Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
Radical feminism, not unlike the dream-thief character Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the movie “Inception,” has stolen into our subconscious and implanted an insidious idea that refuses to die. The idea: That contraceptives and their evil twin, abortion are “health care”, that public funding for them are a necessity, and that they are positive goods. Like Cobb, radical feminists have planted a whopper of a lie. The question is how will we get out of it?
In the film, Cobb uses a totem (a spinning metallic top), to tell if he’s in the dream. We, too, have totems - a tool for differentiating between the false dream and the reality. The antidotes are Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, and Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae and his teachings on the “Theology of the Body.”
Forty-three years after Humanae Vitae’s release, we need to reexamine the letter’s predictions so that we may see the false bill of goods that we’ve been sold and the enormity of the lie we’ve been living.
Let’s take a look at the reality.
Contraception and Abortion are not “Health care”
Contraception is neither “health” nor “care.” It treats a woman’s natural, God-given fertility as a disease that needs to be controlled or stopped. For something to be healthy it shouldn’t lead to permanent damage or death. Yet, the introduction of contraceptive chemicals into the female body to prevent her natural fertility cycle is far from healthy. The birth control pill has contributed to blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, and death in women. When the Pill was first being tested in Puerto Rico at least three women died during the clinical trials. Who knows how many more have died because of oral contraceptive use in subsequent years. The Pill kills.
Those who teach modern, scientific Natural Family Planning will also attest to the numerous couples whom they see who learn NFP after having been on the Pill. Talk to those couples and you will learn that use of the Pill, sometimes over decades, has permanently affected the ability of many couples to conceive. Use of oral contraceptives can render a couple infertile. In other cases, it can be months or years before normal fertility returns.
Radical feminists purport that contraception will increase women’s enjoyment of the marital act because they will be free to have intercourse without fear of pregnancy. In reality, the Pill decreases women’s libido and desire for intimacy.
Another potential danger for women… studies have demonstrated a possible link between hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer.
When contraceptives are used to avoid pregnancy, and one results, many then turn to contraceptive’s evil twin of abortion. One of the ways in which many oral contraceptives work is to prevent the implantation of a human embryo, hence inducing abortion. To furthermore understand the description of abortion as contraceptive’s evil twin, consider the statistics.
A 2011 Guttmacher Institute fact sheet states that nearly half of all pregnancies among American women are unintended. Four in 10 of all pregnancies end in abortion; and 54% of women who have had abortions had been using contraception at the time they became pregnant.
Killing a pre-born child is hardly a “healthy” outcome for the child or the mother.
Public Funding of Contraception and Abortion are Not Necessary
We have also been sold the lie that public funding of contraception and abortion are absolutely necessary, and that those of us who are opposed to their use have an obligation to pay for them.
In the current debate over contraceptive coverage, we’re being told that every insurance plan must provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing medications, and that all employers must provide insurance coverage to make these available, as if contraception and abortion haven’t been freely available for the past 40 years.
Planned Parenthood already offers free and low-cost contraceptives on a sliding-fee scale. Contraception and abortion are readily available. While we’ve been told that there are medical conditions where oral contraceptives are necessary, that’s not the case. Bio-identical hormones outside of contraception are available, without harming women or their fertility. It’s hard to imagine any condition where the death of a child is the “treatment.”
Contraception and Abortion are Not Positive Goods
According to the journal Family Planning Perspectives’ 1998 article “Trends in Contraceptive Use in the United States: 1982-1995, 75% of women who use oral contraceptives are unmarried.
Love is willing the good of the other. Forcing people to pay for the destructive behavior of the other can never be a good.
Closing the marital act to the possibility of procreation is to make it less than the self-gift intended in marriage. The act becomes not a self-gift but an act of selfishness and self-pleasure. It says to the spouse, “I share myself with you, all but this part. This part of myself I withhold.” That undermines marriage and the purpose of marriage. Practicing this is harmful to marriage. Contraception ultimately leads to objectification and dehumanization. The result of this repeated action is that children aren’t seen as gifts, but as a lifestyle choice or a commodity.
Natural Family Planning, on the other hand, fosters a healthy respect and wonder between husband and wife, and awe for the creation of life. In a culture so willing to embrace the “green,” the natural, the organic, it’s surprising that more married couples do not choose to learn about natural fertility regulation rather than introducing potentially fertility-destroying chemicals into their bodies.
The Church’s Moral Voice Has Been Compromised
If the Church is going to have an authoritative voice on this issue it cannot be complicit in it. It cannot have dioceses, hospitals, universities, charities, and other institutions that are covering or distributing contraception, and performing sterilization and abortion. Yet, it has.
The National Women’s Law Center has published a list of Catholic hospitals, healthcare systems, and colleges and universities – organizations such as Catholic Healthcare West - that do provide contraceptive coverage. Sandra Hapenney, a doctoral candidate at Baylor University, found that more than 20,000 sterilizations were performed at 48% of 176 Catholic hospitals.
This is scandalous. These institutions, ostensibly our institutions, are complicit in performing surgeries and providing medications that block fertility and induce abortion.
To their credit, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and individually, every bishop in the country has been unified against the U.S. Health and Human Service’s mandate regarding contraceptive coverage. The sleeping giant is beginning to wake and has found its voice.
The Totems or Antidote
When the prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae was released on July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI, predicted that the widespread use of contraception would lead to: 1) infidelity and moral decline, 2) a loss of respect for women, 3) the abuse of power, and 4) unlimited dominion.
Clearly, every single prediction has come to pass. We’re witness to widespread infidelity and sexual immorality. Without a doubt, the past 40 years have seen increases in premarital relations, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, divorce, abortion, and sexually-transmitted diseases.
Pope Paul VI also said that man would reach “the point of considering [woman] as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” We see this all too often in modern media and in relationships where people treat others as objects for their own pleasure. We see it, too, in the proliferation of pornography. Reality has exceeded the Pope’s prediction in that sexual activity has become an appetite to be satisfied without the need for any relationship at all. Think of the “hook-up” culture and the recent film “Friends with Benefits.”
Contraception, Pope Paul VI warned would become a “dangerous weapon… in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.” This is evidenced not only by family-planning programs tied to foreign aid in developing countries, forced sterilization and abortion in countries such as China, but also in the current Health and Human Service’s mandate in our own country.
Finally, Pope Paul VI cautioned that contraception would lead humans to think that they have unlimited dominion over their own bodies. So convinced are individuals of this “right,” many do not hesitate to disfigure themselves through sterilization, seek to produce life outside the womb when they are unable to achieve pregnancy, or to find ways to end their life prematurely once they believe they have outlived their own usefulness.
The antidote lies in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, and in Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, and “Theology of the Body.” In such expositions, we are shown that we are created for far more than sexual degradation. We have a proper way of looking at the body. The human person has a profound dignity. Rather than separating the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage, we must reverence the gift of our sexuality within marriage. That is the self-sacrificial love for which we were created.
Marian femininity serves as our model. Virgin and mother - the two states most under attack through contraceptive use and abortion - must be embraced. No matter how we might try, human sexuality cannot be divorced from marriage or children.
The lie of contraception, implanted not by the fictional Cobb, but by the very real Margaret Sanger, into our subconscious, has seriously distorted our view of reality. The late-Father Paul Marx, OSB, former director of Human Life International used to say that contraception has “driven a wedge into the most intimate sphere of communion known to man outside of the Holy Sacrament of the Mass.”
May we all awake from the nightmare we are in, and soon, before it’s too late.