I really appreciate the patience and attention to detail both sides are displaying in the comments thread that started about natural law and sexual ethics generally but has turned into a discussion about the moral implications of family planning.
There are a lot of dimensions to this discussion, but, reading through the arguments, I think I end up disagreeing with the other side’s assumptions much earlier than you might expect. Here’s part of a post by KL:
Since sexual intercourse is sometimes naturally non-procreative — whether because it takes place during the woman’s infertile period or simply because fertilization does not occur — the act is not intrinsically less good because it does not result in a baby. But deliberately preventing conception, whether via barrier or hormonal methods, *is* intrinsically less good, since that directly interferes with natural biological processes and organs that are functioning normally and healthfully
The assumption is that there is something wrong with interfering with the normal, healthy function of my body, but I don’t buy in to that assertion. My body is a tool, but it may not always be well suited to my needs. We frequently interfere with the ‘normal’ function of our body frequently, which is a good idea, since our bodies are the shambling products of evolution and have picked up a fair amount of cruft in development to date. My natural inclinations lead me to sloth, gluttony, and inaccurate estimates of risk. The fact that they are natural or part of my identity doesn’t force me to give in to them.
And when it comes to the tactics, I don’t see physical attempts to frustrate the body’s natural functioning as all that different from behavioral disciplines. I’m in agreement with Nina who wrote
For me, using NFP is the direct action that avoids conception as much as inserting a diaphragm is an action.Once the couple agrees that the intent is to time their sexual activity in order to avoid conception, they’re taking action. That’s where I think the Church is a little fuzzy. And, as we both agree, NFP requires couples to essentially negate the natural reproductive rhythms of their bodies — mostly the woman, though, which is just another strike against it as anything natural or *more* moral than a diaphragm.
Overriding the body doesn’t have to be anything as dramatic as radical physical intervention to be successful, but all intervention is premised on a rejection of current functioning as unsatisfactory. Whether you’re using barrier methods or carefully having sex only when you are extraordinarily unlikely to conceive, you’re doing an end run around your body’s natural functioning. It’s possible to argue that only one of these methods is appropriate/safe/healthy/etc (after all, most of us condone exercise and not steroid use, even if both are directed toward similar goals), but that justification needs to be rooting in something besides the divine right of the body to function unimpeded, since both constitute some kind of disruption.
I’d also add, especially to readers who may have wandered into this dispute from Jen’s blog, that you might want to take a look at another post I wrote earlier this week “On Not Respecting Autonomy.” Almost everyone endorses overriding some demands of the body or even those of our own identity, but we differ strongly on which ones to crush.