By Laurie Pisciotta, Auburn University
Contraception has been used in cultures since ancient times, but never has it been so accessible and reliable as it is today. In the time of ancient Greeks and Romans, a special plant from Libya was thought to be a working form of birth control (“Birth Control Throughout History”). Since the 1960s, the pill has pervaded our society and is offered to young girls at doctor’s appointments routinely, and condoms can be found at the front of every gas station or convenience store. For Catholics, there is no question about the morality of abortion, but contraceptives have become so regular that the lines have blurred. According to the Catholic worldview, contraceptives are detrimental at every level of relationships, from self, to marriage, to society.
To explore how contraceptives prevent a right relationship with one’s very self and therefore the lives of others, two foundational points must be made: First, the body is not separate from self, but it is the visible aspect of self. Secondly, life begins at conception.
The hormones and side effects that birth control pills carry create unnatural environments in women’s bodies. The idea is to simulate pregnancy so that when the opportunity to truly get pregnant arises, the body reacts as if it is already growing a child and that new potential zygote does not implant in the womb. The womb can symbolize the unique role women are given: to nurture life in a motherly manner, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When the womb is prevented from nurturing life physically, the essentials of the feminine spirit are discarded.
The belief that life begins at conception is crucial for the argument against abortion, and it applies here as well. A standard Christian belief, and even a common secular thought, is that humans do not and should not have control over who lives and who dies. People against abortion and capital punishment have no problem saying that one person cannot decide which other people deserve to live. People who support abortion often do so on the basis that life has not begun, which proves that they do not feel, at least explicitly, that they should have power over a life. Now apply that principle to contraceptives. Do humans have the power to manipulate the body and the sexual act to prohibit the natural consequence of new life? Science says it is possible, but even basic human morality says to steer clear of assuming authority over a life.
In relationships with others, especially marriages, contraceptives are harmful. If the sexual act is to allow for not only unity between two people, but also a new life, condoms and birth control prohibit both. Contraceptives within marriage insinuate distrust in a variety of ways. There is the distrust of being completely vulnerable with someone, although one’s spouse should be the one safe place to be vulnerable. There is the distrust of the relationship and its ability to support a new life. Finally, there is the distrust of the spouse individually and his or her potential to parent. The sexual act is intimate, not only because spouses are sharing their whole beings with each other, but also because a level of trust is necessary to “risk” the adventure of parenthood together. With the use of contraceptives, this is a missed opportunity for major growth in intimacy.
Following the previous arguments that contraceptives create disordered relationships within oneself and within a marriage and, therefore, a family, its detriment to society is a natural conclusion. The family has long been known as the basic social unit, and the current attempt to kill the nuclear family in secular culture is largely the result of practices such as birth control. The disintegration created within the body and mind of a woman due to the separation of herself from her womb leads to unfulfillment and loss of purpose. This woman, who was created to nurture the lives of those around her, has cut off her ability to mother. This mindset spreads to the men with whom she has relationship, and quickly, much of the world has lost the ability to look outside themselves to nurture and dignify others.
Women are not the sole root of this problem. As members of a society of instant gratification, men and women alike have striven to separate actions from their consequences. Once, it was normal to go to a store, buy ingredients, cook a meal, and eat with your loved one. Now, that sounds like a bi-monthly, swoon-worthy date night. People are accustomed to sitting on their couches and ordering everything from food to clothes to toilet paper. This ability has taken away the sense of responsibility with which people once lived. Contraceptives contribute greatly to this pandemic of irresponsibility. Birth control and condoms have separated intercourse from its life-giving consequence and body from self.
A frequently stated view from the Christian perspective is that, “People are going to do it anyway. They’re going to have sex anyway, so why bring a child into the world to parents who are unprepared and unqualified?” That very thought and question are examples of the effects contraceptives have had on the world. When Christians lose hope in God’s ability to change hearts and restore dignity, the world is bleak. People are not going to “do it anyway.” If each person was educated and ministered to about the purpose of their bodies and the purpose of marriage, they would not just “do it anyway.” These are people longing for purpose and intimacy, and the integration and healing that God can through Christians would change society.
With many of the negative consequences of contraceptives displayed, it might be beneficial to close with a picture of a healthy, integrated family led by a woman living fully alive. Gianna Molla was a wife, mother, doctor, and lover of life. She was a devout Catholic, enjoyed adventuring outdoors, and ran a pediatric medical practice. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, doctors advised that she have an abortion so she would not die upon her daughter’s birth. Gianna repeatedly refused, and ultimately it did cost her her life in 1962. Gianna’s husband Pietro and their children were present at her canonization in 2004. She is a lively model of heroic virtue and true pro-life living for Christians in their respective cultures to follow.
“Birth Control Throughout History: Facts, Superstitions, and Wives Tales.” Pandia Health, 14 Jan. 2021, www.pandiahealth.com/resources/birth-control-throughout-history/.