This is an important issue for men and women discussing pregnancy prevention. It continues to be an issue.
The secular media was all over the 50th anniversary of the Pill. I was reading through that article some time ago and felt it required an update on the outcomes and analysis we had made at that time.
In that original article I commented on Angela Shanahan article from the Weekend Australian who stated: “The Pill was the best invention men could have thought of for themselves.” ‘Inquirer’ 17-18 April'. Moreover her insightful comment: 'Beware harmful side effects, including sexual enslavement' which raises several intriguing points about women, sexual health and moral responsibility.
Angela Shanahan argues that the contraceptive pill has failed to give women sexual independence. Instead, ‘the Pill’ has made them solely responsible for contraception, taking the onus off men.
“Once upon a time it was considered honourable for a male to accept the repercussions of failed contraception. Abortion or lone motherhood were the only real alternatives for lone pregnant women. In those days, married women were trapped into the tyranny of a rigidly planned family. Hence the rise in abortions.”
Shanahan continued: “..... Because the Pill is effective, women did not gain independence in 1960: just another type of slavery. Women graduated from the slavery of multiple child births to the slavery of obligation to be always sexually available, and never to suffer the newly declared disease of unintentional pregnancy.”
I'm no stranger to this discussion for in my 43 years of Christian ministry the 'Pill' has come up numerous times in both pre-marital discussions and in marriage ministry.
The major sociological and pastoral concern is that if the primary purpose of the Pill is to exonerate men from contraceptive responsibility, then men can manipulate women to ensure they are constantly sexually available.
This is hardly liberating
This is hardly liberating! These are some of my reflections after these many years, and now as a grand father, a little more aged and possibly a few more insights.
Regarding promiscuity, a young man 'cannot' seduce a lady by giving her this form of the Pill for protection because firstly the woman has to get the prescription for herself and take it for a whole month cycle before it has any effect. However, a young man can try the line, ‘It’s OK darling, I will use a condom’ – and then he might or might not – the woman has no control. Is she chooses to be promiscuous, the argument is given that at least she knows if she has regularly been taking the Pill, she can make her own decision. There is more.
Generations of married / partnered / single women have managed their fertility without relying on men by using inserts, creams and spermicidal lotions. Some needed to be inserted by a doctor and some they could use themselves without the knowledge of a partner. Therefore there is a question mark against blaming the Pill for promiscuity or trapping men.
Women will do what they want to do for their own reasons. In the West, where contraception is socially approved and where women have independence and their own money, particularly over the last 40 years, I've previously described as as the Age of Woman.
Additional research will show that wherever there is adequate contraception, the abortion rates are low and wherever contraception either doesn’t work well, or is frowned on by the State (such as Japan and Italy), then abortion rates go up. If abortion is illegal then you get deaths from back-yard operators and women operating on themselves with such things as coat hangers.
It doesn’t matter if it is the Pill or something else, including extended breastfeeding which the Aborigines used to space out their children – it has the same hormonal effect as the Pill when nutrition levels are low ... so nature (or God, whichever you like to believe) had an effective system of spacing children going in the beginning.
Part of the issue in the West, is that improved social systems mucked this up, when people began eating too much and weaning babies too early. The Pill is probably the most like the natural system that there is.
If the Pill has made women more sexually available, then indeed, as Angela Shanahan said: “The pill was the best invention men could have thought of for themselves”? Or, is there another response altogether?
Today there is the morning after pill when no precautions are necessarily made and this has in effect given women an additional choice at freedom on the one hand or an additional set of obligations on the other, when the unsaid expectation is a quick trip to the local pharmacy for the morning after pill.
The rise of multiple 'short term' partners – a few months here, a year of two there, financial independence of women, a social expectation of men that a woman will 'move in' has introduced either a different kind of freedom or obligation. It is not now, who I sleep with, rather who will I have children with.
But there is a very clear Christian voice to this,
In Christian thinking associated with a young man and a young woman, both individuals in their own right, both made in the image of God, both with very different mind sets and physical functions - are given instruction on finding ways to respect these differences.
Upholding their wonderful and beautiful union through marriage is the biblical model and best practise, yet in many western congregations today, even this central core sacrament appears to be optional.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 25 books, and enjoys writing. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded ‘The Gutenberg’ - the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. He and David Chang editor of Christian Today together bought the young writer ministry into fruition in 2009. In 2011 Mark established Laguna Quays Respite (Whitsundays) for missionary respite and replicated at Aldinga Beach 2016 (Adelaide) and Greens Beach Bass Straight (TAS). His ministry is honoured all these years by Christian philanthropist Mr Basil Sellers AM. He is married to Delma (44 years), with four adult married children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html