:: Saturday, February 05, 2005 ::
Wearing A Seamless Garment
My small handful of regular readers know that I am a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, am pre-med, and am also a practicing Catholic. Even though I was raised Catholic and went to a Benedictine high school, I could've chosen to stop believing, and I knew many people who did. One of the major things that kept me in the church was its wide expanse of moral teaching, specifically the Consistent Life Ethic. It states that "All life is sacred, from conception to natural death." This one statement links church policies on war, suicide, the death penalty, euthanasia, abortion, and poverty. It also does the neat trick of tearing a "Seamless Garment" (another name for the ethic) Catholic between the policies of the two major political parties. I, obviously, side more with the Democrats. This is because I view war, the death penalty, and poverty, all things Democrats oppose, as societal sins as a direct result of our government being of, by, and for the people. Conversely, I view euthanasia, suicide, and abortion as individual sins, the effects of these evils are felt indirectly by society at large. For example, when an inmate is put to death it is the State of ______ who has killed him (or her) as a whole, not just the executioner. Similarly, when an abortion occurs, it is the mother and the physician who have committed the sin, not society at large. It is also my opinion that any ban on abortion will be ineffective until the overall "culture of death" evident in modern society is death with.
Within the issue of abortion lies the question of contraception. I've been thinking about it, having stumbled across the Catholic Carnival by way of a circuitous route, starting at Pharyngula. Before delving back into this topic, my opinion was that since Birth Control, i.e. hormonal contraception, creates a hormonal state like that which occurs when a woman is medically pregnant (more on that distinction in a bit) and thereby preventing ovulation. After years of listening to Loveline as a young teen, I also was under the impression that because of the hormonal levels present in a woman taking birth control (or emergency contraception) were like those of the second half of the menstrual cycle, that were a woman to conceive that she would likely get pregnant. Needless to say that when I came across pro-lifers calling the pill an abortifacient (something which causes abortion, learn your Latin people) I was both confused and wary. Upon running a google search a few things became apparent. First was that either Dr. Drew was misinformed or that subsequent research has shown that the endometrial lining changes in women on birth control, interfering with implantation. (By the way, if anyone can head me towards some studies on this, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.) Secondly, I found that both sides of the debate are apparently suffering from a vocabulary disorder, wherein they are using the word "pregnancy" to mean two different, yet overlapping, things. Medically (and therefore amorally), pregnancy for the woman begins when the embryo implants in the uterus and starts sending out all sorts of hormonal goodness to get the mother's body to maintain it. Under the consistent life ethic, though, pregnancy begins at conception. This is because that's the point at which the new human life is created, and since the child is defenseless and unable to fend for itself, the mother is morally responsible for the life of the child in her womb (or, technically, her fallopian tubes...).
So, I sit in a weird place. My current (trusted) information is that the pill doesn't cause a change in the endometrial lining, but that's now been called into question. I'm going to have to spend some time culling the scientific journals I have access to as a student to see if I can get a resolution to this. I really hate changing my positions on controversial topics, since I open myself to serious cries of hypocrisy and the like. Since I've done it before on stem cells to bring my thoughts in line with the church, I guess I'll have to do it again if I find definitive information. Anyone willing to point me towards specific studies/research will get great kudos.
:: The Squire 9:35 PM :: email this post :: ::