Birth control decision not so simple

As most of you know, I’m Catholic. I’m not only a parishioner but an employee, so what I’m about to write might get me in trouble, but I woke up this morning knowing I needed to say something.

Basically what I want to say is that too many people and too many institutions, especially churches, don’t even try to understand that some people who would like to have children do not have them, for various reasons, and that our lives do not fit into their neat little boxes. And that it hurts.

Tucked into last week’s church bulletin was a handout about the evils and dangers of birth control. It discusses the physical risks of oral contraceptives, contraceptive patches and IUDs: cancer, blood clots, heart attacks, septic shock . . . scary stuff. Plus, the handout, produced by the U.S. Conference of Bishops (all men), says these methods are actually forms of abortion because they kill the embryo before implantation in the uterus. It doesn’t mention “barrier methods,” such as condoms and diaphragms, but those are also forbidden.

The bishops blame “the pill” for women having sex outside of marriage, out-of-wedlock births, and single mothers living in poverty.

In contrast to these horrors, they offer the “fertility awareness” method, whereby couples abstain from sex when the woman is most fertile. This, of course, takes total cooperation by two horny people and assumes the woman has regular, predictable cycles. As I mention in my Childless by Marriage book, one of my friends named her “surprise” son after the priest who prescribed this method for her and her husband.

All of this assumes that we can avoid sex outside of marriage and that within marriage we have husbands or wives who will follow the rules. I don’t know about you, but my partners inside and outside of marriage, including the Catholic ones, would not have gone along with either abstaining or having a bunch of babies. I used birth control—pills, condoms, diaphragms–right up until I married a man who’d had a vasectomy. A vasectomy is also considered a sin.

Despite the church’s mandate, a majority of Catholics use artificial birth control. Numbers vary, with sources offering from 72 to 98 percent of American women. Honestly, the church puts us between a rock and a hard place. How many of us are lucky enough to marry someone who will agree to take a chance on the “natural” method? How many people here at Childless by Marriage are with partners who do not want any children, period? How many are not sure about it so they aren’t willing to take any chances? How many of us would be delighted to throw away our birth control and have a baby, but we fear we’d lose the man or woman we love if we did?

Being alone and past menopause, I no longer have to worry about this, but I know most of you do. I’m not going to preach for or against. Just be aware of the risks and make your own decision.

I don’t want to be excommunicated or lose my job, but I worry about the lack of understanding shown in documents such as this. For some of us, life cannot be boiled down to being alone and chaste or being married and happily making babies. It’s just not that simple.

For more on the Catholic viewpoint, visit

It’s not just the Catholic Church that doesn’t seem to understand the variables in our life situations. We see it in our government, in our society, and around the dinner table.

What do you think? Have I ruffled some feathers? How do you feel about this? Please share (and don’t tell my pastor).

10 thoughts on “Birth control decision not so simple

  1. You said, “The bishops blame ‘the pill’ for women having sex outside of marriage, out-of-wedlock births, and single mothers living in poverty.”

    And that says it all. They’re not thinking of family planning (even within a marriage), prevented abortions, or the health benefits of oral contraceptives outside of birth control. Yes, a lot of people take the pill to deal with other health issues.

    They think that a woman’s morals are based on the availability of birth control.

    As if women would sink to their baser instincts just because birth control is at hand. As if contraceptives would turn us all into promiscuous beings! Like we’re just wanting the pill to become harlots! 😒

    And I say “women” because of the quote written above. I believe men AND women are both capable of making sound moral decisions, whether they have contraceptives or not.

    I am not a Catholic. From an outsider’s point of view, the Catholic church should prioritize their child molestation issues before speaking about sexual morality. (Feathers ruffled).

    This last sentence is not meant to offend you personally, but come on. It’s what everyone is thinking, and it is a big glaring problem, and it is immensely hypocritical.



  2. Sue,

    As usual you’re the voice of reason and intelligence. I’ve been through three abortions when I was young, It kicked my ass! Emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That said, I’m absolutely pro-choice. It’s none of any religion’s business how people conduct their sexual practices. They need to stay out of the bedroom. Your comments were very thought-provoking. Bravo! Well done.


  3. The Catholic Church (and other religions too, maybe to a lesser degree) is out of touch and unrealistic on birth control. And they should butt out of women’s business, while they are mostly run by men. They know most faith followers cannot, and do not want to, go without birth control and that in private people ignore their silly advice.

    Also, technically, surely they are wrong about the pill causing abortions? It prevents ovulation, so therefore the egg cannot be fertilised, so there is no foetus? I stand to be corrected, if I am wrong.

    You should not be nervous about your post. They have to be challenged.


    • I agree. After yesterday’s sermon and the weekend’s events in the Senate, I’m really worried about my church and our country. And you are absolutely right about birth control not causing abortion. It prevents conception. Oh and btw, in vitro fertilization is a sin, too.


  4. The older I get, the less pull I feel towards my Catholic church. I love my fellow parishioners, I love the beauty of the Mass, the comfort of prayers. However, so many rules. So much ickyness lately. All the pomp and circumstance for a mortal man (the priest) instead of proper love and gratitude for our Lord. The focus on things like holy water and statues. The judgment. The focus on sin. The disregard for the right for homosexuals to be equal in the church. The fear that no matter how “good” you are – you still might not make it to heaven. Did I mention all the rules?

    I’m in a rut with my faith lately and I haven’t attended in weeks. My family’s solution is to just keep attending. Don’t worry about it. Fulfill the weekly obligation and you’ll be fine. But two local churches have new priests and they are very out of touch with regular life. I just get the feeling that somehow, on some level, I’m not “good enough” there. I don’t pray enough rosaries, I don’t contribute enough cash, I don’t volunteer enough time. I don’t have kids to help weave me into parish life and so I’m often clueless on the goings-on.

    I pray less than ever, and that is my own fault. But the Catholic Church needs help.


    • Anon S, I feel exactly the same way. Thank you for this comment. And yes, the church needs help. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but here in Oregon, it seems to be going backwards. These days, I’m not sure what to do.


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