Discussing Contraceptives

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Before entering into the body of my argument, I would first like to admit that this document is not as timely as it should be. The conflict between the Obama Administration and the Religious Right over the issue of contraception has probably already reached its peak.

If you look at the news, you see headlines ranging from, “Obama Does Spin Control” to “How Can Republicans Run on Birth Control?” These headlines are inherently just consequences of the culture war that has been fought in this nation since 1980.

More importantly, these news stories and headlines are the end result of a tried and true practice. In 2007, following the release of Fahrenheit 9/11, filmmakers Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk released a film entitled, Manufacturing Dissent. This film focuses on Michael Moore and accuses him of manufacturing situations rather than broadcasting true public opinion.

As an aside, I would like to note that by and large documentarians are manufacturers of a product and that Michael Moore is outside of my own Democratic politics. With this being said, Caine and Melyk’s movie reflects upon the tried and true practice of ideologies and parties creating material that can be used against each other. I argue that right now this battle over contraception is a product of manufactured dissent. Furthermore, I want to flesh out the views of mainstream Americans in regard to this issue.

Now, I was born a Catholic and it is my great desire to die as a Catholic who is in communion with the church. However, if my support for contraception precludes me from this then so be it.

I mention this because in all honesty I view myself as an average American Catholic. Thus, when I mention mainstream Americans, I am really referring to myself.

Now my rationale for supporting the use of contraceptives is purely based on two things. First, I feel that the use of contraceptives, is the primary weapon that should be used in the fight against AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Second, I take issue with structural failures that we all tolerate and are party to.

I ask you, what is the greater social sin, the use of contraceptives or the complete social failure that would ensue from our inability to control and treat the spread of AIDS if contraceptives were outlawed? Furthermore, we allow 6 million children to die every year in Africa due to starvation. If contraceptives, prevent just one child from being born into starvation or into a family devoid of love, then I am in favor of them. Until we fix these pervasive social problems of which we are all party to then we must end the hypocrisy in regards to contraceptives.

In terms of manufactured dissent, I propose that this is an issue only because it is a component of what is still a rather unpopular piece of legislation. More specifically, it is an issue where a large majority of political actors can participate in. The majority of the blowback that has been generated has come from Catholic institutions. However, the nation’s largest Catholic college, DePaul University, has acknowledged that its insurance plan covers contraceptives.

Now, as a Catholic, I believe that Humane Vitae, the encyclical issue by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, which is the basic foundation for Vatican policy regarding birth control, is the infallible word of God. Thus, the position I have articulated is in direct opposition to God’s will. However, I truly believe that we will receive some kind of supplemental revelation that can guide us in regards to this issue during this difficult time.

In the end, aside from my personal religious quandaries, I feel that this recent controversy is an attempt to make my party look Godless. More importantly, I feel like all of these discussions are just attempts to manufacture dissent. This week, Public Policy Polling found that 56% of Americans are in favor of insurance plans covering prescription birth control. Furthermore, over 53% of Catholics supported the measure as well.

Obviously, you cannot win elections on this issue. Hopefully, this week’s controversy is just an election year aside. Now, I acknowledge the heavy use of relativism in my reasoning. However, I would like to note that relativism exists on both sides. This issue is salient because it directly affects religious institutions.  If this mandate is an intrusion on religious freedom, is not the minimum wage an intrusion on institutions or social security an intrusion on young people? Why must the politicians of my party be deprived of communion for supporting contraceptives while those who are responsible for astronomical child mortality rates in the developing world go unpunished?

Perhaps one day a Pope will write A Votum Pro Africa which will lay out a more contemporary context to contraceptive use and structural sin in the Third World. Perhaps one day we can declare a cultural truce in this country so that we may focus on other pressing issues. Until then, I will continue to try and develop my understanding of the issue and I hope that my fellow man will do the same.