Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Final Thought About Anti-Contraception

That was Janet Smith, guest speaker for the Catholic student group Veritas, who started a shit storm at Bowling Green State University this week.

Yesterday, I got a response to my column about Smith and I learned two things.  As usual, I don't know what I'm talking about.  And secondly, this:

Natural Family Planning maintains the union between the two crucial aspects of sex—unity and procreation. The reason Dr. Smith says a person can’t get pregnant “by accident” is because every act of intercourse has the potential to result in a new human life—even when using the 99% effective birth control pill. If a couple chooses to have sex, they are taking on the responsibility of potentially becoming parents as a result of that choice.

Embracing, rather than suppressing, this possibility makes sex less about two people selfishly seeking pleasure and more about two people selflessly accepting the reality that their love is so powerful it could co-create life.
And then the angry reader recommended the "Couple to Couple League" website where everyone uses Natural Family Planning-- "the only form of family planning that respects God’s plan for love, marriage, and sexuality."  And everyone has a baby.

Anti-contraception individuals are really just members of the anti-abortion movement.  Hiding from reality under the "pro-life" umbrella, they assume "birth control will lead to more abortions" because they believe the false statistics they create.

Following their flawed logic, women who don't want children and put their faith in oral contraceptives will end up pregnant 50% of the time-- which means they'll be next in line at the abortion clinic.  If they don't take the pill, then they won't risk having sex.

But believing birth control emboldens those who would otherwise abstain is naive.  People are going to have sex, with or without condoms and pills.  Telling them contraception is a waste of time or money because it doesn't work is only setting them up of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, or worse. 

This, by far, is the biggest latent consequence of abstinence-only teaching.  Unprotected sex is one of the riskiest behaviors anyone can partake in these days. 

The heavily distributed "Contraception: Why Not?" by Janet Smith touches on several other topics I didn't get a chance to mention in yesterday's piece.

Obviously, abortion is the underlying issue.  Always interesting to see how the other side arrives at their conclusions, Smith has outlined the thought process here:

The connection between contraception and abortion is primarily this: contraception facilitates the kind of relationships and even the kind of attitudes and moral characters that are likely to lead to abortion.  The contraceptive mentality treats sexual intercourse as though it had little natural connection with babies; it thinks of babies as an "accident" of pregnancy, as an unwelcome intrusion into a sexual relationship, as a burden. 
What Smith refers to as the "contraceptive mentality" goes by another name: reproductive rights.  Some of us intend to never get married.  Even those who will settle down with a companion, married or not, may decide not to have children.  What with having the modern capabilities to control our own fertility, should women not have that choice?

Anti-contraception is anti-feminist.  In fact, Smith blames feminsim for society's overwhelming support for the pill.  She dismisses the notion "women couldn't get in the work place and find their fulfillment unless they were having fewer babies" as if employment, autonomy and children were completely unrelated.

Anti-contraception is deeply rooted in traditional gender roles.  The narrative is also completely heteronormative, for obvious reasons.  The Catholic Church is not exactly open to alternative lifestyles.  And Smith confesses she's appalled by women using in vitro fertilization-- "treating their bodies like machines."  This comment is directed towards "older" women, but one gets the feeling others are implied.

Smith's popular sermon focuses on women's sexuality.  Nothing is mentioned about men, their bodies, or their responsibilities. 

As Jessica Valenti has argued, this preoccupation with purity is just as sexually objectifying as the hyper-sexualized culture to which this holy movement is responding.  Telling young women they're only good for making babies is the same as telling them they're only good for sex-- they're still only good for one thing and it rests between their legs.

It seems pretty stressful, living in a religious community that constantly tells you society only values your ability to procreate-- and acting like you're pumped about it.  I wonder how many children Janet Smith has?  And I wonder if spreading this misinformation is her attempt to stay relevant, as she is passed her own child-bearing years.

I'm truly curious how a woman, like Smith, delivers this message to other women?  Or why it was a woman who felt compelled to send me a letter defending natural family planning. 

What possible benefit is there to this dehumanization?  If anything has reduced women to machines, it's this anti-contraception nonsense, knowingly treating them like a baby production assembly-line. 

In a system offering either repressed sexual desires or guilt and shame, it seems some women really do clutch the very chains that bind them.


  1. I'm Catholic, a Feminist, and I take the pill. I do feel the contradictions of who I am quite often, but when push comes to shove, I am a feminist above all. No one should attempt to control another person's will or body the way anti abortion groups do.
    When I went through the church's premaritial education, they did discuss that rape occurs with in marriages. They blamed men for their actions, and said women have the right to say no, even to their husbands and husbands must respect that. I also have a priest who is pro contraception. This gives me hope that the younger generations can give the church a new direction of a few beliefs. Until then, I appreciate blogs, such as this, that help to educate people on what feminism really is and why we need it.

  2. Thank you so much for commenting! I really appreciate you sharing your unique perspective! I love to hear from religious pro-choice voices.