Monday, June 16, 2008

Today's rant

A while back, The Onion rain the headline "Christian Science Pharmacist Refuses to Fill Any Prescription."

(No, the story isn't true. In my experience, today's Christian Scientists generally lack that certain religious zeal that drives people to force their beliefs on individuals outside their immediate families.)

You may not be surprised to learn that I have little sympathy with pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, tell customers where the condom aisle is, or dispense Plan B. I agree that these individuals have the right to oppose contraception but, dude, if you oppose some of the most commonly prescribed medicines, maybe you should pursue a different career.

I'm not asking them to do anything I wouldn't do. For example, it has crossed my mind once or twice to become a police officer. But I'm a pacifist and therefore wouldn't be willing to shoot someone or use bodily force in situations where protocol might deem it necessary. Therefore, I consider it a no-brainer that a career as a police officer is not for me. I'm not going to go to police academy and just "forget" to mention my position of conscience. Same for signing up for the military -- it would be, plainly put, stupid.

This article in The Washington Post talks about a "pro-life" pharmacy opening in Chantilly, Virginia, that will not offer any form of contraception. (The "pro-life" is in quotes because pregnancy and childbirth carry a much higher risk of death to woman and fetus than contraception does. No, unlike some of the pharmacists quoted in the article, I don't subscribe to the position that refusing to facilitate the creation of a life is the same thing as ending an existing life.)

The article also mentions a "pro-life" ob/gyn clinic that offers no services involving hormonal birth control, barrier methods, or sterilization. It is generous enough to offer "natural family planning," since it's consistent with the Catholic Church's teachings. But I'm wondering if any of you have ever been confused by the Church's position on natural family planning. I certainly have. The point, after all, of natural family planning is to PREVENT CONCEPTION. So why, exactly, is it okay, when other methods of preventing conception are not?


Anonymous said...

Great question, and it's one that confused me as well. What I've come to find out is that the Church's teaching is rooted in protecting the meaning of marital love. God meant for sex to be a complete gift of husband to wife and vice versa. Complete gift. Nothing held back. No asking your spouse to change something about themselves (like their inherent fertility) before you will have marital relations with them...which explains why the Church doesn't like contraceptives. The Church considers contraceptive sex to be a lie...a dishonest communication that can harm the integrity of a marriage relationship. It's like saying, "Yeah, I vowed to love you for better or worse, but I really didn't mean it because I don't want your fertility at the moment."

The Church approves of natural family planning because it involves total acceptance of each other, as they are, created by God. It better reflects what marriage is supposed to mean.

If a couple decides that the time isn't right for a baby, those who use natural family planning save relations for the infertile times of the woman's cycle. At these times, the abstinence is their chosen way of showing their complete love to each other. Couples who have switched from contraception to NFP often talk about experiencing a deeper respect for each other because they feel more accepted and loved, and their spouse is willing to sacrifice for them.

Kiapita said...

I wonder if part of that joy of switching from contraception to NFP is rooted in physical and hormonal changes surrounding sex. Barrier methods and spermicides obviously create a different physical experience than if they are absent, while hormonal methods can kill a woman's sex drive, change her sexual response, or make her depressed. Perhaps they simply feel more accepted and loved because they physically enjoy sex more when they're not using contraception. I feel better when I'm on my bike, and while I would like to attribute all of that to some spiritual cause, a large part of it is doubtless physical.

I have no beef with NFP for people for whom having a child would be inconvenient but welcome. But I don't think it's appropriate for people who absolutely do not want to or should not create other humans, for whatever reason. If a woman has lupus or diabetes or some other condition that is far more likely to kill her when she is pregnant than when she is not, or if she is on a medication that she needs to keep her alive but that would abort a pregnancy or poison a fetus, is her husband's only way of showing love for her to abstain from sex with her all the time, since even people who are adept at reading fertility signs can make errors, and illness can screw with the menstrual cycle? I think not.