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Considering contraception

Maggie Krakenmaster | Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tonight, this country will know who will lead it for the next four years. As we will all enjoy the reprieve from mud-slinging that will shortly come, it is imperative that every person at Notre Dame represent Our Lady’s university by not just casting a ballot, but also by making an informed, educated decision on who will be granted the title of “Commander-in-Chief” for the next four years.
Reading opposing Viewpoint columns that highlight popular blunders by each candidate terrifies me. Instead of using one slip-up as a basis for a vote, I urge every member of our community to consider all of the issues at stake in this election. As a female member of the Notre Dame family who was diagnosed with Severe Endometriosis six and a half years ago, I am incredibly concerned with the role that women’s reproductive systems have begun to play in politics.
The only known treatment for endometriosis is birth control pills. Don’t believe me? Try being diagnosed with it. Sure, some women choose to try lifestyle changes and may see moderate improvements, especially if their case is quite mild. However, for most, we go through an often long and frustrating trial period of medications to try to find the right one for our bodies. Once you find that medication, you finally feel the freedom to live the way your friends do – free of a pain so severe, it often cannot even be dampened by Vicodin.
I am a proud Catholic who has chosen to wait until marriage to have sex, yet my birth control prescription has earned me severe judgment from friends, nurses at St. Liam’s and fellow residents of my dorm. As I see my reproductive organs being thrown into the election as political ping-pong balls, I have no choice but to urge my fellow students to consider the many dimensions of every issue facing this election.
The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching is the Dignity of the Human Person. This principle extends beyond the extremely tired topic of abortion and encompasses quality of life. The dignity of the human person guarantees each human in the world a certain quality of life that is considered adequate and fulfilling. Providing any other medication that treats disorders and diseases is lauded in this vein.
So why, then, am I judged? Why am I counting the days until I can go to a doctor who will not chastise me for my medication without knowing the reason it was prescribed? Why am I alienated daily from a campus that claims to be so intimately tied with Catholic Social Teaching?
In addition to the treatment of endometriosis that birth control pills provide, condoms are widely distributed throughout countries deeply affected by AIDS and other STIs to help prevent their continual spread. Regardless of the reasons a person has chosen to have sex and regardless of if that person is married, the health benefits of these methods of contraception are factual and indisputable.
This is why it thoroughly disgusted me to see people continue to support Rick Santorum after his comment that contraception “is not okay” and is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” This view reflects an incredibly savage view of humanity. If the box of condoms for sale in CVS right next to the tampons changes your moral standpoint on sex, then you may not have thought it through very thoroughly in the first place.
Making contraception available to all persons (a provision of Obamacare) is not a mandate that all persons use contraception. If you want to wait until marriage to have sex and then choose to not use contraception, please go right ahead. No problem with me, or Obamacare. If you want to have sex before marriage and use contraception, go right ahead. If you are among the many like me who need contraception to maintain a basic quality of life, by all means, head to the pharmacy.
However, your decision to use or not use contraception does not give you the right to tell others that they too should or should not, especially in the common case that you very likely do not understand the full depth of their decision. I am not sure the exact moment in our society when intimate partner decisions became public, but the complexity and intensely personal nature of these decisions undeniably disqualifies them from broad, misdirected legislation. When Paul Ryan chose to side with Santorum on his pro-life and anti-contraception platform, his camp should have immediately lost the votes of those who prefer to make their own health decisions, rather than have someone else make them without knowing your personal circumstances.
This Sunday at Mass, I urge you to look around. Chances are, your glance will rest upon at least one person who is taking birth control pills, at least one who has used a condom and at least one who does not believe in the use of either. Each of these people is standing there, in communion with you and Jesus Christ, receiving the Eucharist as you are, participating as one of God’s children and a member of the human family that works for the good of all. Regardless of where you fall in these groups, try to remember that their choices are not one-dimensional. Their choices may have vastly improved their quality of life, so much so as to have allowed them to attend this University and be standing in this mass at the same time as you.

Mary Kakenmaster is a senior. She can be reached at
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.