Saturday, November 19, 2011

Contraception For The Disabled

There are people here who know more about these things than I do. Can I get a ruling on this bit from the Q&A over a Zenit?

Q: My friend has a 21-year-old daughter who suffers from a developmental disorder that makes her behave significantly younger than she is. I too have a daughter with a similar disorder (she's 12). Because some people prey on girls who do not understand what is going on or do not have the reasoning skills to stop a situation, my friend put her daughter on "birth control" to protect her. She has, of course, talked to her daughter about what is appropriate touching and what is inappropriate. But she still fears for her daughter's safety. I know from my experience that my daughter often does inappropriate things unknowingly. I understand this mother's worry, but I wonder if there are any moral concerns with doing this? -- D.U., Wichita, Kansas.

This is a legit question. Some of the stuff in the answers seems weird, though.

But in the question above, we are not dealing with a woman who is freely choosing sexual intercourse. We are dealing with the potential victim of a sexual assault -- rape. Rape is an act of forcing another person into sexual intimacy against his or her will. A female victim of rape certainly has no obligation to submit to her rapist's assault. And she rightly resists her assailant. The attacker's sperm is an extension of the attacker himself. Just as it would be legitimate for her to defend herself against him by attacking his person, or to pull herself away from him as he penetrates her vagina so he does not ejaculate inside her, so too she has a right to prevent his sperm from achieving the completion of his act of aggression by fertilizing her ovum. This act on her part is one of self-defense. And the Church has always taught that proportionate measures used to render an aggressor incapable of causing harm are legitimate.

The USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th ed., 2009), directive 36, sets forth the following norm:

A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.

Although this directive specifically addresses women who have already been victimized, I believe it is legitimately extended to potential victims of rape. If a woman anticipates being raped, as may occur in a time of war or social unrest or if she is particularly vulnerable, as in the case of the disabled, she may use preemptive measures to defend herself (her ovum) from a rapist's attack (his sperm), provided those measures are not abortifacient.

When a woman is not adequately equipped to defend herself, it may fall to her caregivers to take reasonable measures on her behalf. One who is authorized to make or execute decisions on behalf of another is called a proxy. (Strictly speaking proxies are authorized by those on whose behalf they act; since a cognitively disabled person may not be in a position to formally authorize another, caregivers, such as parents, who rightly make decisions for dependent children, are not really proxies; but for purposes of this reply, I use the term proxy.)

Does this thing from the bishops seem correct? The extrapolation offered in the answer really seems off-base to me. From my reading, it's like we're ok with sterilizing people as long as the circumstances are right. I don't think you can argue double effect here. Moreover, the directives of Humanae Vitae don't seem to permit this kind of "pre-emptive strike." Not to mention that the scenarios for this can't be all that common. Rwanda-type situations and things like that, but I can't imagine a typical parent being put in a position where they are so afraid of their child being raped that contraception would be a legit choice. If that's the case, the parent should be extricating themselves from wherever they are as quickly as possible.

And just how far does this logic go? Can we do tubals on the girls? What about for boys? Can steps be taken to sterilize them as well? Castration, even?

I just don't get it and would appreciate somebody explaining it to me.


Paige said...

In the case of someone disabled, who is not sexually active and is, arguably, going to be living under the protection of their parents for their entire lives, would birth control be considered a bad thing? I mean, they do say that women can take the Pill for medical reasons if they are virgins and not planning on not being virgins (like, I guess, a religious sister with endometriosis?) Because it's not acting as an abortifacient if there is no chance an egg will be fertilized.
This is totally a slippery slope and more than confusing, really. Because, yeah, the Pill would be an abortifacient in the off chance a young woman is raped as a virgin. But spermicides are okay? Who walks around with spermicide just in case they get raped?

Throwback said...

I honestly have no idea. When I read the article, I couldn't focus in on any one thing where I thought "That's wrong and here's why."

It just seemed a bit off to me. Not really sure why. Hopefully, smart people who read this will throw in their two cents and break it down for us.

Thomas Wood said...

Violating the natural order in this way, by rendering what is by nature fertile (phallo-vaginal intercourse) infertile, would seem to be intrinsically morally evil for exactly the same reason that contraception under any other circumstances would be. We must not do evil that good may result.

I ask: what is this supposed to 'protect' against? Not rape, since the pill is no protection against that. Not the sperm of the rapist by themselves, since they are quite innocuous. No - against the conception of a child, who has done no wrong, and whose life, if the victim does conceive, is a good gift from God.

The mother's mentality views the child of rape as an evil, when in fact the child is a good which God brings out of evil.

A locked chastity belt would be an adequate and excellent defence against rape proper.