Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Contraception Wars

You can call me old-fashioned if you want to, but I do not approve of or condone premarital or extra-marital sexual intercourse.
The call on extra-marital sex is pretty easy. Not only is “Thou shalt not commit adultery” one of the Ten Commandments, it is quite clear that adulterous activity could only damage a marriage relationship and despoil the marriage covenant. Like all the other commandments, this one too was given for the sake of individual happiness and the well-being of the community.
The matter of premarital sex is not quite so clear, although the Bible is fairly explicit in prohibition against “fornication,” which surely includes at least most premarital sexual activity. But in many ways things are different now than in Bible times—and plenty of people in modern society don’t claim to go by the Bible anyway.
Fifty or sixty years ago it was sometimes said that the three main reasons for not engaging in premarital sex was the fear of detection, infection, and conception. With the sexual revolution of the 1960s, people began to attach less and less stigma to premarital sex, so the detection deterrent was greatly weakened. Then with the effectiveness and availability of penicillin, the fear of infection also greatly decreased. (Of course, the growing frequency of HIV/AIDS has once again increased that fear for many people.)
So then we come to the matter of conception. In years past, there was generally societal disapproval of single women who got pregnant. But even now when there is far less stigma, the burden of becoming a mother without the support of a nurturing mate/father is great indeed. (Of course there are some cohabitating men who function like a good husband, but I wonder if such cases tend to be the exception more than the rule.)
If people are going to have premarital sex, which probably going to be the case for a large majority of unmarried people in the U.S. today, it seems as though making contraception available for those who need it is the prudent thing to do. Would that increase premarital sexual activity? Possibly. Would that decrease the number of children born out of wedlock as well as the number of abortions? Most probably.
So while I do not approve or condone premarital sex, I not only support making contraception available to women who feel the need for it, I agree that insurance policies, including those provided by any employer, ought to include coverage for contraception.
There are those who argue that conception is not a disease, and, of course, it isn’t. But it can certainly be argued that having unwanted children (or an abortion) is not good for the health of any woman. Health insurance should be for the purpose of promoting health of mind and body, not just paying for the treatment of illness or injury.
So, it seems quite clear that the concerted opposition to contraceptives being provided by health insurance paid for by employers, to say nothing of the asinine remarks by Rush Limbaugh about the Georgetown University law student, is missing the mark and deserves the considerable criticism it has received.
Note: For those interested in reading more along this line, I recommend this excellent article by Richard Cizik on the blog of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.


  1. There has been little if any criticism of Rush's comments from his regular listeners. Ultimately, it is the size of his listening audience that assures his value to the broadcasters. This can be a reminder that there's still plenty of room for improvement within American society for which we can strive.

  2. Thank you, Leroy, for well-reasoned comments on this emotional subject. And citing the article by Cizik was a generous act. I like his opening remark: "In an election year, we must also distinguish between real attacks on faith and cheap demagoguery to score political points." (Friends, let's not all quit reading Leroy and switch to Cizik!)

    Citing the 3-part admonition about pre-marital sex from the past brought back memories from my (long-ago) adolescence. An updated version is needed for our times, which is no trivial matter, since some of the current debate makes assumptions that those earlier times were better times.

    To me the same primary argument against extra-marital sex apply to pre-marital: promiscuity undermines quality relationship building. And relationship building is a cornerstone of community building. And without community, we are in a dog-eat-dog world that is "nasty, brutish and short," as some say a Darwinian world must be.

    Marriage in our current era is in decline, except for our gay and lesbian activists. But relationship building is ever strong and should be encouraged. Contraception can be an important tool for this task, along with education about the value of strong positive relationships for personal and social well-being.

  3. Leroy makes some important points, but I think he missed two critical reasons for birth control, particularly the pill. First, birth control pills are used for a variety of medical reasons besides birth control. Many young women find them very valuable for controlling problem menstrual cycles and related issues. Second, birth control is vital inside marriage.

    Except for a few Quiverfull fanatics, almost everyone practices birth control inside marriage, assuming they live in a culture where birth control is available. With over seven billion people on earth, strained natural resources, and widespread poverty, birth control is critical for our future. For population control is not voluntary. Our choice is just between birth control and death control. Death control has its fans, but personally, the four horsemen of war, famine, pestilence and disease can stay far away from me!

  4. One of my Thinking Friends whom I have known the longest sent comments in disagreement with the posting above:

    "I strongly feel that the requirement that [contraception] be included in the employer`s Health insurance is not proper.

    "I also disagree in encouraging in ANY way premarital sex by offering contraceptives of ANY kind, even though it might be good in some ways for society.

    "I agree with you on one thing: the Bible is quite clear on this subject and I go with what our Bible teaches."

  5. I appreciate Craig pointing out two reasons for birth control that I did not mention. (It is not that I was unaware of those two matters but it, as usual, was a matter of space; I try to keep the postings to around 500 words, and that is longer than a professional blogger advised.)

    Certainly there are women who take birth control pills for reasons other than birth control, i.e., for medical reasons. But I assume that is a quite small percentage of the total number of women taking "the pill."

    Also, I certainly agree that contraceptives are "vital inside marriage," but I guess I thought that went without saying. But maybe I should have mentioned that (or should mention it in the future). I am most definitely not a supporter of the Quiverfull movement!

  6. I appreciate this writer's explanation for how we taxpayers are paying more for Rush Limbaugh's Viagra than we pay for a student's contraception.

    Why we pay that man to have sex, I'll never know. No moral or logical grounds.

  7. I appreciate Debra's comments--and for her posting comments for the first time (if I am not mistaken).

    Actually, I don't know why we pay any man to have sex--except, maybe, for those seeking to become fathers. Contraceptives are mostly used so women can keep from having children they do not want or cannot take care of adequately. The use of Viagra, no doubt, increases, at least to some extent, the number of unwanted children who are born (or aborted).

  8. As a young woman who knows many women using contraceptives, I would like to echo Craig's point on the health concerns as well as value of birth control within marriage. I actually know many women who use birth control for reasons other than preventing unwanted pregnancies. I have friends and coworkers who take them for a range of health concerns - because pregnancy and fibromylgia would mean debilitating pain, for the prevention of ovarian cysts, and for practical purpose that managing painful monthly periods for some women means that she can go to work, rather than take sick time.

    Additionally, I know many married young women who use contraception to prevent pregnancy until they feel that they are financially and emotionally prepared for a child. Contraception provides women - and men - the option to start a family when they are ready. One could certainly argue that this actually can strengthen a couple's marriage.

    Thank you for a thoughtful piece that shows that in fact, religion and contraception can go together. Disagreeing about premarital sex is not a cause to dismiss the ability of women to have control of their own health.