White evangelicals and contraception: reversal and revision redux

It has happened before and it may be happening again.

Just five years ago it would have been unthinkable for American evangelicals to rally against contraception. Religious opposition to contraception was strictly a Catholic thing and evangelicals, as Protestants, did not accept the baroque theological arguments supporting that Catholic teaching.

That has begun to change. White evangelicals have begun adopting Catholic language and Catholic teaching regarding contraception. This change has not occurred due to any new theological or biblical understanding, but due to a political change — due to white evangelical opposition to President Barack Obama.

This is deeply weird. Five years ago I would not have imagined that this strange development could even be possible. Five years ago, the very same white evangelicals now denouncing contraception could not themselves have imagined such a thing.

Yet here we are:

• Liberty University is suing for a health care exemption on the grounds that contraception is indistinguishable from abortion.

• Evangelical “pro-life” vigils target clinics that provide birth control and that treat yeast infections as part of the crusade to “end abortion.”

• The Southern Reformed editors of World magazine are attacking other evangelicals for condoning the use of contraception.

• The false belief that IUDs and hormonal contraception are “abortifacients” continues to spread among evangelicals.

• “Defunding” Planned Parenthood to restrict access to affordable birth control is a political tactic with increasing evangelical support.

• It’s becoming hard to imagine any lie about Planned Parenthood or women’s health care too outrageous for evangelicals to believe.

The transformation has begun. A radical, unexpected and total reversal of long-established evangelical ethics and doctrine is taking place before our very eyes.

But there remains some opposition to this revolutionary change. As Libby Anne writes, “There is a battle going on here.”

What matters more, lowering the abortion rate even if that means encouraging contraceptive use among those who aren’t married, or ensuring that sex has consequences and is tied to procreation even if that in practice leads to a higher abortion rate? The pro-life movement establishment, partly because of Catholic influence, has long eschewed the former position and embraced the later. But as more people take seriously the rhetoric about “saving babies,” there may be a shift as more groups and individuals move toward the former position and reject the latter.

The outcome of this battle remains in doubt. In October, the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good came out strongly in support of family planning:

“We affirm that the use of contraceptives is a responsible and morally acceptable means to greater control over the number and timing of births, and to improve the overall developing and flourishing of women and children,” said the Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, one of the advisers to the evangelical group.

The NEP document does not include abortion in its definition of “family planning.” It emphasized that access to contraception prevents unintended pregnancies and reduces abortion, and stressed the need to avoid “confusion of family planning with abortion” that has led some religious groups to oppose both.

But the NEP, unfortunately, hasn’t yet proven to be especially influential in the wider evangelical world. It’s prominent spokespeople include folks like Rich Cizik, who is suspect among conservative evangelicals after he got booted from the National Association of Evangelicals for believing in climate change; Dave Gushee, suspect after being a victim of Al Mohler’s purity-purge at Southern Baptist Seminary; and Crumpton, who is female and therefore, by definition, suspect.

It’s too soon to tell how this battle will end. If the anti-contraception side wins, we will see a radical, rapid, and once unimaginable reversal in evangelical ethics and doctrine due to nothing more than partisan political maneuvering.

But that radical ethical and doctrinal reversal will not be the really amazing thing. Far more amazing will be the Orwellian aftermath in which, 10 years from now, white evangelicals will pretend that they have always unanimously opposed contraception and they will seem unable to remember that it was ever otherwise, angrily denying that any change has taken place.

It has happened before and it may be happening again.

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  • Lunch Meat

    Religious opposition to contraception was strictly a Catholic thing and evangelicals, as Protestants, did not accept the baroque theological
    arguments supporting that Catholic teaching.

    I’m not sure this is quite true. It’s probably more accurate to say religiously motivated “political” opposition. I did not grow up quite evangelical, but we were definitely not Catholic, and in middle school and high school (10 years ago) I remember hearing that people who used birth control didn’t trust God enough. It wasn’t the same argument as that used today or by Catholics, nor was anyone attempting to put it into law, but it was definitely there.

  • LL

    Yeah, this. I don’t remember when I started hearing this bullshit, but it was longer ago than 5 years. 

    Basically, the deal was, single women definitely shouldn’t use birth control, because unmarried women shouldn’t be having sex at all. I don’t know the exact, backwards rationale for keeping everyone else from using it, other than the “be fruitful and multiply” nonsense. 

    Maybe it started in the south and then migrated north and west (I grew up in OK and now live in TX)…

  • Daughter

     Yeah, maybe it’s a regional thing. Because of hundreds of evangelical families I’ve known over the years, most have between 1 and 4 children. A handful have five. No one I know has more than 5.  I guarantee you, they’re virtually all using birth control.  Even those who have vasectomies and tubal ligations (for those who might argue that those are more acceptable forms of BC) only do so after they know they don’t plan to have more children.  Until that point, the rest of the are, for the most part, on the Pill.

  • stardreamer42

     Oh, it goes back a lot further than that. It used to be that even married couples couldn’t use birth control; in fact, for a long time, birth control of any sort was actually illegal! There’s a fairly comprehensive overview of the history of birth control in the US here. And the objections have always been religious in nature.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     The legal argument against contraceptives for married couples is that the state had a vested interest in preventing marital infidelity.

    I will note that even the dissenting opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut said “This is an uncommonly silly law.”

    (Being the dissent, it went on to say, basically “But being silly doesn’t make it unconstitutional”)

  • Loki100

    Well, it was obviously going to happen sooner or later. Conservative Evangelicals and Catholics have depended upon each other for political gain for a couple of decades now. Which means that their theologies have to dovetail together, or it would break up the coalition. You can’t have a political issue that Real True Christians and Real True Catholics disagree upon, and political ideology supersedes any theology.

  • Robyrt

    Olasky’s logic in World magazine is predicated on the idea that advising contraceptive use for single people is condoning premarital sex, which is the same line of thinking that led us to abstinence-based education: Avoid talking about anything sinful and it will stop happening. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work this way. Realistically, it is fine to draw lines about which things are worse than others – better to yell at someone than to hit them, for example – so I don’t see a theological reason for Protestants to oppose contraception.

  • fraser

     It’s the same way that churches have always condemned “don’t drink and drive” campaigns because that clearly says drinking is OK. Oh, wait …

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Just five years ago it would have been unthinkable for American
    evangelicals to rally against contraception. Religious opposition to
    contraception was strictly a Catholic thing and evangelicals, as
    Protestants, did not accept the baroque theological arguments supporting
    that Catholic teaching.

    *BLINK*

    *BLINK*

    Right-wing politicians of every religious sect of Christianity, and their Christian Coalition fellow travellers, have happily made access to contraception more difficult and have made no bones about linking it to sexual permissiveness and abortion.

    How this claim can be squared with the politico-religious squalling since the 1980s and 1990s, of how The Pill somehow means the breakdown of Western society, I’m not sure.

  • Alicia

    Yeah, I think five years ago is kind of an aggressive estimate to be honest. The articles linked in the actual post seems to argue that the wholesale shift of evangelicals towards opposition to abortion and contraception took place about two decades ago, not five years ago. The laser-like focus on contraception in specific (as opposed to just being lumped in with abortion) is a little new to me, but abortion has been a thing for much longer than the past five years. 

  • stardreamer42

     The targeting of contraception specifically (along with the quackery about the Pill being an abortifacient) dates from 2005 or thereabouts. It’s ridden in on the coattails of objections to Plan B, the “morning-after pill” — but the people fighting against Plan B have made it clear from the beginning that the Pill was going to be their next target after that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I can remember when people had huge shitfits about RU-486 back in the 1980s.

  • Turcano

    Frankly, I’m not surprised; “Red Red Wine” was a piece of garbage.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    At least RU-486, unlike Plan B, *actually is* an abortifacient, so people who claim to be opposed to abortion can logically be upset about it. I got the definite impression during the debate over Plan B that there was a deliberate effort to muddy the distinction between the two drugs.

  • MaryKaye

    If only the Evangelicals could have corrupted the Catholics on this issue and not the other way around!  (Speaking as someone whose life may have been saved by a contraceptive device….)

  • http://campuskritik.blogspot.com/ Malte

    And it’s deeply weird to watch from across the pond as this is happening. It’ll be interesting to see if evangelicals here in the UK will eventually follow their American brethren, as they did with abortion.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    This post is nice because if I win the Powerball tonight, it is a handy list of a few organizations that will get (and will not get) my donation dollars.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wayofcats Pamela Merritt

    I was a teenager in the ’70’s, attending a Southern Baptist Church. There was nothing said about birth control; of course you wouldn’t use it until you got married, because you wasn’t going to have sex until then! But its use was not controversial.

  • Citizen Alan

    Honestly, Fred. The overwhelming majority of white Evangelicals just voted for a Mormon and a Catholic, neither of whom is plausibly Evangelical and both of whom are really unabashed Mammon worshipers. At this late date, how can anyone be naive enough to look to American Christianity as a source of morality? What is good and moral to the evangelical church is whatever the Republican Party says is good and moral, which, in turn, is defined 100% by whatever is most politically advantageous to the Republican party or, failing that, what will piss off the most liberals.

  • P J Evans

    What is good and moral to the evangelical church is whatever the
    Republican Party says is good and moral, which, in turn, is defined 100%
    by whatever is most politically advantageous to the Republican party

    You hadn’t noticed that the Republicans are quite happy to pay lip service to the evangelicals? To the point of writing the evangelical views on women (and some of their other views) into their party platform?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    At this late date, how can anyone be naive enough to look to American Christianity as a source of morality? What is good and moral to the evangelical church is whatever the Republican Party says is good and moral, which, in turn, is defined 100% by whatever is most politically advantageous to the Republican party or, failing that, what will piss off the most liberals.

    Apparently these people have been listening too much to too much of megachurch leader Pastor Richards.

  • pharoute

    I am looking forward to hearing Franklin Graham’s sermon on good works and the book of James. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.paxton.94 Susan Paxton

    I’m sure Graham’s view of James is very similar to Luther’s.

  • Daughter

    So how is this going to work? Because I know that most evangelicals (women and the men who love them) don’t suddenly want to become Quiverful style baby factories. And unlike abortion,  at least if you’re married, it’s rather obvious if you’re using birth control.

    But maybe it will be like the Catholics, who hear anti-BC teaching from the pulpit and just ignore it.

  • DoctorChimRichalds

    “I mean the implications of that would be huge, it would mean that the
    government, for the first time in history, is able to pass a law that
    directly conflicts with a religious belief.”

    Do you want to tell him, or should I?

  • rrhersh

    I too am surprised that Fred is surprised.  I have long associated purported concern for the well-being of fetuses with antipathy to contraceptives, regardless of whether the individual in question is Protestant or Catholic.

    So this raises the question, why is Fred surprised?  He is, after all, an interested and attentive observer of Evangelical Protestantism.  I offer as a first guess that he made the mistake of thinking of this as a theological question, and therefore being surprised that Evangelicals are adopting Catholic theology.   

    The approach I, on the other hand, take is that the “pro-life” position is really about sex.  Many aspects of the “pro-life” position that don’t make sense if we take at face value the claim that they believe fetuses to have the full moral standing of humans, make perfect sense if we instead interpret the discussion to be about sex.  Specifically:  dirty, dirty six. 

    Sex outside marriage is bad, and while Evangelicals don’t go as far as some Catholics down the road of believing that sex within marriage is only reluctantly acceptable so long as it has procreation as its goal, Evangelicals do share the Catholic trait of favoring families with lots of kids.  Contraception within marriage poses an obvious problem with this ideal.  

    So to summarize, the problem with contraception is that it might prevent shaming slutty sluts for their slutty sluttiness, and this is clearly bad.  It might also prevent good Christians from having lots of kids, and while this is not quite so clearly bad, it is undesirable.  Of course Christians with money to pay for contraception are a different matter.  At least I haven’t seen any suggestion that these favored by God ought not be allowed access.

    Finally, the one thing that has changed since five years ago is Obamacare.  The imperative to oppose Obama in every thing is ample to overcome any lingering reluctance to go all Catholic on contraception.

  • Lori

    So this raises the question, why is Fred surprised?  He is, after all,
    an interested and attentive observer of Evangelical Protestantism.  I
    offer as a first guess that he made the mistake of thinking of this as a
    theological question, and therefore being surprised that Evangelicals
    are adopting Catholic theology.  

     

    I suspect it’s due more to the fact that the Evangelicals Fred knows personally were never on any sort of anti-birth control crusade until very recently. The ones I know certainly weren’t and it surprises the crap out of me ever time I hear one of them start going on it about. They were always very vocally anti-“fornication” and often anti-sex in general (although not always), but they were never against birth control until very recently. In the case of my immediate family it’s only taken hold since the passage of the ACA.

    I had a little discussion about this with my nearest and dearest on Thanksgiving. We didn’t get into a lot of detail because we were all stuck together in the car driving to dinner and none of us wanted to be trapped in an actual argument on a holiday. However, I did have occasion to point out that we are not Catholic. Dad is really purposefully not Catholic given that his family was Catholic until he was in about junior high when they left and never looked back.

    I pointed out that not only are we not Catholic, that no one I know in the Church of Christ ever had any sort of doctrinal issue with birth control until the passage of the ACA and that I don’t know any female church members of child bearing age who are going to have any truck with this crap in their personal decision-making. And that was the end of that topic.  

    I’m lucky in that my family hasn’t yet bought into the notion that birth control = abortion. The fact that they’re still clinging to a bit of reality makes it a lot easier to shame them for getting caught up in the attempt to pretend that this is an actual moral position instead of a political one.

  • DavidCheatham

    I suspect it’s due more to the fact that the Evangelicals Fred knows personally were never on any sort of anti-birth control crusade until very recently. The ones I know certainly weren’t and it surprises the crap out of me every time I hear one of them start going on it about. They were always very vocally anti-“fornication” and often anti-sex in general (although not always), but they were never against birth control until very recently.
    Yeah, as someone who lives in the South, part of this has been baffling to me also. I’ve never run into anyone with problems with birth control inside marriage. Until several people on FB this year.

    Yes, yes, there was the whole ‘If women don’t eventually want to have children there’s something wrong with them’ concept, but no one would have issues with a married couple putting that off, via the use of contraceptive, for five years or whatever.

    And, really, people here had no problem with people outside of marriage using contraceptive, also. The general thought was ‘They should not be having sex, but they _certainly_ shouldn’t be having a kid outside of marriage, so at least they’re smart enough to do that.’ I.e., contraception was seen as a _good_ thing in such a relationship, because having a child would be a _bad_ thing. They were, to repurpose an analogy from above, sinning _responsibly_, like a guy who gets drunk every night and takes a cab home. Sinning, but at least not hurting anyone but themselves and God.

    I read Fred’s previous posts about how the religious right has decided to make abortion something they forever and always were opposed to, in a very short time, and I _almost_ didn’t believe it. Surely he was exagerrating it, and it was just the leaders that flipped positions or something…

    ..and then I see the same thing happening with birth control, something that literally five years ago was one of those *hushed voice* _Catholic_ concerns that protestants didn’t worry about.

  • Matt Platte

    So… you’re saying that when it comes to contraception the Evangelicals and Catholics are bedfellows?

  • MikeJ

    Remember when Clinton was president and the great conservative idea from the Republican party was mandatory Norplant for every woman receiving any form of public assistance?

  • AndrewSshi

    I’m not entirely sure that evangelical protestants are going to go full-bore anti-contraception for a pretty basic reason. People like having sex with their spouses and most are perfectly fine with two or three kids, thanks very much. Most of what evangelicals huff and puff about in the political arena is stuff that affects Other People: condemnation of teh ghey is so easy because it’s usually heterosexuals doing the condemning. I don’t suspect that that too many evangelicals would be willing to make the personal sacrifice of acknowledging that ortho tri cyclen is concocted in the darkest pits of Hell.

  • http://campuskritik.blogspot.com/ Malte

     Hmm, most unmarried evangelicals also have sex, so in theory there’s a precedent for evangelicals publicly affirming a moral stance they don’t follow privately. But the use of birth control for married couples is much harder to hide, so you probably have a point.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I remember the results of a study noting that as the actual practice of sexual mores changed among a lot of values voter communities in the U.S., the community has at the same time increase their drive for symbolic gestures reinforcing those mores.  Abstinence only education, purity rings, and opposition to gay marriage are all examples of these symbolic efforts, despite (or rather in spite of) the actual sexual practices being in line with the wider community.  

  • LL

    Oh and here’s another possibility: some denizens of the internet (the rather disreputable parts, not the religion-focused parts) believe that birth control is for women. That’s it. It doesn’t benefit men at all, therefore, men shouldn’t have to pay for it (ie, they think their tax dollars shouldn’t help pay for birth control for women they’re not having sex with). This is probably where that douche Limbaugh got his talking points. 

    It therefore follows that birth control is not necessary medical care, it’s optional medical care. It’s not like diabetes medication and asthma inhalers and the like. It’s just so women can slut it up, therefore, it shouldn’t be a part of primary medical care (ie, subsidized or mandated by the government). And to “force” a religious institution to pay for it is violating their rights blah blah blah. I didn’t say it made any sense, just that that’s what some colossal assholes are saying/writing out there on the intertubes. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Oh and here’s another possibility: some denizens of the internet (the
    rather disreputable parts, not the religion-focused parts) believe that
    birth control is for women. That’s it. It doesn’t benefit men at all,
    therefore, men shouldn’t have to pay for it (ie, they think their tax
    dollars shouldn’t help pay for birth control for women they’re not
    having sex with). This is probably where that douche Limbaugh got his
    talking points.

    I hear this a lot. I know a lot of otherwise pretty reasonable, liberal people who say “But it’s not fair that everyone should have to pay for a benefit that is only applicable to half the population.”

    I usually respond by saying “Let me get back to you about that later; I have to go take my mom in to have her prostate examined.”

  • Daughter

    What’s even crazier is that a man could have a prostate issue totally apart from anything to do with women. Likewise, women might have issues with  their lady parts apart from anything to do with men.

    But 99.5% of the time, a woman will not get pregnant unless a man has been intimately involved, pun intended.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I usually respond by saying “Let me get back to you about that later; I
    have to go take my mom in to have her prostate examined.”

    You haven’t spent enough time on fanficrants. I know this because you assume everyone knows that people issued uteruses aren’t also issued prostates.

  • Angelia Sparrow

    OTOH, Ellie, while XX women don’t have prostates, XY women do, and they were not issued uteruses. Doesn’t make them less women.  One of my daughter’s friends had a mother and stepmother. Stepmother was his bio-dad.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    But as the person we’re talking about is my mother, I have certain firsthand knowledge that she’s got a uterus, and anyway, as the whole point of the exercise is to address the question of “Why should men have to pay to subsidise health care that only applies to women,” it doesn’t acutally matter which gender any individual  uterus- or prostate- haver is, the salient point is that there are hardly any people who have both.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Oh and here’s another possibility: some denizens of the internet (the rather disreputable parts, not the religion-focused parts) believe that birth control is for women. That’s it. It doesn’t benefit men at all, therefore, men shouldn’t have to pay for it (ie, they think their tax dollars shouldn’t help pay for birth control for women they’re not having sex with). This is probably where that douche Limbaugh got his talking points.

    I think that a part of this is a generational thing.  Disclaiming this as just an anecdote and not data, my girlfriend is twelve years my senior, and as much life experience as we have in common, this also means there are a certain set of generational differences as well.  One of the things she told me is that the men closer to her age she has dated tend to be a bit more hesitant about taking the initiative with regard to birth control.  They tend to assume that the onus of preventing pregnancy lies entirely with the woman.  They tend to resent an implication that they ought to bring some barrier protection of their own if they are that eager to have sex, or that if a pregnancy happens it must be the woman’s fault for “not taking care of herself.”  

    By contrast, I have had a fairly robust sex education and firmly believe that both parties are responsible for birth control.  I would venture to guess that a lot of other American males around age thirty and under (at least in certain parts of the country) are much less passive about the use of birth control than prior generations with more limited sexual education (particularly from a time where STDs like AIDS were relatively unknown.)  

    Of course, a lot of the voting constituency of the religious-right tends to be of an age where their sexual mores were formed from that earlier era, and thus a lot of them probably do believe that birth control is exclusively a thing for females.  For such a group that beats the “personal responsibility” drum as much as they do, they seem to show a lot of ignorance that for a woman to become pregnant a man has to have some responsibility in the process.  

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I certainly don’t recall birth control being a particular thing for evangelicals until recently. However they actually felt about it, they didn’t want to make a point of it, since the one thing they hated even more than women enjoying sex was the possiblity of being  taken to have something in common with those non-christian idolatrous papists.  Oppostion to birth control was a papist thing, and those mary-worshippers aren’t Christians

    Why, you start opposing birth control, next thing you know you might start opposing capital punishment. Or voting for a Mormon.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Considering that as far back as 1996 the Christian Coalition had people who fulsomely ranted about partial birth abortion and regularly took pro-life stances, including abstinence-only sex ed…

    Wel, it’s made the rounds.

  • J_Enigma32

    This is just another note in the fascist choir they’ve been preforming for since the 1980s. I don’t remember when it became a big deal, but it had to have been one back when Bush was elected, because I mention it in passing in the Blue Pimpernel (which I started back around 2006) – all forms of contraception and abortion have been made illegal by the Party. It’s been part of the structure of the world since then, and I had to have heard it from somewhere. It might not have become mainstream until just recently, but it’s always been an undercurrent.

    And it is just about sex. That’s all it boils down to. They have disgusting, unhealthy views of what is basically a normal human activity and that’s warped and twisted their brains beyond repair in most cases, and they’re cynically manipulated by their leadership, who unabashedly want only one thing: power.

    They’re theofascists, and that’s all they’ll ever be. Oceania’s here, and instead of Big Brother, it’s brought Big Jesus – but the policies, the leadership, and the methods remain the same.

  • P J Evans

     Bush the elder was in favor of abortion (at least publicly) until 1980. He changed his views to get nominated for vice-president. At which point my mother changed her registration to D,because she didn’t feel like voting fora party where people would change their views just to get into office.

  • Carstonio

    I don’t known about evangelicals in general, but the fundamentalist subset has opposed contraception for as long as I can remember. I usually talk about fundamentalists and the religious right as though they were the same thing, and while there’s most probably a huge overlap, the latter might include Mormons and far-right Catholics.

  • Daughter

    OK, so maybe this has been going on in evangelical (or at least fundamentalist) circles for a while. But how many evangelicals are really going to go all out to ban contraception? I mean, abortion is one thing I can see many people never imagining they’ll need until they actually need it, so they can argue against it as something that won’t affect them personally. But a majority of people (I think) want to get married, and don’t necessarily want to have a huge family, so they know in advance that they will need birth control. This is akin to the personhood amendments that have failed in very conservative places — because this issue  is too personal and real, and not something people can easily fool themselves into thinking it won’t ever affect them.

    =================

    You know, I recently learned that Paul Ryan only has 3 kids. What’s up with that?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Paul Ryan is 42 and has been married 12 years. 

    Fertility Awareness methods of family planning are not foolproof even with perfect adherence, but averaging one child every four years is hardly a remarkable feat of family planning.   Nine months pregnant, plus up to another 9-18 months for ovulation to resume, and then you’ve got basically 12 weeks out of the year in which conception can happen, and a 1-in-4 chance of successful implantation on top of that.

    Three children in twelve years is actually pretty much the most I’d expect from someone who wasn’t actively *trying* to have a lot of kids.

  • Lori

    Three children in twelve years is actually pretty much the most I’d
    expect from someone who wasn’t actively *trying* to have a lot of kids. 

    I think this is one of those things that sounds reasonable in theory, but doesn’t really hold in practice. For one thing, no one can count on it taking anywhere near that long for ovulation to resume after childbirth. It’s possible that the Ryan’s situation is just as you describe, but the smart money is going to bet the other way.

  • Daughter

     Yep. My daughter was in daycare at 8 weeks when I went back to work. I nursed when I was at home with her, and she was bottle fed during at daycare. Yet my period didn’t return until she was 14 months old, when I started weaning her.

    In contrast, a friend of mine whose daughter was born about the same time was a stay-at-home mom who exclusively breastfed. Yet her period returned at about 8 weeks after childbirth.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marciepooh Marcella McIntyre

    I know a woman who had a 5 month old and found out she was pregnant again. I don’t know when her period returned but it wasn’t in between the first two daughters. Her husband’s not allowed to make eye contact from across the room with out protection. :)

  • Cathy W

    And yet if you look at old family records – say, late 1800s censuses or old New England town records – they tend to have stairstep children, spaced 20-30 months apart for the most part. A lot of genealogists will take a gap longer than that as a sign that there was a child who died young.  It may be that, yes, these families were actively trying to have more kids (on a farm, children were a valuable asset), but I’ve taken it more as a sign that if you simply have intercourse regularly without birth control or any intent to control fertility, you’ll end up with babies spaced approximately 2 years apart. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    30 months between having children would be 4.8 children in 12 years. I do not thinkthat having 1.8 children fewer than an average 19th century new england couple is particulatly evidence that Paul Ryan’s wife is secretly on the pill.

    The arguments that Paul Ryan has fewer children than is believable sans contraception just doesn’t hold water for me. Yes, it is *possible* to have many more children than that if you’re trying not to, but it’s not like NFP is SO unreliable that it’s impossible *or even especially unlikely* that a couple could have “only” half of the maximum possible number of children. That’s what the arguments all boil down to, that it’s somehow impossible or even unlikely that in twelve years, their method of family planning would only result in three pregnancies. My grandparents were observant catholics. My grandmother carried four children to term in 40 years of marriage, and they married much younger than Paul Ryan. (My other grandmother gave birth seven times, but as this was with two husbands and one husband’s brother, I will not speculate as to whether or not she was an observant catholic). NFP has a high failure rate, but for a “high failure rate” to not still result in fewer-than-the-theorhetical-maximum children, it’d have to have a negative success rate.

  • Katie

     And your grandmother’s obstetric history in no way proves that NFP is reliable.   First of all, modern NFP is fairly reliable, but its  a fairly recent invention, and didn’t exist when your grandmother was having kids.  Second, if she was using the old rhythm method with good results, well, good on her, but the reason why the rhythm method lost favor was because it did have a high failure rate.  Without knowing the details of your grandparents private life, I’d say it was likely that they either chose to abstain from sex entirely, or your grandmother, like my great-grandmother who only had 2 kids in 50 years of marriage, had fertility problems that could not be treated, and possibly not even diagnosed at the time.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     The point of my anecdote was not “Natural Family Planning is easy and always works” and I’m sorry that I somehow made it sound like that. I am not saying that. THis started on the claim that it is somehow unthinkable that someone not using contraception would only have three children in twelve years.  The point of everything I have said has been to counter *that specifically*.  If someone said “We used NFP and it failed and we had six kids in twelve years,” I wouldn’t shout that it was impossible. I wouldn’t go looking for numbers to dispute it. Because I don’t think it’s an impossible outcome (It does strike me as a bit unusual just because it means that you’d have to consistently conceive every two years while trying not to.  I’ve actually known someone who was trying to have six children. And they worked very hard at it, and it took longer than twelve years. But not impossible, just a bit unusual).

    But here, people are saying “Only three kids in twelve years? Yeah, right.”  That doesn’t even seem to slightly hint that he might be lying about using contraception (The fact that he’s a flagrant pathological liar notwithstanding). It seems like people here are saying “But people with unpredictable cycles exist!” as if I somehow didn’t know that. But we’re not talking about whether or not it fails systematically for some people. We’re talking about whether or not it works for some people.  The failure rate with typical use for natural family planning methods is about 25%. That is a much higher failure rate than artificial contraception. But it isn’t 50%. Which means that it still works more often than it fails.  In fact, if the average annual failure rate of NFP is 25%,  and you practiced it for 12 years, 3 is exactly the expected number of pregnancies.

    And that is what I have been trying to say. Not that NFP is foolproof. Not that it is superior to proper contraception. Not that there aren’t people for whom it systematically fails. But No It is not hitting some kind of family planning lottery for NFP to result in having a modest number of children. It is not some enormously unlikely stroke of good luck that method that works more often than it fails should work more often than it fails.

  • Lori

    THis started on the claim that it is somehow unthinkable that someone
    not using contraception would only have three children in twelve years.  

    I don’t think (and didn’t say) that 3 children in 12 years is unthinkable using only NFP. I said it’s unlikely and if I was putting money on it, I’d bet against it. I stand by that. I’d say that if we weren’t talking about someone who is a pathological liar. The fact that we are just ups the amount I’d be willing to bet.

    In fact, if the average annual failure rate of NFP is 25%,  and you practiced it for 12 years, 3 is exactly the expected number of pregnancies. 

    The point I, and I think other people, have been trying to make is that the inputs and formula you used to arrive at this expectation are not as set in stone as you seem to think they are. You’re treating this like math and speaking as a person in possession of a set of lady parts I can assure that it’s not math.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    The point I, and I think other people, have been trying to make is that
    the inputs and formula you used to arrive at this expectation are not as
    set in stone as you seem to think they are. You’re treating this like
    math and speaking as a person in possession of a set of lady parts I can
    assure that it’s not math.

    What did I say that made you think they are set in stone? You said:

    It’s possible that the Ryans’ situation is just as you describe, but the smart money is going to bet the other way.

    Did I misread you somehow, because that sounds like an explicit claim that the outcome the Ryans had is unlikely.  As I said several times, I’m not aware of anything I said that means anything other than “No, their outcome is not unlikely.” I never said their outcome is the only outcome, I never even said it is the most likely outcome. I said that their outcome is not unlikely, that it doesn’t indicate the covert use of contraception, that it doesn’t indicate fertility problems. Because *it is the mathematically most likely outcome of what they said they did*.

    Here is how this conversation seems to have gone from my point of view:

    Daughter: Paul Ryan only had 3 kids but didn’t use contraception. That’s suspicious.
    Me: Actually, 3 kids in 12 years is not an unusual outcome using NFP
    Everyone else: Here is an anecdote about someone for whom NFP would not work
    Me: Here is an anecdote about someone for which it would
    You: 3 kids in 12 years is an unlikely outcome. Smart money is on it not happening.
    Me: Here is the math saying it is the statistically most likely outcome
    You: Why don’t you understand that it doesn’t work for everyone? Why do you keep saying that it works perfectly for everyone?

    Where am I confused? WHat did I miss? Why do your anecdotes about people with irregular cycles not erase people for whom NFP works, but my anecdotes about people for whom NFP works are taken as me saying that it’s easy to avoid pregnancy or NFP is for everyone?

  • Lori

     

    Why don’t you understand that it doesn’t work for everyone? Why do you keep saying that it works perfectly for everyone?   

    I think your confusion may be due to the fact that you believe this is what I said. It is not. I think at this point I’m need to step out of this conversation.

  • Carstonio

    Speculating on whether the Ryans are using contraception is intrusive, because we don’t know everything about their familial and biological situation. But ultimately it’s irrelevant. If the Ryans were practicing NFP instead, that wouldn’t make Paul’s position on contraception access any less cruel or any more moral. What matter is how his position affects women, and in that respect he’s no different from the Catholic hierarchy.

  • Lori

     

    Speculating on whether the Ryans are using contraception is intrusive   

    Yes it is, and if we were discussing someone who wasn’t publicly campaigning to take away women’s rights to control their own bodies I would say that’s a bad thing. As it is, I think Paul Ryan called the game. If he doesn’t want people engaging in intrusive speculation about his reproductive choices I say, “Welcome to the club Paul.”

  • Carstonio

    You’re talking about whether Ryan deserves the speculation, and on that point I agree. I just oppose labeling him a hypocrite when we don’t know for certain if the couple is using contraception. Plus, I oppose the implication that the immorality of his position depends on whether he practices what he preaches. The same principle applies for vocal opponents of same-sex marriage – some of them may be hiding their own homosexuality, but either way their stance is wrong because it’s discriminatory and cruel.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    You do know that ovulation does not magically just disappear after a baby, right?  You only get this result from free breastfeeding (every three to six hours, day and night).  If the mom is unable, or unwilling, to breastfeed, it is possible that her ovulation may resume after as short as six weeks.

    Additionally, this method, called “lactational amenorrhea,” generally is only truly reliable as long as breastfeeding is exclusive, which is s generally six months, since most pediatricians recommend supplementing with solid food at this point.  So now we have six months of ovulation suppression followed by nine months of pregnancy, which means that babies in families using lactational amenorrhea could reasonably have a baby every year and a half.  That would be nine babies over 12 years.

    And with two children who are only a year apart, I think it’s pretty clear that they have not been relying on lactational amenorrhea as a birth control method.

    Not that I think they use artificial birth control, either, since, again, there’s that one-year age gap.  I actually suspect they may have “left it up to God” and ended up having fertility problems of some sort, possibly miscarriages.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marciepooh Marcella McIntyre

    I’d just like to point out that lactational amenorrhea isn’t a guaranteed, common but not universal. The friend I mentioned in my previous comment was exclusively breast-feeding her infant when she got pregnant with baby #2.

  • reynard61

    “You know, I recently learned that Paul Ryan only has 3 kids. What’s up with that?”

    Not his wang, obviously…

  • Matri

    *bad dum tish*

  • Eamon Knight

    30-some years ago when this was a live issue for me (ie: I was Evangelical and engaged), Tim LaHaye (yes, that one) was strongly recommending the Pill, though one suspects he just wanted to stick his thumb in the Pope’s eye. OTOH, I did run across other Protestant voices (eg. Trobisch and Christensen, both Lutherans I think) who were NFP-boosters, or even just “Have sex and accept whatever the Lord gives you” advocates.

    For the record: we listened to our doctor ;-).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    One wonders if the NFP people actively practice forms of sex that don’t lead to pregnancy.

  • Mrs Grimble

     Well, I certainly did when I was using the method many years ago (I got side-effects from the Pill, my partner hated using  condoms, diaphragms were messy and clumsy).  So on my ‘fertile’ days, we got creative and had lots of fun.
     But there again,  we weren’t religious.  This may come as a bit of a shock to you, but non-religious people use NFP as well.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    This may come as a shock to you, but I don’t appreciate your patronizing manner.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Honestly, I find the whole idea that people might have trouble avoiding their most fertile days entirely alien to my experience and the experience of those around me. I mean, if a woman is only fertile twelve weeks out of the year, it should take like 100 years to get pregnant if you’re not trying.

  • AnonaMiss

    Because the human fertility cycle is completely predictable, people have iron wills, and women always have a choice in whether or not they have sex. /snark

  • banancat

     Sperm can live in the vagina for up to a week.  So that’s two weeks per month when sex risks pregnancy, the week of ovulation and the week before it.  Then factor in that many couples don’t have sex as often or at all during menstruation,  which can last up to a week itself, and many couples face a risk of pregnancy 2 out of the 3 weeks they are most likely to have sex.

    Really, if it were that simple to avoid pregnancy then why would unplanned pregnancy even be a thing?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Eggs don’t live that long after ovulation, do they? I thought eggs only lasted a day or so.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     I think that’s why there are more fertile days are generally BEFORE ovulation than after — because the sperm live longer than the eggs do.

    Still I get the impression that you’re supposed to wait for a bit after ovulation to be on the safe side.

  • Lori

     

    Honestly, I find the whole idea that people might have trouble avoiding
    their most fertile days entirely alien to my experience and the
    experience of those around me. I mean, if a woman is only fertile twelve
    weeks out of the year, it should take like 100 years to get pregnant if
    you’re not trying.  

    Honestly, I find the whole idea that you can’t look around and see that reality doesn’t match your theory a bit odd. Are you actually claiming not to know anyone who has gotten pregnant while using NFP? Also, if your wife’s cycle is so regular and her fertile days are so predictable and recognizable that it’s trivially easy for her to avoid getting pregnant when she does not want to be (or to get pregnant when she does want to be), well congratulations to you both, you pretty much won the reproductive lotto. I assure you, your experience is not the only possible one.

  • Angelia Sparrow

    You assume every woman has a clockwork uterus.
    Mine is, running a nice steady 26 day cycle.
    A number of my friends have PCOS and their cycles are deeply irregular. 3 weeks of menstruation. 4 months without. Two day period, 2 years without. 

    But a woman can get pregnant at ANY stage of her cycle. There is no “safe time,” not really.  I know women who’ve gotten pregnant while on their periods or “the week before ovulation,” since sperm can survive for a while. I know them who have tried on their fertile days for years and failed.

    We call those who use NFP “mothers” for a reason.

  • Vickery1

    Your essay is poorly researched. Where have you been the last thirty years? The Evangelical movement against birth control has been growing since the eighties and there was a real change in thinking in the nineties. You are a little late on the bandwagon… In fact, the two fastest growing demographics in America are families with five or more children, mostly home-school reformed or evangelical believers, and single moms. Without the large family demographic we would be join the other industrialized countries with falling population rates.

  • Daughter

     Do you have a citation for Americans with 5 or more kids being the fastest growing demographic outside of single moms?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Without the large family demographic we would be join the other industrialized countries with falling population rates.

    You say that like having a declining population in this era of probably-already-too-many-people-for-the-planet is a bad thing.

  • stardreamer42

     I didn’t get that implication from Vickery1’s post — but I would also like to see some documentation of her claims about large families being the “fastest growing demographic”. And I’d also like to see that group broken out by ethnicity.

  • Loki100

    Without the large family demographic we would be join the other industrialized countries with falling population rates.

    You do realize that falling population rates is actually just geographical adjustment to industrial and post industrial societies? In undeveloped societies, high birthrates correspond to high death rates which keeps the population stable with very slow growth. When medical technology and farming technology develop, it leads to plummeting death rates, while still maintaining high birthrates leading to population booms. This happened in Europe during the age of colonization and is currently tapering off in the third world. As a natural adjustment, eventually birthrates fall going back to that stable population.

    The only reason why anyone cares is that we live in a capitalist society, and thus we require endless expansion and to endlessly produce more consumers to fuel that expansion. It’s a failed economic system that’s hobbling along until someone can figure out how to correct Adam Smith’s own self-admitted flaw, which was that his theory was based on the premise that there would be an infinite supply of land.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    It’s a failed economic system that’s hobbling along until someone can figure out how to correct Adam Smith’s own self-admitted flaw, which was that his theory was based on the premise that there would be an infinite supply of land.

    The solution, of course, is space stations.  Lots of them.  Or Alberdine warp drives, take your pick.  :P

  • Don Gisselbeck

    There is, of course, this very effective male birth control method: http://xkcd.com/513/

  • renniejoy

    It was definitely more than five years ago that pharmacists were saying that filling prescriptions for birth control was violating their religious liberty.

     

  • Wednesday

     Also, sometimes antibiotic prescriptions and pregnancy vitamin prescriptions:

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=31667

  • VJBinCT

    Since contraception and abortion both prevent birth, they are similar to that extent.  But so does abstinence.  Since it is God’s Plan for Us to be fruitful and multiply, the evangelicals should be raging against abstinence as well.  Every wasted egg is an Abomination, cheating the Lord of a soul.  LOL!  (Lucifer, Our Lord, that is!) 

  • Carstonio

    Heh. No, abstinence is OK because no sex is involved, at least hypothetically.

  • http://kristinrichardson.net/blog Kristin Richardson

    There is more anti-Pill sentiment because so many have bit into the rumor that Plan B is an abortaficient, and Plan B is really just a higher “emergency” dose of the regular Pill.  So everyone vehemently opposed to Plan B is now figuring out they have to be opposed to the Pill too.

    What is interesting is that the “implantation prevention” aspect of Plan B that rubs people the wrong way continues to lack proof of causation.  Many in the pharmaceutical industry are pushing to remove the implantation prevention verbiage from literature all together.  It is impossible to prove a negative but a positive has yet to be proven as well.
    I certainly don’t mind people choosing their private methods of birth control based on their own convictions.  But a political war based on a non-fact is really strange to me.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I certainly don’t mind people choosing their private methods of birth control based on their own convictions.  But a political war based on a non-fact is really strange to me.

    And there you have just cut to the crux of the issue: A political war based on a non-fact.  

    As a country, we simply cannot get anything meaningful done when one side throws facts out the window in favor of glurge and invitational comforting lies.  

  • Katie

    I think that I have to disagree with Fred here.  I don’t think that the opposition to birth control is a result (or at least not entirely the result) of evangelicals teaming up with Catholics.
    The Quiverfull movement has been operating at the fringes of Protestantism since the early 1980s, and a number of their ideas-a emphasis on patriarchy, a obsession with ‘purity’, homeschooling, ect. have slowly become increasingly popular among conservative Protestants.  Its doubtless true that most of the people Fred is talking about would not have been opposed to contraception five years ago, but that doesn’t mean that the ideas hadn’t started to gain currency in Evangelical circles years before that.

  • lowtechcyclist

    “Five years ago I would not have imagined that this strange development
    could even be possible. Five years ago, the very same white evangelicals
    now denouncing contraception could not themselves have imagined such a thing.”

    Wait a minute!   EIGHT years ago, one of the big issues of the day among evangelicals was the creation of a right for pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control pills on the grounds of conscience.  (Atrios covered this pretty well at the time – page through his blog between the 2004 election and the end of that year, and you’ll find a number of mentions of this.)

    And I’ve been convinced since well before that time that at least a nontrivial subset of evangelicals  thought of bringing down Roe as just the first step, and were gunning for Griswold beyond that.  Can’t remember what got me started on that, though – that intuition goes back 20 years or so, and the original reasons for thinking this are lost in the mists of memory.

  • Carstonio

    Replace “evangelical” with “fundamentalist” and I would agree. That’s why Fred’s terminology here is confusing. The fundamentalist subset of evangelicals has indeed been long opposed to contraception. It’s not clear from Fred’s post whether he’s saying that most evangelicals now oppose contraception, or if he really meant to refer to fundamentalists.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I think that Fred regarded the Fundamentalists before as a vocal minority among Evangelicals, with the vast majority of voting Evangelicals finding contraception to be a non-issue.  

    What I believe he is pointing out is the circumstances that allowed those fundamentalist Evangelicals to push their anti-contraception views into the Evangelical mainstream.  He is surprise is not that there were fundamentalists working the anti-contraception angle for a long time, but in how quickly that anti-contraception got adopted by the more moderate (relatively) majority as a core issue.  

  • Carstonio

    What I believe he is pointing out is the circumstances that allowed
    those fundamentalist Evangelicals to push their anti-contraception views
    into the Evangelical mainstream.

    While that’s a reasonable conclusion, I was hoping he would say that explicitly. His post sounds more like opposition to contraception was almost unknown among evangelicals until recent years.

  • AnonaMiss

    He is surprise is not that there were fundamentalists working the anti-contraception angle for a long time, but in how quickly that anti-contraception got adopted by the more moderate (relatively) majority as a core issue.  

    What you said got me thinking: I’m not sure that opposition to contraception has gotten adopted by moderate evangelicals, so much as moderate evangelicals have lost their voice within evangelicalism to an even greater extent. 

  • Carstonio

    That, or moderates have simply been leaving the religion, at least the older ones. Maybe the current moderates in the movement tend to be younger.

  • MaryKaye

    Ross, I hope you are being sarcastic?

    The first ten years I had menstrual cycles they ranged in length from 20 to 60 days.  By age 40 they had settled down, but it would have been essentially impossible for me to use the rhythm method in my teens or twenties.  I don’t know if temperature or mucus methods would have worked.  Our solution was non-procreative sex, but that doesn’t work for everyone either.

    And of course I could have become pregnant due to rape any time during that period–I was lucky–whereas a woman on long-term birth control would have had greatly reduced risk.

    The CDC points out that the recent drop in abortion rates correlates with an uptick in use of long-term contraception (IUD, implants, tubal ligation).  Causation is hard to prove but it’s plausible at least.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     No, it wouldn’t work for everone, but the argument that seems to be being made here is that it’s implausible that it would “work” (here being defined as “only” one child every four years)for *anyone*. Which is not true.

    (But I gather yo’re telling me that it’s typical for a married couple to have sex more than twice a year? Weird)

  • Tricksterson

    Unless they’re Peg and Al Bundy, yes.

  • Angelia Sparrow

    In the 80s, among a very pro-Outbreed the Heathen group of Christians, I was already hearing about how the pill is an abortifacient and Family Banning is just part of the Culture of Abortion. (seriously, the book is called The Way Home, by Mary Pride) This has been going on for 25+ years. It just went mainstream in the last 5.

    And I am scared.

    Now, on the rightist fringe, we’re hearing that women shouldn’t vote. Am I going to be 70 and marching for sufferage my great-grandmother won?

  • Tricksterson

    While one should never underestimate the power of stupid ideas the fact that women have the vote now will make it very difficult for any politician to uproot it without finding himself unemployed.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I doubt very much that anyone is going to take away women’s sufferage without taking preventative measures to make sure no one is able to march to win it back.

  • Katie

    If I had to make a guess, I’d say that the Ryans being in different locations fairly frequently, combined with the decline in fertility that often happens in one’s thirties would explain the Ryans’ family size.  But ultimately, that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that Paul Ryan doesn’t want other people to make their own choices about their fertillity and family size. 
    As a side note, the thing that really, really bugs me about the Catholic opposition to contraception is that it is based on a lot of faulty assumptions about what *must* be going on in the hearts and beds of couples who are using contraception, while at the same time touting a method that, of necessity, interferes with a couple’s sex life.

  • Madhabmatics

    Man I love people talking about how sex needs more spreadsheets. Hey baby, let’s open up this excel document, maybe fill a few cells with formulas.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Man I love people talking about how sex needs more spreadsheets. Hey baby, let’s open up this excel document, maybe fill a few cells with formulas.

    Hey, it is only a few short steps down the slippery slope from spreadsheets to bed sheets.  

  • Richard Pierard

    This is an encouraging discussion because I learned there are a lot of evangelicals out there who look at these issues like I go.  Maybe my futuile lifelong struggle against the far right and its pernicious influence in evangelicalism was not as in vain as I thought.  This urges me to continue fighting.


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