we should improve how we elicit and allocate materials - we Americans (myself included) are shamefully wasteful. But the overpopulation doomsday prophecies just aren't panning out.

    The focus on oral contraceptives is warrented, as they are really what's correlated with so many other aspects of the sexual revolution. They were the first widely-available and effective method of birth control, and now 80% of women use them at some point in their lives. Less effective barrier methods have been around for ages.

    This is such a rich topic with so many aspects, many of which have been brought up here in the comments. I just wanted to reaffirm the original topic of this post, though - contraception is essentially saying that women are not as good as men, because their bodies are different from them.

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  22. TMC: There are likely two reasons the overpopulation problem isn't "panning out" for you. First of all, the United States (4% of the world population) is the country doing the overconsuming (~25% of the resources). Imagine when China tries to enjoy this level of "success. Secondly, you have to extrapolate the current data decades into the future to see the problem. Looking at how things are now just won't cut it.

    I wasn't talking about barrier methods, but other forms of hormonal contraception. Patches, injections, implants, the NuvaRing, etc. Haven't heard anything bad about those.

    "[C]ontraception is essentially saying that women are not as good as men, because their bodies are different from them."

    Birth control says something very different to you than it does to me. Mine says (figuratively), "You're on a maintenance dose of an SSRI for the foreseeable future, which would harm a putative child if concieved and harm yourself if halted. Therefore, it is in your best interest to not have children by any means necessary... until your situation changes. Abstinence is all well and good (for some people), but what about contingencies that can't be accounted for (i.e. rape)?

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  23. Hey ya'll,
    Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the discussion over here even though there's been a new blog post. Thanks to everyone for reading the blog and taking the time to share your opinions, especially if you disagree. It's greatly appreciated.

    A few comments:
    Jenna,
    You're right that hormonal contraception, though it is often taken orally, can be taken by other methods as well. "Oral" really should be changed to "hormonal" in the post to be accurate. Thanks for the clarification.

    You wrote:
    "Pretend for a minute that sex is a natural evolutionary instinct. Fighting it would be like trying not to eat food (okay, so maybe it's more like being a vegetarian, difficult, has some health benefits, can make you almost intolerable to be around)."
    Sex is not like food; you don't need it to live. And I'm not sure how to interpret your analogy about vegetarianism.
    You are correct to say that sex is a natural instinct. But it is not an instinct that must be followed or should be followed without control.

    Tyler and Haseen,
    You both brought up issues related to overpopulation. I haven't studied demographics or economics enough to comment on the reality of overpopulation. Perhaps it's a major problem.
    But either way, it is an utilitarian argument. Utilitarianism, in short, says that a good enough ends can ultimately justify any means (it can get complicated but this is the basic idea). This is not the Christian view of ethics. Some means are inherently wrong no matter what the results may be. For example, to go along with the overpopulation issue, we as a species may need to lessen our population, but deciding to gas everyone in Africa to lessen the population is unacceptable because murder is wrong, even if it would somehow solve the problem. The use of contraception, I haved argued following the Catholic Church and all Protestants until the 20th century, is an inherently immoral practice. Thus, while there may or may not be an overpopulation problem in our world, contraception is an unacceptable means for trying to solve the problem.
    The only moral way of having fewer babies is to have no, less, or purposely timed sex.

    Tyler,
    We discussed some of your concerns about Natural Family Planning and whether or not it undermines the principle that sex is intrinscially unitive and procreative in the comments for "Ideas Matter: How Acceptance of Contraception is Acceptance of Homosexuality", so I won't rehash them here. But I'd definitely be willing to dialogue with you over it; just start with some thoughts I offered there to see what I think.

    Haseen,
    You wrote:
    "Sex is a natural biological drive, and people are not going to stop just because you call it a sin."
    I have not said people should not have sex "just because [I] call[ed] it a sin". I have never written that sex is a sin and I do not believe that sex is sinful. And if I'm misinterpreting you and you are referring to the use of contraception being a sin, my last 3 posts have been giving reasons why it is sinful. It hasn't been just an arbitrary assertion.

    You also wrote:
    "Especially not those who don't believe in sin in the first place"
    This might be the topic of a future post, but everyone believes in right and wrong, though we might have different understandings of what might be right and what might be wrong. Proof of this is that most of us agree that rape, child molestation, and torturing babies for fun are evil activities. These are extreme examples, but it shows that everyone ultimately does believe in some sort of right and wrong.

    Again, thanks to everyone for reading and responding!

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  24. Hey guys.

    Just a few comments on the population issue:

    As Brantly said, even if overpopulation is an issue, there are moral and immoral ways of contributing to the solution. Natural Family Planning, contrary to popular opinion, is actually a very effective way of limiting conceptions, and, furthermore, it reaches down to the very root of the issue: people not understanding their own dignity, and not being masters of themselves. Natural Family Planning promotes sex as a good and beautiful thing, and also offers the opportunity for the individuals and the couples to learn self-control and self-mastery (which has many implications outside of the sexual realm, especially for issues related to poverty), respect for each other and for themselves...in short, a deeper understanding of what it means to be an autononmous being, different than the animals. Artificial contraception, on the other hand, merely asks one to pop a pill or put on a condom or whatever--and continue as slaves to their bodies (as opposed to being master of one's self), lack of respect or understanding for the dignity of the person and the sexual act (as Brantly has argued), and in short, considers man as an animal: unable to control himself or his instincts. Bound by his instincts rather than master of himself. Wanting to commit the act without the responsibility. These things will only, in turn, lead to more destructive problems (poverty, crime, etc), rather than truly helping the root of the problem. It's like taking care of the symptoms while ignoring the real issue.

    And for those who think NFP is impractical or doesn't work, I beg to differ. Mother Teresa, in 1970 in Calcutta, opened an NFP clinic and taught 150 families how to practice NFP. At the time, sterilization was mandatory for citizens of India because of a massive overpopulation crisis. BUT, NFP was so successful, that it drew the government's attention and they in turn excused all families who were practicing NFP from the mandatory sterilization law. By 1989, there were 69 NFP clinics in India--full of illiterate people from the streets of India, who were able to learn NFP, practice it, and fight the overpopulation problem successfully.

    So you don't have to be incredibly intelligent or whatever to practice NFP. You just have to be willing to not be lazy.

    (here's a website for more information, and you can also look up Mother Teresa's Nobel Prize speech: http://www.prolife.org.ph/news/index.php/2009/03/the-patroness-of-nfp/ )

    NFP is definitely possible and practical. If you're willing to be master of yourself and sacrifice something for the greater good.

    The problem is that we have normalized our poverty and don't even realize that the standard we now hold ourselves to is no greater than the standard of the animals.

    But, then again, all of these arguments are based on the idea that the human person possesses a special dignity. If you don't believe that then it's all invalid, I guess.

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  25. Great post! Thank you so much.
    I come from an evangelical background, and I became Catholic recently. I struggle with explaining my views on contraception to my Christian friends because all they can think of is, "But it's not in the Bible! Show me the verses." I sometimes wish there was more "evidence" on this topic in the Bible than Onan's account...
    Rachel B

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