Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The ten percent solution

What could I say that I, like many other Catholic writers, haven’t said before? That artificial contraception actually encourages poor decision-making, inflating the numbers of unintended pregnancies? Nope; checked that box. That condoms provide little protection against most STDs, which risk-compensation behavior functionally negates? Nope; been there, said that.

Even the news that HHS is rushing the implementation so college students can take advantage of free services during the fall 2011 semester doesn’t increase the outrage. Proof that the Administration tramples on the conscience rights of Catholic colleges? So sorry, already shown in the case of Belmont Abbey College a year and a half ago. You really don’t have to look very hard to find proof that the Obama Administration cares not a whit for rights of conscience where contraception and abortion are concerned.

Catholic pro-life writers have known for some time that contraception feeds the abortion mills. It’s hard not to conclude that the HHS ruling signals a massive investment by the Obama Administration in the Great Western Atrocity … yet what else is new? We’re talking about a president who said he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as it landed on his desk (fortunately, as many predicted, it died in committee). Sigh. Yawn.

For most of the last fifty years, the Catholic Church hierarchy has waged a lone and lonesome battle against the advance of the contraception myth. A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute — if you can believe those puppets of the National Abortion Rights Action League — tells us how badly the Church has lost: Around 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used proscribed contraceptive methods. As David Cruz-Uribe has written, even if you fault Guttmacher’s methodology, “…these results are in agreement with previous survey data and much anecdotal evidence.”

Nancy Northrup writes almost gleefully in CBSNews.com:

To listen to the hysteria, you would think that coverage for birth control is divisive. It’s not. Most plans already cover it, and a majority of states — 28, to be precise — require it be covered by insurance. Virtually all women — 99% — have used birth control, and religious adherents, even Catholics and Evangelicals, use birth control at the same rate as the general population. (Ninety-eight percent of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control; the rate is even higher among Evangelicals.) In addition, government insurance plans currently cover contraception, albeit with copays.

As for the Church? Northrup joyfully reaches for a couple of handfuls of mud:

Yet this common-sense, evidence-based approach is under attack. Not only by the hyperbolic antics of television’s talking heads, but also the misleading statements of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Its public statements repeatedly and deliberately conflate contraception with abortion, which is beyond the scope of IOM’s recommendations. [Not very far, as the IOM admitted they wanted to recommend no-copay abortion provisions.]
The all-male minority and avowed celibate Bishops want a heckler’s veto over the entire American healthcare system, including preventive services for women. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman, has argued for an exception to allow religious insurers to operate under a different, special set of rules. Never mind that Catholics need and use birth control just like everyone else, and that a special rule for some insurers would deny coverage to many non-believers who happen to work for religiously-affiliated hospitals or schools.

As I tire of saying, the problem’s not access; the relatively few women who can’t afford birth control aren’t solely responsible for all the unplanned pregnancies. Even when birth control is practiced perfectly — this table shows the difference in failure rates between perfect practice and typical practice — the risk of pregnancy isn’t even virtually eliminated; it’s still there.

When surveyed on why they had children, 51 percent of women responded to Pew: “It wasn’t a decision; it just happened.” In other words, The Pill may have thwarted nature but it did not repeal human nature. Unlike The Pill, which performs close to perfection in laboratory studies, people living in the real world remained imperfect, prone to temptation, and sometimes unable to weigh instant gratification with long-term consequences. And even the champions of contraception admit shortcomings. According to the Planned Parenthood spinoff, the Guttmacher Institute, “Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant.”

Ashley McGuire recently wrote, “The whole Catholic approach to NFP needs a massive overhaul. It simply isn’t working.” But it fails not, as she contends, because the packaging isn’t sexy enough. Rather, there simply aren’t enough Christians committed to attacking the contraception myth; a recent study by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic shows that an opposing position needs at least 10% of the population committed to changing people’s minds.

Where she is right:

The theological component is crucial. But to get the theology, first we’ve got to get women in the room. Pique their interest. Hint that you offer something different from the libido-reducing, unknown side-effect-causing, hook-up facilitating stuff everyone else is selling. Because the dirty little secret is, women are sick of all that. They are hungry for something different. They are hungry for what is hiding beneath clunky websites, stuffy classrooms, mucus refrains, and baggy pastels.

For a pro-life, pro-family society to spring up, it isn’t enough that we be anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage, as I’ve said before. It’s also not enough that the Catholic Church be against contraception; in the last ten years, the Church has lost a lot of what little moral influence it had on sexual matters.

When you can’t even get your own members to practice chastity and continence, you’re in bad shape.

We need to get our ten percent going … quickly. Otherwise, we might just as well stop talking altogether, because no one is listening anymore.