Whence Opposition to Birth Control? An Illustration.

I’ve written before suggesting that if pro-lifers are consistent, they should be in favor of birth control. And indeed, there are some who are. But there seem to be more who aren’t, and that is only more true when it comes to Catholics. I recently came upon an illustration that explains how Catholic pro-lifers can be anti-birth control, and anti-abortion at the same time.

Click the illustration to view it larger. For those who can’t view the image, let me offer a brief description.

On the left is a weed, “Sexual Chaos,” with its root, “Contraception.” Contraception is rooted in selfishness, materialism, lust, hedonism, and individualism. The leaves and flowers of the weed Sexual Chaos are co-habitation, premarital sex, fornication, adultery, divorce, suicide, homicide, infanticide, abortion, euthanasia, poverty, crime, poor health, poor education, single parent families, devastated children, and lethal experimentation.

On the right is a rose, “Strong Family Life,” with its root, “Chastity.” Chastity is rooted in generosity, altruism, idealism, self control, and a focus on relationships. The leaves and flowers of the rose Strong Family Life are religious vocations, volunteerism, long, satisfying marriages, security for women and families, women’s health, strong social structures, and top quality care for children, elders, and disabled persons.

One reason an illustration like this can be appealing is that it’s so simplistic. For many, there’s something comforting about a dichotomous and uncomplicated way of viewing the world. I grew up in a conservative evangelical family where the world was viewed in just such black and white terms, devoid of shades of gray, and I’m convinced that one reason that conservative religious traditions have proven so successful is that they offer simplicity and reassurance in an extremely complicated world.

Of course, it is that very simplicity that is the downfall of this illustration. Simply put, the things on each side don’t match the way they’re supposed to—the things that are supposed to flow from the things below them actually, well, don’t.

For one thing, the idea that contraception is rooted in selfishness as opposed to generosity is wrong. One reason people plan their pregnancies today is so that they can give the children they choose to have more attention and care. Similarly, the idea that chastity (meaning no pre- or extra-marital sex) automatically stems from altruism rather than, say, threats of hellfire is also wrong. Similarly, the idea that poverty, crime, or divorce stem from contraception is baffling. In fact, contraception is actually important in helping people out of poverty. Additionally, there is literally no reason that contraception would give flower to divorce. On the other hand, it’s also silly to think that chastity naturally results in volunteerism (or that those who use contraception don’t volunteer!) or that chastity is necessary for satisfying marriages (or always leads to them).

And this goes for basically every connection in those images. You can assert that running your washing machine causes warm weather, but that doesn’t make it so.

The other thing this illustration suggests is the elevation of others over self, and of “self control” over “hedonism.” I grew up in a world where we were taught to be “selfless” rather than “selfish,” and it’s only as an adult that I’ve found that what is actually needed is a balance. If you don’t care for yourself, or invest in self care, after all, you can’t effectively care for others. And more than that, our own health, happiness, and well-being is important too. So the very premises this image holds of what is good and what is bad, and what is the correct balance (or lack thereof), is also off.

But one thing this illustration absolute does a good job of revealing is why some pro-lifers insist that abortion actually stems from contraception. There’s this overly simplistic, black and white idea that if everyone just practices chastity, abstaining from premarital and extramarital sex, the result will be a world of rainbows, sparkles, and children laughing. Poverty would disappear, marriages would all be satisfying, and our society would be strong. But it’s not that simple. It just doesn’t work like that.

Also, seriously, what is this thing about chastity resulting in women’s health? They clearly haven’t heard of Beatriz. Beatriz is only 22 years old, and is going to die as a result of El Salvador’s ban on abortion. She’s having life threatening pregnancy complications, but is being denied an abortion—even though her fetus is nonviable, being anencephalic. I don’t know whether Beatriz is married, but even if she weren’t, her the threat to her health isn’t caused by improper sex—it’s caused by pregnancy. Believe it or not, getting rid of contraception and abortion isn’t going to lead to improved women’s health. Did I mention that this illustration is simplistic?

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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://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    1) Beatriz is married and has a young son.

    2) I actually like dandelions more than roses. I know that’s just a personal, somewhat odd flower preference, but to me it also symbolizes how ridiculous those two charts really are. What, are we making value judgments about flowers now too, and dandelions are evil, even though they’re pretty and fun to play with (blow on the seeds!) and quite tasty, too?

    • Amtep

      If dandelions symbolize sexual chaos then this whole “blow on the seeds” thing takes on a new meaning ;)

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Hehe. Hadn’t even thought of that! Catholics don’t like that though … it’s not PIV sex, and it’s pleasurable, so it’s eeeebil.

    • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

      I agree– my first thought was, “Hey, what the heck?! I like dandelions!” But I imagine the point is that dandelions are weeds. They grow everywhere. They’re the “easy” path because that’s the way people naturally tend to go. Roses, on the other hand, have to be tended carefully, nurtured, and even then they don’t grow as plentifully. I presume the point is that the world is full of dandelions (people using contraception), but that it would be a better place if people would only put in the effort to cultivate roses (people practicing chastity).

      Personally, I still prefer dandelions– both literally and metaphorically.

      • Monimonika

        This analogy really breaks down at the contraception part, especially since dandelions do not get contraception in any form (except in the weed-killer sense). I’ve heard that roses, on the other hand, need to get a lot of their numerous growing buds clipped off in order to have the few buds left alone to bloom nice and big… Wait.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1069731366 Karen Cox

        True. Roses won’t bloom from the same twig twice, so growers have to constantly remove the old blossoms. Additionally roses have to be grown from cuttings, like assisted reproductive technology.

      • Monimonika

        And with those added facts the graphic has now become even more absurd!

        If not for the “weed” label, you’d think Quiverful Christians would rather be happy to be compared to proliferant dandelions. (Apparently “proliferant” is not a real word. I don’t care, it sounds right.)

      • victoria

        Trust me, if roses were that difficult to grow the ones the previous owner of my house planted wouldn’t still be there. I am deadly to all plants. Sad but true!

      • The_L1985

        Not to mention that requiring more effort to cultivate doesn’t necessarily make a plant better. In 1610 or thereabouts, the people of Jamestown didn’t grow enough corn (one of the easiest crops in the world to grow) and instead planted every spare spot they could with tobacco (which requires a TON of work) so they could get rich by selling the tobacco.

        Since you can’t eat tobacco, and its only use is being smoked/chewed by people addicted to it, a lot of the people in Jamestown starved to death. Laws had to be passed requiring people to grow food, just to save the colonists from themselves.

      • Niemand

        This point should be brought up every time a politician claims that regulation isn’t necessary because industry X will “police itself”. People are crappy at policing themselves, as the above example dramatically shows. I’m sure every person planting tobacco planned to buy corn from their neighbors with the riches they thought they’d make from the tobacco.

      • jmb

        Didn’t they just find out that it led to cannibalism at Jamestown?

      • Mogg

        It’s been confirmed via the finding of a butchered human skeleton, but it’s been known from diary records and so forth for a long time.

      • The_L1985

        Yeah, and people eating rats. The story of a man who salted his wife’s remains and ate them stands out in my mind.

      • Stev84

        Actually people were starving before tobacco was introduced there. Tobacco was introduced with one of the relief fleets that found the colony almost destroyed.

      • The_L1985

        Er, then how do you explain that when the relief fleet arrived, according to their own primary sources, they found no food crops and “every spare space planted with Tobacco?”

      • Alix

        The “Starving Time” (winter of 1609-1610), during which the cannibalism happened, happened just before the introduction of tobacco to Jamestown (1610). It just … wasn’t the only time the Jamestown colony pulled boneheaded shit and nearly offed itself. The cultivation of tobacco didn’t really take off until 1612, and after that there was the “tobacco rush,” for lack of a better term, that you describe, where people were planting tobacco in exclusion to everything else.

        There were a number of supply runs, and it’s really damn easy to get them all mixed up, especially since the colonists kept pulling the same stupid shit over and over. They only survived, really, by sheer dumb luck. Repeatedly.

      • The_L1985

        Thanks for the correction. :)

    • grindstone

      My first thought, too, was hey, I like dandelions. I like roses too, but there’s something precious about the pretty yellow flowers that just spring up.

      • The_L1985

        My boyfriend insists that he’s going to replace the mixed plants in the backyard with fresh sod. There are so many little wildflowers–clover, thistles, asters–that I love going out to the backyard when I’m at his house, and watching the bees buzz from one to the next.

        It just doesn’t seem right to get rid of such beauty, just to have everything be a uniform GREEN. Green is a pretty color, but I prefer the variety.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Fight for that beautiful biodiversity! Monocultural lawns are an absolute disaster for the environment (including those bees that you’re seeing which, btw, we all need to live.) One of my favorite things about spring as a little girl was seeing all the wildflowers pop up everywhere–daisies, flox, dandelions, clover, wild violets. It was a magical time. You’d think the Catholic Church would be all about appreciating every flower, even if was “unplanned.” :-P

      • The_L1985

        He says he can’t stand the stickers from the non-flowering weeds. I don’t think he ever noticed that there are wildflowers in his yard, just bees. (He’s not fond of the bees, since they nest in the cable utility box.)

      • Niemand

        You’d think the Catholic Church would be all about appreciating every flower

        No, no, no. The Catholic Church is all about hierarchy and obedience. Those flowers are growing where they want to not where Adam says they should grow. That makes them evil and to be destroyed.

      • Rosie

        Or they’ll fight for the right of every seed to be planted (even if the only soil available is crappy), but once it’s a full-fledged plant it’s fair game for being pulled if they don’t like it!

    • LadyCricket

      Ever read “The Dandelion and the Apple Bough”? I love that story so much.

      Also, ask any botanist you know – the difference between a weed and a flower is opinion only. A weed is any plant you don’t want, regardless of its characteristics.

      This illustration only works if you assume everyone hates dandelions. I guess that means the argument only works if you assume everyone hates promiscuity?

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

        I’m so happy to see that others had the same thoughts about dandelions that I had upon seeing this. They could have at least picked a plant that wasn’t so nutritionally valuable

      • Alix

        That was my thought exactly.

        Well, that and my two-year-old nephew loves dandelions, which in the context of that picture is a little disturbing. :P

      • sceptinurse

        At one time roses were considered weeds. Where does that leave their illustration?

    • The_L1985

      I like both dandelions and roses. I hate this idea that plants that don’t look a certain way are “weeds.” Poison ivy, I can understand, as it can actively harm us, but dandelions have always just been “flowers” to me.

    • veiledlady

      Dandelions are also environmentally valuable. Their long tap roots break up hard packed soil deep down, and they bring up nutrients other plants can’t reach (such that when they die and their leaves drop, it creates an extra-nutritious mulch). Like many other “weeds” they are pioneering plants whose natural habitat is disturbed land (like a lawn). Their role is to correct the disturbance and create conditions for other, longer-lived plants to be able to survive. So you could say they are not at all selfish.

    • Saraquill

      Dandelions also taste great. As long as the leaves are picked young, and you make sure to add salt and not skimp on the oil, they make a great side dish.

      • Alix

        Pick them young enough, and you can use the leaves raw in mixed greens. And, actually, I even like the older leaves, but they’re bitter enough I have to use less.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The “contraception is selfish” argument simply cannot be defended. It’s a sure sign of someone whose drunk the koolaid.

    The idea that “being open to life” (that string of fancy words is a pile of crap) is a necessity for a fully loving and trusting relationship is nonsense. There’s no connection between being open to a pregnancy and how much you love/trust the person you’re sleeping with. I’m fully open to anyone explaining to me exactly how I don’t love or trust my fiance, how he doesn’t love/trust me, and how our love would be so vastly improved if we ran off, got a piece of paper, and immediately started reproducing like rabbits. Thus far, all anyone can give me is “My god said so.”

    Further, it’s my humble opinion that safe sex is actually a sign of respect: Respect for yourself, respect for your partner, and respect for the fact that your bodies are capable of making a baby; so how about not screwing a potential baby over by casually having it when you can’t support it/don’t want it/ETC?

    No, it’s all about keeping women under control by keeping them popping out new people who will hopefully grow up to keep throwing money in the coffers. They just dress it up nice and pretty (sometimes) so the sheep will keep buying it.

    • SinginDiva721

      I agree with you completely. Safe sex is respectful and that was how I was taught both in school and by my parents. I am forever thankful I received comprehensive sex education in school including information on birth control and other forms of contraception. Many students do not get this opportunity these days.

    • Mel

      Don’t worry. Contraceptive use in sexually-active Catholic women is over 90%. Your conscience outweighs the teachings of the Church. My priest was well aware that I was going to use BC after I was married since I told him point-blank. I expected some kind of reaction from him, but he just smiled.

      • The_L1985

        Most priests think that the Vatican’s completely wrong on the issue, too. It’s just not good for their job security to admit it.

      • Karen

        What makes you think most priests don’t agree with the Vatican concerning contraception? Any sources?

      • Jaimie

        I used to be Catholic. A priest said to me point blank that they don’t encourage or discourage birth control, and In fact don’t even mention it. That is for couples to decide together. The whole time I attended that church, which was about ten years, I never heard a word about bc. It was a large church that had several priests and more cycled in and out through the years and never once was it brought up. God, I miss those guys! The first mention I heard of bc was at the beginning of the last election cycle a couple years ago.

      • Ashley

        I went to Catholic School for 14 years (2 years of preschool, then all of grade school, high school, and middle school). We were explicitly told to use contraception if we were going to be sexually active, and made aware of the different kinds and how to use them. , NFP was sort of tacked on at the end of the sex ed unit, and no explanation was offered on how it works, aside from mentioning that it involves something about menstrual cycles and mucus. No one was expected (or encouraged) to actually use it in real life.

      • Christine

        You get encouraged to use it when you get married. Two of the presenters at our pre-Cana seminar with pushing it – one couple who were just there to talk about how amazing it is, and then some people who actually gave an overview of how it worked.

      • tsara

        Operating on the understanding that the Vatican’s stance on contraception is impractical in real life, it’s only reasonable to disagree with the way the Vatican is dealing with the issue regardless of your thoughts on the theology behind the position.
        Therefore, I would assume that most priests thought that the Vatican was completely wrong on birth control — if I wanted to be charitable.

      • persephone

        I do know that a council was appointed by the Vatican a number of years ago to investigate and review the effect of church teachings on the poor. The one thing that the council found would make the greatest improvement would be to allow birth control by parishioners. The recommendation was soundly rejected.

        It does not surprise me that a priest who actually cared for the members of his congregation would ignore the official teaching and let them make their own decisions.

      • Karen

        Well, yes a priest is going to let everybody make their own decisions. That’s way different than always agreeing with them. And I’m sure that there are some priests who disagree with the Vatican concerning birth control, as shown in a few anecdotes, but to say that most priests are pro-birth control, considering how many priests there are in the world, is a pretty big claim with no apparent proof. I can think of at least 5 priests I know personally who’s opinion concerning BC are totally in line with church teaching. That doesn’t mean they are doing anything to particularly target any parishioners who use it. They just listen to the lists of “sins” (if you will) and tell you to say 10 hail Mary’s or whatever.

      • persephone

        That most priests don’t toe the line was not my contention, and was not what I said. I said priests who care. However, I’m sure a large number of priests don’t say much about it or get upset because they’re trying to fill the pews and the donation plate.

      • dandelion

        The problem is that priests who disagree with the teaching can not speak up and be honest about it so there is no way to know. It is the elephant in the living room with the current 10% of Catholics who agree with the teaching having the loudest voice.

        My previous pastor would preach on the teaching of the church on birth control but privately counseled us to use birth control. After a sermon on it one day he whispered to us, “that was not for you” At the time I was very ill and unable to care for the children I had and despite many attempts NFP was not a usable method to avoid pregnancy. Priests need to be pastoral. It is unfortunate that people can not be honest in the Catholic Church.

        The newer priests coming out of seminary are much more conservative and follow a black and white view. There is however a shortage of priests.

      • dandelion

        Priests who disagree are not free to voice their opinions in the Catholic Church so there is no way to measure the extent of the dissent. Younger priests are much more legalistic than priests that are over 40.

      • dandelion

        oops didn’t know my post showed up below…

      • Jayn

        The only reaction I got was, “You know the official teachings.” (I was a little frustrated that you have to be using NFP to aid in the pre-marital weekends. I thought that, NFP propaganda aside, it was a good program). My mother’s community is predominantly Catholic, and I don’t know of anyone her generation or younger with more than 3 kids–church teachings really don’t seem to be taking much hold there.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Oh I’m an Atheist, and my fiance is currently doubting his way out of Christianity. So for us it was a no-brainer.

        His parents are highly against it, but he didn’t much take their opinion into it. They have a lot of “very Christian” (their words) opinions that they try and project onto their kids, and they almost never succeed. It’s a source of consternation for them.

    • LadyCricket

      I guess that’s why I grew up supporting marriage equality: no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find arguments against it that didn’t boil down to “God said so” or “buttsex is gross”.

  • JLB82

    I think they totally miss the point about contraception. Like you said, people use it so they don’t get pregnant when it would be very difficult to care for a baby in the way that the baby would deserve. That’s the opposite of selfish.

    One thing that’s always baffled me is that they talk out of both sides of their mouth about NFP. On the one hand, they claim that is *extremely* effective (and it probably can be if it’s done correctly), but on the other hand, they claim that NFP leaves you “open to life,” even it’s a remote possibility.

    Does anyone know if there’s any truth to the Catholic claim that couples that use NFP have an extremely low divorce rate compared to the rest of society? Many Catholics attribute this to NFP (partially, anyway) rather than the fact that divorce is taboo in orthodox Catholicism.

    • Rosa

      Since the rate of contraceptive usage is very nearly identical for Catholics as for other people in their same countries (98% vs 99% in the US) and most Catholics aren’t going to share their contraceptive practices with church authorities, there can’t be any way to actually measure a relationship between divorce and NFP use.

    • victoria

      I looked this up and the short answer is that there’s never been a methodologically sound study examining the question.

      The only study about NFP and divorce rates that I could find cited in a non-ideological paper was this one: Mercedes Wilson, The Practice of Natural Family Planning versus the Use of Artificial Birth Control. (http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/wils/wils_01naturalfamilyplanning1.html). It was cited in Pallone & Bergus (2009) Fertility Awareness-Based Methods: Another Option for Family Planning from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

      They note that the Wilson study cites a 0.2% divorce rate among couples who’d never used artificial birth control, but they also allude to some methodological issues (the fact that it wasn’t a random study, mainly. The cohort of people they draw that 0.2% number from is very small and also includes people who are in the early years of their marriage — it’s everyone in the cohort ages 21-44.)

      What would probably answer the question best would be either a prospective cohort study (where you take a population of couples who are getting married around the same ages and then compare them based on the birth control method or methods they use) or a case control study (where you take a population of people who use NFP and match them to people of similar age, marital status, and religious orthodoxy who don’t use NFP — this is the type of study Wilson discusses in the areas for future study). Such a study has never been done.

      I think it’s fair to say there’s reason to believe that couples who use NFP as their primary form of family planning might have lower divorce rates, but there’s not firm evidence to that effect and there’s not yet reason to believe the primary cause of that fact is NFP and not religiosity.

    • Mel

      I’m a practicing Catholic who uses birth control and has spent 10+ years trying to convince people the NFP claims are just silly. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
      1. Outside organizations like Pew Research have found that 92-96% of sexually active Catholic women use artificial birth control.
      2. NFP users therefore make up 4-8% of Catholic women who are sexually active.
      3. There are always a few really gung-ho NFP proponent in a parish. Many have either very young families or grown families.
      4. Ask the grown families when they started using NFP. It’s amazing how many of the couples who want all of us to use NFP started using NFP when the female partner was 40+ years old and unlikely to conceive.
      5. I’ve often wondered if the young families don’t divorce due to financial reasons – supporting 4 or more kids is really hard as a single parent.
      6. Plus, I think they might actually believe the line “If you can talk about cervical mucus, you can talk about anything.” That one always makes me laugh. My husband and I can talk about cervical mucus all day long. It’s part of both of our jobs. It doesn’t make it easier to talk about money or family expectations.

      • Eamon Knight

        …and we have some RC friends (tho’ the relationship has been rather strained ever since they discovered we’re pro-choice — shock, horror!) who practiced NFP, and have seven lovely children, spanning a range of about 20 years. For a while we were speculating whether they would stop before they became grandparents (they did — her uterus finally prolapsed and had to be removed).

        So no: not the best advertisement for NFP.

      • Mel

        One of my aunts who is militantly NFP – has asked all of us who are married if we were going to use BC – has the oldest and youngest grandchild in the family. Her youngest son had two nephews who were several years older than him.

        We’re not speaking right now since she and her spouse are unable to figure out how to deal with my sister’s wedding – two women marrying! what is the world coming to? – despite the fact we’ve never ostracized any of her children who had out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Thankfully, her kids are much more balanced and are very supportive of my sister.

      • Dandelion

        I too have spent a long time around Catholics who believe it is NFP or abstinence only for family planning. The phrase “open to life” makes my head spin. (It usually only pertains to conception not actually having enough time, attention, resources or love for all your kids) It is nonsense that you are more “open to life” because you use NFP to avoid a pregnancy. There are a great deal of theological gymnastics you have do go through to come to that conclusion.

        I was at a parish for several decades and it was mostly the younger families who were militant with the NFP. Several Catholic bloggers recently wrote about their surprise, life threatening pregnancies which occurred using NFP. This sort of mentality is promoted as the way to get to heaven and their examples are embraced. In the parish I did belong too couples were often scrutinized for whether they used NFP or not. The interesting fact is that their were families with one child that used NFP and a family with more than a dozen kids that used birth control. (Well, artificial birth control. After all, no matter how you spin it NFP is birth control)

        It is true the low NFP divorce rate has never been proven nor has the effectiveness of NFP over 10 to 15 yrs of use been studied. Women who have life threatening reasons not to get pregnant live in fear (If they are convinced they must obey the Pope at all costs or go to hell)

    • Christine

      Our “NFP is so wonderful” couple actually only had two children, so
      it was a nice change from the standard “it works so well, and it’s why
      we have 7 kids” version of the pre-Cana talk.

      From what I’ve gathered, the “open to life” aspect is some combination of it being really easy to change your mind and try to get pregnant any given
      menstrual cycle (instead of having to wait 6 months – 1 year to have a
      chance to conceiving), and not having kids is a decision you have to
      keep making. I’m not sure why condoms don’t leave one “open to life” in
      that case.

      What I don’t understand is all the people who say “oh, periodic abstinence is easy”. Yes, that’s true, but NFP requires periods of not having vaginal sex of more than a year in some circumstances. Our friends who are able to use it as a reliable form of birth control only manage it by the right combination of being lucky and unlucky (lucky because she has insanely regular cycles, unlucky because she’s had to wean both babies super early.)

      • Eamon Knight

        Our Catholic friend (who makes a point of being up on the details of Church teaching, to the point of getting an M.Div.) has tried to explain this to us several times over the years. It seems boil down to a combination of: 1) an appeal to intuitions about “natural” vs. “artificial” (ie. timed abstinence being the former) and 2) it’s not as reliable as the best artificial methods (though that bit is tacit. Very tacit.)

        As far as I can tell, it’s bullshit dressed up in poetry.

      • Christine

        Given that most people aren’t using the best artificial methods, point 2 is even more stupid than what it’s trying to promote. Although I guess given the American stats for the effectiveness of NFP, there is a much larger percentage of using Americans who use more effective birth control than, say, Germans. (Or are American effectiveness numbers significantly lower for all methods of birth control?)

        What boggles my mind is that, apparently, it’s contraception in general that you’re not supposed to use – NFP included. I have heard people rail against using NFP “with a contraceptive mentality”. I don’t know if these are quiverfull-influenced Catholics who are making up their own versions of doctrine, or what. Nor do I know where this puts a couple who, in accordance with Humanae Vitae, realised that they can’t support any (more) children and then didn’t have any more children.

      • Eamon Knight

        Yes, our friend has used the phrase “contraceptive mentality” — it seems to be part of the Christian/Catholic thing for micro-managing one’s internal motives and attitudes. Not only must you be using approved methods; you must also be using them for the right reasons and with the right attitude.

        And as with other aspects of NFP ideology, it seems to be a way of using pseudo-profound language to hide from yourself what you’re really doing. I mean a couple, at any given time, are in one of the following states:

        1) Want to have a child and are actively trying to get pregnant (eg. having sex during identified fertile periods).

        2) Really don’t want a child right now (whether for “selfish” or “legitimate” reasons), and are trying to avoid pregnancy.

        3) Don’t strongly want, but wouldn’t mind having a child now (thus may be rather lax in the use of contraception).

        #1 and #3 seem to fit the definition “open to the transmission of life”, and you’re not really allowed to be #2, except if you use NFP, but not even then. Sort of. Fercryingoutload, make up your mind: do you want a baby, or don’t you? If the latter, then do what it takes to prevent it, without playing these semantics games. It’s dishonest.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Also, Libby, your link does not work. It goes to an error page.

  • Richard Clayton

    Contraception causes murders and “lethal experimentation”? If that were true, I’d think the US would look like Murderbrawl, since (according to CDC studies) more than 60% of all women in the US presently use contraception, and over 99% use contraception at some point in their lives.

    But man, talk about non sequiturs… I’m reminded of a classic joke:

    “Why do you have that banana in your ear?”
    “It’s to keep the alligators away.”
    “What alligators? There are no alligators around here. You’d have to go 500 miles to find an alligator.”
    “See how well it works?”

    • Niemand

      Well, it might explain why gun violence is so prevalent in the US…if the rate of contraception use weren’t the same or higher in countries with much lower rates of violence. In fact, the correlation between contraception and violence appears to be inverse: countries with little or no contraception also have high rates of violence including, in many, active civil wars. The countries with higher rates of use tend to have lower rates of violence. Some exceptions, but I’d say the R2 would probably end up around 0.8 or so. (That’s a guess, not a calculation.)

    • Niemand

      Yep. Here we go…Countries which have a higher rate of contraceptive use than the US: the UK, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Denmark, South Korea, China. Not exactly places with huge problems with violence currently. China is far from a utopia, but I haven’t heard of it being a continual blood bath there either. Certainly not compared to, say, Kenya, Nigeria, or Pakistan, all places with <35% contraceptive use.

    • Beutelratti

      This reminds me of a friend of mine who spent a year as an au pair in California. She was told by her host mother that “we in Europe” can teach sex ed (and contraception) thouroughly because we don’t have as many teen pregnancies. In the US there were so many teen pregnancies that it would be irresponsible to tell children about contraception and give them a thorough sex ed. Whaddayakno.

      • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

        *Blink Blink*
        WHAT? “We’ve got too many kids getting pregnant, better not tell them how to avoid it!” Did that woman even listen to herself speak?
        Not to mention the quetionable use of facts: Scotland appears to have a higher teen pregnancy tan California, for example.

      • victoria

        There’s a great documentary called Let’s Talk About Sex (it was available for free on Hulu when I saw it) where they actually show a special high school for teen mothers *teaching abstinence only sex-ed*. (facepalm)

      • Niemand

        There’s an interesting little bit of racism hidden in that remark. The implication is that in Europe the (white) teens are more responsible and so can be trusted with birth control whereas the (more diverse) teens in the US are irresponsible and have to be kept in ignorance.

      • The_L1985

        Not to mention the lack of access to birth control in a lot of African and Asian countries!

      • The_L1985

        How did she think that the number of teen pregnancies in Europe got so low in the first place? Is there just supposed to be “something in the water?”

      • sylvia_rachel

        OK, I think that wins today’s prize for Most Ingenious and Illogical Reversal of Cause and Effect …

  • grindstone

    the threat to her health isn’t caused by improper sex—it’s caused by pregnancy.

    I’ve said it before here, but I’ll say it again. I’m a married, hetero, monogamous woman, so seemingly I would fall into their desired demographic, but I cannot have another pregnancy. There were complications and long-term health issues from my first pregnancy, so another could be fatal or debilitating. And I’m not menopausal, so what am I supposed to do? A no-sex marriage? Yeah….not happening. Trust god? No thanks, I’ll trust the medical professionals. I’d rather stay around and be a wife and mom rather than listen to some old guys tell me what I should do, based on their interpretations of an ancient text.

    Libby Anne, this seems to fit so well with your two box analogy; black/white thinking that puts everything good in one box, ergo, everything evil must be “over there” and everything over there must be evil.

  • Rosa

    This is a deliberate lie, if it’s labeled as anything but a hope/prediction for the future. Among other things, any Catholic scholar has access to centuries of Catholic fulmination against hedonism, selfishness, lust, poverrty, crime, and poor health long before effective artificial contraception was available.

  • Composer 99

    With regards to the following excerpt from the OP:

    I grew up in a conservative evangelical family where the world was viewed in just such black and white terms, devoid of shades of gray

    I should like to to go on a brief tangent and note that, personally, I feel the ‘shades of grey’ [British spelling] thing is just as poor a conception of existence as the dichotomous black/white conception. I prefer ‘riot of colour’ myself.


    On topic, the poster shown is IMO a textbook example of the kind of sloppy thinking that everyone is prone to occasionally, but that people with stronger authoritarian personalities are more susceptible to doing. Here we see a series of assertions given as if they were established facts, despite being easily demolished (as Libby Anne does in the OP).

    Further, I suspect that people who support the poster’s assertions writ large while still quibbling over details would find it acceptable because it agrees with their preconceptions.

  • Niemand

    I like dandelions. They’re pretty, the pollen can be used to amuse small children, the leaves are edible, and you can walk on them without hurting your feet. Plus they’re very hardy and can grow without much intervention at all. Roses do have nice looking flowers and you can eat the hips (that is, they have their good qualities), but they’re finicky plants, require a lot of care if you want those flashy blooms, and grow best if you add bone or blood meal to the soil. That is, they require a bit of human or at least animal sacrifice to grow best.

    This comment is, of course, completely inane and has nothing whatsoever to do with the analogy being proposed here. Nothing at all.

    • guest

      The flowers are edible too :)

      • Niemand

        Really? I suppose this is dumb of me, but I never knew. Must try some contraception and loose sex flowers in my salad as well as the lethal experimentation leaves.

      • Anat

        I once found rose-petal preserves. Very interesting texture.

      • guest

        Oh that’s right–rose petals are also edible…what does all this mean for the metaphor, I wonder?

      • Anat

        Well, you know what pink petals are a metaphor for. I don’t think the Catholic church approves of any oral interaction with that either.

      • http://twitter.com/TrollfaceMcFart Trollface McGee

        It’s one of my favourites, very delicious.
        Unfortunately the soil around here makes dandelions very bitter but I know people make salads and great recipes out of them.

      • Christine

        So that’s why they were so inedible even though I picked them super-early this year. I wonder if it was just the manure in the garden that did it – the local soil can’t be that bad, or my daughter wouldn’t have been eating them preferentially at 6 months.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Mmm. My mom brought some rose-petal jam back for me the last time she was in France, and it was delicious. (I’ve never seen it here, although I’m sure it exists … everything else seems to.)

        Rose is also a classic flavour for loukoum (Turkish delight).

      • guest

        You can put them in salads; I like to dip them in batter and then fry them.

      • Niemand

        I like that idea! It sounds like an entry in the cookbook I’ve been threatening to write called The Decadent Vegan. It’s all about food that contains no animal products but is still something that people look at with glee and a bit of fear about what it might do to their arteries…

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I’ve heard of candied rose petals too! Never tried it, as that sounds really complicated, but they’re basically sugar-rose petals. It sounds tasty.

      • The_L1985

        Don’t forget those veggie-oil French fries. Mmm, arteriosclerosis.

      • Ismenia

        They don’t actually taste of much but they would look pretty in a salad.

      • Rosie

        I make wine with dandelion blossoms (gotta love getting your liver tonic in an alcoholic beverage!) and with rose petals (the scent is amazing). I eat both in salads too, now that I have access to feral (partially naturalized) old-fashioned cabbage-style roses.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Do you live in a rural, relatively unpolluted area where the dandelions are safe to gather? I love eating dandelion leaves but the ones I get at the farmer’s market in spring and summer are often so mature that I have to blanch them first to remove some of the bitterness. (And I have a high tolerance for bitter greens.)

        Also, you can actually make dandelion wine?? It’s not just a wonderful book by Ray Bradbury? :-)

      • Rosie

        “Rural” doesn’t mean “unpolluted” (I worry about all the things my neighbor sprays on his fields), but I do have 4.5 acres in a place where that’s not considered anywhere near big enough to farm, yes. I mostly harvest out of my yard now. When I rented (in town) I harvested on organic farms (they always have plenty of weeds to pick!), gravel (not-busy) roadsides, and sometimes public parks. It’s usually pretty evident if/when public places are sprayed with nasties.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yeah, I know rural doesn’t mean unpolluted but you’re more likely to find unpolluted areas in the countryside than you are in a dense urban area like mine. Good to know about the organic farms though–I wouldn’t have thought of that. How do actually make dandelion wine?

      • Rosie

        Make a strong tea (infusion) of the dandelion blossoms, add some kind of sugar, and yeast. A bit of citrus is good too, to help balance the alcohol. I (loosely) use the recipe from the book Healing Wise, by Susun Weed (subbing honey for the sugar, pound for pound, which slows the fermentation considerably). Making Wild Wines and Meads is another good book for recipes. Or there’s always the internet. The more wine I make, the pickier I get about the yeast I use; Pasteur Red is my favorite. It typically makes a semi-sweet floral or fruity wine, depending on the other ingredients.

      • Alix

        I have nothing of value to say, just that I am totally copying down all the ideas in this thread. And thank you for the book recommendations!

      • victoria

        Speaking of alcoholic beverages made from wildflowers, this is well worth your time:


  • Sally

    I think it is truly irresponsible of the Catholic Church, or any instutution, to discourage birth control anywhere in the world. But I think it is all the more irresponsible in countries where right now population control is accomplished through infant mortality. There was a wonderful story on 60 Minutes this week about the Gates Foundation eradicating certain typically 3rd World diseases from the earth and reducing infant mortality rates. It is so wonderful!! But we absolutely have to have birth control at the same time. Otherwise you replace one problem with a whole new problem.

    • Mel

      I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Christine in Australia

      It is indeed frustrating. In many of these countries, organisations like Oxfam are working to encourage and teach birth control methods. It’s an uphill battle, and will probably take years to win.

  • Rosie

    Off topic: As an herbalist, I’m amused by the use of a dandelion to portray “bad”. It’s one of my favorite nourishing and medicinal plants. Brought to the western hemisphere by Europeans as an easy-to-grow food plant, it naturalized and became a favorite among native peoples also. The whole plant is edible. It’s a digestive aid and liver tonic, good for clearing up skin problems and generally nourishing the entire body. It’s also a favorite of honey bees.

    On topic: I know (because we’ve talked about it) that without reliable contraception and sterilization that I would be divorced. Because I’m not willing to have a child, and my husband isn’t willing to have a sexless marriage. So much for “chastity” solving everyone’s problems.

  • tsara

    …honestly, I find this view (“openness to children”) to be completely morally insupportable from people who believe in any form of Hell; creating new human beings is a pretty irresponsible (actually, I’d go so far as to say ‘evil’) thing to do if you believe that there is even the slightest chance that they will face eternal torture. And if having many children is something their god requires them to do? They should recognize that their god is objectively terrible and either suck it up and take the punishment (on the upside, self-righteousness can get you through a lot) for whatever they did to avoid having children, or admit that they’re choosing to do everything they can to appease Cthulhu in order for them to avoid eternal damnation and that they’ve decided that is worth hanging their children in the balance for.

    tl;dr: “openness to children” is the most selfish thing I can imagine coming from people who believe in Hell.

    • Ibis3

      Early Christians had a similar take (though not so explicit). The ideal was life-long celibacy. How this turned into “have as many offspring as you can before it kills you” is rather weird.

      • tsara

        I’m guessing it was a bit of persecution/”at war” mentality, a bit of Darwin, and a hefty dose of hierarchy maintenance.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Plus the celibate sects, well, died out because they could only grow/reproduce by conversion, and life-long celibacy and asceticism isn’t a great selling point.

      • tsara

        “…the celibate sects, well, died out because they could only grow/reproduce by conversion…”

        That’s what I meant by ‘Darwin’; I guess it wasn’t clear.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Oh. Yeah, I missed that. Sorry.

      • victoria

        A really good book on exactly this topic: Elaine Pagels’s Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. I left it with the distinct impression that if St. Augustine had had less of a sex drive, Catholic theology on sex and celibacy would have evolved in an entirely different direction.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Catholic Church Philosophy: If we just keep on saying it, it will be true.

    • Kate Monster

      Also: keep that tithe $$ coming, folks!

  • Ahab

    Ugh. As usual, the far right presents emotional propaganda instead of rational argument. Contraception and abortion are not products or “sexual chaos” or the result of alleged “selfishness” — they’re ways that mature adults cultivate healthy sexual lives.

    Real “sexual chaos” is having more children than one can financially or emotionally support. Real “sexual chaos” takes the form of unwanted pregnancies and disease because of insufficient sexual knowledge or poor access to family planning. Real “sexual chaos” takes the form of unsafe abortions, high maternal mortality, and all the problems these leave in their wake. Just sayin’.

  • Niemand

    I love how this thread is half about birth control, half about dandelions.

  • Sven2547

    These are the same clowns who think “indirect abortion” (abortion + invasive surgery + damaging a woman’s fertility) is morally superior to pill-based non-invasive abortion. Rationality and pesky facts roll off them like water on leaves.

  • Ismenia

    The whole “openess to children” thing also really annoys me. This is seriously offered as a response to those who point out that NFP is unreliable. People who make a decision not to have children generally do so for sound reasons (I would consider not wanting children a pretty sound reason, helps avoid all those “devasted children” they claim to be so concerned about). It’s ridiculous to suggest that unwanted children, even within a marriage are a good thing. For a lot of parents having more children than they can cope with/afford is enough to totally ruin family life.

    I’d recommend the British series “Call the Midwife” (drama about midwives in a very poor part of London in the 1950s, based on actual memoirs) for an insight into what life was like before contraception was free and widely available in the UK (also before the invention of the pill) and abortion legalised.

    • Gail

      I second the Call the Midwife recommendation. There is a series 2 episode (not sure if has yet aired in the US) about a loving couple who already have a large number of children and can’t afford anymore, but know that abstinence will make their marriage suffer. The clinic on the show is run by CoE nuns, but they are nonjudgmental about all of their patients, including those who want abortions and contraception, those who are pregnant out of wedlock, and even polygamists. They just try to help wherever they can.

      • Sally

        Third! It’s excellent. BTW, that episode did air in the US a couple weeks ago.

  • sylvia_rachel

    Wow, that’s … weird.

    I like how “Artificial Reproductive Technologies” is up there with crime, poverty, “lethal experimentation”, and infanticide as a negative consequence of using birth control. If they had “infertility” up there, I could at least understand their reason for considering that a negative consequence, although their cause-and-effect argument would still be utter bollocks. As it is, though, their argument seems to apply to my life as follows:

    I have premarital sex and use birth control (first condoms, then BCP). Bad girl! I then am diagnosed with ovarian cancer [I'm actually surprised they don't have gynecological cancers up there on that chart...], as a result of which I end up with no ovaries by the time I’m 25. BUT my REAL punishment for all those premarital sexytimes with the DH, according to this chart, is that … I am still able to have a baby via assisted reproduction?!

    … yeah, that’s just all kinds of stupid.

    Also: dandelions are actually a pretty good role model — hardy, persistent, versatile, non-toxic. Funny that it didn’t occur to them to pick something like, I don’t know, deadly nightshade to illustrate their “fruit of the poisonous tree” argument.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

      I’m also baffled as to the use of a dandelion to model a bad plant. Yes, it’s a weed but only because people of America have a weird lawn fetish. Otherwise it’s a hardy plant that is fruitful and edible.

    • lucifermourning

      as i understand it, the main objection to “Artificial Reproductive Technologies” is the same as the one to artificial birth control – it’s an issue of playing God. Catholicism opposes any form of artificial interference in reproduction.

      which is, at least, more theologically consistent than just saying “BC is bad because it’s playing God”.

      but it’s still pretty messed up.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yeah, okay, I can see how that’s at least consistent…

      • Kate Monster

        The alleged problem with assisted reproduction isn’t just the “playing God” thing. ART also “separates conception from sex”. See, all sexual acts have to be BOTH unitivve (bring the couple together) and procreative (baby-makin’, or at least “open to the possibility of” baby-makin’) Masturbation isn’t allowed for Catholics. The man has to do icky, yucky things WITH HIMSELF, of all things, in order to fulfill his end of the bargain with IVF. The unitive part of the equation is missing.

        Plus, any spare embryos that might be created are likely to be destroyed, which is exactly the same thing as abortion, which is exactly the same thing as machine-gunning toddlers. So it’s a double whammy: Onanism and murder!

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

    Yeah, Beatriz is married with a young child. Why they think “chaste” married women don’t have health issues related to pregnancy is beyond me.

    Nothing these graphics say is borne out in reality, but I’m especially flummoxed as to why they think contraception leads to poor education. How does that work?

    And dandelions are such cheerful little flowers! Roses can be lovely, but they can also be difficult and painful. My dad and his wife had goats grazing on their property to get rid of some especially intractable and thorny rosebushes. Chomp.

    • Niemand

      And Beatriz’s child will be devastated by the loss of his or her mother when she dies bearing a fetus that has no chance of survival. No contraception, devastated child, devastated father, family broken up by death. I don’t see how this is better than if she’d had an abortion, mourned her loss, then gone home to raise her child.

      • Cathy W

        The Catholic Church made a saint of a woman who refused medical treatment under similar circumstances; she died a week after the baby was born, turning her husband into a widowed father of four.
        Two notable differences here: a) Beatriz is not refusing the treatment, it is being refused her! and b) THERE WILL BE NO BABY. At best there will be a baby-shaped thing that will suffocate to death a few minutes after it’s born.

  • smrnda

    I think I’ve figured out a great pro-contraception argument that makes this analogy seem ridiculous. It’s also plant related….

    Watermelons, oranges, grapefruits all have seeds. This is how the plants reproduce. However, eating a fruit without seeds would be nicer than eating one with seeds, so we’ve rebelled against nature and now we have seedless watermelons. They can’t reproduce, but we can eat them. We get them to reproduce using other artificial means.

    Ecological impact aside (not sure what it is) it’s not inherently wrong to take the seeds out of a fruit if eating seeds isn’t preferable. It’s not selfish. I see no reason to view human fertility any differently.

    Speaking of anti-birth control Catholics, they tend to believe that you ca only be logically consistent if you are pro-death penalty, pro war and pro violence in general. So if I tell someone that I’m for birth control and against the death penalty, I just get told my opinion isn’t valid (without any explanation aside from that one is either 100% pro life or 100% pro death, all the time). The people who actually promote this type of nonsense don’t care what people really think – they’re arguing against a ridiculous viewpoint nobody holds.

    • Kate Monster

      Technically, Catholic teaching is against the death penalty and war–unless there’s no other way to ensure justice/safety. So, if, say, Harry Houdini was a serial killer and literally no prison could hold him, then the death penalty would be ok. There’s a similar deal with wars–a “just war” is morally allowable, but all wars that fail to meet the criteria aren’t.

      Of course, that’s according to teachings. In practice, it does seem that the Catholic pro-life ethic starts and ends with sex.

      • tsara

        The problem is that the Catholic church has a central authority figure who is supposed to be God’s mouthpiece on Earth, and therefore the final arbiter of what is and isn’t just — which means that anything he says or does (and any wars or executions or torture sessions he orders) is, by definition, just.

      • Kate Monster

        Yup. Pretty sweet gig if you can get it.

  • Karen

    Libby Anne, in the last paragraph, you say getting rid of contraception and abortion aren’t going to improve women’s health. Is the church trying to get rid of contraception though (aside from discouraging its use among members)? I’m a weekly mass goer and I’ve never heard of any anti-birth-control legality movement. I know that the church and its affiliated hospitals, charities, whatnot don’t prescribe it, or hand out condoms in third world countries, but I’ve never heard of anyone really protesting its availability like with abortion. Thoughts?

    • Gail

      Well, they don’t exactly try to ban it completely, but make it less available. Remember the outrage about Sandra Fluke and Obamacare covering birth control? There are pharmacists and doctors who will refuse to prescribe/sell it, and companies complain about having to provide insurance that covers birth control. So there is a sort of anti-birth-control movement in that sense.

      • Indie

        This is a pet peeve of mine. I have endometriosis, and have taken BCP for many years to control the spread/damage. When I worked for a Catholic hospital in the mid-90′s, I had no issue with the insurance paying for it (and the hospital was self-insured). But I did have issues with other insurers paying for it in the late 90′s, and had to argue to get it covered. This past December, there was some confusion the billing on a new prescription, and I was charged full price. I asked the pharmacy tech about it, and she told me I’d have to talk with my insurance company because my employer must not cover BCP. She wouldn’t even re-run it. I felt so humiliated in that store with other customers trying to explain that it’s not BC, and that after 4 surgeries, I don’t even have a uterus because of this disease. I just walked out crying.

      • Noelle

        There’s no reason to feel humiliated. A tech can’t force any med to go through. Same thing with antibiotics, hypertension meds, asthma meds, really every category of med out there. You name it, and some ridiculous computer glitch or human error might block it. In the future, should that happen again, give your doc’s office a call and ask them if it can be authorized. They can usually figure out why something didn’t go through insurance. If you are going to run out before they can get it figured out, ask if they have a sample to tide you over.

      • Indie

        I guess my point is that it’s treated differently than any other medication. If it had been a statin, for example, and they hadn’t tried to bill my insurance, when I requested that she try it, I assume that she would. But because it was BCP, it was different. It hadn’t been billed to the insurance. But she refused to even try it. And I was stuck pleading with her that it wasn’t BC and please try to bill it; that it was, in fact, covered. I have a new pharmacy now. But there are pharmacists that won’t dispense it. I was just trying to illustrate (badly, I guess) some of the hurdles we face using one of several run-ins I’ve had with pharmacies trying to get my BCP that were prescribed as disease-treating medication.

      • Noelle

        Ah, I see what you’re saying. In that case, switching pharmacies and making a formal complaint is warranted.

    • tsara

      I don’t know if any churches are actually trying to create anti-birth-control legislation, but what the RCC, at the very least, is doing is bad enough:

      1. the RCC is buying up secular hospitals (in the US) and imposing Catholic ethics codes on them — it’s to the point, in some places, where all of the health care providers in the area are bound by ethics codes that restrict them from giving the best care possible to their patients

      2. corporations nominally associated with various churches fighting for religious exemptions from having to make sure that any employee health insurance plans purchased covered birth control (which, by the way, makes no financial sense whatsoever, because prevention almost always works out to be cheaper than pregnancy and abortion or giving birth — assuming women [or, well, anyone capable of giving birth] are being employed at all, covering birth control would be more likely to bring costs down than drive them up)… was, in fact, weird, nonsensical, and a problem.

      3. most conservative churches/denominations are spreading misinformation about the effectiveness and safety of various forms of contraceptive (up to and including the former Pope, back when he was still Pope, spewing false technobabble about how condoms didn’t actually do anything to block HIV transmission)

      4. the vast majority of churches engage in slut-shaming to some degree, and they seem to focus pretty often on condemning birth control both as an easy shorthand for sexual activity and as evidence of premeditation… and, because religion doesn’t have a complete monopoly on the permutations of misogyny that make slut-shaming seem like a perfectly reasonable thing, attitudes shaming people for having condoms or using birth control are escaping into the secular world (interesting anecdata: this attitude was directly responsible for all of the three abortions people I’m close to have told me about getting)

      • http://twitter.com/Arachne110 Arachne

        That stuff about condoms not blocking HIV is spread a lot further than the last pope though. I heard it a lot when I was younger at RC youth conferences, youth groups, etcetera.

      • tsara

        That’s unfortunate.

      • The_L1985

        We got a handout in CCD/PSR that implied that condoms were totally worthless at protecting against any diseases, including the infamous (and no longer true, with modern condom quality) claim that “HIV is 40 times smaller than the natural pores in a condom.”

    • Anat

      When the only hospitals in yours and nearby counties are Catholic then not prescribing birth control by Catholic hospitals amounts to banning birth control. That’s what is happening in several areas of Washington state.

      • Kate Monster

        It’s also VERY dangerous for those who are pregnant. If the only hospital is a Catholic hospital, the fetus is going to take precedence over the woman, regardless of result.

    • Stev84

      Take a look at the Philippines. The Catholic Church was viciously opposed to a law that promotes contraception and makes it widely available. After years of controversy it was passed anyways. Before that it was very hard to get and many people had children they couldn’t feed, resulting in abject poverty.

      • Karen

        I guess while I realize the RCC is worldwide, my question was specifically about the seemingly unlikely (IMO) possibility of banning BC in the states. I shouldn’t just assume you’re from the US but I know next to nothing about laws in other countries so … Anyway, I can’t imagine the church here in America trying to make BC illegal. They don’t want to be required to pay for it, obviously as seen with the debate over Obamacare. Fighting it as a legal issue here would just be a losing battle.

      • The_L1985

        They don’t have to ban in outright. If they just make it inaccessible, the way they’ve done for late-term abortions (at the time of Dr. Tiller’s murder, he was one of only 3 doctors in the entire country who performed 3rd-trimester abortions), then it’s still unavailable for most people. A legal ban isn’t their goal so much as people just not using birth control.

        And don’t forget, in the last few years the evangelical community has largely hopped on the Catholic bandwagon of opposing birth control. So there’s now a larger portion of the population that wants to make it harder to come by.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Didn’t pay much attention during the election, did you? Two different candidates bragged about making birth control illegal if they got elected. Mr. Santorum and…I want to say Perry?

      • Karen

        My question was “is the church trying to ban birth control” not the Republicans. I would hardly call Santorum or Perry the Roman Catholic Church. And Perry’s not even Catholic.

      • Baby_Raptor

        …Karen, where do you think they got the ideas? And whose support do you think they get when they espouse these views?

        And further, how else is the church going to ban birth control than by getting politicians to do it? It’s not like they can have the Pope write up a set of laws and snap his fingers, thereby enslaving the entirety of the world to it.

  • http://smashed-rat-on-press.com/ The Rodent

    > people plan their pregnancies today is so that they can
    > give the children they choose to have more attention and care

    True… Some people also plan their pregnancies because they care deeply about the drastic, probably irreversible, population explosion and would rather foster an Earth with fewer, happier people on it, living a sustainable lifestyle — instead of the polluted cesspool we’re turning it into… Having an excess of babies is seriously selfish, long-term. Religions that promote large families should really be ashamed.

  • Saraquill

    I’d like to add that using birth control to treat PCOS and other maladies is hardly hedonistic.

    • jmb

      Yes it is — avoiding suffering & illness is selfish, pleasure-seeking behavior. You should offer it up!

      I wish I hadn’t heard this all my adolescence, instead of being allowed to take whatever meds an OBGYN might have prescribed. But we were Devout Catholics…

    • Kate Monster

      I remember being taught, at my Catholic high school, that PCOS and other hormonal issues could easily be cured without birth control, so using birth control for those reasons was a cop-out. A friend of mine in the class–who, you know, actually had PCOS– called bullshit on this and was told that she was just plain wrong; there were PLENTY of church-approved options. Like herbs and stuff.

      • sceptinurse

        Some of that top quality care from that rose illustration right there.

      • Miss_Beara

        Herbs like marijuana? ;)

      • Christine

        No, there are options. You go on a very strict diet and you should be able to manage. At least to the point where the painkillers will help. So if don’t have to sin, instead you should never eat red meat, sugar, or starchy foods.

      • Kate Monster

        You’re giving it up for God! Don’t you feel all holy at stuff? When you aren’t bleeding profusely or trying to figure out whether or not you can eat a burrito for lunch without triggering some kind of hormonal typhoon?

  • Little Magpie

    Also, I never understood why assisted reproductive technologies are “anti-life” – I mean, the whole idea is to create life where infertility otherwise blocks it. (And it’s not just those evil fornicating types who want to use it – I’m sure there’s plenty of good, altruistic married Christian couples who struggle with infertility too.)

    • Nancy Shrew

      If God didn’t intend for you to be fertile than why the fuck should you have help?!

    • The_L1985

      A lot of Catholics insist that if you have fertility problems, you should adopt instead of using medical assistance. Their reasons:

      - To get donor sperm, somebody has to masturbate, which is against Catholic teachings.

      - If sperm is being donated by someone other than your husband, you’re committing adultery. Without having sex or necessarily even meeting the biological father. Somehow.

      - Most IVF clinics will fertilize lots of eggs, then implant one of the ones that “takes.” The other living embryos are frozen. Clearly being Octomom is a morally better thing than allowing your “babies” to be kept in cold storage for a few years.

    • sylvia_rachel

      I think there’s also an objection based on the idea that ARTs are used/needed by women who wait until their late 30s or 40s to start trying to get pregnant, because they were too selfish/worldly/career-focused/unfeminine/[pejorative adjective of your choice here] to do what they *should* have done, which is get married in their early 20s, start having babies immediately, and stay home to take care of them. Oh, plus also ARTs are used by same-sex couples, and we all know that same-sex couples are Bad.


  • Jill

    “Beatriz” is married with one child already. (not that these particular life circumstances make her any more worthy of an abortion, but you’d think that the Catholic powers that be in El Salvador would think so).

  • Red

    I completely agree with everything in your article, save maybe the idea that there are “more” pro-lifers who are anti birth control than who are okay with it. I think that’s true if you’re looking at Catholic theology (though even there, statistics say that about 80% of Catholics disagree with official church doctrine on contraception). But in protestant circles, except for the very conservative ones, contraception is not controversial. I grew up in a town where there were many conservative pro-life churches, and virtually all of the families I knew were okay with birth control and only had like 2-ish kids.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

      Did they limit that approval to married couples?

  • Miss_Beara

    No birth control AND condoms? Well isn’t that a giant heap of irresponsibility. This is one of the dumbest anti sex illustrations I have ever seen.

    • The_L1985

      The scary part is that the Vatican is also officially against masturbation by anyone, ever. So your options are:

      1. Be extremely guilt-ridden and sex-deprived, to the point that it may even affect your psychological well-being; (been there, done that, got the T-shirt)

      2. Marry in your teens;

      3. Do things that, according to the Vatican, will send you to hell.

      Yeah, I think I’ll keep my birth control, thanks.

  • aim2misbehave

    Wait, so if I’m not even close to having sex, but still taking contraceptive pills, then which flowers and leaves do I get?

    • The_L1985

      Probably the Slutty Slut Plant Of Taking Slutty Slut Pills or something.

      I remember at one point being basically bedridden from PMDD, and being shocked when my mother insisted that I needed to be on the Pill for it. The only reason I went along with it is because I’m an apostate–which means that if I were still Catholic, I’d probably still be suffering unnecessarily and unable to hold down a steady full-time job.

      • Christine

        Actually I heard somewhere (I suspect this isn’t the official doctrine, just someone’s interpretation of it) that it’s ok to use whatever you need for medical reasons, even if it functions as a contraceptive, as long as that isn’t your intent. So there is absolutely nothing wrong with the pill, apparently. I question if this is actually doctrine because of the big USCCB uproar over the pill recently.

      • victoria

        In Catholic theology, when used to treat medical conditions, hormonal contraception falls under the doctrine of double effect. This states that an action that can have negative follow-on effects may be morally licit if the purpose of undertaking that action, and the reasonably intended effect of that action, is positive, and if there’s no way to get the effect I want without the negative effect. And the bad effect must not outweigh the good. (There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the doctrine in a nutshell.)

        I can strike someone as hard as I can in self-defense because the purpose of that action is to protect myself (morally licit), even though that means I might maim or kill them (morally illicit). If I have an equally effective way of defending myself that won’t injure the attacker, though, I need to do that instead. If I have ovarian cancer I can have an oophorectomy because the purpose of that action is to treat disease and save my life (morally licit) even though it would destroy my fertility (morally illicit).

        Hormonal contraception for PCOS or endometriosis or something else disabling would be held to fall under the doctrine of double effect. Taking hormonal contraception for, say, acne is something that would be considered dicier. My guess is that it would probably be considered licit if you’re not sexually active but illicit under most circumstances if you are.

      • The_L1985

        It didn’t matter. I’d been so strongly conditioned against using the Pill for birth-control reasons that I was terrified of birth control pills themselves.

        A similar thing happened regarding condoms. My first sexual encounter was totally unprotected because I found the idea of condoms to be horrifying. It wasn’t until the fear, the STD testing (which came back negative), and the worry that I might be pregnant (thankfully, I’m not a mommy yet) that it finally sank in that yes, condoms are a GOOD THING.

        Some Catholic churches (note I said some) beat you over the head with “Birth control is evil” so hard that it’s very difficult to admit that it really is necessary for some people.

    • Baby_Raptor

      You’re still the dandelion. The Catholic church insists that there are other ways to treat the maladies that hormonal BC is taken for and that taking the pill is just an “easy way out,” or that you’re lying when you say you’re not really using it for the pregnancy stopping qualities. (Note: I do not mean to be calling you a liar myself.)

    • Niemand

      Perhaps you’re like a rose with dandelion roots. You grow the leaves and thorns of your chastity, no one aware of your secret evil roots of OCP–until one day your flowers open and everyone gasps in horror as it is yellow and spiky instead of red and smooth. (I have this “Little Shop of Horrors”esque image in my mind about how the people who made this sign might react to your story.)

  • Nurse Bee

    I grew up in an area that was virtually all catholic and pretty sure they all used birth control, as I don’t recall any families with more than 3 kids. I think most Christians (catholic or otherwise) believe in birth control, it’s just the minority who don’t are very vocal.

    • victoria

      It’s not just numbers, though: it’s also power. The vast majority of Catholics may defy the Magisterium on birth control and that’s between the Church and its members. In one sense any church is nothing more than the sum of its members, and that’s the sense you’re talking about.

      But it’s not that silent majority who is pressuring Congress to allow conscientious objection for pharmacists who don’t want to fill birth control prescriptions; it’s not that silent majority who is pushing for employers to omit birth control coverage from employees’ insurance; and it’s not that silent majority who’s buying hospitals.

  • Sophie

    I was raised in a large Catholic family and went to Catholic school for 12 out of 14 years and I barely heard anything against about birth control. Whilst my school sex education was pretty appalling, we were taught that condoms protected against STIs. I was aware of the Church’s Dogma on the issue but it was never something that was pushed at Church, youth group or at my schools. I only know of one couple in my family (in my mum’s generation, obviously BC was not as easily available for my grandmother’s generation) who have actually adhered to that teaching and even then they placed limits on it – they didn’t use birth control for ten years and they had 5 children in that time. However they are the most devout couple in that generation and most of the family were pretty shocked they continued after no. 3 because it caused the mother’s abdominal wall to split. Maybe my experience is different because I’m in the UK and we have sex education as part of our national curriculum, all schools must offer sex education classes and since I left school the curriculum has become very specific about the content of those classes.

  • Katamaran

    The whole contraception issue, a long-time bone of contention between my Methodist mother and pre-Vatican II Catholic father, is one of the primary reasons I tend to think of Roman Catholicism as little more than a gaudy heap of painfully deluded, anti-human bullshit. It cloaks its utter disdain for human beings in this bizarre ‘pro-life’ language, while ignoring the fact that all available evidence suggests that contraception is an unmitigated good for humanity. The callousness and cynicism of the RCC is mind-boggling, as is to me the fact that otherwise kind and reasonable people can have any part of it. Your analysis of the selfish/selfless false dichotomy is especially accurate. Growing up, ‘selfish’ was the most vile slur that could be uttered against someone, and I think this is telling for the moral universe Christianity paints in general: the individual, in himself, is vile and worthy of disdain and condemnation, and somehow this is supposed to make the individual Christian care for others? Why would anyone care for human beings, foul and fallen as we are? It makes not one scrap of sense. We’re simultaneously supposed to hate ourselves with fiery passion and yet care for others presumably as wicked and depraved as ourselves.

    And I know you’ve written about it before, but it always bears repeating that opposition to abortion has little if anything to do with saving cute little babies from their evil, slatternly mothers. It’s about punishing said evil slatterns for daring to have sex. The anti-contraception position isn’t consistent with what pro-lifers say about themselves, but when one strips away the sanctimonious bad faith, it makes perfect sense.

  • Niemand

    Hey, Libby Anne, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but one of the Catholic bloggers put up a “rebuttal” to this post. It’s…not very convincing.

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

      Where? Also, honestly, I hardly consider this post a thorough put down. It was more of just poking a few holes. It would be interesting for someone to go through every association in detail and examine each, but I didn’t have the time or enough interest. :P

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

        Oh my lands. This, for instance: “For every child in a family, the likelihood that couple will divorce goes down.” Even granting that that is true, does he not understand that the reason would be that the couple would feel stuck, most especially the woman? And he gives the example from a non-western society, where women don’t have the same opportunities. Yeah, I think I like my world better than I like his. Also, his obsession with Natural Family Planning, for someone who is only like 20 years old and unmarried, is crazy. I’m the one who has *done* Natural Family Planning here. I’d be interested in hearing back on that from him in 10 or 20 years. :P Also, I’ve written about NFP before. It didn’t deliver what I was promised by the Church, and was actually a bit of a let down. I stopped using NFP for good reason—it was ruining my love life.

      • Niemand

        Even granting that that is true, does he not understand that the reason
        would be that the couple would feel stuck, most especially the woman?

        From what I can work out from his writing, that’s a feature, not a bug in his world. And yes, I like your world A LOT better than I like his.

        The domestic violence rate goes down as divorce becomes easier. That alone should knock out “lower divorce rate” as a measure of absolute good.

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

        Also, WTF, he goes on and on about how NFP means you can plan kids, and then says that contraception increases divorce rates because not having kids makes higher divorce rates?!?

      • victoria

        I think a lot of it has to do with the balancing act that Catholic writers (both lay and academic) have to do on the issue of NFP.

        On the one hand, people by and large don’t want to have 10+ kids, and contraception is the obvious solution to that problem.

        On the other hand, the Catholic Church has a clear position on “openness to life” within marriage, and Humanae Vitae made it patently clear that contraception could not be part of the package.

        So on the surface NFP seems to be the answer to both problems. People who promote NFP to skeptics can point out that it has a reasonably high effectiveness rate for pregnancy prevention, comparable to some of the most commonly used methods in typical use (condoms, the Pill). And it fits the letter of Humanae Vitae, and it can fit the spirit too.

        But most of the people who are doing the promotion from a Catholic perspective are operating from that “openness to life” viewpoint, even as they trumpet NFP’s reliability statistics. Which means every month (or maybe all the time, if you’re one of the couples for whom NFP doesn’t work well), it’s a decision to have kids or to not have kids that should be resolved in favor of “have kids” unless you have a darned good reason not to.

        If you’re using NFP to prevent pregnancy for the entirety of your marriage you’re not really using NFP as intended by Catholic theology *unless* you have some sort of lifelong condition and are prepared to die in the process if the NFP doesn’t work and you do get pregnant. (In fairness, I have seen people make the argument that all NFP is non-contraceptive and that it cannot be used illicitly, but I think the arguments on the other side are far more persuasive in the context of HV).

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I think logic is not Mark Shea’s strong point. I’ve seen it over and over in his posts- he makes a claim, then comes to a conclusion opposite of what that claim would suggest! The steps of how he got from A to B are … not clear.

  • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

    Younger Catholics have many of the same complaints about NFP promotion that you do.

    But there are good reasons to choose NFP over contraception. Here are some better promotional materials.


    Fertility Awareness IS women’s health.

    Second, Libby Anne, your fundamentalist background is VERY unusual. You say,

    “I grew up in a world where we were taught to be “selfless” rather than
    “selfish,” and it’s only as an adult that I’ve found that what is
    actually needed is a balance. If you don’t care for yourself, or invest
    in self care, after all, you can’t effectively care for others. And more
    than that, our own health, happiness, and well-being is important too.”

    The Catholic Church AGREES with this. But most of the messaging is targeted not at ex-fundamentalists who have become experts in self-repression, but at people in the secular world. The Me Generation and the YOLO crowd.

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

      But there are good reasons to choose NFP over contraception.

      I know the Church spends a great deal of time differentiating between NFP and “contraception,” but from where I’m sitting I don’t see a difference. As commonly promoted, both are methods for preventing (and planning) pregnancy. That’s what “contraception” means. And if that’s not what NFP is, people need to stop selling it as “98%” effective. As for your suggestion that there are good reasons to choose NFP over contraception, I did use NFP. I used it for the first four years of my marriage, and it didn’t fail me. It did, however, fail my love life and my own mental security. I have an IUD right now, and I would say that there are a lot of good reasons for choosing an IUD over NFP. But what I wouldn’t do is suggest that that means all women should get an IUD, or that an IUD is better for all women. There are many different methods of birth control, and women should choose the method best for them. Which is something I find the NFP crowd doesn’t generally agree with.

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

        “As commonly promoted, both are methods for preventing (and planning) pregnancy. That’s what “contraception” means.”

        Wrong. Contraception does NOT mean “preventing pregnancy”. Abstinence is a way of preventing pregnancy that isn’t contraception.

        The difference between abstinence and contraception is the means of action. Contraception involves either changing the sex act or the changing the body. Abstinence involves not having sex.

        NFP uses the data from the fertility charts to determine when sex is likely to lead to pregnancy. It’s not contraception, it’s well-timed abstinence.

        The Catholic Church does NOT teach it is wrong to prevent pregnancy or to plan your family. (Although they do ask couples to be generous with having children.) They do, however, teach that changing the sex act and changing the body in order to prevent pregnancy violates the natural law. Spiritual issues aside, violating the natural law does have natural consequences.

        This is something we have learned the hard way. We went from the Pill to NFP to the IUD back to NFP when the IUD caused her health problems and presented risks we found unacceptable.

        Looking back, many of our problems with NFP the first time were method related. Not all methods work equally well for all women and not all NFP organizations are willing to acknowledge that. The other problem was that everything was presented as a bunch of rules and a series of “thou shalt nots”. We never understood the why behind the rules. Nor did we have anywhere to turn when we had questions.

        The second time, we approached NFP from a health perspective. We learned from secular/non-sectarian materials on the subject. Once we got it to work, we came to appreciate the Church’s teachings on the matter. Working with an instructor allowed her to diagnose and fix the problem that had been causing us so much trouble and so much abstinence. Getting a knowledgeable mentor couple helped us get it to work in our relationship.

        Yes, our sex life is better since making the switch. Quantity is no less than it was before , even with the abstinence (and she has SHORT cycles with relatively few available days), and quality is WAY up. We thought things were great, but, looking back, we were being selfish in many ways. We had started to take sex and each other for granted.

        You are right to criticize this graphic. I am one of the loudest critics of how NFP is promoted and of the work of many Catholic NFP organizations. But I can say from personal experience that the Catholic Church knows what they are talking about.

      • Niemand

        Happy that the NFP is working out well for you and your partner. It doesn’t work out so well for everyone. Why not leave that decision up to the people who are affected by it, i.e. the couple involved, rather than demanding a “one size fits all” solution?

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

        Most of the statements on this thread contain a lot of ignorance and misinformation about what NFP is and what the Catholic Church teaches and why.

        My question is why do you feel like I have to approve of your choices?

        Use contraception if you like. That’s your business. Make your own decisions.

        What I am saying is that there is a better way. Perhaps not for everyone (there are always “hard cases”), but for the majority of couples. Far more than the small number that are currently using NFP and other fertility awareness based methods. If that bothers you, that’s your problem.

      • tsara

        “What I am saying is that [NFP] is a better way.”
        [citation needed]

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James
      • tsara

        Erm… the study linked on that page is not a comparative study. I don’t care how effective it is in an absolute sense; the key word is “better,” which is a relative term.

        Plus, from the abstract:
        The STM is a highly effective family planning method, provided the appropriate guidelines are consistently adhered to.”

        That sounds like a huge drawback to me. How are you defining “better”?

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

        No side effects, provides important health information, minimal cost, highly effective.

        Every method of family planning has to be used in order to be effective.

        Pills are a highly effective family planning method-if you take them every day.
        Condoms are a highly effective family planning method-if you use them every time.
        NFP is a highly effective family planning method-if you follow it.

      • tsara

        Not IUDs or surgical options.
        My personal feeling is that the energy expenditure NFP requires to actually prevent pregnancy is way too high for it to compete with other methods in general use.

        A question about cost, though. Does NFP require any special equipment for taking measurements or anything?

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

        Some methods do, others don’t.

        Billings requires no equipment.

        STM requires a Basal thermometer ($10 – one time cost)
        Marquette requires a fertility monitor (~$150) and test strips (variable)

        We use Billings + Temp. She says the Billings observations are pretty easy. We also take her temperature every morning. Once you get some practice, it’s pretty intuitive.

      • Anat

        One advantage of BCP, condoms, IUDs, surgical sterilization and many other methods share over NFP is that they allow a couple to have sex whenever they feel like it. Many people would say this trumps everything NFP might have going for it.

      • victoria

        Personally, as someone for whom a pregnancy is physically contraindicated, I would also never consider a method with an effectiveness as low as NFP given that there are more effective options available. (Nor would I consider the Pill or condoms, for that matter.)

        I don’t have a problem with someone else choosing to make that choice, mind you, and if I were still Catholic I’d probably feel differently.

      • Niemand

        No side effects,

        Untrue. NFP has the poorly tolerated side effect of limiting times when a couple can be sexually active. It is likely this SE that accounts largely for the high drop out rate, but other SE such as increased anxiety about the possibility of unplanned pregnancy or failure resulting in unplanned pregnancy may result.

        provides important health information,
        In someone not trying to get pregnant or use NFP for birth control, timing of ovulation is of no particular importance.

        minimal cost,

        Not entirely true. There are equipment costs…I suppose you could call them “minimal”. But there are also indirect costs. For example, it is difficult to use NFP if one has an irregular schedule, i.e. if ones work requires some level of shift or on call work. This limits career and job options significantly.

        highly effective.

        Even with perfect use, less effective than virtually any other form of birth control. And rarely used perfectly due to the SE mentioned above and cumbersome nature of the method.

        Again, if it works for you, that’s nice, but it doesn’t work for everyone or for most people. The studies which are cited as “proof” that it works well demonstrate a high drop out rate and not a terribly great reliability given that these are “perfect” conditions. The CDC quotes a 24% failure rate with typical use. (Compare to failure rate of 0.8% for typical use of IUD or 9% with typical use of OCP or 12% with diaphragm.)

        In summary, not the method I’d recommend as the first choice for the majority of people.

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

        Citation, please. 74% of statistics are made up on the spot.

        The CDC’s 24% failure rate includes anyone who uses “periodic abstinence”. This includes people who are counting and guess and those who knowingly use a fertile day. The Frank-Herrman study shows a 7.9% failure rate, comparable to the Pill. Dropout rates are comparable to other forms of contraception.

        Second, your post shows that you clearly have no experience or understanding of how NFP works and no interest in learning. There is no point in debating someone with this attitude.

      • Niemand

        Flounce noted.

      • Jayn

        “NFP is a highly effective family planning method-if you follow it.”

        This is where I trip up. I can’t think of a single other method that requires more maintenance. The pill comes close, since you need to take it every day, but barrier methods only need to be used as frequently as you have sex, NuvaRing and the patch are weekly, and Depo shots are every three months; implants and IUDs have pretty much no maintenance for years, are nearly impossible for the user to screw up, and have a lower failure rate than even what you’re giving for NFP. If I’m not trying to get pregnant I really don’t care when my ‘fertile’ time is (obviously some people like knowing, I’d rather not have that knowledge weighing on me). NFP is high maintenance, gives me–forces on me, really–information I don’t want to have, and if I screw it up it’s the same as not using any method at all. Those are all huge drawbacks to me.

        The only things it has going for it are lack of horomones (which barrier methods and some IUDs share) and low cost, which a) can be defrayed or even eliminated with decent insurance and b) is worth paying if I don’t have to be constantly worrying about whether ‘tonight is the night’.

        Obviously you’re happy with it. But some of the things that are often touted as ‘features’ (IME, less frequent sex leads to less satisfying sex) are ‘bugs’ to me. And the one thing that would draw me to it isn’t unique to FAMs.

      • Jayn

        You say that it’s up to us, and then say that there’s a ‘better way’ for most of us, which clearly implies you think most of us are doing it in a manner that is somehow ‘wrong’ or ‘lesser’, so you’ll understand if we get the impression that you don’t approve of our choices (not that we need it–I’m mostly just curious why anyone else cares). You’re presenting a subjective opinion as if it’s objective fact. Some of us don’t see NFP as being better for us, either because we’ve tried it or because we see significant drawbacks that we’re not willing to deal with, something that can be true of any method of preventing pregnancy. NFP works for you and your wife–that’s great. That doesn’t mean it’s a ‘better’ way for anyone else who isn’t using it. We all have different bodies, different needs, and different priorities.

        I’m really unsure if you’re trying to clear up any misinformation, or convert us to your way of thinking, but I get the distinct impression that your primary purpose is the latter. And, well, just stop. We are all thinking human beings here who are perfectly capable of making our own decisions. I don’t mind plain information–while I’ve decided against using the method personally, I don’t mind learning more about it either. But once you start making judgements about what’s ‘better’ you’re out of line.

      • Niemand

        My question is why do you feel like I have to approve of your choices?

        Because you are representing yourself as part of an organization that is overtly attempting to take away my right to make my own choices about sexuality and fertility.

        What I am saying is that there is a better way. Perhaps not for everyone (there are always “hard cases”), but for the majority of couples.

        This seems highly doubtful. Even in the “best case” examples that Marc cited, there was a 10% or higher drop out rate at 1 year for NFP. Given that the average woman is fertile for 35-40 years, that means that NFP was tolerable for less than 5% of the expected clinical course for a significant number of users. This is not a sign of a treatment option that is likely to be best for the majority of people.

        Additionally, the failure mode is highly dangerous. Pregnancy kills more women than any other mode of contraception. NFP has a high failure rate. Without abortion as a backup, it is likely to kill a significant number of women.

        So we have a poorly tolerated therapy which involves interventions three times per day, annoying disruptions of one’s life, and a relatively high risk of death. If you took NFP to the FDA they’d probably not approve it due to weak evidence of activity and poor tolerance.

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James
      • Niemand

        I appreciate your effort to try to find support for your position, but…In general, any proportedly medical site that describes itself as “holistic” is a quack site. Maybe you could try citing something out of medline or google scholar? Of course, you may not want to because the articles there tend to give details like 10% or higher drop out rates within one year or high failure rates. So perhaps you’re right to stick with non-peer reviewed references.

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James



        RESULTS After 13 cycles, 1.8 per 100 women of the
        cohort experienced an unintended pregnancy; 9.2 per 100 women dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the method; the pregnancy rate was 0.6 per 100 women and per 13 cycles when there was no unprotected
        intercourse in the fertile time.

        9.2 per 100 drop out rate is low compared to other methods of contraception.


        Billings Ovulation Method trial in India. Overall 6.3% pregnancy rate.


        Billings Ovulation Method trial in China.


        Marquette Method trial:

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

        My question is: Why are you trying so hard to convince us we’re doing it wrong? If you’re bothered by people making different choices than you, I think that’s your problem.

        I think fertility awareness is a perfectly valid method of family planning. If it works well for you, I’m not going to attempt to convince you otherwise. What I will fight, tooth and nail, is any attempt to restrict the full range of contraceptive options, and any ideology that tells people it’s immoral to manage their own fertility as they see fit.

      • Scott_In_OH

        Use contraception if you like. That’s your business. Make your own decisions.

        I’d bet anything you’d like that nearly every regular on this board would agree with you.

        That is, however, not the Church’s position. It tells its members that one particular approach to “spacing children” is acceptable. And lately, it has tried to push that teaching on people who are not members of the faith.

      • Anat

        There is a way that you like more. It is not objectively better. It is only better in the context of your value system, which many of us do not share. People can make informed comparisons and arrive at different conclusions because some of the things a person with value system A considers an advantage are a disadvantage to a person with value system B. Or some things that A-supporter sees as huge disadvantages a B-supporter will see as minor issues if at all, and vice versa.

    • LL

      The idea that you find all people “in the secular world” selfish is incredibly insulting and rude. You don’t know me or many of us, so to just blanket us in the “selfish” category is juvenile, small-minded and, quite frankly, not going to work out in your favor if we’re the ones you’re trying to target. Oh, you’re just trying to say that anybody who isn’t YOU is selfish and ignorant… right. I get it.

      And being aware and educated of our fertility, cycle, symptoms and hormones IS good. Forcing women to adhere to the single NFP method for birth control is absurd, small-minded and requires willful ignorance of the lives and bodies of most women.

      • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

        Where did I call “all” people in the secular world selfish? Surely you don’t deny that the Me Generation and the YOLO crowd exist or that they are selfish?

        …and then you talk about “the single NFP method” and call ME ignorant.

      • Niemand

        James, if we promise to stay off your lawn, will you stop making silly generalizations about “the N generation” (where N represents whatever they’re calling the kids these day)? People have always complained about how the current generation is selfish. It’s part of getting old.

    • Jen K

      Speaking as a woman in her 40s with very (ahem!) irregularly spaced periods, I’d hate to have to try to determine my “fertile” times.

  • Carstonio

    Over at Slacktivist, I raised the question of why the left side of the cartoon includes coitus interruptus. The authors seem opposed to any ejaculation with little or no possibility of pregnancy. Were the authors indeed Catholic, as Libby Anne suggests?

    “Security for women and families” probably means “men are naturally
    inclined to spread their seed far and wide, and they need marriage to
    compel them to support their children.” An argument I’ve heard by
    opponents of same-sex marriage. The premise seems to be that with
    contraception, men have no incentive to form relationships with women.