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viewpoint

Response to ‘(Re)production’

| Friday, April 25, 2014

I am writing in response to Professor Botting’s letter “(Re)production is not ‘success.’”

I would like to begin by thanking Professor Botting for her engagement with the important ideas discussed at the panel. That being said, I am concerned her absence from the actual event seems to have contributed to a significant misunderstanding of my argument. The Observer article paraphrased me as saying “a woman’s true success is not achieved until her fertility is embraced,” and it is this statement upon which Professor Botting’s passionate letter is based.

I did not make this statement, and I do not agree with it. The Observer correctly quoted me as saying, “the Catholic perspective fully embraces and integrates all aspects of a woman’s personhood.” Clearly, I strongly agree with Professor Botting that women should not be defined in terms of their reproductive capabilities. To reduce a woman to her reproductive capacity would be to ignore the intrinsic dignity of each woman, a dignity that is not dependent upon whether or not she can conceive.

Rather, my point is that by presenting contraception as essential to women’s equality and success, the HHS Mandate sends the message that a woman’s opportunity for success or equality is dependent upon suppressing her fertility. I believe this undermines the movement for equality among women and men, by requiring women to leave their fertility at the door. The Catholic Church also rejects this single-sexed definition of success, instead fully embracing and integrating all aspects of woman, including her fertility.

To claim that contraception is key to women’s success is demeaning to all women. Women deserve better than this. Instead, we need to promote real resources to support women who are pregnant or parenting. Our efforts need to be focused on providing mandatory paid maternity leave, better prenatal care, better financial aid and medical care for women and children, and better, more affordable, childcare, which would support all women’s success in the workplace.

Finally, in the last paragraph of her viewpoint, Professor Botting seems to imply that the HHS mandate is necessary to provide women with contraception for non-contraceptive health reasons. As a matter of fact, Notre Dame ⎯ along with many of the other religious organizations that oppose the HHS Mandate ⎯ already provides contraception to women for non-contraceptive health reasons. However, anyone who did hear my full presentation will recall my personal story of finally finding real medical help through NaPro technology, after numerous doctors tried to merely “band-aid” my symptoms with contraception. I would love to share my story again, so Professor Botting and anyone else who is interested, please feel free to contact me.

Erin Stoyell-Mulholland
junior
April 24

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Johnny Whichard

    Excellent response to the immature letter that responded to your quotes. Embarrassing for the University that you had to do so. God bless you!

  • Justin

    I really appreciate that Erin found a way to respectfully respond to what was a completely irrelevant response. For such a controversial issue, she definitely comes across as above the fray.

  • NDaniels

    Contraception serves as a means to prevent pregnancy; hormone therapy that does not serve as a means to prevent pregnancy is not contraception.

    The Catholic Church does not discriminate against husbands and/or wives nor does she discriminate against fatherhood and/or motherhood, because Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church respects The Sanctity of Marriage and The Family.

  • Michelle

    Well said, Professor Stoyell-Mulholland!

  • anymajordude

    “By presenting contraception as essential to women’s equality and
    success, the HHS Mandate sends the message that a woman’s opportunity
    for success or equality is dependent upon suppressing her fertility… requiring women to leave their fertility at the door.”

    No it doesn’t. The “equality” part comes in with regard to allowing women to make choices about and have control over their own bodies — whether they choose to carry a child and raise it at any given point in their lives or not. By all means, object to contraception on religious grounds, but please don’t try to make this about some twisted, disingenuous notion of equality. I truly fail to see your logic.

    • gull

      Contraception and the negation of a women’s healthy system is not equality. Her time for control and equality over her body comes before the need for contraception A woman does have control over her body, without forcing others to pay for the choices she makes with her body

      • anymajordude

        “Forcing others to pay” for her choices? Well, then I suppose Notre Dame health insurance shouldn’t pay for cancer treatment for former smokers, or insulin for diet-related Type II diabetes, either.

        • MB

          A more accurate analogy would be to ask insurance to pay for a drug which was created to block a normally functioning bodily system. No, that’s not an analogy, that’s a definition. My friend, children are not a cancer, and pregnancy is not ” broken”. A majority of the current problems in our culture stem from the very odd idea that reproduction is analogous to cancer. Ms. Stoyell- Mulholland demonstrates a maturity and level of clear thinking of which the last two generations have been terribly bereft.
          She gives me great hope.

  • Anne

    It’s pretty sad when ND faculty are out-thought and out-classed by undergrads.

  • Curious

    Question for Ms. Stoyell-Mulholland: the HHS Mandate requires employers to cover contraceptive costs. Would you support mandatory coverage of Natural Family Planning services? Should there be a difference in coverage/plans/services offered between using NFP for contraceptive vs. medical purposes?

    • Anne

      Your second question is moot because NFP cannot, by definition, be used for contraceptive purposes. A contraceptive act deliberately frustrates the spouses’ naturally ordered gifts of fertility, which means that they are not giving themselves to each other totally and completely at that moment. With NFP, the spouses cooperate with — rather than rebel against — their natural physical gifts.

      With NFP, when spouses in good conscience do not believe that they can give themselves totally to each other in the conjugal act, they ABSTAIN from it. In contrast, a contraceptive act entails engaging in the conjugal act while interfering with its procreative aspect.

      Use of NFP can certainly be selfish, but it cannnot be contraceptive. In other words, contraception is always selfish. NFP entails only the possibility of selfishness.

      As to your first question about whether NFP coverage should be mandatory, I think most of us NFP supporters would believe such a mandate to be way too authoritarian. We’ll leave the imposition of authoritarian government mandates to the feminists. Plus, having “insurance” for routine out-of-pocket services is just plain silly.

      • Curious

        Thanks for answering my questions. I’m not too familiar with discussions on NFP. My understanding is that the NFP process works by diligently tracking signs of fertility and abstaining from sex on a woman’s fertile days. What would a situation be where a spouse doesn’t believe that he/she can give totally of themselves? I had assumed that NFP was a way to allow couples to practice family planning, but your comment makes it sound like by abstaining when they can’t give fully of themselves, including their fertility, i.e. you should abstain when you’re not fertile.

        “I think most of us NFP supporters would believe such a mandate to be way too authoritarian. We’ll leave the imposition of authoritarian government mandates to the feminists.”
        -No need to word it so rudely. What does supporting NFP have to do with being anti-authoritarian? NFP can help identify and treat health problems, as Ms. Stoyell-Mulholland mentioned. Additionally, it offers a method for families to control when they have children so that they can provide a stable, supportive home, and this method is also in line with Catholic teaching. You can’t allow insurers and/or employers to deny coverage of NFP while also block contraceptive coverage; women will have no options left for treating menstrual problems and family planning. It’s a service that provides medical treatment; what makes it so different from any other type of service that is covered by insurance?

        Also, women who can’t afford family planning services most certainly can’t afford a child, no? Keep in mind that the people who can’t afford it are the ones who need it most. You can pay a little to prevent unwanted pregnancies, or you can pay a lot to support all those unwanted children that are likely going to be supported on welfare/CHIPS/Medicaid. Not to mention that preventing unwanted pregnancies will decrease the number of abortions.

  • BCSWowbagger

    Repeating your position over and over again does not, in fact, constitute a refutation of OP’s argument — nor, indeed, Ms. Stoyell-Mulholland’s.

    • anymajordude

      Aw, but it makes me feel so much better, BCSW!

      • BCSWowbagger

        Well, in that case, carry on.

  • Student

    “As a matter of fact, Notre Dame along with many of the other religious organizations that oppose the HHS Mandate already provides contraception to women for non-contraceptive health reasons.”

    This is extremely misleading. The university does in some cases, but it has failed to in others. Many conditions which are treated with the use of hormonal contraceptives are conclusively diagnosed precisely through treatment. When the university requires proof of a non-contraceptive medical need in order to provide coverage under their policies, this rules out the possibility of providing coverage for many women who need it.

    Also, what anymajordude said. One would think that folks coming from within an institution that has a very long and decisive history of oppressing women would be a bit more sensitive to the implications of claiming that true support for women’s equality translates into providing them with less options to maintain autonomy over their own bodies.