Jennifer Fulwiler, answers a reader who thinks that the Church should allow contraception for married couples in difficult situations.
I had my own crisis along these lines when I found out while I was expecting my second child that I have a serious blood clotting disorder that, among other things, requires that I take an FDA Category X drug for extended periods after each baby is born. It is of critical importance that you not conceive while on this drug; it’s so prone to causing grave birth defects that many women choose to get sterilized before taking it. Many people I knew were appalled when they heard that the Church’s doctrines had no exceptions on contraception use for situations like mine.
For a while, I was troubled by this. At first it did strike me as unsympathetic and unfair. Like the women who wrote in about HIV-positive children and avoiding pregnancy after severe PPD, I wondered: Why doesn’t the Church make exceptions for those cases where pregnancy or STD prevention is critically important?
Then a wise Catholic friend offered me an explanation that was startling in its simplicity: No contraceptive method is 100% effective. If it’s really super-duper extra triple important that you not conceive a child (or contract an STD), then why would you even want to sign yourself up for a situation where there was a risk of it happening?
The effectiveness rates for contraception based on actual use are not impressive. Commonly accepted one-year failure rates are: 2.4% for the Pill, 4.6% for the intrauterine device, 9.6% for condoms, 17.9% for spermicides, and 18.6% for diaphragms. In the case of HIV prevention specifically, the Journal of the American Medical Association says: “Condoms have a substantial failure rate for AIDS transmission. The risk of fatal infection is quantifiably significant. Among heterosexual couples studied using condoms in which one partner was infected, 30 percent became infected within the year.”
When you consider these statistics, it’s clear that contraception is not the panacea it seems to be. In fact, especially in the cases where it’s of the highest importance that pregnancy or STD transmission not occur, contraception should not even be an option on the table, regardless of your religious views.
Read the whole post here.