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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

The whole story on contraceptives

Last week two facilitators and a supervisor from Sex Out Loud came to my residence hall to lead a program called ""Safer Sex."" At first, my Christian values made me a little apprehensive. However, despite my concerns I was pleased to find that the program concentrated on asking for consent, sexually transmitted diseases and preventing the dangers of sex. While I disagree with the idea that the university should be promoting promiscuous sexual behavior, I understand the importance of giving students the information they need to make their own decisions. People have the right to know how to use a condom or how likely they are to contract HIV before they make their own sexual choices.

But when we reached the topic of contraceptives such as Plan B and the birth-control pill, I found that rather than simply informing students about their options, Sex Out Loud was making a value judgment about what to tell students. According to plannedparenthood.org, both of these medications work in several ways, the most common of which is to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg. But the hormones in both the pill and Plan B also thin the lining of the uterus. In theory, this could prevent pregnancy by keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. Using this information, Sex Out Loud informs students that these medications do not cause abortions.

This is because they use the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' definition, which claims pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg (a zygote) implants in the lining of the uterus. Because Plan B and the birth-control pill cannot affect a zygote that has already implanted, Planned Parenthood and Sex Out Loud state Plan B and the birth-control pill do not cause abortions. But as anyone watching the abortion debate rage has learned, not everyone defines pregnancy or life in these terms.

Many Christians believe life begins at the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg. For them, preventing a zygote from implanting in the womb is the same as an abortion. The thousands of women who use the pill or Plan B contraception might be having what they would consider abortions, even if Sex Out Loud or Planned Parenthood disagrees. Women who use these forms of contraception but oppose abortion would be horrified to discover they may have been killing their unborn children even if, medically speaking, they had never been pregnant.

Sex Out Loud and Planned Parenthood have a duty to inform students and women seeking these contraceptives of how the medications work. It is not ethical for them to embrace only one definition of when life begins, effectively ignoring the cultural and religious beliefs of the women they work with. What motive could prevent these groups from simply informing women that taking these pills could cause a fertilized egg to leave the woman's body, which many consider to be an abortion? There is no good motive for being unclear about birth control. By telling women this information, those who agree that pregnancy and fetal life begin after the zygote implants in the uterus would not be harmed, and those who believe life begins at conception would not place themselves at risk of having what they would define as abortion. Everyone would win, since everyone is being told all of the facts.

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By choosing which definition of life to use, Sex Out Loud and Planned Parenthood have taken themselves out of their intended role as objective providers of services and information. It is much harder to support these groups when they are not up-front about the implications of the medicines they promote and refuse to consider alternative views about life. If they wish to remain pro-choice, they need to fully explain the choices women have. If one believes life begins at conception, choosing to take Plan B or birth control means choosing to accept the chance of an abortion.

Andrew Carpenter is a senior majoring in communication arts and psychology. Please send all feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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