Monday, March 12, 2012

Contraception and Sex

Unbelievably nice weather for the beginning of March.  Maybe climate change will be a good thing, if you can look past droughts, record heat, rising coastal tides, and melting ice caps.

When I first started sending letters to the Inquirer, I was lucky to have started a correspondence which is still ongoing.  We agree more than we disagree, but we maintain a respectful tone when we express our opinions.  We recently communicated a few times in regards to the contraception broo-haha that resulted from the Catholic church protesting the requirement that they provide family planning as part of their health care packages.

Here is the last email to my friend on this subject

I think that the problem is the focus on sex. You say that sex is not a bodily function required for survival. Yet, there are many people who decry homosexual sex precisely because it does not result in human reproduction. From that point they justify demonizing those who practice gay sex, and then go even further by denying the gay community the benefits of marriage. So, while sex may not be required for personal survival, it is certainly a necessity for the continued survival of the human race.

This is the mistake, the focus on sex, that a certain radio talk show host made when he portrayed a young woman as a whore for testifying in favor of insurers providing for family planning. Or the rich Republican donor who was quoted as advocating the "aspirin" method of birth control; woman should keep an aspirin between their knees. What is as disturbing as the attack on this young woman is the assumption that the woman is the slut. Does the man have no responsibility? Should not these comments also include attacks upon the young men having sex as well? Perhaps there should be a "Pinocchio" effect on the men who impregnate a woman. I wonder if a growing nose, say relative to the size of the woman's belly, would shed a new perspective on the men who are so quick to label woman who have sex as whores. It would certainly make paternity suits and there requisite denials (by the man) a bit more clear cut.

What is truly ironic is that the Catholic Church, the prime "victim" in this recent debate, has as one of its main tenets the belief that all sex acts must include the understanding that a child may be produced, which is why any form of birth control is anathema. The fact that the birth rate among Catholics has dropped in the past two generations resulting in a precipitous drop in parochial school enrollment must be a mystery to those who believe that Catholics do not use birth control. Perhaps we should remember that increasing the population of the fold is an understandable motive for any institution, religious or otherwise, and that one of the best ways to encourage followers to have more children is to make not having children a betrayal of the group. Like it or not, our various societal institutions, religious or civic, have encouraged or discouraged reproduction, hence sex, for as long as the connection between sex and reproduction has been understood. It is a way to control the flock, the citizenry, or whatever the appropriate term be. And it is usually men controlling, or trying to control women.

Not to mention the perception that that permeates our current culture that woman who have sex are loose, and men who have sex are virile.
In the end, sex is not the issue when discussing contraception, family planning, birth control or whatever phrase you want to use. It is about providing the most information, options and choices for women. It is about treating them as more than walking wombs. It is about men realizing that forcing women to have babies is not a reflection of "God's will" but a reflection of the lack of respect and humanity that men have historically shown to women. As I have said before, the conversation would be quite different, if men had to carry and birth our next generation.

As for abortion, I understand your abhorrence. But, to turn your back on all family planning because of the belief that abortion kills a human life when abortion is a very small part of the family planning tool kit seems shortsighted. While abortion should be the last choice, disavowing all other birth control methods seems to be a recipe for an increase of the very act of abortion that is so distasteful. If we restrict women's access to the various methods of preventing unwanted pregnancies, should we not expect both more aborted fetuses as well as unwanted children?

Look at it this way. The slums of the world all have one thing in common. Too many people in too small a space. Doesn't it make sense to encourage family planning as a way to reduce income inequality? Poverty? Disease? When we see pictures of children dying in far away lands from dysentery, malnutrition, dehydration, and then we don't make the connection between the lack of family planning that is provided for the women of these lands, the influence of religions that tell them that condoms are evil and that having babies is their duty as females, the sheer arrogance demonstrated by men who condemn women for having sex while all the while pretending that it isn't men they are having sex with, then we are blind to the consequences that these beliefs have on those children as they die.

It is a wonderful trait to honor and protect life. But to honor and protect it in the womb then forget about it once it is born casts a shadow on its sincerity.

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