Two stories were brought to my attention yesterday and they seem to fit together like a glove.
The first comes our way via MercatorNet:
At Shippensburg University, female students who hook-up for drunken sex on Saturday will find it easy to dispose of just-conceived babies on Monday or Tuesday. A quick trip to the vending machine is all it takes.
Easy. Kind of like buying a bag of Doritos.
Women who wake up in unfamiliar beds or sober up and wonder, “What were you thinking, girl?” needn’t worry much. Stride across campus, past the dining hall (grab a doughnut for later), and into the University Health Center. Flash a student ID and head to the vending machine in the “self-help” area. There, next to the cough drops and Mucinex, in discreet, feminine packaging, is Plan B One Step. No questions asked. Feed the bills into the slot, grab and go. Empowered with “choices,” these women pop the package blister, swallow the pill, and breathe easy.
Problem solved. Glad that’s over.
Only it’s really not.
Billed as “emergency contraception,” according to the package insert, Plan B inhibits ovulation and thus prevents conception. But it also alters the lining of the uterus, preventing a newly conceived child from implanting in its mother’s womb. Without implantation, that tiny human being cannot draw nourishment and will die. (Occasionally, Plan B fails and the pregnancy continues.)
In most cases, however, Plan B succeeds.
But “success” is not pretty. Our Shippensburg student will have a one-in-three chance of heavy bleeding. And 13% of women who take Plan B One Step end up curled up in bed with nausea, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Worse, nearly one in ten women who use emergency contraception (compared to 2% of pregnancies in the general population) develop severe abdominal pain and require emergency treatment for an ectopic pregnancy.
But no worries, this is a private decision between a woman and her vending machine.
And none of our business. That's the mantra. What a woman does to her body is no one's business but her own.
That mindset forms the basis of the notion seeking to paint anyone opposed to contraception as religious loons attempting to subjugate women and deny them their rights.
Which brings us to the second piece I came across, a piece that I find hopeful and helpful. Hopeful in that Jennifer Fulwiler is strongly suggesting we may've turned a corner... and helpful in that she includes detail that sheds light on a subject many of us are quite ignorant about:
A couple of weeks ago, our priest gave a homily about contraception. While speaking about the Health and Human Services mandate, our associate pastor, Fr. Jonathan Raia, made a few allusions to the fact that the Church believes that contraception is bad. There were over a thousand people packed into the building, and a slight but noticeable tension developed as he inched closer and closer to the subject. This most controversial of Catholic teachings had been splashed all over the news in recent days, ridiculed and denounced throughout popular culture, and the question hung in the air: “Is he going to go there?”
You can hear the whole homily on our parish website here. In the second half of his talk, he gently but unflinchingly explained that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is wrong. He gave a bit of background about the reasoning behind this stance, cleared up some common misconceptions, and pointed people to resources where they could find out more about methods of Natural Family Planning. As he spoke, the thought came to mind:
I think we’re finally ready for this.
In the seven years that I’ve been going to Catholic churches, I’d never heard a priest speak so directly about the Church’s teaching in this area—and I can understand why. For decades our culture has perceived contraception as being akin to air or water: a universally good resource with no downside. Only an institution with the most nefarious motives would oppose everyone incorporating this invaluable blessing into their lives, the thinking went. And so I’m guessing that many of our priests felt like the misunderstanding on this topic was so deep and so widespread that they’d need hours of speaking time to even begin to address it properly, and thus avoided it in homilies. (I’ve seen quite a few parishes, for example, where it may not be preached from the pulpit, but parishioners are encouraged to get involved in marriage and family ministries, where the issue is discussed in a more interactive, personal setting.)
But things are changing now. Just as the tide has turned on the issue of abortion, I see it turning with contraception too. Even non-Catholic publications are conceding that that the Church may not be totally crazy when it says that artificial birth control is neither good for the individual nor for society. More and more couples are realizing that contraception does not make marriage easier; they’re coming to see that, while Natural Family Planning has its challenges, the grass is just as complicated on the other side. After forty years of collective experience, it is dawning on people that contraception does not give women freedom over their bodies. Rather, it takes it away, as we see when we consider the data that over half of women who seek abortions were using contraception at the time they conceived. And while it may or may not be true that 98 percent of people sitting in the pews at Mass use contraception, I’m willing to bet that 98 percent of them also know someone who has ended up in an abortion clinic because of failed contraception.
The society-wide experiment of artificially severing the sexual act from its life-giving potential has been going on for four decades now, and people have had time to see that it’s not the cure-all solution they were told it would be. The tension is building as more and more men and women are disappointed by the “solution” of contraception, and the time is ripe for the message that there’s another way. I’m not naive enough to think that one homily would be enough to inspire everyone in the pews to throw out their birth control pills the moment they get home; but I do think it could get them to consider it.
Do yourself a favor. Take the few minutes it takes to listen to the sermon. Listen to it with the vending machine story as backdrop. Listen to it while understanding the impact on society that vending machine story is telling.
Listen to it and pass it on.
It's unabashed truth presented well... and hopefully, effectively.