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Arrogance, Men and Birth Control

March 8, 2012

Arrogance, Men and Birth Control


As much as I was annoyed by the media’s complete dismissal of the Catholic Church’s teachings on birth control, I was even more dismayed by Rush Limbaugh’s treatment of the Georgetown University Law Student, Sandra Fluke, who recently testified before Congress.  Ms. Fluke argued that Georgetown should provide contraception to its students through their student health plan. As has been widely reported, Mr. Limbaugh attacked Ms. Fluke, arguing that she wants the government to pay her for having sex. “What does that make her?” he asks. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”  Even worse, he boorishly added: “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is: We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”


I realize that commentators are sometimes paid in proportion to their ability to create controversy, but in this case, he clearly went too far.  For a conservative commentator who supposedly supports traditional values, this was a major failure, a disappointment and a setback for anyone trying to defend the position of the Church or even traditional values.  By his ugly words and tone, he grossly insulted a young woman and irreparably damaged the credibility of others who would argue against her position.


In contrast, I was greatly encouraged by the words of Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, who called Limbaugh’s behavior “misogynistic” and “vitriolic”, and pointed out the great need for respectful, constructive debate on difficult issues.  DeGioia quoted St. Augustine, saying, “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance.  Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth.  Let us seek it together as something that is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there is no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”  I was thankful to see Georgetown, as a Catholic University, speak up for these principles, and, as a former Methodist, I have always been grateful for the Jesuits’ thoughtful and nuanced discussion of difficult issues.


In contrast, comments like Limbaugh’s feed right into the left’s argument that conservatives are “waging a war on women.”  Men in particular would be wise to tread very lightly here. Because women are the ones who get pregnant, naturally they are more affected by an unplanned pregnancy.  But to listen to the criticism of many commentators, you would think that the women are out there having sex alone!  Where are their partners in this discussion?


Although I am sure that there are many women who are on birth control because they want to be sexually active, but are not ready for a baby, I would bet there are a lot of women who are on it in response to the demands or expectations of men.   I wonder:

  1. How many women are using birth control in a relationship after being pressured into sex when they weren’t ready?
  2. How many women are using birth control because they are with a man who is an abuser or an addict?
  3. How many women are using birth control because they are with a man who is unwilling to commit to marriage and family?
  4. How many women use birth control – or even have abortions – because they are with someone who doesn’t want a baby and would abandon them if they had one?



Under normal circumstances (reproductive technology aside) it takes two people to have sex and make a baby. It is blatantly unfair and unkind to heap criticism on these women without even considering or mentioning their male partners.  Limbaugh’s treatment of Ms. Fluke reminded me of the story in the Gospel of John, where the woman caught in the very act of adultery is dragged before the crowd alone.  Where is the man? (I’d also like to note that Jesus was kind to actual prostitutes).


Although I do not intend to make this piece an apologetic for Natural Family Planning, it is important to note that it is the only birth control option where men are called upon to exercise self-control, in order to benefit their wives.  Also, if men practiced abstinence before marriage, there would be no need for contraception for single women.  Why isn’t anyone talking about that?



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  1. Fr. Joseph VH permalink

    Good points; thanks.

  2. Excellent. Thanks!

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