On Married Women and Separating Sex from Procreation

When I suggested that birth control would decrease the abortion rate, some prolifers agreed with me. Others, however, argued that using birth control actually increases the abortion rate and that if we don’t want unwanted pregnancies, well, then people should just be “responsible” and wait until they get married to have sex.

Well guess what? Being married does not make pregnancy magically “wanted”!

I have to be honest, this assumption that birth control and abortion are not an issue for married women baffles me, and it’s an assumption I’ve seen played out again and again in the wake of the recent election. I mean my goodness, Gretchen Carlson sought to explain why married women went for Romney and single women went for Obama by stating that “when you’re married, abortion is not really—or contraception for that matter—is not maybe a huge part of your life.” What? I remember thinking this as a child, but then, I had never experienced being a married woman.

I have been married for around half a decade now. My husband and I have two children. We spaced them apart intentionally, far enough apart so that they are not on top of each other but close enough together that they can be friends as they grow up. We’re in graduate school. We have neither the time nor the money for a third child. If I were to become pregnant right now, I can’t say for sure what I would do, but I can say that abortion is one of the options we would consider very seriously. Having another baby right now would upend all of our plans, both in terms of my career and in terms of our finances.

Several readers responded to those who said people just shouldn’t have sex before marriage by pointing out that married women don’t automatically want children, and asked whether married women who don’t want to have kids should just be celibate. A number of Catholic commenters responded by stating that that idea was ridiculous, because there was always Natural Family Planning. So I wrote a post critiquing Natural Family Planning. Do you know what I was told in the comments of that post? That Natural Family Planning involves being “open to the gift of life” (i.e. pregnancy).

Well guess what? I am married but I am not currently “open to the gift of life.”

There is a split between Catholic and Protestant prolifers on the use of birth control during marriage, but both groups generally assume that unmarried women who experience birth control failure will likely abort while married women who experience birth control failure will likely carry that pregnancy to term. The assumption that married women are on average more able to care for and raise a child than unmarried women is almost certainly accurate, but the idea that it’s oh so simple for a married woman to keep an unplanned pregnancy is maddeningly simplistic. Did I mention that we cannot afford a third child right now?

The rhetoric I’ve been reading both in comments on my post on the pro-life movements and in articles mentioning it elsewhere is that people just shouldn’t have sex if they’re not open to having babies. Not all prolifers are against birth control, particularly in marriage, but the rhetoric is ubiquitous. Sex should have consequences, they say. Procreation and sex are connected, and it goes against nature to separate them. Sex without consequences is bad.

The thing is, that’s me, right here, right now. I’m not open to having a baby. So should my husband and I just not have sex? I mean, if we’re not supposed to have sex unless we’re open to having babies, and if sex should always have consequences, and if sex and procreation should not be separated, isn’t that what that implies? That would mean at least three years without sex, and possibly more if we decide, as we may, that two children is enough for us. What a strange marriage that would make for!

It comes down to this: A significant segment of the pro-life movement believes that sex and procreation should always be connected, that separating the two is against morality and nature, and that sex should always have “consequences.” Some of these individuals – the most Catholic ones – might well come right out and say that if I am not open at all to becoming pregnant and having another child, I shouldn’t be having sex with my husband. We should just live lives of celibacy. Why? Because sex and procreation are connected by God and nature and should not be separated.

But here’s the thing. Just because sex and procreation are connected in nature does not mean they have to be. And just because the natural consequences of sex are pregnancy and birth does not mean we cannot mitigate those consequences. We do this sort of thing all the time. Cancer and death are naturally connected, but we strive to separate them. The natural consequences of falling in a lake are drowning, but we try to mitigate those with things like life jackets and learning to swim. Seat belts, smoke detectors, even houses themselves are ways to mitigate consequences and subvert nature. In other words, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with separating what nature has combined or with mitigating consequences. We do it all the time.

It just so happens that we can separate sex and procreation pretty effectively. There are all sorts of methods of birth control, all of which allow people to have sex without becoming pregnant. Sure, there are various failure rates, but the reality is that people have been working to separate sex and procreation for thousands of years and they will go on perfecting that separation in as science improves. The reality is that people have becoming accustomed to being able to plan when and if to have children. People have become accustomed to being able to have sex without becoming pregnant.

Yet even though we subvert nature and mitigate natural consequences all the time, this segment of the pro-life movement would have us to treat sex differently from every other part of our life. They don’t believe we are to tamper with nature when it comes to sex, even though we do so with every other area of our lives. And you know what? They can believe that. But that, quite simply, is their personal belief, and they cannot and should not either force or expect others to live by it.

Personally, I’m going to keep on cutting the tie between sex and procreation and I’m going to continue enjoying sex without the “consequences.” And yes, I’m married. And monogamous. It’s just that, believe it or not, being married does not necessarily mean women want to spend their lives going from one pregnancy to another. And the existence of birth control means we don’t have to. So the idea that birth control is just a single woman issue, and that all need for abortion would cease if people would wait to have sex until marriage? Just stop that. It makes you look silly.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://louisebroadbentfiction.wordpress.com Louise Broadbent

    Also, whatever happened to keeping your husband happy by fulfilling his needs? Three times a week, at least, wasn’t it? What if your husband ‘needs’ sex but doesn’t want a child? Or you’re not in a position to have a child? How can you possibly keep him from cheating on you or leaving you if you can’t perform your wifely duties?

    • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara

      Exactly! The answer I’ve heard over and over is that “God will give you the grace you need when you need it.” Except sometimes he doesn’t…so then what?

    • bunsofaluminum

      Lordy be, I can’t imagine being married and abstaining! yikes! If I ever marry again, one of the main reasons will be “Sex without guilt” LOL

  • jose

    Once again, the only way to make sense of a piece of christian teaching is to frame it under the “barefoot and pregnant” model. As you pointed out, their face-saving rationalization can apply to everything we do. The natural outcome of eating meat is to get bacterial infection and die, therefore cooking is wrong (God put those bacteria there for a reason, you monster!)

    I prefer the argument that we’re misusing our body parts in ways that have nothing to do with their intended, original purpose, and thus indulging in hedonistic pleasures. Which means you don’t get to sing and dance anymore because your voice is there to communicate and your feet are for locomotion. Also bye bye reading, writing, sports, listening to music, going to the movies, in short, everything except eating, praying and making little christians.

    • Karen

      This. Human authorities have a real problem with anyone have any kind of pleasure, especially if those people are enjoying something “above their station.” The idea that married people who don’t want any more children have to give up sex is one more face of the belief that people accepting welfare shouldn’t eat cakes or have cell phones. Who can enjoy all the comforts of a privileged life if the less privileged get any comforts at all?

    • Rosa

      many Protestant groups have this in their history, including Puritans, Quakers, Methodists, and Lutherans. No theater, no secular music or poetry, no dancing, no ornamentive clothing, no card playing. We’ve given up most of those proscriptions (and we’ve privately thrown the proscription against sex without fear out the window as well) but the language lives on in how we talk about sex.

  • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

    I agree that sex does not need to have consequences. I have no issues with using birth control. And if someone has a good birth control method, as you said, their odds are one in 1,000 anyway. So the odds are slim to know of a person using a good method getting pregnant. Lets use the birth control and reduce unwanted pregnancies. But to the person who happens to be the 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10000 who gets pregnant, I still do not agree with them getting an abortion. Lets cut back on unwanted pregnancies, and lets keep perfecting science until there is no unwanted pregnancies, but I don’t agree abortion when it happens. I am not saying its murder, but I am not comfortable with it because science shows that a fetus can feel in the face by five weeks and all over their bodies by mid second trimester.

    • Zme

      If you don’t like abortion don’t have one, just don’t behave to deny others who don’t “agree” with you.

      BTW The 5 week conceptus “feels” in the same way an earthworm feels – an automatic reflex to touch, no brain involved whatsoever. Mid-second trimester (~20 week) fetuses are hardly ever aborted and when they are it’s usually because of some sort of development or medical problem.

    • RowanVT

      Scientific studies to back up those claims, please.

    • Anat

      I join the requests for support for your statements about capabilities of embryos and fetuses.

      Beyond that, why is it a good thing to make women, married or not, have a child they do not want? Why should families like Libby-Anne’s have to forgo things like health insurance because they had another child? Why should people who are already overwhelmed by the time and effort demanded by their existing children be forced to be strained even worse? Why should people who are not (yet? ever?) psychologically ready to raise a child be forced to do so? And what kind of life awaits a child who was born into such circumstances?

      • Steve

        It’s not just about individual people, but on a grande scale such policies are utterly devastating for entire societies. You can see that in Catholic theocracies like the Philippines (with rampant poverty, extensive slums, lack of arable land and overfishing) and several sub-Sahran African countries. Many countries would do a lot better if people only had as many children as they could sustain.

      • Skegeeace

        Here’s one article about fetal pain: http://news.discovery.com/human/fetus-pain-abortion-law.html

        Stuart Derbyshire, a psychologist and fetal pain expert at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, expressed a stronger view.

        “Basing laws on this is really unreasonable,” said Derbyshire, who, unlike Anand, thinks pain takes much longer to develop. “Abortion is not a scientific question. It is a moral and political question. To try and make science answer a moral question like that is just wrong. It’s cowardice on the part of lawmakers.”

        A full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. Premature babies can survive if born after about 22 to 24 weeks, though chances of survival are better after 26 weeks.

        One of the first clues that fetuses might feel pain came in the early 1990s, when researchers in England stuck needles into second-trimester fetuses and observed the release of pain-related hormones and nerve-signaling molecules. Before that, doctors thought the fetal nervous system was too undeveloped to feel pain. Even newborns endured surgeries without anesthesia.

        “If you or I had that experience,” Derbyshire said, “we would wake up and complain loudly.”

        Some of Anand’s earliest research showed that newborns were far more likely to survive operations when given anesthetics. That made him wonder what happens before birth.

        Since then, he said, studies have shown that the fetal brain and body are coordinated enough to experience pain by between about 18 and 20 weeks. When a fetus of that age gets a blood transfusion, for example, changes in heart rate and blood pressure accompany shifts in circulation and spikes in stress hormones. A morphine-like drug calms all of those responses down.

      • Skegeeace

        And about the possibility of pain before 20 weeks: http://www.academia.edu/151199/Can_fetuses_feel_pain

        At the end of the argument, we simply *don’t know* if fetuses can feel pain. I personally wouldn’t want to risk putting a little person through that kind of experience.

    • stacey

      You know, I FEEL PAIN, and would have to suffer the very serious consequences of pregnancy, and I am an adult.

      It is irrelevant whether or not the fetus feels pain, because we KNOW a grown woman DOES.

      How come its OK to force a WOMAN into a potentialy deadly, life and body altering event, but its not ok to hurt a fetus? I guess grown women are not as valuable?

      (I don’t care if you personally believe this, my issue is only with people who then work to make abortion illegal for all. You can think whatever you want if you aren’t impeding on MY bodily autonomy.)

      • Skegeeace

        Yeah, it sucks that the woman would have to go through pain to bring a baby into the world- no way around that. Life plain SUCKS when unplanned pregnancies occur, BUT- does one really want to be the type of woman who’d rather let a (potential?) baby go through that over putting herself through that? (With the possibility of mitigating the pain/discomfort with medicine, epidurals, etc.- options that a fetus wouldn’t have?)

        I just keep imagining I’m standing in a closed room with a small child and a big bowling ball swinging through the air and it’s probably going to hit *somebody*. I can’t picture me shoving a child in front of myself to take the hit so I don’t have to.

      • Malitia

        @Skegeeace

        Probably nobody wants to be “That kind of woman” and being judged, but if people still risk (and they do) this kind of social stigma These Type Of Judgmental People should reevaluate their standing. As I said before if reality doesn’t conform to your preconceptions it’s not the fault of reality.

        And what you keep imagining has no bearing. Also going with your analogy I wonder:
        Would you also endanger yourself by trying to stop that swinging bowling ball?
        Would you do that not for a small child but a petri dish that may or may not contain viable embryos?

      • Anat

        A fetus is not a baby, nor is it a small child. Since the woman has no obligation to let it use her body if she doesn’t want to the question is moot. It should be possible to at least reduce the fetus’ pain – any pain-killer applied systemically should affect the fetus too, but regardless, better cause the fetus pain for the limited time until it dies than force a person to have their body hijacked for months on end, go through childbirth and end up with a baby that is unwanted.

  • http://Alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    I’m legally married but we aren’t open to having children. We were 39 when we married and have health issues. I require medication that I shouldn’t take while pregnant. We’d be terrible parents. My husband has never wanted to be a parent and would leave me if I gave birth to a child.

    So we aren’t ever supposed to have sex until menopause? That hasn’t happened yet and I’m 48. I’m supposed to still be a virgin? Really?

    It’s one thing to say that if we were better people we’d be open to children anyway. But we aren’t better people. We’re who we are.

  • http://Alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    Lana, if you aren’t comfortable with abortion, don’t have one. Let me make the best decision for myself and my situation.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com MargueriteF

    I have four kids–quite a brood by today’s standards– and yet I used birth control often during my marriage. In fact, there were times when I HAD to use birth control, as my husband was undergoing chemotherapy and wasn’t supposed to sire children during chemo or for a while afterward. But in any event, four children is quite enough, thankyouverymuch. You shouldn’t have more children than you can reasonably care for. That’s responsible behavior.

    “…people should just be responsible and wait until they get married to have sex.”

    I object to this idea. To paraphrase what others have said in the comments, if people don’t want to have sex before marriage, that’s their choice. No one is going to force them to have sex if they don’t want to. But to try to compel others to abide by their moral choices by taking away contraceptive options is wrong. Some of us don’t see sex prior to marriage as wrong or “irresponsible,” given the existence of highly dependable birth control.

  • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

    I saw that “open to the transmission of life” comment and didn’t have time to give it the scorn it deserves, so good on you for laying out the fallacies. It’s the usual Christian (particularly Catholic) idolatry of poetic-sounding abstractions. No amount of pious blather about “open to the transmission of life” is going to fix the morning sickness, or ease the labour, or prevent the possibly-lethal complications of pregnancy, or deal with the permanent bodily changes that it causes, or change the diapers, or give the night feedings, or feed and clothe and educate that kid for the next 20 years. So just don’t have sex — don’t make love, don’t do this thing that combines tenderness and ecstasy and joy and makes you feel close to each other. Yes, goddammit, we *do* have that dreaded, anathematized “contraceptive mentality” — it’s a very sensible, rational mentality to have.

    It really is all about controlling people through sex, and guilt concerning it. The expression “got ‘em by the short and curlies” applies almost literally here.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    L.A you’re getting it backwards. Catholic leadership does not expect you to be married and celibate. They expect you to have sex and children. But as many are pointing out, leadership doesn’t equal the people.
    I was raised Catholic and my parents still are. I was told by my dad that my parents used ‘contraception’ early in the marriage. I told my mom I wanted kids right away after my own marriage and she said I should wait until we had a little money first. There was no mention of my remaining celibate. I used FAM and condoms. (BCP makes me ill) As I understand it that makes my mother and I, 1) bad Catholics and 2) typical Catholics.

    • Monimonika

      The meme that the beliefs of (majority of?) Catholic members =/= Catholic Hierarchy pops up every single time comments are allowed for posts/articles about the latest Catholic Church brouhaha.
      I get that there can be variations of belief within united religious groups without having to split into numerous unique sects. But when the differences are this glaring…
      Why are you people still claiming to be part of the Catholic Church?
      Unless you can wrest away the term “Catholic” from the Catholic Hierarchy themselves, I can’t understand why some of you people label yourselves Catholic while at the same time having to denounce almost every major Catholic point as not your own.

      • Katherine

        THIS is a really good point. I wish that – at the very least – Catholics were as loud about their variation from the church-heirarchy with other Catholics, and the church itself, as they are with liberals and progressives who point out the unfairness and ridiculousness of some of these stances.

      • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

        Many catholics consider belonging to the church to be a part of their cultural heritage even if they don’t agree with the church. I’d compare it to how many secular jews see judaism.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        I’ll vouch for what Noadi said (Catholicism is one of the few ties I have to my own ethnic background). I also suspect that the monolithic nature of Catholicism vs. Protestanism oddly creates a culture where diversity of belief is normal among the laity. There’s no way to find a Catholic church that’s more in line with your beliefs because they all belong to the same hierarchy. You either stay or leave the denomination entirely.

      • abra1

        I am not longer practicing because of this issue but it is mainly just because I got tired… There was a Birth Control Commission that was held at the same time at the Second Vatican Council that include clergy, experts, and married lay people. The near unanimous recommendation of this commission (there were a few abstentions, if my memory serves correctly) was that the Church reverse its stance on artificial birth control (not abortion), which was largely based on a Papal Encyclical Casti Connubbii. Some advisers to Pope Paul VI persuaded him NOT to accept the findings of the commission because they feared it would call into question the relatively new dogma of papal infallibility — Casti Connubbii and Papal Infallibility being both less than 100 years old. Instead the teaching was reaffirmed with Humane Vitae. One the key members, Patty Crowly, had the BEST quote when asked if the Church reversed this teaching what about all the people the Church has remanded to hell in the Casti Connubbii era for using birth control (an absurdly literal reading of the “what you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven). Her response: “Do you really think God has followed all of your orders?”

        So, there are many faithful Catholic who understand this (even if they aren’t familiar with all the details) is a rejection of sensus fidelium — dogma that asserts that the faithful as a body also have authority to reflect on and correct the actions of the hierarchy. In this case, I would argue, and I am not alone, that the hierarchy is placing preservation of their authority over faithful following the spirit (I am sure most of their think that it is one and the same).

        Being Catholic, particularly if you are born into it rather than converting to it, is not an much of intellectual endeavor like many “Bible-based” version of Christianity — the institution was built around a faith in illiterate, pre-moveable type, Medieval Europe. It is cultural and social and familial. Thus, for many Catholics it would be similar to the government being in the hands of people with whom you vehemently disagree and think is doing the country grievous harm (American from both sides of the spectrum have some idea what this is like). There is a difference between the Church and its leadership just as there is a difference between a country and its government. If you choose to leave, there is always part of you that is from that country and there may even be part of you that is waiting in exile to return. And there are some who choose to stay in the manner of a resistance — insisting that they will not be run out by the people who, according to the resistance, are ruining it.

      • Chervil

        Hi Noadi, I see what you’re trying to say with secular Judaism, but just for a little clarification, there is no top down hierarchy equivalent for Jews, at least none that I know of. You find a synagogue with a rabbi you like and that’s that. Secular Jews pay to join synagogues every year but rarely go. And you’re right, they identify as Jewish, and practice what they find the most meaningful, but it’s not out of disagreement with their rabbi, the reasons why are not the same. Jews are encouraged to study, learn, debate the Torah, I mean taking one sentence in the Torah and picking it apart for 2 hours, easily. Disagreement and interpretation is as much a part of the culture/religion as lox and bagels, for all Jews.

      • Chervil

        Noadi – on further thought, you’re right, I’m wrong, Secular Jews do pick and choose what they want to practice, it’s just that it is so acceptable to do that, I didn’t consider it disagreeing with having to follow all those laws and of course there are synagogues that encourage finding your own way. But you’re quite right. And of course very observant Jews are also patriarchal, there are a lot of similarities and married women have to shave their heads and all that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

        @abral:

        Serendipity: Leave it to the Catholics to destroy existence.

      • Emmers

        I left because I was constantly told, growing up, that it was better to leave than to be a “Cafeteria Catholic.”

        Not everyone feels this way, though, or buys into the anti-cafeteria rhetoric of the hierarchy.

    • Anat

      So what does the leadership have to say to people who are married but do not wish to have (more) children?

      • Katherine

        I have a lot of Catholic friends, and I’m fully in support of people not leaving the church over these differences, many people have very good reasons for staying in the church. However, I wish that more of them would SPEAK UP and put pressure on the hierarchy to recognize how it’s members feel, or at the very least be vocal with their fellow Catholics. If you don’t want to be lumped in with Catholics who are against gays and birth control, then you need to be OUT as a Catholic who is not against those things.

      • abra1

        Not wanting any more children is not an acceptable state unless you are willing to abstain. As long as you have sex, you are to remain “open to the possibility of life.” And abstaining is kind of questionable. There is a couple that has been beatified or something who remained celibate for decades after having children but there is at least the idea floating around that as long as you *can* care for another child you *should* be open to another child but maybe that is just because, realistically, who is going to abstain for decades?

        This is why Catholic fertility rates fell slower over the decades than Protestant fertility rates. Catholic families were often on the scale of 8-12 children (my parents’ families in the Leave It to Beaver Era) a generation after Protestant families had fallen to 2-3 children (Leave it to Beaver). Though the Catholic fertility rate has fallen in line, if you meet a family with more than 4 children, it is 50/50 that they are conservative Catholic.

      • abra1

        Sorry, I shouldn’t have thrown numbers out there without check. I don’t know the exact probability of families with >4 children being (conservative) Catholic, but I do know it is out of proportion to their representation in the general population and even than in household formation.

    • Monimonika

      Thank you to all who replied to my comment asking why some people still claim to be Catholic despite disagreements with a lot of the Catholic Hierarchy’s statements of belief.
      Preserving cultural heritage was brought up. Though I cannot even pretend to know what Catholic culture is like nor what aspects people want to keep with them, is it not possible to gather and form another religious community/group that keeps those cultural aspects while getting out from under the Hierarchy’s control/influence? Make a new name ” -adjective- Catholics” (not -Secular-, of course) and just remove the Pope (and immediate subordinates) part?
      From what I can see, those who disagree with the Hierarchy on major life-changing issues have already rejected one of the most significant foundations of Catholicism (following the Hierarchy itself). abra1 explained a little about sensus fidelium, which if the recent Hierarchy has been ignoring, then why should the Hierarchy be given the power to dictate what the beliefs of all Catholics, including the significant number of those who obviously believe and practice the opposite, are?
      The ones giving the Hierarchy this power are those who simply call themselves “Catholic” followed by a list of caveats, but who do not put any actual pressure into either changing the Hierarchy or try to clearly separate themselves from the Hierarchy’s propaganda (i.e. form a new branch of “-adjective- Catholicism”).

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

        “Though I cannot even pretend to know what Catholic culture is like nor what aspects people want to keep with them, is it not possible to gather and form another religious community/group that keeps those cultural aspects while getting out from under the Hierarchy’s control/influence?”

        I believe it is called the Anglican or Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church of America has a gay Bishop. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Robinson

      • abra1

        I don’t think that a lot of lapsed Catholics want to get rid of the office of the pope or the hierarchy but want a different relationship with them — again, one that respects sensus fidelium. Theologically, the continuity from St. Peter down, is important because Catholicism is based on both Scripture and Tradition. And the Church has survive periods of terrible, awful, and false leadership in the past.

        That being said, there are some movements to do this, like the American Catholic Church and a few others, and a lot of people leave for the Episcopal Church. If it were a denomination, “lapsed Catholic” would be the 2nd largest denomination in the US, right behind “Catholic” and “Catholic” only remains the largest thanks to Latino immigration.

        There is a lot of dissension in the pews than is often appreciated from the outside — Cafeteria Catholics has been around for a long time. However, there are a couple of reasons why this is still unsatisfactory.

        First, the bishops still wield a fair amount of power because of the number of extra-church institutions they have influence over (universities, charities, and, of course, hospitals).

        Second, sensus fidelium is not a well-understood concept among the laity, even if they use it for theological foundations for their actions, they can’t often put a name to it, and it is in conflict with the idea of “obedience” (yes, makes me cringe) that is much more often emphasized — in the guise of asserting that the moral choice is often not the easy choice, we live in a hedonistic culture, etc., etc.

        Third, because of the movement of Vatican II, the priesthood and leadership got *more* conservative. Vatican II gave more power to the laity so many who would have gone into the priesthood felt that they could serve the Church as a lay person and those were disproportionately the ones who were *happy* with the movement to a flatter structure. This had the effect of putting the people who prefer a more rigid and vertical hierarchy and emphasis on obedience in charge — with the theologically unsound ability to claw back many of the changes of V-II — and those who were in favor in relatively powerless positions to protect and advance those changes (they still haven’t been fully implemented).

        But the heart of the problem is that if you buy into the basic theology of the Church, which is fundamentally sacramental, it is a very, very painful break to leave — whether by your own choice or because you have been excommunicated — because you are depriving yourself of the opportunities to participate in the sacraments. You can’t just go to a different Church and get the same thing without the anti-gay, anti-woman stuff (Episcopalians are pretty close but there is a perception of them being “Catholic Lite” particularly with regard to some of the sacraments). And if you are too noisy about the anti-gay, anti-woman stuff, they can and will kick you out.

      • Rosa

        Nah, the ones giving the hierarchy power are the ones donating money. And there are fewer and fewer of them every year.

        I’m pretty sure that the current conservative freakout of the American bishops is directly to do with how little real power they have over either their clergy or their laity.

      • abra1

        I agree, the increasingly belligerent authoritarianism is the a fearful response. And a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is rather sad because the Catholic Church is uniquely positioned with its global presence — that it is the same (more or less) from a liturgical standpoint (the sort of the benefit that the network television had back before cable – it gave everyone a common experience to refer to) — around the world and including all races and socioeconomic statuses. But the reactionary attitude is driving people away, they insist they’d rather a smaller more orthodox church, but that is just guaranteed to make them less relevant and forfeit its special position.

        However, I wouldn’t go so far as to discount the power that they do have. First the Church owns a LOT of property and Catholic Charities and others have a lot of contracts with the states to provide social services and the hospitals and universities depend on independent sources of revenue. Even as the collection plate offerings drop off, they have a fair amount of money and power to leverage.

    • Monimonika

      abra1,
      Thank you so much for patiently explaining a (surely small fraction) of the situations Catholics (both former and current) face concerning their faith. I have to be honest and admit that religion has not played much of a role in most of my life, so I am quite ignorant of a lot of details concerning pretty much any religion other than what I have skimmed from news or articles (*).
      Thank you so much for answering my questions and I hope that the tide of progress will be such that the Catholic Hierarchy will eventually be replaced by those of better leadership and ideas.
      …Apologies to the Catholics who I ignorantly lambasted. :-(

      (*) During tests where I could fill out my religious affiliation, I kept filling in the “Protestant” circle simply because it had the word “Protest” in it (beliefs? what?). I don’t recall there ever being a choice for “Atheist”. I was also very surprised when I found out that Easter had something to do with Jesus resurrecting and immediately wondered if he came back as the Easter Bunny. I later confirmed in college that I was an atheist.

      • abra1

        Monimonika, thanks for the open discussion.

        My husband was also raised areligious (weirdly, by a very fundamentalist dad… who assumed everything he believed was so self evident that he didn’t need to teach his children — at all — and then he was surprised when none of his children arrived at the same conclusions). It was so weird to me that he didn’t **know** stuff like that. Though I am pretty sure he knew about the Easter Bunny, he did grow up in the Bible Belt.

        That is part of my struggle right now. I loved my Church when I loved it and now that I’ve decided I can’t stay, I just can’t see going elsewhere. I can’t decide if I am agnostic or theistic/Christian out of habit of thought but I **miss** the community aspect of my parish and I have 2 children who I want to expose to that cultural currency. Kind of like Bible as literature — you don’t have to view it as a sacred collection of books but if you don’t have at least passing familiarity with it, you miss out on a lot nuance, references, etc., in Western culture — from literature to political campaigns. And one is in a much better position to refute “Biblical” positions that really aren’t very “Biblical” if one knows how to find there way around it.

  • plutosdad

    There is nothing irresponsible about having sex outside of marriage.

    We use all sorts of safety equipment in day to day life, if we did not then merely going out of our house would be dangerous. Heck, in some countries women going out of their house alone is “irresponsible” according to the moral authorities. These american busybodies are talking about what would have been irresponsible thousands of years ago, not what is irresponsible today.

    You can make a very good argument that sex WITHOUT contraception is what is irresponsible. If you don’t actually WANT to get pregnant and have the resources to care for it.

  • Katherine

    “Just wait until you’re married!” is, like so many other things, just so much slut shaming. Does it have a little bit to do with the assumption that married women are better positioned to take care of a child? Sure. But is it mostly about looking down on WOMEN who have sex before/outside of marriage and considering them filthy whores? Why yes, it sure does! And while most modern Christian sects teach that both men AND women should wait until marriage to have sex, it’s worth noting that a) throughout history Christians have been pretty a-ok with men having sex before marriage, provided they weren’t defiling another man’s “property” and b) it is still always, ALWAYS the women who are demonized for pre-marital sex. When a sixteen year old girl becomes pregnant the reaction is “she should have kept her legs closed!” and very little is said about the boy who had an equal part int he process.
    The anti-contraception stance isn’t just about making sure sex has consequences, it’s about making sure sex has consequences for WOMEN.

    • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara

      You haven’t read anything about Mark Driscoll have you? He put a guy “under church discipline” for messing around with a girl while he was engaged to another and for having sex with his fiance and lying to church staff that he had not. They only found out because the guy confessed because he was sorry. He still got put under “church discipline”. I agree with you 100% that this stuff is so hurtful. I just wanted to add that it’s hurtful to men too. There are churches that shame men just as much as women. Sad. Sad stuff.

      • Katherine

        You’re right that I hadn’t read about this particular person. But I am aware that churches shame men as well, hence my comment “And while most modern Christian sects teach that both men AND women should wait until marriage to have sex…” I was more pointing out what it looks like overall, en masse, and pointing out that historically these ideas are handed down to us as part of a patriarchal system. So you get far-right folks attacking the “single woman vote” or worse the “slut vote”. I still hold that being anti-contraception is usually about making sure that pre-marital sex has consequences for women, because they are the ones who carry the pregnancies, and directly benefit from access to contraception.

        But thank you for pointing out this story! Definitely relevant.

      • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

        Well, a big part of the reason he got disciplined was 1. The girl he cheated on was a deacon’s daughter, 2. he was accused of leading women astray, so even though it was really hurtful to him, the nature of his discipline still comes back to a paternalistic and shaming attitude toward women’s sexuality.

      • bunsofaluminum

        sorry, coming in a little late, but I know of a case where a younger man was strongly pursued by an older woman (at least 20 years difference) in a church community. The young man was just past his 18th birthday, and had never had sex, and the woman was divorced (read: experienced and more mature) and when things came down, he shouldered ALL the burden. The church leadership saw him as being much more culpable, because he was male, and the woman, because women are weaker, carried a very minimal amount of the responsibility in their eyes. That REALLY ticked me off on many levels.

      • Katherine

        Diana, that is actually disappointing to hear. I would prefer to learn that the church is getting better at actually applying their principles to all people (even the terrible ones) regardless of gender.

        I also think it bears noting though, that one case of a man being disciplined for having pre-marital sex does not change the fact that the MAJORITY of the conversation is still about controlling women. Lack of access to birth control is important in this cause because it insures that women who have sex will have “consequences”. The fact remains that (at least in the chruch’s view, I doubt very much that they recognize trans-birth-givng-fathers) men do not carry pregnancies. And given the history of patriarchy (and it’s role in the church), I doubt very much that if men DID carry pregnancies, the church would be nearly as interested in limiting access to birth control.

  • Danielle

    Great point. I hate that these people consider reproductive health issues irrelevant to married women. I’ve been out of touch with the internet lately, so when I read about Savita yesterday, it made me very emotional. I think I took it so personally because I just had to have a D&C last week and it scared me to think that if circumstances were slightly different and I had a less compassionate doctor, I could have been at risk for hemmorhage and sepsis with no one willing to help.

    Anyways, I’m thinking of starting birth control, because I am “open to life.” I’m sick of having to NFP it with irregular PCOS cycles in order to get through the mandatory three month waits between each of my failed pregnancies.

    • cyster

      I have PCOS too Danielle. I had a miscarriage at 17 weeks a year and a half ago – Savita’s story touched me, I thought wow, if my circumstances had been a little bit different and with cruel doctors, something like that might have happened to me. Poor Savita, and her family and friends. I hope this never happens to another woman, but I know it will…..

  • Uly

    My mother was married with two kids when she made the appointment for her abortion. She planned to abort BECAUSE she was a married woman and a mother.

    I say planned to because something wonderful happened to stop that.

    She had a miscarriage three days before she planned to go in which, unlike abortion, was covered by insurance, so that was really win-win all around.

  • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara

    Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes!

    • abra1

      Amen, sister.

  • Asif

    I remember discussing actual abortion rates and statistics way back when in college, and one thing that came up is looking at who has abortions in a country where there are no legal or finanacial barriers to access, not an easy thing to find btw – my prof thought the best available stats were from the former USSR, which arguably also tried to reduce social/religious influence against abortion. There and then, the highest abortion rates were among married women who already had 3 or more children! (sorry no citation but pretty sure this is what we were shown)

  • Emma

    It seems to me that this idea that “sex must have consequences because it’s natural” is informed to a some extent by the naturalistic fallacy, which tends to view the “natural” as something automatically good that should be embraced, and the “unnatural” as something bad to be rejected. Which is funny, because that’s usually something you see more on the hippie-dippe left than the Christian right.

    • Rosie

      Well, the hippies generally include contraceptive and abortificant plants in “all-natural” too.

    • Katherine

      you actually see it a lot on the Christian right, except in their view NATURAL = PART OF GOD’S PLAN FOR CREATION. They are the same people who argue that it isn’t “natural” for people to have homosexual relationships, or in some cases they argue that it’s not “natural” for women to work outside of the home. The natural vs. unnatural argument is plastered all over a surprising amount of their arguments.

      • Twist

        I wonder how many of these people are willing to let themselves (or their children) die from treaable illnesses because modern medicine = unnatural? I know there’s the occasional horrifying case but surely most of even the most rabid religious right wing nuts wouldn’t, for example, choose to die from appendicitis because surgery and antibiotics aren’t part of god’s plan. I mean, the internet isn’t natural, nor are cars, indoor plumbing, laser eye surgery and a million other things that most of the people who wail about how unnatural (and therefore wrong) homosexuality supposedly is do.

        And if having tons of babies, women not working outside the home and rigid gender roles were really so natural and innate, they wouldn’t have to enforce them so strictly among their own followers and try to pass legislation (at least for the ‘tons of babies’) to keep people from deviating.

      • http://thewordsonwhat.wordpress.com/ Rob F

        There are people who take this natural/religious/God’s plan view to an extent that is dangerous to their children. From here:

        [...]Mary and Josue Anaya of Omaha are also fighting the test [the neonatal heel prick], in their case because they believe the Bible instructs against deliberately drawing blood. According to the book of Leviticus, “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and ignoring that directive may shorten a person’s life, they said.

        Children’s blood is “something precious in my sight and in the sight of God and not to be tampered with lightly,” said Mary Anaya, who gave birth to the youngest of her nine children in Iowa to avoid the test.[...]

        Eventually this will blow up. Someone’s child will end up dead or with profound intellectual disability because they had the misfortune of being born to fundamentalist parents. This is especially egregious because the diseases the neonatal heel prick tests for (sickle-cell disease and some inborn errors of metabolism) are oftentimes completely treatable.

      • Beth C.

        Sadly, there are those that will forgo all medicine, even though it could save themselves or their children. We have had at least 3 cases within the last year, primarily from one church, where children have died as a direct result of failing to seek medical care. In one case, it was something as simple as a bladder infection. What a miserable, horrendous way to die!

  • Lizzy

    The just keep your legs shut argument is so incomplete. There are probably millions of married women in this country who don’t want children, don’t want children now, or don’t want more children. Insisting that sex has no function beyond procreation is ridiculous. If that were true it would feel good, it would encourage connection to your partner, it would just be something you had to do if you wanted to get pregnant. Sex and romantic relationships go hand in hand for most people.

    I don’t care whether nature has connected two things, I’m a human living in the 21st century. We can literally send people to the moon. We can cure diseases that used to be a death sentence and we can more effectively prevent pregnancy than at any time in the past.

    Finally, saying that married women don’t worry about contraception and abortion is absurd. I am married, have been for over 3 years, and I had an abortion this year. My husband drove me to the clinic and sat with me in the waiting room. He felt strongly that we made the right choice for our situation and he supported me the through the painful decision, procedure, and emotional aftermath. This married woman was a part of the slut vote.

    • Lizzy

      *would not feel good, would not encourage connection

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      Yes. This is a good time to be alive. I think those of us living in countries where reliable contraceptives have been available for awhile forget just how big of a deal it is to be able to manage one’s reproduction. People have been trying to avoid pregnancy forever; we’re just way better at it now. And it’s a very good thing!

    • ej3333

      Good point! I’m happy everything worked out for you :)

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    I’m happy to see so many people recognizing the “don’t have sex if you don’t want a baby” argument as flawed an absurd. The sad thing is I drank the Catholic Kool-Aid for the first 4 years of my marriage, one of those spent in complete abstinence because we didn’t want another baby. (We had 2 within the first 3 years of marriage.) Even after realizing the teaching didn’t work for us, we still followed the Catholic rules because the fear of mortal sin and hell was such a powerful influence in our lives. It’s good to be free!

  • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

    The thing is, even for those who follow the Bible, the command to be fruitful and multiple is an old command long full filled. The earth is over populated in parts. No one should have to produce more babies. The earth can sustain itself just fine.

  • And when it does not work?

    I’m married, I ovulate, I have sex with my husband and I can afford a baby. What could go wrong? Oh, did I mention that I am 51 years old? You think I want to be 70 with a teenager in the house? Yes, we got snipped but sometimes that fails. Hmm…

  • jose

    You know, we shouldn’t feel compelled to make excuses to the christians. It’s not that we can’t afford a kid or that we’ve other priorities at the moment or anything of the sort. It’s just that we like having sex for fun and that’s reason enough. We don’t play basketball because of its beneficial health effects or to improve our hand-eye coordination, we just like playing. Same thing.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

      Exactly!
      Absolutely, totally yes to this :)

    • J-Rex

      I was waiting for someone to say this. Sex feels great. We have very strong, natural urges to have sex that are very hard to overpower when there are two willing people. It helps people bond with each other and strengthens relationships. It keeps people feeling happy and less stressed out. What in the world is wrong with wanting the benefits of something without the drawbacks? Should we not be able to use sunblock because the natural consequences of spending too much time at the beach should be sunburn and skin cancer?
      I always wonder if the people who say “Just don’t have sex!” a) haven’t yet had any sexual experience and don’t understand how strong sexual urges are, b) don’t like sex, or c) love sex, but they conveniently also love having children.

  • Marta L.

    I think you’re treating two issues here as one thing, which really deserve to be handled separately: first, whether married women can morally use contraception, and second, whether married women (or any woman) can morally have an abortion if that contraception fails. On the first point, I agree with you – emphatically! – for the many reasons you put out there. This is not in doubt. I also agree with you that if married women use contraception the need for abortions due to unwanted pregnancy would drop like a stone through a wet paper bag. This is definitely a good thing.

    Still, I hesitate to agree that, if you use contraception responsibly and it still fails, this entitles you to have an abortion. Let’s use your seatbelt analogy. I want to get across town and a car is the best way to do this. But I know driving carries risks so I do my best to minimize those risks – I make sure I know how to drive well, I only drive while alert, and for safety’s sake I wear a seatbelt. All of this minimizes the risk I’ll get injured while driving across town, to the point that it’s an acceptable risk. But it’s still a risk, and if the protections fell through and I got injured… I think on some level I’d still be responsible for my injury. If the seatbelt was defective or something that would be one thing; but if the seatbelt and everything else worked like it was supposed to and I was just unlucky enough to be injured anyway, that was the risk I took by driving.

    I agree with you that women should have access to contraception even when married, and that it’s the responsible thing to use that kind of contraception. But it seems that when you have sex while on contraception, that’s kind of like driving while wearing a seatbelt – you’ve done everything you can to minimize unwanted consequences, and rightfully so, but you also have to know there’s still an outside chance of those consequences happening. If those consequences do happen, I’d say that at a certain level the people who have sex (man + woman, not just the woman) do have some kind of a responsibility to the fetus. This responsibility may be outweighed by other things, depending on the fetus’s development, whether you can withstand the economic cost of a pregnancy, and whether adoption is an option after birth. But I do think you make a bit of a jump here when you treat the morality of contraception and the morality of abortion when it fails in the same move.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      but if the seatbelt and everything else worked like it was supposed to and I was just unlucky enough to be injured anyway, that was the risk I took by driving.

      Ah, but would the paramedics refuse to treat you, since you did know the risk when you got in the car, even with a seat belt? The reality is that we not only do things to try to minimize the risk we take when we, say, get in a car, or have sex, but we also do things to mitigate the harm we suffer when those efforts to minimize risk aren’t enough, including being treated after a car wreck or having access to a abortion.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I actually wrote a whole blog post about this.

    • Amelia

      So, we take all the precuations because we CANT AFFORD to have a child, yet if the precautions ALL fail (which has happened to a friend of mine, who is keeping this baby but is sending her husband for the snip for his birthday) we should HAVE to keep it? Just because we are married? Even if it will bankrupt us or similar? Wow. Glad I dont live in your theocracy.

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      I get the LOLs whenever pro-lifers analogize pregnancy to a car crash. I keep thinking it reveals some subconscious attitude on their part….

      • Anat

        Well, they are known as ‘accidents’.

  • And when it does not work?

    One reason married couples with with children have abortions is that fully knowing the emotional bonding and ties of parenthood, they cannot face the ramifications of giving a child up for adoption. Knowing that a child of ours was out there, somewhere, but not with us? Not a choice my husband and i could live with unless we had no choice (Schindlers List and Sophie’s Choice situations are what I mean by no choice). Terminating a zygote? Especially when we already know that compared to our 2 living children, we already ‘had’ 3 other zygotes that spontaneously self terminated even when we were emotionally longing and financially ready for them. We are getting along just fine without those zygotes. Terminating a zygote is a choice this married couple could live with. Giving a child up for adoption is one we could not. Giving birth and raising a child in our 50′s? That’s the choice we don’t think we could take if our contraception failed. And it does fail 50 year old women sometimes.

    • victoria

      I agree with you. And if the kids are young you’ve also got to consider how your choices will affect them. Having an abortion when you have older kids in the house is something they don’t need to know about or can be told about when they’re old enough to appreciate the thought processes involved. For a child — maybe a child who really wants a sibling! — to see their parents give birth to a baby and then give it up for adoption I can only imagine would cause some major trauma and insecurity.

      (This is where someone chimes in, “That’s nothing compared to the trauma of the baby the parents aborted!,” and yeah, the moral calculus there is different if you believe a zygote = a baby. I don’t believe that at all, and consequently I think in that situation it’s a more moral choice to have the abortion.)

  • Michael Busch

    >>Others, however, argued that using birth control actually increases the abortion rate<<

    Once again, I am greatly bothered by the profound ignorance of biology anyone who would say that exhibits. The pregnancy rate of women using IUDs or implants is about _1000_ times less than the failure rate of women on no contraceptives at all (it varies between a factor of 400 to a factor of 1600 depending on the exact method). How can anyone think that less than one in 1000 women are sexually active?

    Or is the misconception that the rate of contraceptive failure is proportional to the rate at which people have sex? That really only applies to condoms/diaphrams/spermicide, so perhaps we're seeing the effects of people having outdated and inadequate sex ed. But even then, is there really this idea that "people will go out and have sex a thousand times more often"? Because that would be impossible.

    • Doe

      I would love to see a more detailed numerical analysis on that. It’s my understanding that people who think birth control increases the rate of abortions think that the increase in people having sex in situations where they can’t raise a child is much greater with the “false sense of security” of birth control. So when contraceptive failure happens, abortion is the logical choice. This mechanism relies on the existence of birth control being the deciding factor that makes people decide to go ahead and have sex regardless of their ability to raise a child, which I don’t think is very accurate.

  • Anat

    BTW: In Israel it is relatively easy (OK, much less of a hassle) for an unmarried woman to obtain a legal abortion and much harder for a married woman under 40 to obtain one. The outcome? It is estimated that half the abortions in Israel are illegal. Not the back alley variety, thankfully, they are usually performed in private doctors’ offices, for a ‘nice’ sum of money. Law enforcement looks the other way as long as patients don’t die. And poor married women are left stranded. So definitely, abortion access is an area married women care about.

    • Steve

      Is that because of social stigma against unmarried women having children?

      • Anat

        The legal status of abortion in Israel is summarized here. The law as it was created and ‘amended’ (I wouldn’t call reducing people’s rights an amendment) is the result of compromises between various groups, including women’s rights groups and the religious establishment. The permission for unmarried women to obtain an abortion falls within the clause that allows abortion from ‘illicit’ unions, though the law does treat premarital and adulterous pregnancies as a lesser form of illicit pregnancy compared with pregnancy resulting from rape/incest.

      • Steve

        At least Jews actually pay attention to Exodus 21:22-25 which clearly implies that abortion is not murder. And unlike in Christianity there is a clear consensus that the mother’s life takes precedence. Even in Orthodox Judaism, an abortion is *required* if it is necessary to save a woman’s life.

        There is also some nonsense and arbitrary things like the 40 day rule, but overall Jewish rules on abortion are a lot more logical, humane and ethical than anything Christianity has ever come with.

    • Amelia

      Goes along nicely with Martas comment above: (in summary) If you are married and your contraception fails, too bad, you should be forced to carry the pregnancy.

  • Bre

    What about: if you are too irresponsible to use birth control, use it correctly, or choose a reliable method- you’re too irresponsible to raise a child. It’s along the line of a pro-choice bumper sticker I’ve seen: If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child? Anyone that wants to have an abortion, for whatever reason, should eb able to have one if they so choose. No one should be forced to remain pregnant if they do not wish to be.

    • Anonymouse

      Ah, but Bre, the forced-birthers don’t give two hoots once the cord is cut–the baby and the mother can starve to death, or the overworked, underpaid, frazzled mother can neglect the baby to death…it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s born.

  • Twist

    The suggestion that married women (I’m going to include myself in this category – I’m not married but may as well be) don’t care about contraception or abortion rights is so utterly wrong. For a start, as pointed out many times, not all married women are prepared (or able) to have child after child after child after child until they stop being fertile (I mean, if someone wants to spend half their adult life pregnant and find themselves looking after babies, toddlers, 5, 8, 11-year-olds and teenagers all at the same time then they are free to do that, but they shouldn’t presume to make that decision on behalf of all married women, everywhere) but I think what bothers me even more than that is the assumption of absolute self interest.

    The assumption that even if contreaception or abortion isn’t a concern for a particular woman that she automatically doesn’t care about whether any other women have access to these services. I mean, I’m in a relationship with a man. That means that pregnancy is a risk and I need access to contraceptives and yes, abortion if they fail as I’m not prepared to have a child. If I were to become infertile then contraception and abortion would no longer be an issue for me (if I lived in the US. Due to living in the UK, they’re already a non-issue for me – free and easily available whather I’m married or not), but I wouldn’t suddenly become willing to throw all other women under the bus on the chance that it might make my taxes a bit lower, that’s monstrous!

    I think the fact that people on the republican side blame the single woman vote (among other groups that aren’t older, rich, straight white men) for Obama’s victory and gleefully point out that married women were more likely to vote Rmoney is very telling of their own motivations. Just because they’d stab any other group of people in the backs if it meant a bit more money in their accounts, doesn’t mean that everybody else would.

    I don’t think it’s occured to some people that you can care about a cause that doesn’t directly affect you, and vote for a cause that doesn’t affect you, even if it means you might have to *gasp* pay more taxes! Decent people are ok with paying a little extra if it means a fairer society for everyone. I thought we (atheists, feminists, child-free women) were meant to be the selfish ones.

    • abra1

      I’ve been thinking about this “married women voted for Romney” issue because, like you, I am a long-partnered woman who is concerned about my ability to control my reproduction (and, living in the US, had more immediate concerns) and was somewhat surprised by the apparent lack of concern about reproductive rights that vote implies. But then I got to think about what “married woman” means — and would really like to see some cross tabs, better yet a little logistical regression, because married women are:

      – more likely to be older both because being older means you have had more opportunity to marry but also because older generations are just more likely to get married.
      – more likely to be white than some minorities
      – more likely to come from higher income brackets because – depending on whom you ask – financial well-being results in more stable marriages or marriage leads to more financial stability.

      In other words, “married women” are likely to be just like the rest of Romney voters — white, middle/upper income, and older — and it is an open question whether the “married” part actually a statistically significant attribute in prediction of who one would vote for or just part of a larger cluster of attributes in which income, race, and education explain the variance that “married”/”not married” does.

      • Bethany B.

        I’m confused by the “married women voted for Romney” schtick that the Repubs toss out. After all, I’m married and I voted for Obama (I’m not older, am white, and not financially well off). So I looked up the numbers.

        Yes, a majority of married women voted for Romney, but, according to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/2012-exit-polls/#United-States, it was 53% for Romney, 46% for Obama, and 1% for other or not declared. Not nearly as decisive a margin as they play it out to be, unlike the married men on the same info-graphic that voted 60% Romney and 38% Obama (guess they liked the Repubs’ feminine oppression platform).

  • Amy

    You have many well thought out points here, but what’s your opinion on pregnancy rates rising even higher if more women do have access to birth control but don’t use it correctly every time? There’s numerous studies and comparisons of the various contraceptives available for review that show that ‘User Dependent’ methods (Pill, diapragm, ring, foam, male/female condom) have higher failure rates than do the ‘Non User Dependent’ methods (Depo shot, IUD, Vasectomy, Tubal Ligation). Granted, ‘Non User Dependent’ methods do have a risk of failure, those numbers are not nearly as large as ones that the user is solely responsible for. And what about the rate of STD infections that may increase with increased contraceptive use? Studies show that STD infections tend to rise where BC is readily available. It seems to create a mindset of carelessness where people care more about avoiding pregnancy than contracting Syphilis for example. What are your thoughts?
    By the way, I used various types of the pill for five years successfully until I forgot to take it for four days, which resulted in me being pregnant with my daughter. I had my tubes tied after having my daughter until 2010 when I had them reversed. My tubal ligation caused me problems with my cycle, but I did avoid pregnancy with that as well. I had my tubal reversed in 2010 and was pregnant with my son four months later.

  • ej3333

    Pro-life men should do us all a favor and get vasectomies.

  • skrap05

    I would just like to point out one thing. I understand and agree with many of your points here. However, I take a bit of issue with your characterization of Catholics.

    “Some of these individuals – the most Catholic ones – might well come right out and say that if I am not open at all to becoming pregnant and having another child, I shouldn’t be having sex with my husband. We should just live lives of celibacy.”

    If you were to do further study of the Catholic teaching on sex and marriage, you would note that it never advocates a long term (as you cited, for example, in your case, where you would have to abstain for years) sexless marriage in order to avoid having children. Rather the teaching is simply that married couples should always be open to children. And simply that, not that you should stop having sex. The idea is that in the Catholic church marriage necessitates openness to children just as religious life necessitates celibacy. You have every right to disagree with the Catholic faith and argue that not all married couples should always be open to children, but as you said in your article

    “They can believe that. But that, quite simply, is their personal belief, and they cannot and should not either force or expect others to live by it.”

    And I agree with you. They shouldn’t try to force others to see marriage this way. But please do not characterize an entire religion as ridiculous for expecting married people not to have sex for years to avoid children when it is simply not the teaching. Feel free to criticize Catholics because you may not find it realistic for all married couples to always be open to children. That is your right of course. But check your facts before you criticize please. I invite you to read Humanae Vitae if you have any further questions regarding the specifics of Catholic teachings.

  • Wendy

    Dear Libby,

    There is a difference between WANTING to have children and being OPEN to the possibility of children. You can have sex and be OPEN to children even if you DO NOT WANT children. (Please don’t take the CAPS as yelling, I just can’t figure out how to add italics.) And to be very clear, as Catholic beliefs are often misunderstood (even by Catholics), the Catholic Church does not say that people should only have sex if they WANT children.

    You mentioned you used NFP for a few years. Did you ever listen to Dr. Janet Smith’s CONTRACEPTION, WHY NOT? lecture? It does a good job of focusing on the ethical, moral and philosophical reasons for NFP. There is some solid, secular logic within the lecture if you’re able to look past the explicitly religious portions.

    Best,

    Wendy


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