Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Contraceptive Mentality

Very good post here by Elizabeth about the "contraceptive mentality." She dissects what is meant by the phrase and how it has become almost second nature in our culture, and the irony of how it is actually seen as "responsible." She brings up two important concepts: that babies are viewed as both commodities (as in, something to be obtained whenever you choose and at whatever number you desire) and rights (meaning you can go to any means to obtain one).

She also links to this article, which makes this point:
"Contraception is the prevention by mechanical or chemical means of the possible natural and procreative consequence of sexual intercourse, namely, conception. The purpose of contraception is to separate intercourse from procreation so that the contracepting partners can enjoy the pleasures of sex without the discomforting fear that their sexual activity could lead to the procreation of another human being. The "contraceptive mentality" results when this separation of intercourse from procreation is taken for granted and the contracepting partners feel that, in employing contraception, they have severed themselves from all responsibility for a conception that might take place as a result of contraceptive failure. Somewhat ironically, this practice of using contraception to relinquish responsibility for one's own offspring is, in the minds of many, consistent with "being responsible" and even with "responsible parenting."2 At any rate, the "contraceptive mentality" implies that a couple have not only the means to separate intercourse from procreation, but the right or responsibility as well."
Many people don't realize there is a link between contraception and abortion. In fact, many think that greater access to contraception decreases the number of abortions. But the exact opposite is true. A mentality that conception can be "controlled" has led to people absolving themselves of responsibility, which leads to a less-receptive mentality regarding babies who were "unplanned." I hate that term - "unplanned." What gets to me even more is when perfect strangers will ask a woman if her pregnancy was "planned." As if it should make a difference! As if we are really in control rather than God! Pregnant women with a "large" number of children (meaning as few as 3 sometimes) seem to get this question more: "Oh, I see you have three children already. Was this one planned?" The question makes me feel a bit sick to the stomach. It is as if they may as well be asking, "Oh, do you want this baby? Are you welcoming of its existence?"

Contraception makes an attempt at removing responsibility. And when you remove responsibility, you can choose to behave irresponsibly - in fact, you are more likely to do so. When we put "quick fixes" in place of responsibility, then we suffer, as there are no true quick fixes to anything in life. Life is too complex for a quick fix. Stemming from the removal of sexual responsibility are viewpoints such as what President Obama said - that he didn't want his daughters "to be punished with a baby" if they made poor decisions. Most people would say that's why contraception is a good thing - that the teens who might have abortions could use it to just prevent pregnancy in the first place. But that is not what happens here - contraceptives give teens even more of an "invincible" mentality. They are more likely to engage in risky behaviors if they think they are "safe," yet they are also more likely to slip up and not use the contraceptives as they were designed to be used, resulting in more contraceptive "failure." Or they may choose to skip using contraceptives sometimes too, because they now have a more promiscuous attitude as part of their mentality, and a more "it won't happen to me" attitude as well.

And how about the question of, "Are you done?" Meaning, are you done having children? I always answer this with, "I can never answer that question." At least not until post-menopause, that is! ;) Even for a couple with the most dire reasons for avoiding pregnancy (life-threatening medical conditions for the mother, terminal illnesses of other family members, mental instability of one of the parents...), there is always the chance that one day, their circumstances will change and they may discern that they are able to welcome more children into their family. It's a "never say never" attitude, which is why the "are you done?" question is offensive. Along the same lines is when people say, "Oh, we're done. No more children for us." How about, "We're done for now, but we never know what God might have in store for us," or something along those lines? We are not in control!

As a subset, use of the pill has the potential to cause early abortions. When the pill "fails" at preventing conception, it can prevent the newly-conceived life from continuing. This is the first clue to us that contraception and abortion are intrinsically linked.

Contraceptive use is a band-aid. It tries to fix something instead of finding the root cause and treating it at that point. Teaching chastity and abstinence - and yes, that includes within marriage; marriage does not mean you are free to be as sexually promiscuous with your spouse as you please - would address this at its root. Teaching people to have respect for their bodies and for other people - what is wrong with that? It would be shaping society for the good instead of just addressing the evils. Prevention is key - preventing the mentality in the first place, which prevents other issues. Another quote from the DeMarco article on this:
"It is far more logical and realistic to revolutionize society by teaching men to be virtuous, since virtue is a perfection of something natural, than it is to effect the same revolution by being indifferent to virtue and trying to suppress the evil consequences of men's vices through technological interventions. This is not to say that virtue or civilized society come easily; in fact, their achievement demands the development and pooling of every gift men have (and then some). But it is to say that it is the only way that is logical and realistic. It was the essential insight of Huxley, Orwell, and others that the amoral technological approach produces a dehumanized social nightmare."
Planned Parenthood promotes contraception for a reason - and maybe they don't all realize it; maybe they solely promote it because of the "population control" idea, but it is also good for their business. It is good for their business to keep people in the contraceptive mentality, because it generates more money for PP. When contraceptives fail, then PP is there to offer the next step - abortion.

I would venture to say that most married couples who use methods of contraception and sterilization do so with good intents. The vast majority of them are blissfully unaware of the contraceptive mentality or even of the fact that the pill can cause abortions. Those who are aware of all this may say, "Well, that doesn't apply to me. Even if my birth control failed, I still wouldn't have an abortion." Very true - I realize that many, if not most (I hope), married people would continue with an unintended pregnancy. But this does not change the whole contraceptive mentality and what it is doing and has done to our culture as a whole. That is one reason why I refuse to have any part in it. Being aware of it is the first step. Deciding you don't want to separate what God naturally put together is the next step. Sex is not meant solely for pleasure and unity between two people, but that is what it is reduced to when it is sterilized. This doesn't mean that procreation has to occur with every sex act, either - God built in natural periods of infertility in a woman's cycle. God Himself placed those there, whereas man invented contraception to be used in complete opposition to the natural fertility of women.

I love to read about and discuss this topic, so if anyone has any questions or knows of good links, feel free to leave them in the comments! It is a subject with much depth, so it can take some time to digest. It didn't stick with me the first time I heard it... the beauty and truth of it all came later for me, after really doing the reading and learning on it at a personal level.

And here's the link again to the article.


ViolinMama said...

Here Here! I entered marriage with the idea contraception was a good choice, and if we had a surprise baby, that was fine too - but withing a year a marriage totally switched to NFP when we realized our mistake. It has enriched our marriage and communication AND faith.

Thanks for this post!

Tiny Actions said...

You know you have a pass in the view of many to have another have two girls and you should try for that boy. Me on the other hand we have girl, boy, and girl. If I had a dollar for everytime I'm asked if we're done, I could send all three of my kids to college! LOL! At first I found the question offensive, but after some prayer as to why God would be sending so many people my way asking about my family plans, it dawned on my that it's the perfect time for some evangalization. Instead of offense to the question, I ask the questioner, "Why do you ask?" This opens a door for a discussion of exactly what you just wrote about. I'm bookmarking this post, because I have a feeling I'll probably refer some enquiring minds to these thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to put all this together.

That Married Couple said...

Great post!

Carrie said...

I haven't been commenting, but I have been reading all your posts. I really enjoyed reading this one. I kind of feel like birth control has contributed to the high rate of divorce though I am too lazy to research it for any real proof! ha ha!
I was on birth control for a long time, and after many different kinds caused me serious issues, not to mention they greatly affected my libido to almost a "divorce" state (not really, but you could probably imagine what I mean) I decided that it wasn't worth it anymore. I have vowed to never be on it again and since have read so many wonderful things like this post you wrote that encourages me. I think a lot of encouragement to be on BC comes from the employers of full time working moms. not directly, but it seems like such a burden is put on the mom to arrange for maternity leave, and even though it is a right, having that every few years for their entire career I would imagine would be frowned upon.

Erin said...

You are right, Carrie, it has been linked to a higher divorce rate... with the introduction of the pill, more and more immoral things have been given the go-ahead, so to say. If it is okay to separate sex into just being for recreation, then it gradually becomes okay for all sorts of forms of promiscuity, sex outside of marriage, abortions, divorce... there is info out there that backs it up!

Pope Paul VI made some predictions that are (sadly) coming true...
"Pope Paul VI predicted grave consequences that would arise from the widespread and unrestrained use of contraception. He warned, "Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificially limiting the increase of children. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men—especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point—have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion" (HV 17).

No one can doubt the fulfillment of these prophetic words. They have all been more than fulfilled in this country as a result of the widespread availability of contraceptives, the "free love" movement that started in the 1960s, and the loose sexual morality that it spawned and that continues to pervade Western culture.

Indeed, recent studies reveal a far greater divorce rate in marriages in which contraception is regularly practiced than in those marriages where it is not. Experience, natural law, Scripture, Tradition, and the magisterium, all testify to the moral evil of contraception."

Carrie said...

yes, in addition to the "free love" "no consequences" mentality, it is also a huge strain on a marriage to just deal with the hormonal problems it can cause for so many women. For us, it wasn't an infidelity issue by any means, but it was just "I am so miserable in my skin right now because my body is totally out of whack that I can't stand anyone especially anyone who wants to be with me that way" kind of thing. Just the girl craziness, etc, etc, that totally kills natural desire...for me anyway, I think it affects others that way too and it just isn't fair to the guys, though many of them are the ones who pressure the wives to be on it in the first place.