Discover more from Brave New Us: Catholic Bioethics
Q&A: Should the Church Allow Abortifacient Contraceptives for ‘Medical Reasons’?
June Reader Q&A + Link Roundup + Reading Recs for Pride Month
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June Reader Q&A
Q: What's your perspective on the Church's allowing hormonal contraceptives for women (even married) who need it for medical reasons, despite its being an abortifacient?
A reader asked this question via Twitter in response to last month’s post explaining the universal abortifacient effects of hormonal contraceptives.
The suffering women experience is real and should not be minimized. Conditions like endometriosis, heavy bleeding, and PMDD can and should be addressed medically. At the same time, researchers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies have largely failed these women. Rather than providing treatments that address the underlying health issues that cause problematic symptoms, the medical establishment has relied on hormonal contraceptives as a panacea for an alarming number of women’s health issues. Many doctors themselves know of no other “treatments” to offer women. A pervasive over-reliance on hormonal contraceptives to mask symptoms perpetuates the problem.
Thankfully, there are doctors interested in addressing root causes and finding solutions. NaPro technology uses the Creighton system of fertility awareness to provide genuine healing the arena of women’s health. Healing rather than masking these issues often does more than alleviate symptoms. Many of these symptom-causing ailments also contribute to infertility. Healing them resolves infertility as well. In fact, NaPro is over 80% effective, with costs covered by most insurance companies. Compared to IVF’s success rate of 30% at $12,000 a cycle, choosing NaPro for infertility should be a no-brainer.
When it comes to finding relief from problematic symptoms, there is no moral barrier to single, abstinent women using hormonal contraceptives for symptom relief. I would still discourage it, however, because I genuinely believe there are better options. Instead, I encourage women to seek out a NaPro-trained doctor (Dr. Ruberu and Dr. Stigen are physicians I know personally and can recommend) who can prescribe treatments to actually heal the root cause of the problem. I also caution women to inform themselves about the risks of hormonal contraceptives, which are not negligible, and can be serious — even life-threatening (ask me how I know, or read about it in Chapter 4 of Reclaiming Motherhood from a Culture Gone Mad).
Our reader’s question really applies only to the use of hormonal contraceptives within marriage, in which there is a possibility that these medications will act as abortifacient should conception occur. In Life Issues, Medical Choices: Questions and Answers for Catholics, Drs. Christopher Kaczor and Janet Smith suggest “perhaps the level of risk is acceptable.” They encourage women to discern that with their husbands and doctors (and I would add a priest).
Not being a NaPro trained physician myself, I cannot speak to the question of whether there are actually medical symptoms for which there is truly no other option for seeking relief. I will say that I am skeptical about the possibility of symptoms being so great as to warrant risking the life of one’s own child to the degree that hormonal contraceptives could possibly ameliorate them. But again, the scope of my knowledge on that remains limited to my own experience and research as a non-medical professional.
Speaking for myself: even after years of experiencing serious symptoms from endometriosis (and a laparoscopic surgery thanks to my NaPro surgeon), it’s not a level of risk I personally consider acceptable. In my case, the point is mostly moot; hormonal contraceptives are contraindicated for women with clotting conditions. Still, copper IUDs don’t carry the same risks for clotting but they are abortifacient, and my answer is the same: no, thank you.
Link Roundup: What’s new in bioethics?
Surrogacy is being used to outsource the inconveniences of pregnancy. Who could have seen that coming?
Just as researchers begin approving uterine transplants, an Indian doctor announces plans to offer the procedure for biological men for a “more complete” transition experience that would enable biological men to give birth.
Pride Month: A Booklist for Catholics
The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory by Abigail Favale (curiously unavailable at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, you can buy it straight from the publisher or find it at your local Catholic bookstore like I did)
When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement by Ryan T. Anderson (also unavailable at Amazon)
Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier