Catholic Women's Group Lists The Reasons They Don't Use Birth Control, But Fail At Science And Logic

Want to talk about why you don't use contraceptives? Great. But don't make it into a value judgement on those who do.

Jul 25, 2014 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

You may have caught the Buzzfeed post last week featuring 22 employees talking about why they use birth control. (My personal favorite: Number Five.) It was posted in response to the Hobby Lobby decision, and now, a group of Catholic women, some of whom appear to be identifying as feminists, have posted their own response on Catholic Sistas, a group blog run by Catholic women who started in a women's group, and took it online.

Unfortunately, their list of reasons they don't use birth control is filled with slut-shaming commentary about women who do, with a side of serious judgement aimed at women who use birth control for any reason. 

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Obama feels pretty strongly about birth control.

Photo: Raymond Bryson, Flickr, Creative Commons. 

It's also loaded with bad science and incorrect information. In this case, multiple comments on the "Why we DON'T use Birth Control" post are, quite simply, wrong. Using or not using birth control -- for whatever reason -- is a personal choice. Lying to convince other people that they should feel ashamed of themselves, however, is disgusting. 

We recognize that these are our Catholic beliefs and we do not wish to force others to follow what we believe. We only wish to educate others on why we do not use birth control.

That's in the introduction, but if you're expecting a nice, balanced, thoughtful presentation of why these Catholic women choose not to use birth control, think again. Simply saying that birth control isn't consistent with their Catholic beliefs would be fine, and it's a statement that stresses the personal nature of their decision. 

That's not enough for these ladies, though. 

Hormones are sending women to CRAZYTOWN

“Because regularly shooting my body up with extra hormones would make it a lot harder to be a reasonable, thoughtful, and logical human being.”

Yes, because we all know that wimmin and their hormonez are just out of control, right? It's impossible for anyone to function when they're all steamed up on estrogen. How unbelievably sexist is this? Here are a bunch of women telling us they want to talk about female empowerment and women making their own decisions, and one of the first statements is an old, sexist canard about how women are naturally unreasonable?

Slut shaming

“Because immediate gratification without consequence is not the highest good...Because if I didn’t want to have a baby, I just wouldn’t have sex...Because I am responsible and make mindful decisions, accepting the consequences to every action I make.”

Because, look, you're taking birth control just because you want to have endless sex, you disgusting slut. And that's just not cool, because sex is for one thing and one thing only, and that is making babies. This point is repeated over and over again. If you're having recreational sex, you are a bad human being. 

Ah, the old "birth control is an abortifacient" argument 

“Because I don’t want to abort any of my babies, even if they are only a few days old.”

Haven't we gone over this before? Birth control works primarily by preventing fertilization, and in fact, there's some doubt about whether it can successfully prevent implantation. Even if you really do genuinely believe that a fertilized egg, implanted or not, is a human being, birth control doesn't allow eggs to become fertilized. By the way, on their own, 50% of fertilized eggs don't successfully implant. Of those that do, close to 1/3 miscarry. For people struggling to get pregnant, this is a tragedy, but these statistics reflect a simple reality: The uterus isn't a happy flowery meadow filled with unicorns for eggs. Even emergency contraception isn't an abortifacient

If you believe in your heart that a fertilized egg is morally equivalent to a human life because of your faith and moral teachings, I would hope that you can agree an unfertilized egg represents simply the potential for human life. Not allowing an egg to become fertilized is not at all equivalent to killing someone. 

Birth control is toxic, don't you know? 

“Because NaPro fixes my body instead of ignoring potential health threats like birth control does...Because I like my water without other people’s estrogen in it...Because the birth control pill is medically classified as a carcinogen!”

There are a couple of issues going on here. One is the marketing of some sort of dubious medical system, which makes this list start to feel more like an advertisement than a bunch of women talking about their own experiences. And then we get to the birth control in water myth, which has been hashed out a number of times. If you're worried about estrogens in the water supply, which you should be, because they can cause serious mutations in fish and other organisms, birth control isn't the point source you should be worried about, points out the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals

Bigger potential point sources are agriculture, where estrogenically-modified crops like soy are grown extensively, and animals are given estrogenic medications, along with the pharmaceutical industry, and landfills. Worried about drugs in the water? I don't blame you -- and many nations are taking action to improve water filtration and other measures to address the issue, because it's not just estrogenic compounds that are making their way into the water. Other hormone disruptors from plastics, industrial chemicals, and more are polluting waterways, The biggest offender is industry, not little old you with your pill pack. 

Is birth control a carcinogen? It appears to reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer risks appear to be slightly elevated in patients who use hormonal birth control. BUT, and this is a big but, researchers aren't willing to pin cancers on birth control. Breast cancer risk appears to drop down to normal level within ten years of discontinuation of contraceptive use, and cervical cancers may be caused by HPV, not birth control (assumption being that sexually active women are both more likely to request birth control, and more likely to be at risk of HPV). And the only liver tumors strongly linked with birth control are benign (still not great or anything I'd recommend, health-wise, but not the same thing as malignant cancers).

Using feminist language against women

“Because it perpetuates the objectification of women as worthless sexual objects, constantly at the disposal of men in our commodity driven culture...Because no one should control my reproductive health but me.”

So let's talk about this, because this is a serious issue. Anti-feminists are very adept at turning feminist language around. In this case, they're making it sound like birth control feeds into the culture of objectification -- but in doing so, they're effectively saying that women who use birth control are the ones doing this.

Disturbingly, other entries on the list talk about respecting husbands and use other language that is in fact strongly objectifying, suggesting that husbands own their wives or should have control over their bodies and lives. 

And the woman speaking about control over her reproductive health is absolutely right: So she should stop telling women who want to take control of their reproductive health in a different way that they're horrible people for choosing to use birth control. Everyone needs to make personal choices about the best option for her reproductive health, and birth control users aren't pushing birth control on those who choose not to use it. 

The rhythm method, like, totally works 

“Because of the NFP divorce rate stats (less than 2%)...Because Natural Family Planning DOES work.”

Actually, it's more like 5%, but that aside, this is an important demonstration of the fact that correlation is not causation. Natural family planning is not necessarily the causative factor in low divorce rates among couples who pursue this particular method of managing their reproductive health. Such couples are also, for example, usually deeply religious and part of a church community that discourages divorce and may actively encourage even struggling couples to work it out and find common ground. Their own religious values may play a role in decisions about the relationship, and other factors might need to be considered as well.

For those comfortable and secure in their marriages who love NFP, that's fantastic -- but it can be challenging, and it doesn't suit everyone.  

But it's unnatural!

“Because my fertility shouldn’t be treated like a disease and medicated away...Because I accept my body the way it is.”

Another case of language being used against the movement it came from -- in this case, the language of body acceptance and empowerment.

For women who feel more deeply connected with themselves through their fertility, then absolutely, birth control would interfere with their relationship with their bodies. But not everyone feels that way. Some people are stressed out and unhappy about their fertility, or want to manage other health conditions for which birth control is the generally prescribed treatment. 

Issues like acne, for example, which can often be managed very well with birth control (and are another example of something "natural" the body does that people seek treatment for because it causes distress and discomfort -- just as many women request treatment for hirsutism and a variety of other conditions cosmetic and otherwise). 

For those who love and accept their bodies just as they are, that is fantastic, but the shame-framing of this whole article makes it sound like other women who are equally comfortable in their bodies and accepting, though in different ways, are doing it wrong and should be ashamed of themselves. A women who chooses birth control to manage her fertility because she doesn't want to get pregnant isn't rejecting her body or refusing to go with the flow, so to speak: She's doing what's right for her, and her body. 

Ultimately, no one should feel pressured into using birth control if it's not right for her, for whatever reason. Conversely, though, women who do use birth control shouldn't be coerced or shamed out of doing it, which is exactly what these women are trying to do. Want to talk about why you don't use contraceptives? Great. But don't make it into a value judgement on those who do.