Hello and welcome.
I’m about to wade into this topic because it is near to my heart, and because I’m seeing a lot of aggression towards business owners who have moral or religious beliefs that prevent them from maintaining their integrity and providing birth control to their employees.
I think it’s really difficult for those coming from a different or polar opposite view on religion to understand why anyone in their right mind would not offer to include birth control in their company insurance plans. I also think it’s unhelpful to be alarmist and conclude that companies are trying to save money by shirking women on healthcare, or that the maternal mortality rate will increase without employer-provided access to the pill, both emphatic arguments I’ve seen presented today.
I can understand the difficulty in seeing how birth control is a moral and religious issue, and one that deserves protection, especially if one does not share the beliefs of those making the claim.
This post is an attempt to help bridge that gap.
The Function of Hormonal Birth Control
Most concerning to me, and to other Catholics and Pro-Life Christians is hormonal birth control and one of its three functions.
One function of the pill is to prevent ovulation. Another is to thicken cervical mucus so sperm can’t reach the egg. A final function is to thin the lining of the uterus so, in the event an egg was fertilized, that it would not be able to implant. It is this third function that is most concerning.
I believe all human life contains an inherent dignity from the moment of conception. I believe it with all my heart and soul. I cannot move on this. We are in the Image of God, precious and valuable from the moment we are conceived until the moment we take our last breath.
I cannot hold this belief and be logically consistent and still support hormonal birth control. The function to prevent a conceived human from continuing its life is a violation of the rights of that human, and the permanent impact of terminating one human’s existence outweighs the temporal impact of a woman seeing a pregnancy through to term. I strive to be consistent, and drawing my convictions to their logical conclusion necessarily leads me here. I would have no other option other than to compromise my belief in inherent dignity. But since I cannot give humanity less dignity than it deserves, here I must stand.
For more on this, I wrote more about my own experience on The Pill in this post.
This is My Body
The words “This is my body” are used in two very different ways in the world today.
During Catholic Mass, the Priest recites the words of Jesus at the last supper with his disciples, where he said: “This is my body, given for you.” It is the embodiment, literally, of sacrifice as we participate in the sacrifice of Mass, and remember the One who gave everything for the benefit of us all.
Then, for those who support hormonal birth control and/or abortion, the same words “This is my body” are used, but in a very different way. Instead of the body being a vehicle for self-giving, the body becomes a vehicle for self-preservation, even at the expense of another human with equal dignity and equal value.
Instead of I will give it all for you, it is I will keep it for myself.
It profanes the fact that we are created to give of ourselves to another. That giving of ourselves is the only way to truly be happy.
When properly purposed, pregnancy is a beautiful reflection of Christ’s sacrifice for us, by which he gave himself for us and by which we shed our own priorities and desires and life for the good of the child growing inside us.
When we say this is my body, we distort that beauty.
Fertility As An Ailment
I also find it surprising how pervasive the idea of treating fertility is, and I don’t view my fertility as an ailment that requires medication. I wonder why are we so quick to suppress our fertility with hormones? Why is that normalized? Why is it okay? Instead of being freeing, I view it as a means to control and fix something that is not wrong in the first place.
In fact, fertility is amazing. I wish feminists embraced more the beauty and power in our fertility. We can freaking make humans inside of us. That’s a pretty empowering thing, to have the ability to create life.
But so many fight tooth and nail for access to a pill or an insert to be stuck under the skin of our arm or inside of us that bridles that power and also comes with some risks to our health. And I know I’m not the only one who had some undesirable side effects while on the pill. Just recently, a hormonal birth control was tested for men, and they pulled it because of the side effects including acne, weight gain and mood swings. And yet so many women are just cool with it and willing to put up with the many artificial changes to our body that birth control causes.
Here is the conclusion I have come to. One which I personally think is more feminist than the current prevailing ideology.
My fertility does not need to be treated.
Because I am not broken.
But I Don’t Want 1,000 Kids
Right. No one wants or should have 1,000 kids.
The Catholic view on this is very specific, and worth expanding on at another time, but, to start, there are ways to embrace who we are and understand our bodies if we are in a life situation in which it is prudent to delay having children.
And rather than finding power in suppressing my fertility, I find power in understanding it.
Natural Family Planning is a scientific and amazing tool for tracking and understanding fertility. When this method is understood and used accurately, it has the same effectiveness as the pill. Minus the hormones. Minus the side effects. Minus the risks. Minus the loss of human life.
I personally know women who have learned their bodies run low on progesterone while using NFP and before attempting conception. Low progesterone can lead to miscarriage, and understanding their bodies before trying to conceive might save them the sorry of the loss of a child still in the womb.
There is even a fertility app that recently came out. There are fertility monitors like the ClearBlue, that can be used to achieve conception but can also be used to avoid it.
The pill and other hormonal birth control methods are far from the only options, and, I’d argue, far from the best. Let’s learn about and understand our bodies and our fertility. I think that’s the first step in the right direction, and prevents the grave moral concerns those of us who are Pro Life have with hormonal birth control options.
I don’t think anyone should be forced to fund something they believe to be the ending of an innocent life. If there is someone who wants access to hormonal contraception, they should seek employment at a company that isn’t Catholic or Christian that holds to those moral obligations. I don’t see this as an area of oppression, since there is a very small percentage of total employers that this would impact, and I highly doubt there would be a situation where employment at a Catholic company, for instance, is a person’s only shot at a job, and that they would also be unable to get birth control through a means not provided by the company.
I also think there are many areas of law where our choices are restricted. A restriction of choices doesn’t automatically mean oppression. We are not allowed to choose to kill someone outside the womb, we are not allowed to steal another person’s property, even if we want it, we are not allowed to avoid paying taxes even if we want to keep our money. We don’t get to choose everything. We have laws and limitations to protect our rights but also the rights of other people. I think that’s one of the strengths of our country, and I think the oppression lies in forcing a person to use their money to fund something they believe ends innocent human life.
It’s Not About The Money
For the companies that fought this, it isn’t about saving money at the expense of women’s health. It’s about the right to religious freedom and how those Catholics and Christians who own companies cannot in good conscience fund something that they believe is a violation of the dignity of man. The changes today mean companies can refuse to provide birth control on moral or religious grounds. Companies that utilize this are owned by people who cannot in good conscience pay for a woman to take a pill that might cause her body to reject a child after conception. Catholic companies cannot provide contraception because of deep-seated and beautiful and rich beliefs of the purpose of human sexuality. (Although medication provided to treat a medical condition, even if it has a contraceptive side effect, as long as the contraceptive purpose is not the aim, is morally permitted.) That purpose, however, is very difficult to comprehend if one is coming from a different tradition, especially in light of the norms of the culture today. But I would urge those people, just as you wish to be understood, seek to understand. Before you scream repression and the right to sexual freedom, pick up a copy of Men, Women and the Mystery of Love or Theology of the Body for Beginners, and understand accurately what you are in disagreement with. But be careful, because you might find beauty and a whole lot of truth in a very unexpected place.
In the meantime, while the world rages, I plan to continue living my life in a way that I hope is affirming to the dignity of all those I come in contact with, and I hope the readers of this blog do the same.
Whether in person, online, or via something else as yet undetermined, I believe each and every person on this planet has value. From the smallest to the largest, the very youngest to the very oldest. Because we are all created in the Image of God.