Chastity & The Pro-Life Movement

Recently, a new wave has taken hold of my social media. Many of my well-intentioned friends have emphatically sympathized over the millions of lives lost to abortion while seamlessly arguing that these numbers would decrease if we increased education and access to birth control. They’ve argued that women wouldn’t have to abort their babies if they never got pregnant in the first place and operate out of a general assumption that the virtue of chastity doesn’t belong in the same conversation. Most frequently, I’ve heard that we “can’t expect” men and women not to have sex, as if the expectation imposes a prohibiting rule rather than a liberation to capacitate us for the highest virtue: charity.

I spent a few days  thinking about this argument, knowing that the pro-choice vs. pro-life argument largely centers around people who genuinely want to decrease the number of abortions in our world. Yet, the facts do remain that since Roe v. Wade we’ve lived in a world where 58 million lives have been lost to abortion. That means 116 million people at the very least have been directly affected by abortion, the babies and the mothers who often feel forced into their situation (not to mention the fathers). And that’s obviously a GROSS underestimation. I think of my friends, and I know they’ve had an instrumental impact on more than just my life. How many lives have been robbed of the gift of just ONE person who has been lost to abortion? The loss is incalculable…and yet we’re forced to multiply it by 58 million.

I think that both sides readily agree that those are tragic numbers. But, if we disconnect the pro-life movement from the virtue of chastity, then it logically follows that we should increase access to contraceptions that prevent pregnancy in the first place, while silencing research that shows that promoting birth control to the youth isn’t effective.

But, why is it that so many of us argue that we shouldn’t expect men and women to refrain from sexual activity? This argument seems developed on a low anthropology, a lowered level of expectation that we can maintain for man and woman because we can’t expect people to live up to higher standards. But, why? And, if we truly are subject to this low level of anthropology, then why have millions of young people recommitted themselves to chastity? Is it because the Church and pro-life movements have just successfully managed to infiltrate us with an efficacious fear of pregnancy so we refrain from sexual activity?

The answer is, no, of course not. If we begin with an argument that says, “don’t have sex because you could get pregnant…” then I fully agree that 1) That’s not very effective and 2) Easily accessible contraception seems like an obvious answer. BUT, sex is so beautifully linked to our identity, to our desire for permanence, to our desire for a love that is sustained, infinite, and exclusive. It is also beautifully fulfilling in that it offers incredible pleasure. Many of us have readily seen and some unfortunately experience the fraudulence when sex occurs outside of its intended end (to enhance unity, permanence, exclusivity, and generative love). It isn’t fulfilling and we know it yet we live in a society that relativizes that pain and tells us that we shouldn’t expect much more from ourselves.

But, we were made for so much more than birth control to prevent pregnancies so we don’t have to bother holding to more difficult (yet infinitely freer & liberating) standards of chastity. We were made for lived experience of permanent love and beauty. When we diminish that, when we don’t hold ourselves to that and hold others to that, we don’t really love them. It tells them that they are in some way less than us because we might believe we’re good enough for these things, but that they are not.

So, ultimately, the argument for increased access to birth control really misses the point. While the pro-life movement prioritizes the fact of 58 million lives lost, the movement also largely champions chastity before marriage (I’ll only quietly mention that <1% of abortions occur from rape/incest…and I don’t think our answer to those girls either is that they should just use birth control). The reason for this is simply because we were made for more and we should demand more. I don’t want to spend my life settled into less than what I was created for – love: love that lasts, that chooses me, that creates life and not death.

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adAdrianna Garcia is a Master of Divinity student at the University of Notre Dame. Before returning to Notre Dame for a graduate degree, Adrianna served for four years in the United States Navy. She enjoys hiking, divine liturgy, and is passionate about sharing Jesus Christ with everyone she encounters.

 

4 Comments

  1. It would be great if you had a menu item of instagram ready chastity pics with pro chastity #’s on them that people could easily swipe and post. I think teens who are pro chastity (and other folks) wouldn’t mind getting a bit vocal on their walls. Just a thought.

    By Sharon | 4 months ago Reply
  2. Birth control doesn’t always work, it can fail. That is one of the reasons why the Supreme Court voted to make abortion legal: people have ordered their lives around contraception and “need” abortion as a backup for when it fails. More than half of all women seeking abortions were using contraception when they got pregnant. In some places in Europe, it’s as high as 2/3. I don’t think education is the problem (everyone has the Internet) and neither is access (condoms at dollar stores, Pill at Walmart for $10/month).

    Chastity needs to be promoted as the only solution because self-mastery is the key to a happy life. Yes, the teens and twenties will be difficult, but it will make married life so much better knowing that you and your spouse have the ability to control yourselves when you need to abstain for whatever reason (illness, away for work, NFP, etc.). It also prevents problems such as STDs, unplanned pregnancies, using each other, and bonding when there should be discernment. How much more difficult is it to break up after you’ve been sleeping together? How many people stay together longer than they should because of the bonds they’ve created by this activity? How can you be sure it’s really love and not just “loving” the way the other person makes you feel? Less risk of adultery, better ability to discern if you should be together, learning non-physical expressions of love and communication…these are the keys to a happy, lasting marriage.

    People can learn to control themselves: let’s not forget that before contraception, divorce rates were low, non-marital births were rare, adultery was not as common, etc. Saying we can’t control ourselves is being lazy and weak-willed, not qualities to aspire to have.

    By Stephanie | 4 months ago Reply
  3. Women still need education on birth control and the various forms of this. And i don’t mean the biased christian-school taught form (although that can be debated its rarely talked about in private schools). General sexual education needs to be a priority if we are to prevent more lives lost. At the high school I went to, there was NEVER any mention of sexual organs, sexuality, and in general the “birds and the bees”. Knowledge is power. Taking away that power to women especially is wrong on so many levels.

    By Lindsey | 4 months ago Reply
  4. I love the part about “low anthropology” because that’s exactly the sad argument we’re taught to believe–that good things are impossible, not in just the sex argument but every argument in life. When we want something better, the automatic response is “that’s never going to happen.” Yet we ignore the countless examples of awesome things that do happen when someone puts their mind to creating change. So, yes, a purer world can happen even if it’s hard work.

    Thanks for your article!!

    By Raquel | 4 months ago Reply

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