Prescription for Failure

05-20-2018This Week in Vidi DominumDr. Clint Leonard

Contraceptives are supposed to make life easier. The idea is if married couples could have sex without the possibility of becoming pregnant that their marriages would be better, easier, and last longer. Couples would be happier. Unfortunately, it does not work that way.

Since 1960, when the introduction of the oral contraceptive pill accompanied and fueled the sexual revolution, there has been an explosion in the divorce rate. There is more sex before marriage, more cohabitation, and less commitment and actual marriages than ever. People are less satisfied and less happy. Why? Is there a link to the widespread use of the Pill? How about the use of long-acting contraceptives like the IUD or sterilizations – getting your tubes tied or having a vasectomy? Each of these interventions attempts to separate the possibility of new life arising from the act of intercourse, which ultimately separates the spouses from each other and from God. These broken relationships result in misery for the persons involved.

In addition to the emotional effects of contraceptive use, there are harmful physical and spiritual effects.  The Pill puts the woman needlessly at risk for several serious health consequences.  The intrauterine device, or IUD, primarily acts by preventing implantation of a newly conceived life which means it’s closer to an abortifacient (causing an abortion) than a contraceptive.  Sterilization destroys the God-given gift of fertility and puts a permanent barrier between each other and between the spouses and God.  These effects aren’t always immediately seen or experienced, but over years they erode the goodness that was once present.

The oral contraceptive pill is listed as a group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization.  Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in women and the second-leading cause of cancer death.  Use of the pill, especially use for several years before her first live birth, significantly increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.  Teenagers taking the Pill to clear up their acne are increasing their risk of developing breast cancer.  They are also removing a natural barrier to delaying sex until marriage – the fear of becoming pregnant.  The Pill does not protect them from a broken heart or from being used if they do become sexually active.  Young women and men who become sexually active before marriage are much more likely to have mental health issues, namely depression.  It also makes them more susceptible to STDs and increases the risk of cervical cancer.  Use of the pill can actually reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, but so does having children and breastfeeding.  Breast cancer is a much more common event.

Because the risk is rare, doctors often don’t mention the increased risk of blood clots that accompany use of the pill.  The risk is real.  One Gilbert woman started a blog after she lost her sister due to being on the pill.  It increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism, each of which can be fatal in a young woman.

Like the IUD, the Pill can also act as an abortifacient, meaning that its efficacy of preventing pregnancy is sometimes achieved by preventing a newly fertilized egg, an embryo, from implanting in the uterus.  While the most common mechanism of action is to prevent ovulation, many times the Pill works because it thins the uterine lining to the point where it cannot support new life.

Although we are rightfully worried about polluting the environment, women are polluting themselves by taking these medications.  It makes sense that there are serious side effects to this medication, as it is not good medicine to take something that renders one’s physiology dysfunctional. 

What about women who take the Pill for medical problems?  While there are often serious symptoms that the Pill can help alleviate, women are still at risk for the conditions described above.  There are always alternatives to the Pill that seek to evaluate and treat the underlying cause of the symptoms.  Moreover, the Pill can actually worsen the same conditions that it is being used to treat.  For example, some women take the Pill for the painful periods associated with endometriosis, but studies show that women who have endometriosis and take the Pill for a long time are more likely to have deeper nodules of endometriosis, a more severe form of the disease!

IUDs are also used to prevent pregnancy but this does not mean that they actually prevent conception.  The two types of IUDs in place today both work to make the lining of the uterus uninhabitable to a newly conceived human embryo.  They prevent implantation and so the littlest of children dies.  IUDs can also perforate the uterus and become lodged in the woman’s intestines.  The IUDs that contain hormones also likely increase the risk of breast cancer as described for the Pill.

The most common form of contraception used these days for married couples is permanent contraception, sterilization.  There are uncommon but real risks from the procedures themselves, but the outcome is always damaging because that is the intent.  Destroying a woman’s tubes (tubal ligation) or a man’s vas deferens (vasectomy) renders them infertile.  A person’s fertility is one of his or her greatest gifts and harming oneself in a purposeful way is a grave offense against God. 

A popular new way for women to be sterilized is by placing metal coils in the tubes to create a permanent blockage.  This procedure is beginning to be seen as having serious health risks for the women involved as well.

What are other effects that contraceptives have on society?  The link between the use of contraception and abortion cannot be ignored.  As mentioned above, several methods of contraception actually work as abortifacients.  In Western countries, legalization of abortion has always followed legalization and widespread acceptance of contraception.  Justification of Supreme Court decisions in favor of abortion reference use of contraception and that abortion is justified because couples count on not having a child result from their sexual activity.  Half of all women who have an abortion were using some form of contraception in the prior month.  Instead of contraception reducing abortions, it actually increases them for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, no method is 100% effective, but the false sense of security increases the amount of extramarital sex.  Secondly, widespread use of contraception causes a devaluation of life – of children in general, which results in more women seeking abortion when faced with a crisis pregnancy.

One thing that all forms of contraception, including sterilization and barrier methods like the condom, have in common is that they remove the possibility of creating new life from the act of lovemaking by a husband and wife.  That has the most damaging consequence of all.  When a husband and wife meet in the marital embrace, they are actually renewing their wedding vows.  On the day of their wedding the couple promises to give themselves to each other completely and wholly.  When they make love, they enact those vows in the flesh and call God into their midst with bountiful graces.  If one of them is sterilized or if a contraceptive is being used, it means that an important part of them, their fertility, is being held back.  Bodies speak a language while making love, and contraceptive sex is telling a lie.  Instead of saying,  “I want you, I love you, I want what is best for you, I give you all of me,” the couple is saying, “I only give you part of me, I only want part of you.”  It is a love that is incomplete and selfish.  Years of selfish love has the effect of killing sex drive and making people distrustful and depressed.  It can lead to infidelity.  It damages a marriage and effectively separates the spouses instead of bringing them together as God intended lovemaking to do.  These harmful effects occur anytime marital sexual intimacy is used before or outside of marriage as well.  I see it over and over again in my practice. 

Marriage only works if God is at the center of it.  A couple who is contracepting actively excludes God from the most intimate part of their lives.  God is the Creator.  His first command was to be fruitful and multiply.  One of his greatest gifts to us was the ability to create a new life.  Children are the fruit of a couple’s love.  If a couple closes themselves to the possibility of a new life by the use of contraception, they are thumbing their nose at the Lord and asking Him to stay away.  They reap the consequences.

As a culture, when procreation is habitually separated from the lovemaking within marriage, there are also grave consequences.  Pope Paul VI in the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968 predicted that widespread use of contraceptives would lead to marital infidelity, general lowering of morality, loss of respect for women, and governmental coercion or forced use of birth control.  Who could argue that any of these haven’t happened?  Although contraceptives were meant to be a positive for couples and for society, the opposite has happened.  They are a prescription for failure.

For more information about alternatives to birth control, please visit or call (480) 355-8525.

Dr. Clint Leonard has been providing great health care for women in the East Valley since 2005. He, his wife Kathryn and three children are parishioners at St. Mary Magdalene. Dr. Leonard received his M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and completed residency with the Phoenix Integrated Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maricopa Medical Center and St. Joseph's Hospital in 2005. Formed in the Catholic tradition, Dr. Leonard embraces a holistic view of the human person and takes a life-affirming approach to sexuality and fertility. He works closely with the Phoenix NFP Center and teachers and users of the symptothermal methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP). He teaches the Billings Ovulation Method of NFP in English and Spanish. He also completed training as a FertilityCare Medical Consultant with Dr. Thomas Hilgers and uses principles of NaProTechnology in his practice.