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"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Contraception Mentality

Via "Is it true the morning-after pill does NOT cause abortions?"

The post above, from Jill Stanek's blog, is in response to a New York Times article posted yesterday which claims that anti-abortion qualms about birth control (specifically Plan B and Ella) may be unfounded, meaning that these two pills do not cause early abortions by preventing the implantation of a new embryo. First off, if this is true, and if this could be true for all BC pills, that would be amazing. It would remove pro-lifers' top objection against birth control pills. But, like Jill mentions at the end of her article, this does not eliminate all of the problems with contraception.

A caveat for my readers:
I am Catholic. Catholicism has in some ways absolutely influenced my beliefs about contraception. I think artificial contraception is wrong, I would never use it, and I never have. However, I do not believe this for precisely the same reasons my Church does (I'm still learning, still working through my understanding Church teachings, and still searching through my own thoughts to determine whether I truly agree or not - if you're wondering, that is absolutely allowed! But let me be very clear - my thoughts are NOT the official position of the Catholic Church, and nor am I a particularly good or faithful Catholic). I think artificially suppressing your fertility is wrong for two main reasons:

(1) Women's (and men's) bodies are naturally fertile - when we're healthy, we're able to pro-create! That's an amazing thing, and I see no reason to mess with the way your body naturally functions - especially (for women) when you have to take artificial hormones which destroy your normal cycle to do so. This can have potentially disastrous effects. I have one friend who is now unable to have children, likely due to her use of BC. It is for this reason I would never, ever take oral contraceptives. I would not use condoms for a more personal reason - I think that using a barrier during sex pretty much ruins the unitary aspect of the act.

(2) I do not like the way contraception has divorced having children from having sex. You only have to look at the way people treat teen sex and teen pregnancy. If a teen is having sex - they are perfectly normal, healthy, and are making a good decision, providing they are sleeping with someone they care for and who cares for them. But if that same teen gets pregnant and decides to keep the baby, suddenly she is discussed in hushed tones, suddenly she becomes irresponsible, suddenly she has made a horrible mistake - but it is the baby that is the mistake, not the act that created the baby. This makes no sense to me: why should the natural, totally predictable result of having sex be irresponsible, but the act itself be responsible and healthy?

Anyway, now back to the article. I want to specifically address an idea that is common in the pro-life movement:

“The contraception mentality is the root of the abortion mentality.”

I agree with this statement, to a certain extent. I do think you can contracept and still be open to life should you become pregnant "accidentally". But the problem with the contraception mentality is less the idea of attempting to avoid having a baby, and more a belief that this attempt somehow absolves you of any responsibility should you actually become pregnant.

A good example of this mentality are the beliefs of two of my pro-choice friends. Neither of them believes that using abortion as contraception should be encouraged or acceptable. But their beliefs have a condition:

If you are irresponsible, and do not bother using contraception when having sex, then you should deal with the consequences, have your baby, care for it, or give it up for adoption. You are the one who made a mistake. BUT, if you were being responsible (by using contraception properly) why should you have to suffer because the contraception failed? After all, you made no mistakes, you did everything right, its not your fault that you're pregnant, its the fault of the contraception failure! So abortion should be available as a back-up for responsible couples who did everything possible to avoid becoming pregnant.

Therefore, in my experience with pro-choicers, it is in this way that contraception encourages abortion - because responsible people, who use contraception to avoid pregnancy, can sometimes get pregnant anyway. Somehow, using contraception erases any responsibility a mother and father has towards their "accident" - parents should not have to "suffer" the consequences of becoming pregnant through a contraception failure.

So, to be clear, I do NOT think couples are "evil" for knowing that they are not ready for a child, and for therefore trying to not have a child. But what people need to realize is that contraception is not fool-proof. It will occasionally fail. We therefore need to stress that just because you tried not to have the baby, that does not mean you now have no responsibility towards the child you still willingly created by having sex. Being responsible about sex does not simply mean doing your best to avoid pregnancy - it also means knowing that there is a failure rate, and being prepared to accept the possibility that a child may be created. In fact, I would argue that being responsible towards sex (by using contraception in some way) creates a greater responsibility towards your child, since the parents should be aware (by simply reading the packaging) that contraception has a failure rate, and they engaged in sex anyways. 

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