Thursday, January 15, 2009

The true cost of the contraceptive culture.

(This is the second article that appeared in the Southern Cross. Editor)

When the Pill was first introduced in the sixties it was believed that it would be of great benefit to women. Over forty years later we know better. The Pill (along with other forms of hormonal contraception) has harmed women: it has paved the road for abortion on demand, it has harmed women physically and it has created a sexually charged society.
In the US the "privacy" doctrine that underlies Roe vs Wade was established in previous Supreme Court decisions which struck down State bans on contraception. Where contraception leads abortion inevitably follows and when it does women suffer. On a world wide basis abortion discriminates against women. In China if you are unfortunate enough to be a baby girl you stand a good chance of receiving a lethal injection into the fontanel as soon as your head clears the birth canal - simply because you are a female in a country in which a one-child policy operates and boys are more highly valued than girls. In China and India the ultra-sound has become women’s worst enemy. As soon as a couple wanting a boy finds out that their baby is a girl she is aborted.
From the very beginning the Pill has been dogged by sexism. The first clinical trials were conducted in Puerto Rico. Three women died. The conclusion: change the dosages. When the first study of a Male Pill was conducted one of the test subjects experienced some slight shrinkage of his testicles. That study was abandoned. No viable form of Male Pill has ever been developed. The risks are no doubt considered too extreme.
And from that very first study until to-day women have been dying. Dosages have been changed in order to lower the risks of heart attack, blood clots, stroke and liver tumours. But risks remain and when you consider that this is a medication is taken by millions of women even low risk percentages become significant. In addition, as the contraceptive culture gets more entrenched and women use hormonal birth control from a younger age and for greater duration new risks emerge.
Studies that have focused on younger women are now revealing a link between hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer. Commenting on his 2006 study in the journal "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" Dr. C Kalhenborn stated that in "21 out of 23 retrospective studies done since 1980 ... women who took oral contraceptives prior to the birth of their first child sustained a 44% average increased risk of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer. This risk rose to 52% for women who took the Pill for at least four years prior to the birth of their first child." To-day the Pill is often given to young girls to help control acne and painful periods, to say nothing of the sexually active teens who are on the Pill.
Why is it that so few people are aware of these risk factors? Medical practitioners and many feminists understand the risks associated with hormonal and other forms of contraception. These forms of contraception are acceptable to them because they argue that the associated risks are less than the health risks of a pregnancy. This is equivalent to a doctor saying "You have a splinter in your finger. Splinters in fingers can cause infection and perhaps death, so we have to cut off you finger." The question you would ask is "Can’t we just remove the splinter". Basically you’re asking "is there an alternative, less radical treatment?".
In the field of birth control Natural Familiy Planning is that less radical treatment. We should be comparing the total health effects of hormonal contraceptives with the total health effects of natural family planning.
The reason that most liberal feminists do not want to make this comparison is that natural family planning has one ‘drawback’. A moral component that is at odds with their moral not medical worldview. Natural family planning is not the method of birth control for ‘singles bar’ pick-up sex. It is not taken seriously because it conflicts with the "Sex and the City" lifestyle so dear to liberal feminism.
From the teenage girl who attempts suicide because she was "used" to the women venting their rage against unfaithful men on the internet, it is clear that this lifestyle is not working for women. Something is broken but few people really understand the reason. It is artificial contraception that allows us to break the link between sex and children and marriage. When that link is broken sex loses its context and when that happens, it is women who bear the immediate and most serious consequences of that break.
Adultery, divorce, pornography, child pornography, prostitution, the exploitation of women by the media, the early sexualisation of girls are just a few examples of what happens in a male-dominated society when sexual pleasure is divorced from marriage and children.
In addition, the use of artifical contraception of all types has harmed the faith life of Catholic women. The Church’s teaching is clear, artificial contraception is wrong. Many bishops and priests are quite happy not to present the Church’s teaching and to leave women in a moral limbo. They should not be surprised when especially young women desert the Church. These bishops and priests have by their cowardice first deserted these women to a sexist and exploitative society. .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What is Signum and does orthopraxis involve braces?

Signum is a newly created Catholic communications company that is currently focussing on producing short, affordable booklets on issues of importance to Catholics.

The purpose of the Signum blog is to provide Signum readers with additional information on topics covered in our booklets as well as to give Signum authors the opportunity to comment on a range of Catholic issues.

Orthopraxis does not require braces. Just as orthodoxy has to do with correct doctrine and orthodontics has to do with correctly aligned teeth, orthopraxis deals with the correct practice of the liturgy. Specifically in our case, assisting the widespread resurrection of the Traditional Latin Mass. We also aim to support Benedict XVI's attempts to reform the New Mass (especially the manner it is celebrated in many parishes) to better reflect the liturgical heritage of the Church.

Another aim is to make it easier for Catholics to live a life that is in accord with the moral teachings of the Church. The problem is not so much that we all are sinners in need of God's mercy but to-day within the Church we have many Catholics who publically reject the Church's teaching. This not only has a bad effect on Catholics but a terrible effect on society. Society does not take the Catholic Church seriously because Catholics do not take their Church seriously enough to follow Her teachings.

There is a positive side to this problem. As the old saying goes "we cannot break God's Law, only break ourselves (or our society against) God's Law". After forty years of widespread rejection of Church teaching the personal and social consequences are there for all to see. As Catholics we no longer have to prophesy, we merely have to record and inform.

Michelle Pedra's article caused a stir when it first appeared in the Southern Cross. It illustrated that Catholic women were harming themselves by not following the Church's teaching on contraception and that the Catholic Church was anything but misogynist and behind the times, but really at the fore front of fighting for the dignity of women.

This article is the first in a series of four (two are still to be printed in the Southern Cross). When all four of Michelle's article have appeared we hope to re-print them as a Signum booklet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Women taking control, naturally.

"Patriarchal", "Sexist". Those are the terms that you think most feminists would use when describing the Catholic Church. After all it is an organisation headed exclusively by men, only men can be priests, only men can be bishops, only a man can be Pope. But ironically a few feminists are coming to realise that in the Catholic Church women have their greatest ally.

In the fundamental area of reproductive health and fertility they are coming to see that the Catholic Church is right; that Her policies which seemed out of step with the times and repressive are in fact the reverse – ahead of their times and liberating; and that it is the modern contraceptive culture that is really repressing women.

It is only the Catholic Church that does not see women’s fertility as something that must be cut out, tied up or treated with long-term medication as if it was a disease. It accepts women as a creation of God and seeks to work with women’s nature rather than against it (as it equally seeks to work with men’s nature rather than against it).

This is the very opposite of artificial contraception - or what is euphemistically called Birth Control. Inasmuch as it is control, it is rather the kind of control that is repression, namely the repression of a natural process within a woman’s body. We should therefore not be surprised when we discover that this kind of "control" has all sorts of negative side effects. Let us imagine that for one minute women could convince men that they should receive medical treatment to stop urinating. How soon before some serious side-effects started showing up?
This repression of a natural function is what tens of millions of women are doing when they use artificial contraception.

But it doesn’t stop there, most women have precious little knowledge about contraception. How many women are aware of the side effects of the Pill? How many know that the IUD (intra-uterine device) can cause early abortion? How many women know that taking the Pill has been associated with increased incidence of breast cancer in those who take the Pill before a first full-term pregnancy, with an increased risk of stroke, blood clots in the lung and cervical cancer? Of course all medicines have side effects, but these are perfectly healthy women who do not need to be on these medications. Along with these life-threatening side effects significant numbers of women on the Pill also experience migraine headaches, loss of libido, moodiness and weight gain. Nutritional expert Patrick Holford advises women seeking to lose weight not to take hormonal contraceptives.

The most pernicious form of repression is that most women do not know that there is a safe, non-surgical and highly effective alternative to artificial contraception. A recent study conducted in Germany and published in the leading European reproductive health journal, "Human Reproduction Today" shows that the pregnancy rate for women who used the Sympto-thermal method (STM– a modern form of natural family planning] correctly was 0.4%. That is one pregnancy a year for every 250 women. The Pill has a pregnancy rate of around 0.5%, which makes the Pill less effective than the Sympto-Thermal Method. Even a radical method such as sterilisation for either men or women has a 0.5 % pregnancy rate. So people who claim that they are using artificial contraception because to have another child would endanger their lives would be better off using a natural form of birth control.

Natural family planning is so successful because it focuses on finding out exactly when a woman is fertile. A woman’s chances of falling pregnant are a lot lower than one would normally think. The prime reason for this is that once a woman releases an egg (the ovum) each month, at ovulation, that egg only survives for twenty-four hours. If conception is to occur the sperm (which can survive for a few days within a woman’s body) has to come into contact with the egg within that time or it cannot be fertilised.

The female body gives a number of signs that indicate that ovulation is about to occur or that ovulation has occurred. Natural family planning works by observing these signs and interpreting them. If a pregnancy needs to be avoided the couple simply refrains from engaging in intercourse during this period. As medical research has shown, this can be done with a high degree of reliability.

Is there then any medical reason why Catholic women should choose not to follow the teachings of the Church? When I put this question to leading fertility awareness researcher and trainer, Dr. Heinz Wirz he answered "There is no medically justifiable reason for using artificial contraception."

The challenge is for Catholic women (and their partners) to become fully informed and to insist upon being informed about all of the aspects of contraception and for them rather to take control of their fertility naturally.