Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Natural Family Planning Comes to College

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Permanently Scatterbrained under Creative Commons 3.0

When I want factually inaccurate information about contraception, I always look to the Catholic Church.  There’s no better source for sex, lies, and anti-choice propaganda.  And the most recent event hosted by Veritas proved just that. 
Sunday night, Professor of Moral Theology Janet E. Smith visited BGSU to discuss birth control, but more importantly, women’s sexuality.  While inviting 1995’s “Pro-Life Person of the Year” to talk to students about contraception may sound like a joke, I can assure you the event was “super cereal.” 
“Contraception, Why Not?” sounds like a consideration.  But the Catholic Church made up its mind about the pill a long time ago. 
It was 1968 when Pope Paul VI condemned all birth control, except for natural planning, or the “guess when you’re fertile” method.  Last year, Pope Benedict XVI condoned the use of condoms to combat HIV and AIDS, but the Church’s position on pregnancy prevention has not changed.     
Many Catholics, like Smith, endorse the Pope’s message.  And that’s fine.  The first amendment gives all citizens the right to follow any religion they choose.  However, the constitution does not give religious “authorities” the right to lie about medical science in hopes of pushing their moral agenda. 
Monday’s BG News reported several questionable things Smith shared with her audience.  The same statements can be found on her webpage, where a transcript of her infamous speech is available. 
Tuesday’s BG News published a letter to the editor and a falcon screech concerning the controversial event.  Many students were outraged by Smith’s dogmatic assertions.   
For instance, Smith said women using oral contraceptives will be attracted to losers.
This comes from a popular study in 2008, suggesting women find their mates by smell.  Typically, noses lead them to someone whose genetic makeup differs from their own, but the pill disrupts the olfactory and pushes women towards genetically similar men. 
However, something else can cause women to seek out these “inferior” partners; pregnancy.  When a woman becomes pregnant, the same research shows she wants someone more like herself to help protect and raise her baby. 
A closer look reveals “genetically different” means “more masculine” and “genetically similar” means “more feminine.”  The evidence is just another “scientific” push for traditional gender roles. 
Smith also said birth control alters hormones, causing women to become disinterested in their partners, which can lead to divorce.  But social scientists think divorce is caused by something else. 
A recent article in The New York Times found divorce rates rising in rural areas.  When asked about the increase of heartbreak in the heartland, sociologists explained more women are working, gaining autonomy and leaving.  And it seems class is an important indicator. 
College-educated people are more likely to get married and stay married while those who only have a high school diploma are more likely to split. 
Convinced there are latent consequences, Smith said the best alternative to birth control is natural family planning.  It’s easy, because women are only fertile 12 hours of the month.
Yet ovulation can occur at various times during a cycle, and may occur on a different day each month.  Very few women have “regular” periods.  There’s no sure way to know which 12 hours to avoid. 
But “natural planning” is purposely unhelpful because the last thing “pro-lifers” are trying to do is help women avoid getting pregnant.  Insisting failure is a “blessing,” makes this method even more transparent.
I would encourage anyone who has the time to investigate other ridiculous claims Smith has made in “Contraception, Why Not?”—your choice of tape, CD, MP3, or original transcript.
 Yes, things like, “people who have children become better people.”  (But what about child abuse or neglect?)  Smith also thinks children help hold marriages together because when you’re mad at your spouse and you go for a long drive, you always come back for the kids—and work things out.
Smith believes contraception facilitates adultery, because the only thing keeping people from cheating on their spouses is risking a child born out of wedlock-- not the mutual love or respect they share.
By destroying the offspring glue holding it all together, birth control is the ultimate home-wrecker.  Women using contraception can work and make money.  Financial independence enables them to leave a marriage when they are unhappy—which is wrong.
Relying heavily on “data,” Smith’s anecdotal evidence is pretty convincing.  But with all the facts and figures, there are no real citations.  
For instance, an unnamed priest told Smith 75% percent of couples who live together before marriage are divorced within the first three years.  She doesn’t seem to care how he arrived at this number.  She’s too busy blaming contraception.
And supposedly 50% of girls needing abortions at the “pregnancy help center” where Smith volunteered said their contraceptives failed.   
Yet the Mayo Clinic endorses studies showing “fewer than one of each one hundred women correctly using oral contraceptives becomes pregnant during the first year of use.”  Even beginners can successfully prevent pregnancy, which is why oral contraceptives advertise as more than 99% effective.
“Contraception, Why Not?” makes several other points, but the last one I care to mention is this; Smith compares contraception to a barrier keeping God out of sex. 
But not everyone wants to make it a threesome.  In fact, Catholics for Choice is a social justice group of dissenters who believe “the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.”  They’ve been around since 1973, arguing the Pope has no place in anyone’s bedroom but his own.
Some people think “the truth” doesn’t come from old white men whose power and influence relies on their ability to uphold an archaic, patriarchal institution.  But others do.  And that’s fine.   
All I ask is that those people express their religious beliefs as such, rather than distorting reality to serve their own narrow purpose.  Because otherwise you are lying.  And that’s a sin too.

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