Contraception, Conversion, and Consternation

I missed the memo about contraception, conversion, and consternation.

As of this writing, I hope that the whole brouhaha regarding insurance coverage for prescription contraception is dying down.  Rush Limbaugh got his name in the news a lot for doing what he does best (and that’s being a professional asshole), but hopefully Sandra Fluke will soon return to a normal life not too traumatized or discouraged by all the slut shaming.

When insurance coverage for prescription contraception was recently raised as a political issue, I think my first reaction was, “Seriously?”


It just seems like there are so many other issues which affect so many more people that I couldn’t imagine that Santorum or anybody else had picked that hill to die on.  I don’t fancy myself a constitutional scholar, but I did spend a gazillion dollars on a law degree and dabbled in employment law, so I thought I might have been taking crazy pills because this seemed like such a non-issue to me.  I mean the Church, (and that’s with a big “C”) is a church, but the Church also operates all sorts of businesses, like schools and hospitals.  And these businesses employ people.  When you’re an employer, you have to abide by the laws that govern all employers.  Employers don’t get to pick and choose the laws they want to obey based on religious affiliation.  (Check out this video where someone who actually is a constitutional scholar explains it a lot better than I can.)

What makes this whole thing especially weird for me is that I’m a convert to Catholicism.  On a very momentous Easter-Eve back in 1999, I was baptized, had first communion, and was confirmed all in the same night.  It was beautiful and trippy.  Having long abandoned the half-hearted Southern Baptist tradition of my youth, I chose to convert to Catholicism after marrying a cradle Catholic.  This is going to sound a little (or a lot) flip, but conversion was not that big of a deal for me.  I had already been raised in a christian tradition, so the core beliefs were the same, it was just a matter of learning all the secret handshakes and whatnot.   The big night of Easter Vigil seemed very much like getting initiated into a club, and I mean that in a nice way.

Becoming a Catholic has been a meaningful and valuable experience for me, but there are parts of the Church’s teachings that I will probably never fully understand or accept.  If that makes me a “cafeteria Catholic” or even a  bad Catholic, then I suppose I have to be OK with that.

Like a lot of Catholics (but not all like Lawrence O’Donnell erroneously suggests in the above-linked video), I don’t think that artificial birth control is wrong. What simultaneously cracks me up and makes my head hurt, is that the Church accepts Natural Family Planning (NFP) as a way of preventing pregnancy, and to be effective, NFP requires women to take daily temperature readings, monitor cervical mucus, etc.  By keeping track of fertility signs, couples can avoid conceiving by limiting their business meetings to days when it’s unlikely they’ll be fruitful.

NFP requires some fairly sophisticated scientific knowledge, but God forbid (really, God forbid?) that we use our scientific understanding to develop a tiny pill that achieves the same result as NFP, but without the charts and without the unfortunate references to egg whites.  I suppose you can outsmart God with a basal thermometer, but outsmarting God with a tiny dose of synthetic hormones, or even a bit of latex,  is just going too far. I’m an even worse theologian than I am constitutional scholar, but I don’t see how this makes any sense.

To my fellow Catholics who do avoid artificial birth control, I say this:  So do I.  But that’s ’cause I’m pushing 40 and “Russian Roulette” is pretty effective for women my age.  The window where this will be an issue of real personal significance for me will be closed in a few years.  At least when I enter the phase of my life where I’m having purely non-procreative sex, I can be assured that the Viagra will be covered by insurance.   Memo received.

3 thoughts on “Contraception, Conversion, and Consternation

  1. stocktonprof March 13, 2012 / 11:32 pm

    This is great, Jamie! Thank you for saying it so concisely and with your touch of sass!

  2. Kristi March 22, 2012 / 6:57 pm

    I am going to be chuckling all the rest of the day over “outsmarting God with a basal thermometer.” Perfect. I love it so much I may cry. šŸ˜‰ I followed Stacey’s link on fb, and wish I could read your blog all day, so I will have to bookmark it for later.

    • Jamie Walker Ball March 22, 2012 / 7:46 pm

      Thanks for reading, Kristi! I’ve missed a lot of memos, so please come back anytime!

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