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Legitimate Therapeutic Means: Can Catholics Use the Pill?

Legitimate Therapeutic Means: Can Catholics Use the Pill? July 27, 2016

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But NaProTech Cures Everything!!!

One common objection to therapeutic use of the Pill is the claim that it just masks problems without treating the underlying pathology, whereas NaProTech actually treats the underlying pathology – meaning that the moral justification for taking the Pill is always actually non-existent. The difficulty with this argument, in simplest terms, is that it assumes that a person always has a moral obligation to receive the best possible treatment for any medical condition that they might suffer from – regardless of any impedements that might prevent them from effectively using a particular means.

In the case of Chreighton, the potential impediments are considerable. If you have a complicated problem you’re looking at a process involving months of careful charting and consultation to get to the point where you can pinpoint the precise lifestyle factors that may be causing issues. You can’t temporarily take medication to fix the immediate symptoms while you work out the underlying problem, because if you do take the Pill there’s not really anything to chart. So until you figure out what the problem is, you’re stuck dealing with the symptoms.

Once the causes are known, NaProTech will only work if it is possible to make the lifestyle changes necessary to address the underlying pathology. In some cases, the pathology itself will make this more difficult. Say that a woman is suffering from erratic periods, with heavy bleeding every two to three weeks. She and her husband are not able to find any “safe days” for marital intimacy for months on end, she’s suffering from severe anemia, and she’s basically unable to function when she’s on her period – which is about a third of the time. With the help of a NaProTech doctor, she learns that the cause of her erratic bleeding is stress…stress which is exacerbated by the fact that she’s bleeding erratically. The problem is that simply knowing that your reproductive health problems are caused by stress or poor diet does not ensure that you will actually have access to the means of attaining a less stressful lifestyle or a healthier diet.

In cases where a woman is suffering from erratic bleeding or PMDD, and she already has a large number of children, there’s not a lot of data on the effectiveness or feasability of NaProTech solutions. If you look at the websites, you’ll find that NaProTech has mostly been used (and studied) as an aid for couples facing infertility. There’s really no data to suggest that the same treatment will be useful for people whose problems stem from a reproductive system that is basically exhausted from repeated pregnancy. Nor do studies of infertile people take into account the unavoidable stresses faced by women with large families.

And, of course, NaProTech is only a solution at all if a woman has reasonably easy and affordable access to a NaProTech doctor in the first place, which is hardly a given.

Insisting that this is the only morally legitimate answer places women’s reproductive health problems in a unique category: one in which you are not allowed to use medication to achieve what could, with a great deal of time and effort, possibly be achieved through significant lifestyle changes. An individual may choose this because it is the best option for them, but the Church does not insist on it – and when pro-lifers present it as though it is the only acceptable alternative they end up creating needless moral dilemmas for women in need of medical care.

Of course, the pro-life movement believes that it is not needless, because the Pill causes abortions. So does it?

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