Saturday, July 22, 2006

Rhythm that Kills

If a report in the Journal of Medical Ethics on the rhythm method and embryonic death is correct, then pro-life advocates and the Catholic Church might need to re-think their support of this form of "birth control."

These groups have traditionally protested any form of birth control that allows an ova to be fertilized, but then prevents it from becoming viable (such as IUDs, "morning after" pills, etc.). They object to these on moral grounds, saying that once fertilized, the ova is a person, and to deliberately prevent it from coming to term (even if after only a few hours in the womb) is equivalent to murder.

It turns out, however, that their preferred method of enjoying "relations" without becoming pregnant also relies on preventing fertilized ova from becoming viable. The JME found:
We know that even conscientious rhythm method users get pregnant. ... Rhythm method users try to avoid pregnancy by aiming at the period in which conception is less likely to occur and in which viability is lower. So their success rate is due not only to the fact that they manage to avoid conception, but also to the fact that conceived ova have reduced survival chances. ... it remains the case that millions of rhythm method cycles per year globally depend for their success on massive embryonic death.
Do we expect these pro-life advocates to withdraw their support for the rhythm method? Do we expect them to raid the homes of anybody with a calendar hanging on the bedroom wall? Will they be passing laws preventing doctors from discussing women's cycles with their patients?

Of course not. To do so, they would have to admit that embryonic death is a normal, usual part of the cycle of life. According to the JME, "There are estimates that only 50% of conceptions actually lead to pregnancies." The other 50%? A natural process that results in embryonic death.

This is not a good or happy thing. But it is a very real and natural thing. To pretend that every embryo is an independent, living person is a fantasy.

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