Which is Worse: Condoms or Abortifacients? The answer should be obvious, the use of abortifacients is more gravely immoral than the use of condoms because the former has both contraceptive and abortive moral objects, as well as the harm of taking innocent prenatal life in the consequences, whereas the latter is mere contraception. But in her new book, Self-Gift: Humanae Vitae and the Thought of John Paul II, Janet E. Smith, Ph.D., answers otherwise.
In past articles, she repeatedly approved of abortifacient contraception, used in marriage for a medical purpose, calling the deaths of innocent prenatals a small but acceptable risk. In one article, Smith calls abortifacient contraception “anovulant or non-abortifacient contraceptives”. This language blatantly denies the abortifacient action of chemical contraceptives. The break-through ovulation rate for the birth control pill (BCP) is about 20% per month. [Gardner, Ph.D. and Miller, M.D., Journal of Women’s Health, Vol. 14, n. 1, 2005 PDF] Break-through ovulation is unfortunately very common. As a result, abortifacient contraception may kill more prenatals than abortion.
In a subsequent article, Smith acknowledges that these pills are abortifacients, but calls the risk small but acceptable. She suggests that the woman need not abstain from sex while taking abortifacient contraception, because the risk is somehow acceptable: “If those hormones have an abortifacient effect, does she need to abstain? Or is the risk so small that the risk would be acceptable.”
Well, a 20% per month break-through ovulation rate, for women under 32 years, means that the risk of an early abortion is 39%. For an older woman, who is less fertile, the risk is about 21%. That means for every 100 women under 32 using abortifacient contraception, 39 will have an early abortion per year, and for the older women, 21 per year. Multiply that by the hundreds of millions of women using abortifacient contraception, and the risk is neither small nor acceptable.
In her new book, Self-Gift: Humanae Vitae and the Thought of John Paul II, Smith continues to favor abortifacient contraception over mere contraception, to an extent that is absurd.
“The hormones have an intrinsic ordination to stopping ovulation and to rendering her infertile but they do not have an intrinsic ordination to rendering sexual acts infertile.” [Self-Gift, Kindle Locations 7587-7588]
We are speaking about abortifacient contraception, which is intrinsically ordered toward both abortive and contraceptive ends. And she ignores the abortive end, and somehow justifies the contraceptive end by saying that this type of contraception ONLY stops ovulation and renders her infertile, and that somehow this does not mean that her sexual acts are infertile. It is an absurd argument on the face of it. Abortifacient contraception is used because it makes sexual acts infertile. That is the usual intended end and the evil moral object. But even when the woman has a different intended end, as in the quoted example which was to treat endometriosis, the use of abortifacient contraception is still intrinsically evil, as it retains its evil moral object of killing innocent prenatals. Frequently.
As for sex using a condom, somehow Smith makes this act worse than abortifacient contraception. She claims that the former deprives sex of its unitive and procreative meanings, and also would not suffice to validly consummate a marriage. Then she adds that abortifacient contraception does suffice to validly consummate a marriage, and does retain something of the unitive meaning. Somehow, in her perverted moral analysis, Janet Smith makes mere contraception with a condom worse than killing your own prenatal children with abortifacient contraception.
But it’s not all bad. She thinks that premarital sex is less sinful with a condom, than without.
As sources of physical evil, perhaps both mutual masturbation and condomized fornication are less evil than simple fornication since both have less risk of resulting in pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, which is worse: engaging in an act that is defective as a human act (an act of condomized fornication) or an act that potentially does significant harm (an act of noncondomized fornication by the fertile or those having an STD)? Perhaps condomized fornication is a lesser moral evil, but it is still clearly a moral evil.” [Self-Gift, Kindle Locations 7635-7639]
According to Roman Catholic moral theologian Janet E. Smith, people having sex outside of marriage would be choosing a lesser moral evil if the use a condom than if they do not. The hypocrisy here is stunning. Smith pretends to defend Humanae Vitae, when in fact she has radically reinterpreted all its teachings. She justifies the use of contraception outside of marriage by saying that premarital sex with a condom is less sinful than without a condom. And yet, in several different recent articles, she publicly decries the popularity of contraception in secular society, and blames contraception for the prevalence of non-marital sex. Which position is true? Which position does she believe? If contraception caused the evil of an increase in extra-marital sex, why does she justify the use of contraception outside of marriage?
Her teachings plainly contradict the teaching of Humanae Vitae and of the Magisterium more generally that contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Fornication is gravely immoral. Add to this sin, the malice of contraception, and the sin is greater. The greater the moral disorder, the greater the sin. Calling “condomized fornication” a lesser moral evil is false and harmful to souls.
Church teaching on abortifacient contraception: “A specific and more serious moral evil is present in the use of means which have an abortive effect, impeding the implantation of the embryo which has just been fertilized or even causing its expulsion in an early stage of pregnancy.” [Vademecum]
And the entire book, Self-Gift, contains no clear condemnation of abortifacient contraception due to its abortive action. She speaks as if abortifacient contraception were merely contraceptive, or merely a type of “hormones” that would always be moral to take.
There are other severe errors in this new book by Smith, errors I’ll discuss in latter posts.
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