God’s Servant First: Oppose HHS’s ObamaCeptive Mandate

St. Thomas More

Last weekend in homilies across America, Catholic priests lambasted the new Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation mandating Catholic and other religious institutions fund insurance coverage of abortifacients, sterilizations, and contraceptives…

Click here to read my article published on American Thinker…

American Thinker


How is forcing others to fund contraception/birth control moral? You missed the point entirely. Liam, no one is claiming that people are being forced to use birth control. What you have done is set up a straw man argument and then shot it down.


I'm sorry, but I just can't buy it. I feel embarrassed for the Church, an institution which I deeply respect (and to which I belong). I am a Catholic and a woman. Personally, I don't use birth control. This isn't about me, or at least not about me at this point in my life or at any point leading up till now.

Offering contraceptives does not in any way require anyone to make use of them. Yes, it's an obligation in that we're requiring Catholic institutions to pay for them. I get that. But I cannot see the institutional Chruch's argument as justifying the liberty of the Church, so much as justifying the Church in denying certain freedoms to individuals.

Most adult Catholic women in the US make use of some form of birth control. This is a fact. Many of those women are married and use birth control to keep their families small enough that they can adequately provide for their children--a motive which I find very hard to fault on moral grounds. Others use it for medical reasons, also justifiable. And yes, many young unmarried women use birth control to prevent pregnancy when they are having sex before marriage. But it is important to remember that they are not the only women affected (and that lack of access to birth control would probably not stop many of them from having premarital sex, leading me to wonder what greater good we are pursuing by withholding that access). Until we can be honest about who is affected by the Church's stance and how, it's difficult to defend any moral stance on the issue.

We have a decision on the part of the Church, made by men and defended mainly by men, none of whom have any chance of ever becoming pregnant. Men who have very little ground to stand on in deciding what is morally acceptable, because they will never feel adverse consequences from their decision. It's very easy to say that birth control is never acceptable when you're not worried about how adding an extra person will stretch your family's budget past its breaking point. It's also easy to say that it's never acceptable when birth control isn't the one thing that keeps you from feeling sick and sluggish for a couple of days every single month of the year.

It's cheap grace to make declarations about morality when those declarations will never constrain your life. I wish that the institutional church had more humility, more compassion for people faced with difficult (and sometimes impossible) moral decisions, especially when those decisions are outside the realm of experience of those making them. The Church is very good at having answers for best-case scenarios. I only wish it had a better compass for the messy realities that people find themselves confronting all too often.

When you go to Mass on Sunday, take a look at the women in the pews. Chances are that most of them engage in some form of birth control. Instead of condemning them for it, look at the faces of those faithful and try to understand why they might make that choice--what might compel these morally-minded women to choose something that you and the Church have deemed immoral. Perhaps you will find some compassion for them.

Daniel Smyth
Daniel Smyth moderator


Hi Lian,


I apologize for not replying much sooner. I appreciate your comments very much.  I offer the following remarks:


-Do you mind if I or others required you via law to pay for some of my or others’ favorite causes, which include promotion of natural family planning (NFP), promotion of sexual abstinence until marriage, pro-life causes of all sorts (including videos and brochures opposing ObamaCeptive mandates), and education of folks about how couples that pray together stay together.  I’m not assuming any of your beliefs regarding my favorite causes, but you may have higher or opposing priorities than the causes I listed. 


-I don’t care if 99.99% of Catholics support artificial birth control: An opinion’s popularity doesn’t make the opinion true.  Would you quit supporting the sending of my money to birth control and allow me to send my money to, among other causes, what I believe are the most effective ways to encourage and prevent young and other folks from using artificial contraceptives?


-I’m male, but unborn babies, about half of which are females, shouldn’t care I’m male. 


-It’s only government that forces folks to do stuff like support contraception: The Church only promotes moral positions that folks can voluntarily accept or reject. 


Thanks again for your comments and please feel free to reply.


 @Daniel Smyth 


 I believe that I do in fact provide monetary support to abstinence-only education, since I pay taxes.  And I regularly donate money to the Church knowing that it goes to support all of those causes, including those that I don't agree with (I support some though by no means all of the causes you mention).  Though in that case, I realize that I am not required to give that money, which does make some difference.


However, I would submit that living in a representative democracy means that we all pay for things that we do not want, including things that we may strongly oppose.  (For instance, I am strongly opposed to the use of cluster munitions, which can maim and kill innocent children in war zones, but my tax dollars still pay for their production and dissemination.)  Yet the system does have some sort of "rough justice" to it, in that almost everyone gets some of the things they want--hopefully more of what they want than what they don't.  I am more or less at peace with that, though that does not oblige you to feel the same.


The reason that it matters that you're male is that your gender makes the question more hypothetical for you.  Because you will never be pregnant.  You do not even have to contemplate the possibility of yourself becoming pregnant in a situation not of your own choosing (through rape, etc.), or of being in a situation in which your pregnancy could threaten your health or life.  That is the privilege of being male--that you will never have to contemplate such things with regard to yourself.  Perhaps it is unfair of me, but I believe that knowing that those possibilities are real and immediate can give a person a more nuanced view of these matters.


It also matters because it is likely that as a man, you are less privy to women's private conversations about their reproductive health.  Women discuss these things with each other, but almost never in front of guys.  Maybe that's wrong of us, though we do it in part for the guys' comfort.  As a woman, I have participated in such discussions for years.  You would be surprised at the numbers of chaste women who take hormonal birth control for medical reasons.  I know a lot of women who are not sexually active/who were not sexually active before marriage who take hormonal birth control.  Because the alternative can be spending a few days each month with debilitating pain (throwing up, pain strong enough to wake a woman up in the middle of the night and keep her from sleeping, etc.), or worse (with more serious medical conditions that require hormones to regulate).  This is not a small minority of women that I'm talking about.  This is many, many of the women that I know.  And its effects are real.  


Not taking birth control can mean missing school or work, because without it your period makes you too sick to go (in case you don't know, hormonal birth control makes menstruation significantly lighter and less painful).  I'm not talking hypothetically here.  The choice not to take birth control has in fact caused me to miss work (with flu-like symptoms) a few times.  I'm lucky that for me it's only an occasional occurrence, not a certainty, as it is for a number of women that I know.  Not having that choice--the choice to not suffer regularly and needlessly for our ability to bear children--would mean lost productivity at work, lost learning at school, significant amounts of time in which women are not in a state to be good spouses, good parents, good employees, good friends.  Do you really believe that not being able to make that choice (for that particular reason) is wrong?


I can't tell you how many women I know who would never consider getting an abortion (except maybe after being raped, or if her health were seriously endangered, those cases are so complicated that it's impossible to decide without specifics), who are not sexually promiscuous, and yet view birth control as a necessity and a right, mostly for the reasons I gave above.  I know because I am one of them, and I am not all that unusual.


Finally: Yes, it is the government and not the Church that decides the laws.  But the Church is trying to affect those laws, and in this case I find its position untenable.  I have explained some of my reasoning above, giving those reasons most relevant to your points.


I doubt that we will agree on any of this.  But thank you for having a civil, respectful conversation.  I appreciate that very much.

Daniel Smyth
Daniel Smyth moderator



Lian, thanks for such thoughtful comments and for your interest in responding. You’ve indeed given me a more thorough understanding of the reasons other than contraception for using contraceptive pills.


I may shock you with how small a role I think government should play in society.  For instance, I’d be hard-pressed to think of something government should do outside the following simple roles, which in America we could spread between the fed, state, and local governments:


-To provide national security, a judiciary, and law enforcement

-To protect our rights to life, liberty, and property

-To provide a system of official identification (e.g., drivers' licenses)

-To do nothing to obstruct free trade


I hear you about cluster munitions, and I don’t like my money going to such things if we're engaged in an unjust war.  I think government has a role to protect national security (to preserve our freedom from enemies), so for me the issue of military spending is different from other issues of government spending.  


Contrary to HHS, I’d argue no one has a right to contraceptives because, among other reasons, they’re limited resources.  For instance, there are only so many pills produced each year.  One could argue that folks have a right to be able to access contraceptives (just as we have a right to be able to have private property), so the government couldn’t, for example, ban use of contraceptives.  I wouldn’t support a ban on using contraceptives except for the ones that cause abortions (e.g., Plan B pills).


I believe there’s nothing morally wrong with a single and chaste woman using contraceptive pills for hormonal control.  However, if the single woman becomes sexually active or married, then I believe her use of contraceptive pills becomes morally wrong.  For instance, many birth control pills prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb, which is an abortion.  Also, in a marriage I believe sex is only for procreative and unitive purposes.  Are there pills for hormonal control that aren’t contraceptives? 


I believe I’ve stuck to gender-neutral arguments, and hopefully I’ve stayed on safe ground :)


Thanks as well for a great and respectful debate.  Appreciate it.