By Marilyn Bergeron
Most of us would agree that abortion is an integral part of the Culture of Death. Many would guess, without really understanding why, that chastity belongs to the Culture of Life. But what about contraception? Do we even have to choose? Isn't it a very personal decision that is basically value-neutral? Let's think this through.
Why are we so sure that abortion belongs to the Culture of Death? Abortion takes the life of an unborn baby and kills the conscience of the mother and of society. Pro-lifers have been saying that for years. But why is taking the life of an unborn child so wrong? Most of us would answer that this life is not ours to take, it was created by God in His image and likeness and that destroying it is a grave insult to God and against His Commandments. There are many reasons why woman make the choice for abortion: fear and panic, age, timing, marital state, finances, pressure from partners and parents, and sometimes simply lack of knowledge of the alternatives. Even though we can sympathize with the difficulties women may face, as pro-lifers we believe that these are not acceptable reasons, that there are no acceptable reasons.
We see chastity as a positive thing that will reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy and, as a result, abortion. While that is true, it is based on a very limited understanding of what this virtue really means. Chastity is an expression of real love, wanting the best for the other person and striving to be good and holy in our relationships. It is a freely made decision to use sexual self-control out of respect for oneself, one's partner and God's plan for our lives. Chastity bears good fruit. It brings people freedom from all the consequences of sex outside of marriage, it helps them grow and develop as individuals and it leads to better relationships. It is also according to God's will. In fact, God felt so strongly about the appropriate use of His gift of sexuality, that He made it the topic of two of the Ten Commandments. The first clearly condemns adultery and by extension, physical sexual activity outside of marriage. The second goes much further. God tells us not even to lust after someone, not even to dream about, sexual activity outside His design for its use. Honestly, how many of us ever think about God's design for sex? The younger members of society were raised to think only of sexual freedom and pleasure, certainly not God's will for their lives. The older generation were raised in an era where the word sex was rarely mentioned in polite company. All they were told was, "Don't do it until you are married". But what about in marriage? Are there really any restrictions? Most certainly. Obvious to most people would be sexual abuse or unreasonable sexual demands of one partner on the other. Even when mutually consented to, degrading or weird activities won't enhance any relationship. Pornography, covered by that second commandment on sex, sets unrealistic expectations for behaviour that can put a great strain on a marriage. It brings images of other relationships into the marriage bed as do memories of sexual encounters before marriage. Clearly this is not God's plan.
There are two natural consequences of sexual involvement which help clarify God's will in terms of our sexual natures. The first is bonding. Whether or not we believe in God, whether or not we are in a permanent relationship, whether or not we want it to happen, a chemical is released in a woman's brain when she become sexually aroused. It is the same chemical that is released on lactation after the birth of a baby, the substance that binds mothers to their squalling, red-faced babies to such a degree that we would die for them. This bond that forms during sexual activity is what causes the great pain when people, young or old, end sexual relationships. It wasn't meant to be broken. What this tells us is that the gift of our sexuality has a place in strengthening and developing the relationship between a husband and wife. It is sometimes referred to as the unitive action of sex. It makes sense then that it is to be used with respect in the permanence of marriage where we can give ourselves totally to our partner in love.
The second natural consequence of sexual activity is babies. Any pregnant teenager can tell us that despite sometimes concerted efforts to avoid pregnancy, nature will often win out. Without deliberate action to prevent it, pregnancy will occur quite regularly in any group of couples. Why do women ( couples) use contraception to prevent pregnancy? The reasons, - fear, age, timing, marital state, finances, pressure from partners and parents, and sometimes simply lack of knowledge of the alternatives, are exactly the same as for abortion. That should sound an alarm in itself. The fact that Planned Parenthood, the strongest advocate and largest performer of abortions in the world, was originally called The National Birth Control League should sound an even louder alarm. Their founder, Margaret Sanger despised our God, loathed large Christian families and advocated widespread use of contraceptives as a way of controlling population. Much of society, due in large part to her efforts, views children as a burden, a nuisance, an interruption in our lives, a drain on our finances and a sapping of our strength. Contraception cannot lead to life. It cannot be life-giving by its very nature even when used in marriage relationships where couples want children - later.
Birth control was always seen as immoral in the past. Until 1930 there was no division of Christian teaching against abortion, sterilization and contraception. In 1930, the Anglican Lambeth Conference voted to allow very limited use of birth control in difficult circumstances within a marriage. This change in policy raised an outcry from religious leaders of every major denomination. Dr. Walter Maier of the Lutheran Church called birth control "one of the most repugnant of modern aberrations, representing a 20th century renewal of pagan bankruptcy." Bishop Warren Chandler of the Methodist Church South stated "The whole disgusting movement rests on the assumption of man's sameness with the brutes ..." The Catholic Church through Pope Pius XI explained that when "the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life, it is an offence against the law of God and of nature ..."
Babies are a natural consequence of sexual intercourse - God's gift of life. We partner with God to create new life - we can't do it on our own. God didn't stop creating on the 6th day - He continues to create with us. When we give ourselves totally to each other in marital love, God is present. He breathes the soul into that unique person. This is His plan for creation - families being created out of love - His love together with our love. Artificial contraception blocks God out - we re-route around God. We tell Him He can't take part tonight. And not only does it block God out, when we use chemicals, or mechanical devices or rubber, we are telling our spouse that we want to engage in this wonderful act of self-giving love, that we want to share our lives completely - except for our fertility. God is a realist - He gave us that bond to keep us together when times get tough. He knew it wasn't going to be easy. He gave us natural periods of infertility where we can build on the unitive aspect of the marital act. He gave us a way to work within His system when we feel we can't cope - using these fertile and infertile times He built into our reproductive systems. But He wants to be there ready to perform His most creative act when the time is right for Him.
Many adults don't even realize what they're missing in terms of a possible relationship with their spouse. They sense an emptiness in the sex act without understanding why. Women sometimes feel used by their husbands when they are available for sex any time, thanks to contraception. Couples look for new ideas to spice up their love-life without realizing that these barriers they have set up between them may be the root of the problem. They are not using this gift according to God's will.
It is difficult to change a mind-set. Many good, God-fearing couples use contraceptives because they simply don't understand or perhaps have never even thought about the ramifications of contraceptives within the marriage relationship. This is what our culture has taught us. But as pro-lifers we need to face reality and think long and hard about our position on this issue. Contraception is not life-giving. It belongs to the Culture of Death. We will not win the battle on abortion until we take our foot out of Satan's camp.
Marilyn Bergeron is coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Chastity, and may be reached at 7 Albert St., Cornwall, Ont., K6H 6M4 tel. (613) 938-8371.