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Contraception and the culture of life

Clare Hinshaw

The pill. Credit: Jess Hamilton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Doctor: “Are you sexually active?”

Patient: “No.”

Doctor: “Ok, well, for when you do become sexually active, have you thought about what kind of birth control you will use?”

Patient: “Umm, well, no, I mean, I would never have sex before I'm married so...”

Doctor: “Ok, well, I respect that, but, just in case, you should think about that. You know, you might get a boyfriend and decide to become sexually intimate and you should always at least insist that your partner wear a condom because that will not only protect against pregnancy but also against sexually transmitted diseases.”

This is a real-life conversation that took place between myself – a 21 year old woman – and my new doctor recently. Up to this point I had been abundantly pleased with the doctor as she was very averse to prescribing medication unless absolutely necessary, preferring instead, natural and common sense remedies, such as eating healthy and exercising. Not being a huge fan of putting unnecessary drugs into my body, I was delighted with this approach. Then the above conversation took place.

Let's begin with the doctor's second question. I stuttered a little on my answer because the question presupposed several things that did not apply to me: 1) that I would become sexually active before marriage; 2) that I would use birth control. Actually, I found it quite ironic that the doctor would press birth control on me when I had posed this predicament earlier on:

Me: “I feel like this is a weird question, but I've never really cared at all about being healthy, eating right or exercising or anything, but I very much want to get married one day and have children. It occurred to me over the past year that when I get pregnant my child will have to live in my body for 9 months, so my body will need to be a habitable place for my children, but I don't even know where to start with making myself healthy.”

Now, why would you think that someone who cares so much about having children would ever consider using birth control? The only reason I would ever even use Natural Family Planning methods would be to ensure that I have children, never to avoid having them. So artificial birth control methods are definitely a non-issue for me.

However, the doctor did ask the question.  And after my slightly confused but nonetheless firm answer, you'd think she would drop it.  But no.

Now, before I continue, let's return to my original esteem for this doctor. It was based on the fact that she did not prescribe medication unless absolutely necessary. However, she then brings up birth control. Now why do people use birth control? They use it because their bodies are working correctly.  You see, to put it incredibly simply, when a healthy woman has sexual intercourse with a healthy man the man's sperm enter the woman's body and, if she is ovulating at the time, one of the sperm may merge with the woman's egg and they become one organism commonly called a baby. 

When this does not happen it indicates that there may be something wrong with your body and you go to the doctor who treats you for infertility. When, on the other hand, a doctor prescribes birth control, he or she is providing you with drugs to put into your body to stop it from working properly. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the purpose of doctors is to ensure that a person's body works the way it is supposed to. So, to tell a patient to introduce a substance into their body to stop it working correctly should be considered malpractice, correct? Apparently not . . .

This would irritate me enough with a regular doctor, but coming from a doctor with an obvious dedication to sticking to natural remedies I was appalled. 

But let's continue on.

After regaling my mother with the incident she posed this scenario:

“Suppose the doctor didn't talk about birth control with a patient and then that patient's mother came to her several months later and was threatening to sue her because she hadn't discussed birth control with her daughter and they were now dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.”

While it is true that in our culture a doctor does need to be wary of lawsuits, if I were the doctor my response would be something like this:

“Madam, my job is to keep your daughter's body working properly. Artificial birth control introduces harmful drugs into a woman's body to stop it from working properly. Whenever it is necessary to prescribe remedies I am dedicated, as you know, to sticking to all-natural methods if at all possible. To prescribe birth control to your daughter would violate the Hippocratic oath as well as my own principles. If you wanted your daughter to ingest harmful drugs, then it was up to you to provide them; I would not be responsible for such a crime.”

Now, considering my doctor's position up to this point I had to infer that she was either woefully or willfully ignorant. Woefully, if she really did not know what birth control is and does, willfully if she does know and chooses to be blind to how it conflicts with her principles. Her ensuing statement that a condom will protect not only against pregnancy but also sexually transmitted diseases led me to conclude woefully. 

You see, in addition to holding a minor in Human Life Studies I'm also a trained crisis pregnancy counselor. In both of these capacities I have had to do in-depth study of artificial contraception, and I can say unequivocally that condoms do not in any way, shape, or form protect against std's. Even their protection against pregnancy is chancy. I mean when you put a piece of latex up against the greatest force of nature, I'm gonna bet on nature.

One of my biggest pet peeves is feeling as though I am better informed than someone who should be better informed than I. While I would have hoped that a female doctor committed to natural remedies would be slightly more knowledgeable as to women's health and the devastation of artificial birth control, in our current society, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. 

We have become a contraceptive society, as evidenced by the ongoing religious freedom debacle centering on artificial birth control. So addicted is our culture to contraception that the idea of not being freely provided with it is greeted with shock and horror. In this cultural climate it becomes the responsibility of every woman first to educate herself as to these issues and then to share that education with those who remain ignorant, even physicians. When women step to the fore of this debate and demand better for themselves, our culture will have taken the first step to becoming a culture of life.

Topics: Abortion , Church teaching , Contraception , Culture , Dating , Feminism , Single years , Women's Health , Young Women

Clare Hinshaw is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Catechetics with minors in Theology and Human Life Studies. She served as the president of the student chapter of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights at Kellenberg Memorial High School on Long Island. At Franciscan University she served as the vice president of the College Republicans and was trained as a pro-life sidewalk counselor.

View all articles by Clare Hinshaw

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