Contraceptivism

CNA has a story about overpopulation, and one economist who is skeptical of its dangers, on what I guess was yesterday’s “World Population Day.” The economist, Nicholas Eberstadt, had this line:

“To have a more balanced view of the situation, one has to be a bit more nuanced, and see how population change is affecting opportunities and constraints,” he added. “And you don’t get that with people who see it as a matter of secular faith that the instrumentality of dealing with changing human numbers is contraceptivism.” [emphasis added]

Question for the Gates Foundation: which of these people should the Pill have caused to never be born?

There are lots of “isms” these days; does the near-religious belief in the great benefits of the pill rise to this level? If nothing else, the sheer volume of true believers in contraception warrant the social movement having its own name. Other “isms” have their own name even though there are far fewer adherents. So can we identify some of the tenets of contraceptivism? A possible few come to mind (sorry if I’m repeating earlier posts). Contraceptivism believes that:

  1. Contraception has only benefits, no costs. The costs, of course, are numerous and span medical, spiritual, and psychological areas. But it certainly is effective at promoting…
  2. Unrestricted sexual activity is, or should be, a right with no moral component available to everyone beyond grade school. But because indulging in this right usually leads to side effects (nine months later), there must be universal access to contraception.
  3. Women will be empowered if they can behave more like the worst men. It is an odd thing that society would prefer its women to behave less honorably than its men to behave more honorably. Count the number of TV commercials for contraception vs. commercials imploring men to practice chastity.
  4. There are too many other people out there. Though the mantra is for personal choice and autonomy, millions of taxpayers have no choice but to fund contraceptive programs. The imperialist elitism is obvious, even though contraceptivists would likely balk at being called imperialist or elitist. But what else would you call it when rich Americans or Europeans want to impose their “religious” beliefs on others?
  5. All forms of contraception need to be protected by law.  This includes the obvious ones, but also abortion at any or all times. This, despite the fact that a growing number of Americans are against abortion, thanks lately to the Gosnell trial. (CMR notes that “Americans 2 to 1 Against Abortion After 20 Weeks”)

A main reason that a set of beliefs is labeled an “ism” is because the beliefs are flawed, philosophically or empirically. We know that racism violates natural law and that sexism is contrary to human dignity. (The economist in me wants to point out the empirical flaws of Marxism and socialism.) The beliefs of contraceptivism are clearly flawed as well, as Humanae Vitae showed.

A note to priests reading this: I frequently read that 1) it is difficult and possibly alienating to talk about contraception during a homily, and 2) people say “I’ve never heard a priest say one word about contraception.” This suggests, to me at least, that a well-defined aspect of church teaching that is relevant to virtually every married couple is being glossed over for marketing purposes. Further, most people probably don’t need an entire homily on contraception; a few words, including resources on Church teaching, will point people in the right direction.

Perhaps if enough Catholics educate themselves on the Church’s teaching on contraception and the dignity of the sexual act, and effectively evangelize their friends and family, contraceptivism will receive the same sort of public disdain that racism and sexism now receive.

1 Comment

  1. One problem is that in the past the teaching against contraception was often presented negatively, legalistically, and without explanation. I think many priests, especially priests of a certain age, don’t know how to talk about the contraception issue without being negative and legalistic. Most don’t want to do that and for good reason.

    But as Pope Benedict XVI said, “Christianity is not a collection of prohibitions: It’s a positive option.”

    The way to present the teaching is not as a list of things that couples can’t do, but as freedom from “contraceptivism”. Many couples feel an obligation to contracept. They are told by society that they can only have a few kids and that responsibility DEMANDS that they tightly control their fertility.

    Contraceptivism is about far more than a couple wanting pleasure without parenthood. (Indeed, the Pill lowers female libido and decreases male interest in said female.) Contraceptivism is the belief that fertility and the body, especially the female body, must be tightly and rigidly controlled for the “good of society”. Contraceptivism is a parody of the incarnation: Great virtue involves a woman sacrificing her body and risking her health to NOT be a mother. The dusty old apologetics that claim that couples are using contraception for hedonistic purposes are largely inaccurate, ineffective, and offensive.

    The Catholic message against contraceptivism is liberating, especially to women. Neither husbands nor wives have to put up with the side effects of contraception. You can have as many children as you want. You don’t have to tightly control your fertility. It’s OK to be parents.