# Mathematical Proof that Birth Control Fails

March 22, 2012

PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter examined the claim from a White House official who said “98 percent of Catholic women have used contraception,” and found the claim to be “mostly true.” The USCCB argued in return that the number was much lower, but Politifact held that the bishop’s mathematical error was in considering a “snapshot in time” rather than behavior over time, concluding that “most women [over time] would find occasion to take advantage of the new co-pay-free contraceptive rule.”

This bothered me, and I remembered something I read in Robert Ruff’s 1988 book, Aborting Planned Parenthood. The widely held assumption that birth control “works” is not considered over time, but on a “snapshot in time” percentage.

Stick with me, this is not a boring “how geeky art I” post…

I want to show you something significant, and I’m giving you the tools to use it in a debate.

Typical-use failure rates are defined as the expected number of pregnancies in the first year per 100 women using the method. That means that for the pill with a typical-use failure rate of 8, that of 100 women using the pill, in a single year 8 of them will become pregnant. A single year.

But what about the ever-so-important “over time” predictions demanded by PolitiFact? If we are going to consider how many women will use birth control over time, then shouldn’t we also consider how effective it is over time, rather than in a snap shot of a single year? Let’s take a look by simply using the reported typical use failure rates the contraception folks report for the first year, and extrapolating them mathematically over time.

Remember those lessons from algebra class about determining the probability of getting 16 heads if you flip a coin 100 times? That can be easily calculated by using the binomial probability formula. Here’s an online calculator so anyone can check the math.

The Binomial Probability Formula

The binomial probability formula is the same formula you use when trying to find the probability of getting X number of heads when you flip a coin, say, 100 times. In other words, we want to figure out that if 8 out of 100 women are expected to get pregnant in one year, then how many should we expect to get pregnant in 5 or 10 years.

It’s called the Exact Binomial Probability formula, a straightforward formula with no assumptions made. You can use this calculator.

N = the number of years to consider a woman using birth control (1, 5, 10, etc.)

k = the number of pregnancies, so enter 1

p = the probability, see here for women, see here for teens. Enter the decimal form. If the failure rate is 8 out of 100, enter .08. If the failure rate is 15 out of 100, enter .15.

The number to read is the line that says, “P: 1 or more out of N.”

So Let’s Have a Look at the Numbers

The typical-use failure rate for the pill is 8%, in one year 8 out of 100 women using the pill in a typical way will get pregnant, but the numbers are much higher extrapolated over time. It’s even worse for condom use.

 # Women out of 100 that will get pregnant 1 or more times: Birth Control Method Typical-Use Failure Rate 1 year 5 years 10 years Pill 8 8 34 57 Condom 17 17 56 80

8 out of 100 women will have unintended pregnancies in one year, but 34 of those same 100 women will have unintended pregnancies in five years, and more than half in ten years. Condom use has an even higher failure rate, so typical-use of condoms over five years actually makes a woman more likely to get pregnant than not. Over ten year’s time, it practically ensures unintended pregnancy. And what about teens? Teens are not as careful so the failure rates are higher.

 # Teens out of 100 that will get pregnant 1 or more times: Birth Control Method Typical-Use Failure Rate 1 year 5 years 10 years Pill 8.6 9 36 59 Condom 17.7 18 62 86

Fifteen is the age considered the beginning of the reproductive lifetime, so out of 100 fifteen-year-old girls who begin using birth control, 36 of them will be pregnant by the time they are age twenty. If their sexual behavior and birth control use remains the same, most will be pregnant by the time they are age twenty-five. (Disease is a whole ‘nother story.)

Birth control does not prevent unintended pregnancy, but over time it actually makes it more likely, whether the woman is a teen or not, just based on the failure rates reported. Birth control is claimed to be the “responsible” thing to do if you aren’t going to be responsible in the first place, so frankly these numbers are not surprising. Of course it logically follows that if someone’s idea of being responsible is to use a pill/device when you don’t want to be responsible in the first place, then responsible use of said pill/device is probably an unwarranted expectation. Yeah, read that last sentence one more time, which is probably why they don’t report failure rates beyond the first year.

Back to the HHS Mandate. If the argument is that most women will use birth control, therefore, it should be paid for by insurance, then what are they trying to get us to pay for? That women will have unintended pregnancies?

It would seem so to the mathematically-aware, knowing-the-truth-doesn’t-make-you-a-geek observer.

People become accustomed to a lifestyle of sex without consequences along with an ignorance of the human body, and they think of unintended pregnancies as unwanted pregnancies, and we know what the advertised “cure” for that “disease” is – abortion. Besides, when you consider that the contraception and abortion activists also predict that 1 in 3 women in their reproductive lifetime will have an abortion (notice folks, here they speak in terms over time when it suits their argument), aren’t they really admitting that they already know birth control fails?

Birth control over time normalizes abortion.

We knew that, but this calculation proves it using their own reported estimates. Of course the other alternative is to be “fixed” like an irrational animal with implants, injections or surgery, something Catholics also oppose because we are taught that to be fully human we must use our intellect and will to strive to be virtuous. Animals, as you know, can’t do math either.

Category: Abortion, Social Issues

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1. Wow! I didn’t know that the failure rate of contraception was 8%. It doesn’t take a probability expert to know that a failure rate of that magnitude becomes a question of “when” not “if”.

And that’s if you get it right EVERY time.

2. Correction on my part. The Wiki article does make a distinction between typical use and perfect use. But even then that’s a really high failure rate for normal use.

3. Yep, good catch Colin. Typical use is still based on average assumptions. In other words, they predict half the women (on average) will experience failure more often. Perfect use is (as any perfect assumption is) ideological.

4. Oh, and also good catch – yes it’s “when” and not “if.” That, more concisely than I put it, is THE point. Thank you.

5. Another thing to mention about the pill, the failure rates are very dependent on how consistently the woman takes the pill. She is supposed to take it at the same time of day every day. Missing a single day can make the likelihood of failure increase a lot. Most (I think) “failures” (don’t like that word) are related to missing a day.

6. JC says:

These rates don’t quite tell the whole story: during a 10 year span, assuming that all pregnant women carry their children to term (they don’t), and assuming that they spend, on average, 6 months recovering/breastfeeding/etc, it seem to me that there is the potential for any given women to become pregnant up to 6 times during that 10 year span. Thus, not only are there 59/100 women (on average) pregnant over a 10 year period, but some (fairly significant) number of these will achieve multiple pregnancies.

7. Elizabeth S says:

Birth control pills can also “fail” with certain medication use. The big one I know of is antibiotics will cause failures.
I wonder if there is any way of quantifying a women’s individual fertility. It seems logical that a woman who becomes pregnant once despite using contraception would have a higher chance of becoming pregnant again, unless she opted for a more permanent method like sterilization. I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, so even if I were sexually active my chance of pregnancy is already lowered. Playing devil’s advocate, theoretically couldn’t some of those 60 teens in be repeat pregnancies?

8. lifewrecker says:

If you have a problem with the 8% of women who get pregnant while on birth control, then why don’t you stop taking antibiotics when you get a bacterial infection because they might not work either?

9. lifewrecker says:

And stop pretending to understand mathematics in an attempt to further your opinion. My wife (and friends’ wives) have never had an unintended pregnancy while on birth control. Perhaps a failure of birth control falls on the user, not on your beliefs.

10. Elizabeth K. says:

Lifewrecker, you’re missing the point (and I really have to doubt your statement that you know, for certain, that no one you or your wife knows has ever had an unintended pregnancy.) I’m not at all clear what that last sentence means, but if you’re saying that user failure is a factor–um, yes, that’s exactly what’s being talked about here. The point, which appears to have sailed over your head into the wild yonder, is that we’re being spoonfed an argument that we NEED this birth control, and MUST pay for it, to prevent unintended pregnancies, when, in fact, the use and further promotion of it will actually INCREASE unintended pregnancies overall. Giving people a whole bunch of pills doesn’t mean they’ll use those pills correctly, as the data indicates. More people using them=more unintended pregnancies.

11. enness says:

It can also fail if you do nothing wrong, but the company producing it screws up something so innocuous as the order of pills in their packaging; there have been at least two pill recalls in the last few months.

Lifewrecker, a baby isn’t a bacterial infection (thank you for proving what has been said about pregnancy being treated like a disease!). A bacterial infection doesn’t need to be held, fed, housed, and clothed for close to 18 years.

12. Kevin says:

Lifewrecker, stop pretending to understand logic in an attempt to further your own opinion. One example does not disprove the principle. http://www.fallacyfiles.org/hastygen.html

13. Alanl64 says:

Did someone actually say the more people that using birth control means more unwanted pregnancies?
And the life wrecker gets critiques ( and rudeness) for not understanding logic.

14. Alanl64 says:

And I think the comparison to antibiotics is more to illustrate that all drugs come with some failure rate. How can usage of one be bad based on usage failure buy the other acceptable?

15. JC and Elizabeth S,

Good points. In the calculator you can change the “k” value from 1 (pregnancy) to 2 to get those values. The one I give is for “1 or more.” This, it is safe to say, constitutes the *best* case. In reality the failure is probably a lot higher.

Elizabeth K, the “wild yonder.” Haha! Thank you.

Enness, “there have been at least two pill recalls in the last few months” I didn’t know that. Thank you. And right babies are bacterial infections! Seems obvious.

LIfewrecker, your friends do not constitute a statistical population, like Kevin said. Thanks Kevin!

Alan, “Did someone actually say the more people that using birth control means more unwanted pregnancies?” Yes, that is the point. You might understand it better if you look up “risk compensation.”

16. Perdido says:

That number is really not surprising. The Guttmacher Institute, which is Planned Parenthood’s research arm, released the stunning statistic recently (2011) that 54% of women who had abortions were using contraceptives at the time they became pregnant. Therein lies one of the dangers of the contraceptive mentality: it makes abortion a justifiable “backup” to contraceptive technology.

17. Tony61 says:

All medical interventions have “failures”, but the fact remains that oral hormonal contraception (the example you use) is among the most efficacious medications on the market. While Lifewrecker’s friends may not constitute a statistical population, neither does Stacy’s mathematical model population.

You assume that patients are not counseled as to the failure rates and are not counseled to use two or more types of contraception. You assume that oral contraception is relied upon in higher risk populations when more efficacious methods are available (injectable, IUD’s). These assumptions reduce the power of your mathematical study.

While failure rates per year are the standard measure (or per hundred years of use, ie Pearl Index), a more realistic measure would be # of unintended pregnancies per act of intercourse, and while impractical to calculate, this would give a better indication of the efficacy of modern birth control. Perhaps more women are having more sex than 50 years ago, in which case science has responded with contraception.

Maybe teens are initiating sex earlier today than they were in 1950, but is it earlier than, say AD 1500, or 1 BCE? Probably not. Maybe women are not counseled strongly enough about the failures of birth control (which I think is your main argument here), but I doubt it. They are, even if you don’t see it…but women (and men) choose to engage in this activity anyway.

The crux of the discussion is whether more available birth control *causes* more irresponsible sexual activity. Causation is difficult to prove one way or the other. Does the availability of insulin *cause* more adult-onset obesity? Do seat belts *cause* more drivers to be reckless?

18. Jim says:

One might consider failure rates are much higher than the rates indicated.

Let us observe, that a pill or barrier everytime life is transmitted even if a pregnancy is not observed.

And do, let us consider that years N is likely more accurately expressed as years N*4. This is account for the fertility cycle because we can reasonably concluded that we only have evidence for when a woman is in here week of fertility.

Also, we should be greater observation of the failure rates. Since, we know that recorded failure rates of chemical-contraception tracks only observed pregnancy, we know that this is not taking into account for re-started cycles. In this way, we should be also reasonably including everytime a woman’s cycle has gone funny on her after having had sexual intercourse whilst on chemical contraception.

And so, the adjustment of years N to years N*4 is insufficient. We must make for a greater refinement in the probabality p, a number very likely to be greater in reality than lesser.

19. Tony 61,

Take it up with the folks who market contraception then, as the 8/100 failure rate is cooked up by them. I just showed, using high school level math, that if you extrapolate that over more than one year, BC actually OVER TIME does nothing but fool the woman into thinking she is “safe” (if taking cancer-causing substances can be considered safe).

I assumed nothing. The typical-use failure rates are based on the all the assumptions you mention. Again, take it up with the folks marketing the stuff, not me.

“The crux of the discussion is whether more available birth control *causes* more irresponsible sexual activity.”

Not really. Facts are fact. The numbers, as given, don’t look so great over time.

Plus what Perdido said (thanks Perdido!) is consistent with the rough prediction.

20. Jacob S says:

Alan:

The idea is that there are two factors to pregnancy: contraception and doing, uh, stuff.

We understand very clearly that for a person going around having unrestrained sex all the time, contraception lowers pregnancy rate. The point is that this plan – lots of sex and contraception – has a high failure rate, and the idea that it doesn’t is at best a misunderstanding and at worst a downright lie.

Whereas people who do not rely on contraception to prevent pregnancies, but instead focus on when and whether or not to have sex are actually in control.

So: if you like the antibiotic example, we have to modify it a bit. Suppose there is one disease (I hate comparing pregnancy to a disease, but for this example that’s how it works) that can only be caused by injecting a specific bacteria directly into your blood stream. Taking an antibiotic at the right time may prevent the disease from giving noticeable side effects (there is a non-negligible failure rate).

(Unfortunately NFP doesn’t fit will into this analogy for obvious reasons, so lets not consider it at all in this case.)

Given that set up, which case is going to lead to more “unwanted diseases”: injecting yourself with the bacteria and taking the antibiotic, or not injecting yourself with the antibiotic?

21. Jacob S says:

Correction to above “or not injecting yourself with the bacteria?”

22. Jim,

Thank you!

Key point: “Since, we know that recorded failure rates of chemical-contraception tracks only observed pregnancy…”

23. “Unfortunately NFP doesn’t fit will into this analogy for obvious reasons, so lets not consider it at all in this case.”

Exactly Jacob! Thanks.

24. Jeff McLeod says:

Tony61, a few nitpicks.

You said Stacy’s analysis lacked “power.” That’s a technical statistical term. Hopefully you were using it in a fast-and-loose metaphorical sense? Otherwise you are simply wrong.

Also, you played the “causation” card, which I’d like to caution our readers against.

Correlation does not imply cause, that’s trivially true. But Tony61: Cause DOES imply correlation. You know that, right? I want readers to know you’re making an exceedingly technical point when you say that, a point that in no way invalidates Stacy’s method.

The trick you used was to say correlation doesn’t “prove” cause.

Since when was empirical science in the business of “proof?”

Empirical science seeks confirmation, it doesn’t seek proof. You prove things in MATH, not empirical science.

Science = confirmation, Math = proof.

Let’s keep those straight.

Correlation does not prove cause, but it confirms a causal hypothesis. I’m using a very precise technical phrase here and I’m using it accurately. You are free to submit a discomfirming analysis of the problem, taking into account the various speculations you raised.

I just want to be sure the readers aren’t unduly influenced by Tony61′s mostly fair but ultimately flimsy criticism.

25. Summer says:

Failure rate for a sexually active teen using oral contraception: 8.5%
Failure rate for a sexually active teen using no contraception: 85%

Average number of children over 5 years, taking into account length of pregnancy and effect of breast feeding:

Oral Contraception: 36% chance of 1 child
No Contraception: 2-3 children

Contraception is successful in preventing 2-3 children born out of wedlock per sexually active teen, and is successful in preventing 64% of sexually active teens from ever becoming teen mothers.

Contraception is only successful if contraception is used.

26. Summer,

Abstinence: 0% failure rate

Today, tomorrow, and always!

I’ll let you explain to us the difference between 2-3 children and no children.

Again, contraception is given to teens as the “responsible” thing to do if you aren’t going to be responsible in the first place.

Self-nullifying proposition.

27. Rhonda says:

Contraception has led to women having lots more sex without being in a committed relationship or a marriage. They have even determined that women don’t pick the same types of men to have sex with when taking oral BC. Basically if the oral BC pill were for men and it caused them as many health problems (increase chance of breast cancer, blood clots,weight gain, etc..) that it causes women it would never have been approved. BC is for men..as is abortion..With birth control men have no responsibility at all when pursuing sex..if the woman gets pregnant it’s an automatic abortion because hey she was on he pill. The main problem with BC, excepy NFP, is that it encourages women and men to have sex with people they would never think of marrying or being in a relationship with. BC is not healthcare..it’s actually bad for everyones health as it leads to STD’s an unwanted pregnancies.. we really need to get back to teaching that the healthiest life style is to wait for marriage to have sex..sounds out dated right..I know..but so many of lifes problems stem from having sex to young and/or with out being married..can’t change the facts.

28. Just an observation says:

Ms. Trasancos,

I notice that the objectors to your article have not engaged the principal issue, viz., that of X per centum snapshot vs. X per centum over time.

And yet, there are several objections.

This is an indication that what you said 1.) Bothers some people profoundly, even if they may not admit that it does, and 2.) Is true.

Brava.

29. Jennifer says:

Well done once again, Stacy. The facts are the facts and they do not support the claim that contraception is the great, shiny solution it’s sold to be. Even these damning math statistics cannot begin to touch on the other serious problems associated with contraception, all of which fall disproportionately on women. Serious health risks from artificial hormones — don’t see the guys lining up to assume that risk themselves or the medical community hurrying to make a Pill for men in the first place. Worst of all is that women are only further “burdened” with the unintended pregnancy that results as the guy moves on, since it’s “her body, her choice” and he’s got nothing to do with it.

30. Suzana says:

I found the following statistic on the Guttmacher Institute site you linked to in your post. Note that 13% (!!!) of pill users became pregnant despite correct use. Based on this data, it seems that the 8% pregnancy rate cited by pill manufacturers is incorrect.

“Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.”

31. John Strong says:

Since handguns sometimes fail to stop a home intruder, I plan on not using mine if someone breaks into my house.

32. Alanl64 says:

Yes, abstinence will create no unwanted pregnancies, this I think we can all agree is a fact.
And I understand why you think more unwanted pregnancies occur because of contraception, but I think if you got your way and contraception was illegal you would more than likely see an increase in unwanted pregnancies.
And I will ask how many of you anti contraception folks were virgins when you married? Have any of you ever used contraception?

33. zach says:

I’d like to point out, assuming this is a conversation framed by religion, that the entire point of Christianity is that abstinence is not, in fact, 100% effective.

34. John, or maybe you could lock your doors and not put signs in your yard to entice a robber! A little prudence goes a long way!

Rhonda, “I know..but so many of lifes problems stem from having sex to young and/or with out being married..can’t change the facts.” Exactly!

Jeff, of course and as always, MUCHAS GRACIAS!

Just an observation: Seems you hit the nail on the head!

Jennifer, I love you! No shine in the “shiny solution” after all!

Suzana, “… while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.” YEP! Thanks for catching that!

Alanl64, Glad you get it. Yes I used contraception for decades before the Church told me the truth. It’s a profound regret, one that tears me up inside. So many lies, so much thrown away. Believe it or not, the human person IS capable of virtue and dignity. We are created for it, and we naturally desire it.

35. Zach,

The point of Christianity is that not a single one of us is Christ, the redeemer of the human race. Only the Son of God is Christ, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The point of Christianity is not that the human race will proliferate being born of sinless virgins. We get that. Quite well.

36. Zach says:

Meh. Regardless of what Christianity is or isn’t, mathematically speaking, abstinence has no bearing on this discussion, it’s introducing another variable into the formula. Contraception is 100% effective in the case of abstinence as well. To be statistically and scientifically valid, you need controls, which is sex with no contraception. So Summer is right.

37. Scotty Ellis says:

I only wish to point out the irony of conservative Catholics condemning artificial birth control because it “separates the sexual act from its procreative telos” and then simultaneously harping on about how unreliable birth control is and that “Thus, birth control does NOT prevent unintended pregnancy, but over time it actually makes it more likely.” These two narratives are mutually undermining; as a note, one should not always reach for an argument just because it happens to have a conclusion you agree with.

38. Just an observation says:

Alan,

I’m sorry you think that “anti contraception folks” are trying to take away other people’s freedom to use contraceptives. That is not what is being argued here. What is being argued here is that using contraceptives, in addition to being condemned by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church (for those of us for whom math is hard), it’s also, for the reasons laid out clearly above, not prudent.

The Church has not for a very long time been in the business of making sin illegal.

But I hope my tone does not seem too patronizing. I honestly think you made an honest misinterpretation of the spirit of the refutation.

If Ms. Trasancos “gets her way”, contraception will not be illegal, just not forced on people to pay for others to use it, when said providers consider the use of it sinful.

39. Just out of curiosity, what is the ‘perfect use’ failure rate of birth control pills and condoms? I’m wondering specifically in making solid comparisons between artificial contraception and NFP.

40. Alanl64 says:

Just an observation, I appreciate your not wanting to patronize me.
I am not 100% certain that those who argue against contraception being paid for by health insurance wouldn’t like to ban them completely. However that is off topic.

I don’t think the above shows contraception to be imprudent, nor do I necessarily agree with the math. And well we all have different moral standards, so that is always hard to argue. You find contraception immoral, don’t use them.

Now as for paying, how is it exactly you pay for others contraception?
And please bear in mind that all of us tax payers and insurance payers pay for things we don’t necessarily agree with. Its just the way it goes.

So now two questions:
1. Does anyone here think contraception should be illegal?
2. Stacy tells me that people are capable of virtue and dignity after discussing how she used to use contraception until the church showed her it is wrong. Is Stacy saying people who use contraception lack virtue and dignity?

41. College Student says:

Hi Stacy,

I didn’t read all the comments, but your conclusions are deeply flawed. Presumably your making an implicit argument about how birth control isn’t an effective alternative to abstinence, citing stats on BC’s ineffectiveness as evidence. However, doing this compares ‘actual’ pill usage with ‘perfect’ abstinence usage, a major incongruence which invalidates any conclusions. We would need an apples to apples comparison. Ie when used perfectly abstinence is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, BC pills are 99.9% effective. However with typical use of birth control pills, birth control is NOT that effective. With typical use abstinence is also NOT that effective, I would imagine less effective that BC

42. Mary says:

College student makes an interesting point, but the reality is that a society of women on the Pill acts very very differently from a society where women are not on the Pill. For better or worse, when a woman became pregnant out of wedlock before the days of the Pill, she and her partner were looked upon as having “acted”, and now needing to take responsibility for that “act” by raising the child, or perhaps putting the child up for adoption. It was a real deterrent that kept many young couples on the far side of “heavy petting”. Today if someone gets pregnant out of wedlock, it is seen as a technological failure, not a behavioral one. A woman would even be seen as unresonable for refusing an abortion in such a situation, as barren sex outside of wedlock is a “right”. Women were MUCH more cautious about who they slept with etc.

I also think the rise of the Pill went hand in hand with the rise of female drinking. Women used to be more cautious about drinking to excess in college, as they knew it could reduce their inhibitions and have unintended consequences. Inebriated college girls are commonplace now.

43. Nick C says:

And now you know the two only 100% effective methods of birth control…..
1. Abstinence as taught by the Church for those not married.
2. Abortion as promoted by the culture of death.
Morally there is only one choice a person may make, that of abstinence. The choice comes before the act not after.

By the way, field studies in Africa and India have indicated that abstinence is at least as effective, if not more, than condoms in preventing AIDs and “Natural Family Planning” is at least as effective as other birth control methods in India. Sorry, I don’t have the references. My recommendation, don’t blindly accept the comparison table data as reported in Wikipedia. Check the talk tab on the Wikipedia article. There may be a basis against Fertility Awareness methods that are typically part of a natural family planning routine.

44. College Student,

If my conclusions, which are mathematical proofs, are flawed, please break that down systematically for me and cite your sources as I did.

“Ie when used perfectly abstinence is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, BC pills are 99.9% effective.”

Haha! I didn’t expect these kind of comments. I think we’re seeing the threads coming out of the seams here.

I think non sequitur is the right term here. Anyone?

Abstinence, by definition, is always 100% effective. Period. (For human persons anyway.) It’s a binomial distribution, you either are abstinent or you are not.

With birth control, there are too many factors to model, thus the HUGE disparity in the perfect use (which is only ideological) and the best-guess typical use, which only implies a distribution around a mean. (See comments about responsibility when being irresponsible.)

And none of that really matters to the original post. The point is that in “snap shot” time they report one thing, but in “over time” the numbers are not so good.

And then when they want to make abortion sound like the normal experience of a third of all women’s lives, they go LONG over the entire reproductive lifetime. And those numbers come from some crrraaazzy manipulate wishful thinking.

Not a single one of you (as Just an observation pointed out) has addressed that.

Anyway, according to “pro-choice” logic, abortion is just back-up birth control, so why does it even matter to you if the pill fails. Hey, just get an abortion, and if you have to have so many you experience financial hardship, well then demand someone else pay for it because you neeeeed it! Yeehaw!

45. College Student says:

Hi Mary,
you are right in a lot of ways but I think the picture becomes convoluted when we look at snapshots at history. It is very simplistic to say women behaved better before birth control because life for women was fundamentally different before birth control. We like to pretend that women intrinsically valued family much more in the past forgetting that women needed ‘family’ in the past to gain status in society. A woman could not work, so she couldn’t own property or buy her own food without a husband. Marriage was a status symbol, a meal ticket. And men didn’t want sloppy seconds so chastity wasn’t necessarily intrinsically important but strategically smart.

46. College Student says:

I stand by what I said.

First abstinence isn’t even 100% effective in theory, as rape victims are abstinent and can still become pregnant. It is also quite possible for a woman undergoing IVF to be abstinent as well, but that’s neither here nor there.

But again your situation is not analogous. The stats on the effectiveness of Birth control are based on women’s typical use of birth control. This included women who disobey the directions on the pill including those who don’t take it at the exact time everyday and even those who miss a pill or two (which happens often). This isn’t a fault in the design of the pill its the fault of the application. Thus any comparison considering the effectiveness of a method of contraception would have to include the human error application’ or not. Including it in once instance and not the other gives us two samples we can’t compare. And i’d imagine a lot of abstinence users like pill users don’t practice abstinence perfectly.

47. College Student says:

And just in case that last one was comment about liberals wanting people to pay for birth control for free. The concept is subsidy not free. When someone pays for insurance and want’s something covered under insurance even without a co-pay they want it subsidized (which is what insurance does) not free.

But I understand not wanting to subsidize people’s sex lives. I will surely petition the gov about spending my money for schools and firemen to get kids out of burning buildings because I will not subsidize people’s sex lives. By all means have the unprotected sex you want but if don’t stick me with the bill

48. Summer says:

Abstinance = most responsible decision
contraception = second most responsible decision
unprotected sex = least responsible decision

That is what the math shows. That is what my sex ed class taught me.

49. Tony61 says:

A few things:
Stacy says “Abstinence: 0% failure rate”. Is this the user failure rate or the theoretical failure rate, as long as we are comparing?

Perdido says: “Guttmacher released the stunning statistic recently (2011) that 54% of women who had abortions were using contraceptives at the time they became pregnant.” Which means that 46% of women were not using contrceptives, and simple arithmetic would say that oral contraceptives alone could have prevented 42% of abortions last year using the 8% failure rate. That’s hundreds of thousands of abortions that could have been prevented. Factor in additional and more reliable birth control methods and the number of unintended pregnancy is even lower.

Also, the assumption that every birth control failure results in abortion is flawed, but I’m using your argument.

Jeff McLeod’s discussion of causation and correlation confuses me (granted, maybe not too hard to do), but are you saying that increased birth control availability *causes* an increase in irresponsible sex? What data are you using?

50. Erin says:

Tony61,
If, for just the sake of argument, we forced every woman to take contraceptives, the final statement would be, “100% of women who had abortions were using contraceptives at the time they became pregnant.”

I would say that is a failure scenario similar to discussing acceptable levels of collateral casualties in war.

51. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

“Abstinence”, like self-mastery, is a GOAL of 0% failure rate, just like there is a 0% failure rate goal for contraception as well. But the actual practice toward the goal of abstinence / self-mastery is called “chastity” which, according to Catholic Church teaching, “includes a [lifelong] apprenticeship” such that “one can never consider” abstinence / self-mastery to be completely achieved. Rather, the practice “progresses through stages marked by imperfection” rather than having a 0% failure rate. A similar situation exists with contraception, as manufacturing and methods of use are studied, tested and improved over time. Indeed, for some people, their practice of chastity, their “apprenticeship”, might actually include the use of contraception. The Pope is now famously known to have said of condoms, “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals… where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.” Fr. Lombardi subsequently quoted the Pope as adding, “The problem is this… It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship. This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual.” Therefore, as much as some people allege condoms to be step toward “anything goes”, the Pope clearly said, and subsequently reconfirmed, that it can also be a first step of taking responsibility, away from “anything goes”.

52. MF says:

With birth control we have enslaved women to a live a life of being available for sex 24-7 without having to worry about the consequences. The women’s movement has twisted this male fantasy and turned it into a right for women. There was a time when a woman had control over her body, especially her sex life, and her biological clock told her when and when not to have sex, just as God intended. This is no longer so. Women now can allow men to use them as often as possible. How did we get here? How could we classify frequent sex as some kind of virtue or right?

53. Tony61 says:

Erin, in your scenario you are correct, but the absolute number would be lower. A beneficial scenario or not?

54. Jeff McLeod says:

On the topic of cause and effect, I’m a little surprised to see contraception advocates siding with the logic of Big Tobacco, which says pay no attention to the blackened lungs of smokers, the fact is there is no proof cigarette smoking causes cancer. None whatsoever. Similarly, there is no proof that a culture saturated in easy contraception causes looser and more careless sex.

Technically, Big Contraception and Big Tobacco are right. There is no proof of cause and effect.

But when I hear the Big Tobacco argument about “you can’t ever prove cause”, it’s always a cue to me that my opponent is out of ammo. Shooting blanks.

55. Tony61 says:

“Big Contraception”. I love coming here to see what the latest memes are; this is what we’re going with now?

To prove cause and effect, if the alleged cause were removed the result would be a dramatically decreased incidence of the alleged effect. If you removed contraception would the number of abortions decrease? Has this been shown in any population or controlled study? Or are we using a thought experiment?

I like your framing of the debate: comparing birth control with Big Tobacco. We are all Andrew Breitbart now.

56. Larry says:

1) That’s not how probability works. If you have an 8% chance of getting pregnant on birth control then that’s your odds. Period. Think of it as flipping a coin. Say you flipped it 10 times and got heads each time. What would be the probability of getting heads the 11th time? The answer is still 50%. The 11th toss is independent of the previous 10. Now the probability of flipping a coin 11 times in a row heads is 1/(2^11) or 0.049% but that wasn’t the question. 8% is 8%.

2) Say her math was right (which it isn’t). If you follow the link she is quoting stats from Wikipedia which is fine but if she used the “perfect failure rate” numbers. For the pill that’s 0.3% in 1 year. Then for 5 years on the pill it would be 1-(1-0.003)^5 or 98.5%. The formula is for n years 1-(1-0.003)^n so 20 years is still 94%. The reason the pill in practice is so low is because many women don’t have the proper instructions on use. They don’t take it every day like they should or they don’t know that antibiotics interfere with it. Better training with larger use would bring that 8% down. But this whole point is mute because the math is wrong (see point 1).

3) So the other option is no birth control and according to her stat source chart on Wikipedia the pregnancy rate on this is 85%. So with her erroneous math that’s 1-(1-0.85)^n or 98% chance in 2 years and a 99.99% in 5 years. That is considerably higher than the 64% she said you have with the pill in 5 year. But again see point #1!

I also like the fact that while the author uses a chart from the Wikipedia article she stopped just short of the next paragraph after the citations which explains the cost benefits of family planning. “Family planning is among the most cost-effective of all health interventions” and it uses numerous citations to back up its claim. If the stats on pregnancy rates are good enough for her editorial why leave this part out? Read it yourself at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods#Comparison_table

57. Jeff McLeod says:

Larry, you’re aware, are you, that people have very different ideas of costs and benefits?

Surely you can’t fault Stacy for not cutting and pasting a highly subjective analysis of the costs and benefits of contraception??

You’re not honestly saying that the costs and benefits are settled science. Yes, even after thousands of years of progress, there is no consensus about what constitutes the good.

Some people believe the good is synonymous with the greatest pleasure for the greatest number.

Fair enough.

But many very intelligent people find this an inadequate criterion. I would refer you to the Soviet dissidents and the Polish post-war poets.

See, those materialist standards have led to some really terrible events in our recent history. Please acknowledge you understand this or I’m going to have a really bad day today. The sun is shining, spring is here… and along comes Larry who says, give it up folks, the purpose of life is pleasure.

Sigh.

58. Loving the discussion folks.

I keep trying to jump in, and seriously, not to be unkind, but I have to get up and go laugh every time I try to type.

The grasping at straws is killing me here. I think my next post will be, “Why Patience Rises to the Level of Virtue.” And I’ll just grab some quotes from this page. Oh my!

*Abstinence is not 100% effective if you have sex!* Riiiight! LOL.
*I don’t want it for free, I just want you to subsidize it so I don’t have to pay for it!* Got it! LOL.
*Probability doesn’t really work with the binomial probability formula!* Oookkey Dokey!
*Cause and effect confuse me, but if you remove the cause it seems you remove the effect!* Well, just shoot me.

And meanwhile the point is lost. Either we consider over time instead of snapshots in time, or we don’t. No fair arguing both sides of the fence depending on the point you want to make.

Maybe someone could explain the 1 in 3 abortion rate then – how’d they get that number? …I’ll get popcorn. This ought to be good!

Sorry, I’ll calm down in a bit.

59. College Student,

“First abstinence isn’t even 100% effective in theory, as rape victims are abstinent and can still become pregnant.”

That isn’t abstinence. Abstinence is no sex. It means not having any sex, and we are talking about that as a way to avoid pregnancy. It is, by definition, 100% successful at doing so. Only once did it happen otherwise in the entire history of humanity, and wise men appeared out of the East.

“It is also quite possible for a woman undergoing IVF to be abstinent as well, but that’s neither here nor there.”

Yes, but that woman wouldn’t be trying to avoid pregnancy.

“The stats on the effectiveness of Birth control are based on women’s typical use of birth control.”

I’m not so much interested in HOW they got those numbers as is showing that they are only giving a snap shot in time estimate. Anyone who knows a little about mathematical modelling knows that the actual number of unintended pregnancies in an entire population is impossible to know.

I just took what they reported and statistically extrapolated it over time, very straightforward, high school level stuff.

“And just in case that last one was comment about liberals wanting people to pay for birth control for free. The concept is subsidy not free. When someone pays for insurance and want’s something covered under insurance even without a co-pay they want it subsidized (which is what insurance does) not free.”

If you want someone to pay for something for you (subsidize) so you don’t have to pay for it (get it for free), then it’s the same thing.

“By all means have the unprotected sex you want but if don’t stick me with the bill.”

I’d hope to talk someone out of both.

60. Summer,

“That is what the math shows. That is what my sex ed class taught me.”

So you sex ed class taught you that teen sex is irresponsible and that birth control is that birth control is the “responsible” thing to do if you aren’t going to be responsible in the first place?

Math can only show what is responsible if you’ve defined responsible. What is responsible? Is teen sex responsible?

61. Tony61,

“Is this the user failure rate or the theoretical failure rate, as long as we are comparing?”

If someone stops being abstinent, then they are no longer abstinent.

I hope that is obvious enough.

• Name says:

“Is this the user failure rate or the theoretical failure rate, as long as we are comparing?” Stacy says: “If someone stops being abstinent, then they are no longer abstinent. I hope that is obvious enough.”

Well, using this logic, when someone stops using birth control properly then they stop being a “birth control user”, and we should use the 0.3% failure rate instead of the 8% user rate in your calculation.

Stacey says, paraphrasing me: “*Cause and effect confuse me, but if you remove the cause it seems you remove the effect!* Well, just shoot me.”

Your sarcasm has reached new levels, Stacy, and that does remind me of someone struggling with a failed argument. You have completely mischaracterized my statement with your unnecessary paraphrase. (This is usually where I check out of the discussion.) What I said– my exact quote– is: Jeff McLeod’s discussion of causation and correlation confuses me (granted, maybe not too hard to do), but are you saying that increased birth control availability *causes* an increase in irresponsible sex? What data are you using?

Be assured, causation does not confuse me, only Jeff McLeod’s discussion of it. Instead of being snarky, Stacy, you could answer my question: does the availability of birth control increase irresponsible behavior? Do you have data?

Scandanavia and western Europe have the broadest availability of birth control, and among the lowest abortion rates. Do you have data that support your hypothesis otherwise?

Using your application of the economic principle of “risk compensation” (not fully accepted, btw), we should do away with air bags and seat belts because they can only act to increase traffic fatalities by increasing reckless driving.

At some point maybe you should get a data set of empiric evidence together…you know, science. This nis my final comment since you’ve chosen the low road of snarky mischaracterization instead of respectful discussion.

62. Tony61,

“Also, the assumption that every birth control failure results in abortion is flawed, but I’m using your argument.”

No one is assuming that.

“Jeff McLeod’s discussion of causation and correlation confuses me (granted, maybe not too hard to do), but are you saying that increased birth control availability *causes* an increase in irresponsible sex? What data are you using?”

There is a common term used to describe this behavior. It’s called “risk compensation.”

This definition is simple enough:

“The adjustment of individual behaviour in response to perceived changes in risk. People tend to behave more cautiously if their perception of risk or danger increases, and less cautiously when they feel ‘safer’ or more protected.” (Segen’s Medical Dictionary)

It’s used a lot in HIV studies too.

63. Larry,

Do you know what a binomial probability distribution is? If N=1 year, then you can use it to figure out N=5 or 10 or whatever years. It’s the same as N=# coin tosses. It applies to any sequence of independent (key word, there Larry) events with only two possible outcomes.

Please explain to us why it would make sense to use perfect use numbers instead of typical use? There is a reason they came up with typical use. Please read it. It’s not that people don’t know how to use the pills and devices, it’s that they don’t use them correctly. See my prior comment on risk compensation too.

“So the other option is no birth control…” — That is not the only other option.

Question: Do you think teen sex is responsible? Why or why not?

And would you please explain this: 1-(1-0.85)^n or 98%

What is “n”? What kind of math are you doing? 1-(1-0.85)^n is the same thing as 0.85^n and it is a mystery how you got that to equal 98% if n is supposed to be a year. Please explain.

“If the stats on pregnancy rates are good enough for her editorial why leave this part out?”

Haha! That statement in the wiki is made by the HHS, the department imposing the mandate that birth control needs to be free, which is the point I’m contesting. It is based on manipulation of data and lies. It does not, over time, prevent unintended pregnancy.

64. Dr. Dom says:

Excellent analysis. However it’s even worse than that, because contraceptives also increase the odds that pregnancies subsequent to contraceptive use will be considered unwanted, relative to those pregnancies experienced without prior contraceptive use. Think about that: the intervention said to make it possible to have a pregnancy only when a woman is ready to become a mother — “every child a wanted child” — in fact does the precise opposite, making it more, not less, likely, that pregnancies will be considered unwanted.

65. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

No, Stacy, according to my dictionary, “abstinence” does not mean “no sex”. Rather, it means “forbearance from any indulgence of appetite”, “self-restraint”, “self-denial”, “refraining”. As such, “abstinent” refers to an exercise of the will and would therefore apply to a person who is raped, because that person is not willingly participating.

You say you “just took what they reported and statistically extrapolated it over time”, but perhaps you can point out where you used that approach to calculate “over time” figures for when no contraception is used. Because according to Larry’s report, it would extrapolate to 99.99 out 100 after five years, far higher than your figure of 34 out of 100 for the Pill after the same length of time. (And I note that women who are “abstinent” would be included in that high risk group, unless for some strange reason they were using contraception.)

Also, speaking about “Anyone who knows a little about mathematical modelling”, models are generally built around a number of assumptions. For example, you seem to be relying on an assumption that we can reliably multiply one-year figures yanked from some historical “snapshot in time” studies to obtain good “over time” projections. However, in my experience, I’ve seen many instances where such models fall apart quite badly “over time”.

Also speaking of models, depending on the model, some would say that contraception saves money, and of course, others will say that it doesn’t.

And on “risk compensation”, some people respond to contraception by seeing it as a red flag rather than a green light, while others may see it as a green light. And that can change over time.

66. Thank you Dr. Dom! Yes, it’s sad, and I’ve seen those bumper stickers. I want to get one that says, “Children need unconditional love.”

67. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Dr. Dom, would your theory not also apply to NFP?

68. Peggy Sue,

Fine, a person can be violated by rape and still be practicing abstinence personally.

If we are talking about choices a person makes to avoid pregnancy, rape is (by definition) not a choice. Abstinence is a choice, to abstain (to refrain, to withhold, to stop from doing) from sex. If the woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, that is the sure way to avoid it. Don’t have sex.

I hope you aren’t trying to grasp at the straw that the reason women need birth control for free is because they are all being raped in the US. Please tell me that’s not the case.

Am I supposed to be surprised that over time women who have sex get pregnant? Not at all. That’s Biology 101.

“For example, you seem to be relying on an assumption that we can reliably multiply one-year figures yanked from some historical “snapshot in time” studies to obtain good “over time” projections.”

Two questions. Is each year independent of the prior one? In other words, do occur together, dependent on each other? No. Are they successive? Yes. The BPF applies.

“For example, you seem to be relying on an assumption that we can reliably multiply one-year figures yanked from some historical “snapshot in time” studies to obtain good “over time” projections.”

OK. Now please tell me how they came up with the prediction that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her reproductive lifetime. It’s right here:

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

Fourth bullet point, very end of sentence.

69. Honest question for the adversarial guests (which are welcome).

What do you understand what NFP is? I’m curious to know what people who have never tried it, perceive it to be.

70. Dr. Dom says:

Well first, it’s not a theory, but the verdict of 40 plus years of peer-reviewed literature. No one has ever found for me data — I invite you to try to do that for me if you like — showing that when contraceptive use rates increase, the number of abortions expressed as a fraction of all pregnancies goes down, or for that matter even stays the same. It always goes up. It’s one of the most consistent things in the scientific literature.

Now for NFP it is apparently different, and in a way that transcends the mere fact that most (or many) NFP users believe in a right to life. Klaus found that while Billings NFP users also experience unplanned pregnancies at times, nevertheless they tend to be happier about those “unplanned pregnancies”, and tend not to choose induced abortion when confronted by them. Also when compared with users of periodic abstinence, contraceptors far more frequently choose induced abortion when confronted with unintended pregnancy (see Che et al, Contraception Jan 2004, 69(1), 15-21) .

So no, it’s not a theory, and the “pregnancy-aversive” (turning off women to pregnancy of conditioning them to reject pregnancy) aspect would only seem to apply to contraceptive users, not NFP. No, if you asked me I would tell you that what is most interesting in all of this is not how effective things are, but how they affect human motivation. For it seems to me that as soon as your birth control method requires you to make bonding and baby-making the enemies of each other, you have problems with maladjustment to pregnancy (and create a market demand for induced abortion), whereas the methods that keep these 2 motivations going in the same directions do not, and create now demand for induced abortion even in those countries with severely limited resources and therefore also high pressure to keep population low.

So with contraception, it isn’t the fault of women who after all have believed the theories of credible experts who made this merely a matter of technology applied to a human problem. Rather it is the technocrats’ fault for thinking women could be reduced to chemistry sets or actuarial tables. Don’t these men have any women in their lives who might straighten them out on this?

71. Dr. Dom says:

“and create now demand for induced abortio”– sorry, meant “create no demand…”

72. College Student says:

Stacey,

“If you want someone to pay for something for you (subsidize) so you don’t have to pay for it (get it for free), then it’s the same thing.”

No lol it’s not the same thing at all. I pay a couple of hundred dollars a month to an insurance company. Ya know with money. So does Sandra Fluke. We pay for insurance and then the insurance pays for some of the medicine and then I pay for some of the medicine via the insurance payment and via the co-payment. If I don’t pay the co-payment and still pay the insurance premium, and get a prescription it isn’t ‘free.’ I’ve paid for a portion of it in the premium and the insurance pays for the rest, which is the only reason people have insurance in the first place–to get subsidized medicine.

If you go to CVS and get codeine, and it has a zero dollar co-payment under your instance plan, do you consider that free?

Hint its not.

73. College Student,

I understand insurance. You are using the wrong word. To subsidize means to be given money, like a grant, from the government.

Insurance doesn’t work like that. It is a way to pool funds over time so that when you need them, they are available. But insurance companies also make profits. You do not get subsidies from insurance companies. You get, if you are healthy, less back than you pay in over time. That’s how they work.

Do you seriously pay a couple hundred dollars a month for health insurance? Seriously?

It is not my understanding that this is normal for college students. When I was in college most people my age didn’t even have insurance because we didn’t need it. That was normal.

74. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, your suggestion that “women need birth control for free because they are all being raped” is much too ridiculous for me.

And no, you’re not “supposed to be surprised that over time women who have sex get pregnant”. Instead, the issue raised by your calculation method, according to Larry’s post, is that women who use birth control are LESS likely “over time” to become pregnant (than women over time who do not use birth control), not “more likely” as some people might think you’re claiming in your original post.

As to whether “BPF applies”, pregnancy over the years is not a matter of just tossing a coin multiple times. The one-year rates that you use are not written in stone, nor are they even established to be correct outside of whatever historical study from which they were pulled. In fact, we don’t even know whether they are true as to those historical studies, given that they often involved self-reports (which are often unreliable) and questionable selection of study participants. Whatever they are, they are historical “snapshot in time” numbers that are products of innumerable variables. Whether they apply in the future as they allegedly did in the past has not been determined.

You asked “how they came up with the prediction that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her reproductive lifetime”, and you cite the fourth bullet which says “three in 10 by age 45″ which is 30%. It refers to two studies. The first study used 1980′s data and reports that the 1982 rate was 46% of women by age 45, but by 1992, it had fallen to 43%. The second study says the number was again down to 38% by 2000, and down again to 30% by 2008. And so we see that the numbers change rather significantly as the years go by. Both studies say that the underlying data have problems, and each study consulted different sources and got different numbers. The first study concludes that contraception needs more promotion, and the second study concludes that “abortion is becoming increasingly concentrated among poor women.”

75. College Student says:

“Is this the user failure rate or the theoretical failure rate, as long as we are comparing?”
“If someone stops being abstinent, then they are no longer abstinent.
I hope that is obvious enough.”

Sure, but then we have to apply that thinking to birth control too.

If I don’t have sex for 6 days and have sex on the 7th day, according to you I am not abstinent, because I have broken a major tenant of abstinence. No one promises abstinence will work if you use it haphazardly or only when you want to. It is only perfectly effective if you practice it each and every time, this is a consensus.

It is the same with birth control. If I take my pill at the same time for 6 days and fail to take my pill on the seventh day, in order to make an adequate comparison, I should be considered not on birth control. No one promises the pill with work if you use it haphazardly or when you want to. You have to use it perfectly, this is a consensus.

You have revealed via the birth control’s own packaging that typical use of birth control is horribly ineffective over a long time. Not necessarily that there is a failure in the pill.

76. Peggy Sue,

“Stacy, your suggestion that “women need birth control for free because they are all being raped” is much too ridiculous for me.”

Then why’d you go there?

“according to Larry’s post, is that women who use birth control are LESS likely “over time” to become pregnant”

But he didn’t offer anything in way of evidence or proof. Nothing. Hand-waving in only for magicians.

“not “more likely” as some people might think you’re claiming in your original post”

I am claiming that. If it’s true that 8 in 100 women who use birth control in a year will become pregnant, then it’s true that over 5 years 36 of those 100 women will get pregnant and over 10 years 57 of them will get pregnant.

If it’s not true that 8 in 100 women get pregnant using the pill, then explain why the manufacturer and dispenser are giving false information, and provide me with the correct numbers. They are not historical, those are the current typical-use expectations that Planned Parenthood and manufacturers include in the literature that comes with the pill.

“As to whether “BPF applies”, pregnancy over the years is not a matter of just tossing a coin multiple times.”

OK, you don’t know what that means, we’ll drop it. Just know, that for people who do know what BPF is, this is a correct use of that formula.

“The second study says the number was again down to 38% by 2000, and down again to 30% by 2008.”

I don’t mean what did the study say, that’s already in the link I sent you to with the reference. My question is *how did they get that number*? How did they figure out how many women will have abortions from the age of 15 to the age of 45? (What does the last sentence in the first column say?)

77. College Student,

“Sure, but then we have to apply that thinking to birth control too.”

OK, find me a typical-use failure rate for abstinence and cite your sources.

It is irrelevant what you, one person, would do. The typical use failure rates are for a population.

“You have revealed via the birth control’s own packaging that typical use of birth control is horribly ineffective over a long time. Not necessarily that there is a failure in the pill.”

Right, typical-use failure rate relates to the “user” and how effective the pill actually is in “use.”

78. Tony61 says:

The above comment is mine- sorry for leaving off my name. Have fun continuing this “discussion” (without me.)

79. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, I didn’t “go there”. You pulled that rabbit out of your own hat, and I said no thanks.

And as to “handwaving”, get real. You responded to Larry with nonsense. For example, you said to him, “1-(1-0.85)^n is the same thing as 0.85^n”. Well, perhaps if n=1, then both would evaluate to 0.85, but otherwise, they don’t evaluate to the same thing. For example, when n=5, “1-(1-0.85)^n” is 0.9999240625, while “0.85^n” is 0.4437053125. It’s quite different, don’t you think? You then said it “is a mystery how you got that to equal 98% if n is supposed to be a year”, but Larry didn’t say a year. Rather, he said “that’s 1-(1-0.85)^n or 98% chance in 2 years”. That should remove a bit of the mystery. I think you and he are using different math. Don’t you?

So that takes us back to your math. According to your calculation, with the Pill “over 5 years 36 of those 100 women will get pregnant”. Previously you said it was 34 out of 100 women (and 36 out of 100 teens). Nevertheless, what is your figure if the women instead have unprotected sex (one year failure rate of 85 out of 100) over those five years? 56 out of 100 women pregnant with unprotected sex rather than 34 out of 100 pregnant with the Pill? Because that would seem to suggest that using contraception makes it LESS likely that the women would become pregnant, not “more likely”.

You ask “If it’s not true that 8 in 100 women get pregnant using the pill, then explain the manufacturer and dispenser are giving false information…”. We don’t know that the information is false, or whether it’s true as in accurate for all/most/any groups of 100 women other than those that have been studied. What we have is that in some study or studies which operated in the past, 8 out 100 women (mis)using the Pill in those studies reportedly became pregnant. They ARE historical. Meanwhile, it is unknown whether the figure correctly applies to other groups, or groups in the future, or women at large this year or next or ten years from now, or whether 8 out of 100 women who are members of our local church who might also use the Pill would become pregnant. They’re different populations, different circumstances. The 8 out of 100 figure can be a called a present day guess based on presently available historical study data, but again, that presently available study data is historical data. It is not a realtime number nor stamped in stone or your DNA. It is subject to change and revision by any number of factors.

As to “you don’t know what that means”, it’s you who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. Perhaps to you it is “correct use of that formula” and a “proof” about contraception. But to me, it’s baby talk.

As to “How did they figure out how many women will have abortions”, they didn’t. They calculated a figure for the historical year 2008 based on self-reports from non-randomly selected women who volunteered to participate, collected by questionnaire at some abortion clinics, making assumptions about women’s willingness, honesty and recall. Most clinics dropped out of the program rather than complete it, and many women didn’t complete the questionnaire. After calculating a rate (i.e. a historical estimate) for 2008, they then pretended the historical rate would not change in the future despite the fact that the rate has changed time and time again over the years. That’s why they said “If the 2008 abortion rate prevails”. They didn’t say it will stay the same. They pretended, as denoted by the word “if”, hallmark for a launch into fantasy.

80. Tony61,

“Well, using this logic, when someone stops using birth control properly then they stop being a “birth control user””

No, they are still a birth control user if they are still using birth control.

“Instead of being snarky, Stacy, you could answer my question: does the availability of birth control increase irresponsible behavior? Do you have data?”

OK, here is your totally snark-free answer. Explain to me exactly what kind of data would constitute proof for this cause and effect before I can go any further. I’ve learned to ask first.

“Using your application of the economic principle of “risk compensation” (not fully accepted, btw), we should do away with air bags and seat belts because they can only act to increase traffic fatalities by increasing reckless driving.”

Risk compensation is accepted as it related to birth control. So the experts say. It makes sense too. If someone is using birth control, the assumption is not that they plan to stop having sex.

Again, this is not snark. This is common sense. You are grasping at straws.

81. Peggy Sue,

“You responded to Larry with nonsense. For example, you said to him, “1-(1-0.85)^n is the same thing as 0.85^n”.”

I’ll wait for Larry to explain what he meant.

“Nevertheless, what is your figure if the women instead have unprotected sex (one year failure rate of 85 out of 100) over those five years?”

Very high. I’m not suggesting even remotely that unprotected sex is good for unmarried people or teens. It’s immoral. Nor am I suggesting that conceiving a child is a failure. You are also grasping at straws. This post is only about what the typical-use failure rates really look like over time, and why it is false for people to consider the pill and the condom to be some sort of “protection.”

“They ARE historical.”

Well than ALL data is historical. I don’t see the distinction you are making.

“Meanwhile, it is unknown whether the figure correctly applies to other groups, or groups in the future, or women at large this year or next or ten years from now, or whether 8 out of 100 women who are members of our local church who might also use the Pill would become pregnant. They’re different populations, different circumstances. The 8 out of 100 figure can be a called a present day guess based on presently available historical study data, but again, that presently available study data is historical data. It is not a realtime number nor stamped in stone or your DNA. It is subject to change and revision by any number of factors.”

Irrelevant though.

“After calculating a rate (i.e. a historical estimate) for 2008, they then pretended the historical rate would not change in the future despite the fact that the rate has changed time and time again over the years. That’s why they said “If the 2008 abortion rate prevails”. They didn’t say it will stay the same. They pretended, as denoted by the word “if”, hallmark for a launch into fantasy.”

“If” is not a hallmark for a launch into fantasy, it’s a logical term used to denote conditional propositions. Such as:

“If man is an ass, he is irrational” -St. Thomas Aquinas

All I’ve said is that “if” 8 of 100 women will get pregnant in one year on the pill, then 34 will get pregnant in 5 years and 57 will get pregnant in 10 years. If 8 of 100 women will not, and that number is bogus, then never mind.

But then somebody had better tell me why contraception is marketed this way without giving unsuspecting women the full story.

82. Peggy Sue,

Just checking too. Are you suggesting that people don’t take the 1 in 3 prediction seriously, as if it were already true today? That women know it is a “launch into fantasy?”

Thanks!

83. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, I’m not “grasping at straws”. I’m just asking you to provide a numerical pregnancy rate according to your math for unprotected sex over five years in keeping with your other calculations, given that the one year pregnancy rate for unprotected sex is reported to be 85 out of 100. You could also post your formula like Larry has done, if you prefer. Remember, you claimed that “birth control does NOT prevent unintended pregnancy, but over time it actually makes it more likely”, and so it should be interesting to compare your 34 out of 100 figure for the Pill over five years with your figure for unprotected sex over five years.

But if you prefer not to provide a numerical figure, I’ll be happy to accept your “very high” as meaning the figure for unprotected sex over five years is much higher than the 34 out of 100 figure for the Pill over five years, and perhaps closer to the 99.99% figure Larry offered by his calculations.

As to the “distinction”, it is fundamental to whether or not we can validly/reliably use figures for one historical group to project figures into the future for other groups. Obviously, the 8 out of 100 figure would not be appropriate for every other group, nor would it necessarily be appropriate even for predicting future rates for the historical study group from which the figure was originally obtained. The actual rate is dependent on many things. It isn’t a reality all unto its own.

And “man is an ass” is fantasy to whatever extent that man is not really an ass. You can tag “if” onto it and call it “conditional proposition” if you like, and listeners will appreciate the heads up you’re giving them, letting them know that you are not accepting it as reality.

Your statement “that if 8 of 100 women will get pregnant in one year on the pill, then 34 will get pregnant in 5 years…”, actually contains a number of embedded assumptions such as “and if that rate continues unchanged into the future during those years”.

As to “somebody had better tell me why contraception is marketed this way without giving unsuspecting women the full story”, they can’t give the full story because they don’t have it, and so they disclose what some “official” studies have reported, fitting nicely with their desire to market the product. Meanwhile, lawyers are eager to punch a winning lottery ticket.

84. Dr. Dom says:

But Peggy it makes it more likely even if we only consider how pregnancies are regarded after contraception use, without considering actual pregnancy rates, as I showed.

85. Dr. Dom says:

But I believe the proof you are asking for from Stacy also exists in the work, among others, of the British economist David Paton (or is it Patton?), which work you can easily google, but in general shows increased, not decreased, pregnancy rates and STD rates after increases in contraceptive use prevalence, both of which outcomes are pretty good surrogates for “irresponsible behavior” moreover. And I think the British and European studies of behaviors with the morning-after pill show the same thing, prevalent opinion notwithstanding.

86. Alanl64 says:

I will not argue the math, y’all seem to be doing fine on that.
I will question the woman who seems to think that birth control makes women sex slaves to men. Really? That’s what you think? Lets not talk about how women were treated generally before birth control.

And finally I will ask Stacy and all the important question. So what?
The argument you claim to be having is that you don’t want to pay for others birth control. So who really cares what the effective rate it is?

So Stacy, what is the point of all the math if all you really are against is paying for it?

87. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, my comment on “if” was in regard to whether the abortion rate would remain constant into the future. Whether the rate is actually 30% or whatever, I suppose there are quite a few people who don’t put much faith into any particular number being “the” number. As it stands, it seems to be a ballpark guesstimate, not an exact science. According to the study itself, the figure may be “artificially high”.

88. Peggy,

“Remember, you claimed…it should be interesting to compare your 34 out of 100 figure for the Pill over five years with your figure for unprotected sex over five years.”

It’s not interesting to me at all because your stipulation is that people should have sex whether they are married and ready to be parents or not, and “unprotected” sex is riskier than “protected” sex.

The whole idea of sterilized, depersonalized sex where people just use each other for recreation outside of marriage is wrong. If it will make you happier if I run the numbers for “unprotected” sex, then buckle up, because I’ve got a whole lot of commentary to add, so do my Catholic friends who understand the beauty, dignity and sanctity of marriage.

All I want to show in this post, and I have, is that the notion of “protection” from birth control is false, using their own numbers, and making no further assumptions.

“It isn’t a reality all unto its own.”

It’s a statistic. None of them are reality. The honest ones at least seek to genuinely demonstrate reality when every last data point cannot be obtained. The really good ones can predict accurately what will happen in the future.

Here’s what I want to know, Peggy Sue.

You were quick to jump in and say how faulty the 8 in 100 might be and how it cannot really be extrapolated statistically over 5 or 10 years for a litany of reasons. The women in the links below assume they already ARE the 1 in 3 over 30 years, and they use it to try to normalize abortion.

Will you go let these women know what you’ve told me?

http://www.amplifyyourvoice.org/1in3

http://wearethe1in3.tumblr.com/

I’d appreciate a simple yes or no — before you add your commentary.

Because I sure don’t see you agreeing that women who become pregnant on birth control after just 5 years should hold up signs and make videos to tell the world that they are the 2 in 3.

89. Thank you Dr. Dom!

90. Jeff McLeod says:

For those following at home, I’d like to clarify what Larry did, what the fuss was about, and why Larry failed.

He was suggesting, not unreasonably, that one could model this problem using a geometric probability distribution. It’s not a bad suggestion. The geometric distribution asks the question, if a machine has a part with a failure rate of .08 per year, what is the probability that it will fail after 5 years, 10 years, etc.

That’s his whole 1-(1 – p)^k model. k is the number of years.

So, Larry made great hay out of the fact that Stacy’s math was “wrong” but he “fixed it” by using a geometric distribution.

Sorry Larry. Your model and Stacy’s model come up with the exact same answers when the right probability is plugged in!

You see, it was not Larry’s choice of a superior mathematical model that led him to his conclusion that birth control is extremely effective. No, the trick was pulling the magic number .003 out of a hat, which he did very smoothly in his second paragraph, calling it the “Perfect Failure Rate.” That’s the move that gave the seemingly awesome success rate.

But Stacy has pointed out, that magical Perfect Failure Rate ought to come as quite a surprise to the FDA and the contraceptive manufacturers because they are reporting the failure rate to be .08 which is 27 times Larry’s magical “Perfect Failure Rate.”

I consider the matter closed. Stacy has framed the question well, and answered it well. The burden is on the drug company to explain it’s .08 rate. Stacy took the number in good faith, as she well should have barring a convincing argument to the contrary.

Nice job, Stacy!

91. AlanL64,

I have an article publishing tomorrow at the Catholic Sistas website.

http://www.catholicsistas.com/

It is titled:

“My Dear, Would You Kindly Get Your Ovaries Off My Rosary”

And with that…I’m off to bed. I have jury duty in the morning and I seriously considered wearing a t-shirt that said “Faithful Catholic Blogger” to hopefully get sent home, but then I thought that might mean I was trying to disregard my civil duties.

92. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, your hat is full of rabbits today! I didn’t “stipulate that people should have sex whether they are married and ready to be parents or not”. But many people have sex whether they are married or ready or not. And you have yet to show that “protection from birth control is false”, as it’s clear that it does offer some degree/form of protection, even if it’s not absolute or it can be abused. As to your woman who “assume they already ARE the 1 in 3″, they seem to being saying they’ve already had abortions, and so they already ARE 1 in something, whether it’s 3 or whatever. Do you think they’d prefer a bigger number than 3 or would they prefer a smaller number?

93. Fr Levi says:

Wow – this topic has certainly generated a lot of light and heat over a sustained period of time! Who would have guessed? I am amazed that so many people want to argue against the logic of what is being proposed in the original post. Put simply: no contraceptive method is 100% effective; in any given year a certain percentage of women using contraception will become pregnant; the more years a woman uses contraception, the more statistically likely she is to become pregnant.

One doesn’t have to be a non-contracepting Catholic or a mathematical genius to follow the argument. And like it or not, that is the truth of the matter.

Well done, Stacy. Keep up the good work. The truth will set you free (and might drag one or two others along with you kicking and screaming)!

94. Pauli says:

Very good mathematical analysis. And we all know people who have had children to whom they refer to as surprises. These are the couples behind these statistics.

95. Jeff,

Thank you. You write with such clarity, say things much more cogently than I can.

That makes sense, thanks for explaining the geometric distribution. I was thinking cumulative, but I couldn’t figure out what he meant or why he was using it. I was confused, you have cleared it up. THANK YOU!

Fr. Levi, Haha! Thank you.

And thank you Pauli, nice avatar!

96. All right Peggy Sue,

I enjoy the exchange. It may get frustrating, but at least we are talking.

“And you have yet to show that “protection from birth control is false”, as it’s clear that it does offer some degree/form of protection, even if it’s not absolute or it can be abused.”

But responsible behavior is better. That’s what should be taught, and expected, of young people. When they are told to use contraception if they are going to have sex, they assume it will protect them. It won’t. Plus, it keeps them from needing to learn about their own bodies. Women are beautiful creatures, they deserve better than cold-hearted sterilization as if they were animals or something.

“As to your woman who “assume they already ARE the 1 in 3″, they seem to being saying they’ve already had abortions, and so they already ARE 1 in something, whether it’s 3 or whatever.”

There is no already 1 in 3. It’s projected over time assuming the current rates of abortion do not change. You know — the same thing I did, which you disagreed with. I want to know if you disagree with these women too, on the same grounds.

“Do you think they’d prefer a bigger number than 3 or would they prefer a smaller number?”

Don’t care. Answer my question first. Will you go tell them to stop making it sound like abortion is so common over time?

97. Thanks for this article, Stacy. For outfits like PP, that statistically small failure rate is like compounding interest on their bank account as the years go by. About 10 years ago, manufacturers began coming out with lower-dose formulations. While this reduced some side effects, it also marginally reduced the success rate.

98. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, rather than “they assume it will protect them. It won’t”, I’d say many hope it will protect them, and far more often than not, it does protect them. Similarly, when I drive my car, I recognize that my seat belt and air bags might not protect me. In fact, I recognize the possibility that they might actually contribute to my harm. But I do not say that “it won’t” protect me. And so I buckle up.

You say “Women are beautiful creatures, they deserve better than cold-hearted sterilization”, but you just finished saying that contraception does not sterilize. But if you are trying to say that using condoms, contraception and such is cold-hearted, the Pope has already expressed that there can be warmth to it.

You say “There is no already 1 in 3″. That’s your opinion. Other people have other opinions. The studies we’ve discussed have offered ever changing guesstimates demonstrating their unreliability. Likewise, I do not rely on the women’s “1 in 3″ statement as fact. Rather, I read it as a political response. Therefore, in answer to your question, “I want to know if you disagree with these women too”, as far as I can tell, their political strategy is no worse than yours. Likewise, in answer to your question, “Will you go tell them to stop making it sound like abortion is so common over time?”, I don’t dictate their political strategy, nor do I predict the future.

99. Peggy Sue,

“In fact, I recognize the possibility that they might actually contribute to my harm. But I do not say that “it won’t” protect me. And so I buckle up.”

Air bags aren’t meant to prevent car wrecks. They aren’t there so people can do immoral things on purpose to have a car wreck. They are there for people who already are driving responsibly, for the purpose driving is intended.

“But if you are trying to say that using condoms, contraception and such is cold-hearted, the Pope has already expressed that there can be warmth to it.”

Contraception sterilizes the sexual act, reduces it to recreation only. And the Pope did not say that there is warmth to using condoms. If you are going to argue with Catholics, know the arguments you are trying to address.

“You say “There is no already 1 in 3″. That’s your opinion.”

No that is a fact. The numbers come from “if” assumptions because all the women alive today are not already 45.

“I don’t dictate their political strategy, nor do I predict the future.”

But you’ll tell me you disagree with me, but you won’t tell them you disagree with them, even though they are doing the exact same thing – extrapolating over time.

Got it! That’s what I thought. Never let facts mess up a good argument, eh?

100. Telemachus says:

I like Dr. Dom’s comments. The problem with contraception is not technological but behavioral and attitudinal. Stacy used the phrase “risk compensation,” but there is an even more accurate phrase taken from economics: “moral hazard.” People are tempted into less moral, more risky behavior thinking that the consequences are mitigated by other factors, in particular the understanding that someone else will foot-the-bill.

Such is the case with all forms of contraception. People are tempted by contraception to engage in sex outside of a context where the natural fruits of sex, children, are welcome. When children occur, they are deemed “unwelcome guests.” (Planned Parenthood activists that I’ve encountered like to refer to the child in utero as a “parasite” or a “bacteria.”)

I hesitate to affirm the correctness of Stacy’s analysis for now, simply because if it’s correct then it is a silver bullet, and I’d hate to get my hopes up too soon. I’d like to see people who work with this sort of stuff check the work to make sure that the conditions under which the BPF applies are absolutely being met in the case of the statistics for contraception failure.

Intuitively, the analysis makes sense though: the more times you play, eventually you’ll pay.

Some quick comments on Peggy Sue Got Married’s first post.

First of all, there is no such thing as a failure rate for abstinence or chastity. You either abstain or you don’t. Stacy has emphasized this repeatedly in her posts. There can be varying degrees of effort that one displays in abstaining, but not a “failure rate.”

Second, please don’t take up the narrative that the Pope was somehow giving some form of approval to condom usage. He was making a highly nuanced, highly contextual off-hand comment during the interview from which you quoted. His point was that even in the most depraved of acts, a person can show a glimmer of light in the choices they make. Your extrapolation that the use of contraceptives can be part of an “apprenticeship” in the practice of chastity is a non sequitur. The use of contraception with the intent of avoiding pregnancy during willful intercourse is inherently unchaste. That’s the only topic that is being discussed here, not weird circumstances like trying to avoid pregnancy if somebody is trying to rape you, or trying to clear up your acne by taking the pill.

God bless,
Tele

101. alanl64 says:

why would ceasing to abstain not be a failure? So abstainance would have a failure rate. Seems to make a certain amount of logical sense.

102. Casual Lurker says:

I am deeply troubled by the sweeping generalizations you and other commenters are making for women who choose to use birth control. A woman who chooses to have a very active sex life is going to do so with or without the availability of birth control. A woman who chooses not to have an active sex life is going to do so with or without the availability of birth control. A woman who is currently not sexually active, but is interested in having a sex life, and wants to do so in a responsible way may very well likely do so with the availability of birth control. Birth control does not magically turn women into wanton, sex-crazed maniacs, and just because a woman uses birth control doesn’t mean she’s having considerably more sex than someone who is not. It’s exactly this sort of stigmatization that deters women from having “responsible” sex lives.

We’re not in the Dark Ages anymore. Have a little bit more faith in a woman’s ability to think and act for herself.

103. Casual Lurker,

I starting to think we are returning to the Dark Ages.

What it comes down to is this, there’s no good reason for women to give themselves away to men who aren’t going to commit to them as a husband, or to men they aren’t going to commit to as a wife.

You don’t give away your body without giving away something of your soul as well. They are inextricably intertwined.

104. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, you say “Air bags aren’t meant to prevent car wrecks.” Air bags are meant to protect people from unwanted effects of driving. Likewise, contraception is meant to protect people from unwanted effects of sexual intercourse.

You say, “They aren’t there so people can do immoral things on purpose to have a car wreck.” People do not use contraception to get pregnant, just like people do not use air bags to have a car wreck. But people may choose to drive immorally and people may choose to have sex immorally, and in either case, air bags and contraception offer protection. Whether a man is driving to a brothel or is having sex at a brothel, air bags and contraception are available for protection.

You say, “They are there for people who already are driving responsibly, for the purpose driving is intended.” But air bags “are there” for everyone at all times, including for drunks, devil worshipers, people driving to brothels, and people who drive irresponsibly — perhaps even especially for them. Especially since they are passive devices. Meanwhile, condoms require active participation to use, and they too can be used by persons wanting to act irresponsibly (if that’s how you choose to color it) and also by persons who choose to act responsibly. Even the Pope has said so.

You say “the Pope did not say that there is warmth to using condoms”, and actually, neither did I. Rather, I said “the Pope has already expressed that there CAN be warmth to it.” And indeed, he said that using a condom can be a “first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship”. Thus, there can indeed be warmth to it.

You say “Contraception sterilizes the sexual act”, but you are arguing with yourself, as you have already claimed that it “does NOT prevent unintended pregnancy, but over time it actually makes it more likely.”

You say that “There is no already 1 in 3″ is a “fact”. But that is your opinion. The “fact” is that the studies have reported rates of 30% and higher for the last 30 years! The guessing game has been going on for so long that all the 15-year-olds in the older data have since turned 45. The “fact” is that the studies disagree with one another, are based on non-representative sampling from questionable sources, and are “extrapolated” (i.e. conjectured) based on many assumptions. The “fact” is that they are unreliable. And you call that which is unreliable “fact”.

You say “you’ll tell me you disagree with me, but you won’t tell them you disagree with them, even though they are doing the exact same thing – extrapolating over time.” That’s your opinion. Again, you and they are expressing opinions about “1 in 3″. People have opinions, and there is a saying about that. Perhaps you’ve heard it. I tell everyone the same thing.

105. Peggy Sue,

Three things:

1) Driving responsibly is not immoral. There is no such thing as morally responsible sex outside of marriage.

2) Within marriage, sterilizing the act is immoral.

3) “Sterilize” means to render the act only for recreation. Sorry. I wasn’t referring to whether birth control prevented pregnancy or not. Should have made that clear. Too much typing.

I’ll leave it at that.

Oh…and on a math exam, your opinion will get you an F unless your opinion happens to agree with the factual answer.

106. Jeff McLeod says:

Casual Lurker, you speak well. You articulated the spirit of the modern age.

But your final sentence reveals our philosophical difference.

You said “Have a little bit more faith in a woman’s ability to think and act for herself.”

We say in return, have a little more concern for the fact that we are flawed and broken by nature.

You speak for only one of two poles of human nature. You recognize that people are rational.

We on the other hand are mindful of the powerful non-rational aspects of human nature. We Catholics place it under the concept of original sin. Whatever you’d like to call it, you must admit it is not only prevalent in our nature, but tends to dominate.

You are an idealist, a utopian, we a realists. We understand alcoholism, drug addiction, gossiping, cruelty, crimes against humanity, and many other things that don’t fit into your utopian ideal of the rational man or woman.

We are flawed. We don’t make rational decisions. Rational decisions are the exception because — as Jean Paul Sartre reminds us — we are prone to mauvaise foi — self-deception. Sartre would even say it’s our default state. We compartmentalize our beliefs. We hide our right hand from our left.

Thus, we tell ourselves we will not eat the entire pan of brownies, but we do. We goof about when we do it, we act like we think it’s funny. But we’re miserable doing it.

Thus, we tell ourselves that we will only have one drink, but we have the whole bottle.

At work, as a boss, we’ll give the awful job task to the new person, telling ourselves that it’s good for the person to learn. Over time, the person doesn’t complain and we grow accustomed to having the burden removed from us and our employees. We become a different person really. We form a blind spot so as to avoid recognizing we acted selfishly and unjustly.

Similarly, we tell ourselves we’re being rational in using birth control for the good of society. Really? Or is it more accurate to say that we avoided responsibility for how we are living out our destiny.

Your tribute to the Rational Man is admirable, but you’re avoiding the other side which I hopefully painted with enough concreteness that you can’t deny its reality.

107. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Telemachus, you say “People are tempted by contraception to engage in sex outside of a context where the natural fruits of sex, children, are welcome.” That might be true sometimes, but other times, it is not true. Indeed, people can also be dissuaded by contraception from engaging in sex, whether the context welcomes children or not.

As to “When children occur, they are deemed unwelcome guests,” the reality is that people who use contraception might or might not “welcome” children, even if the children were unintended. Many people who use contraception accept the possibility of children and welcome children when they occur. Meanwhile, among people who do not use contraception, children may be both unwelcome and unintended.

You say “there is no such thing as a failure rate for abstinence or chastity. You either abstain or you don’t.” You’re playing an old game. It’s been played many times by many people. To quote the Guttmacher Institute, “indeed, abstinence is 100% effective if used with perfect consistency. But common sense suggests that in the real world, abstinence as a contraceptive method can and does fail… To promote abstinence, its proponents frequently cite the allegedly high failure rates of other contraceptive methods, particularly condoms. By contrasting the perfect use of abstinence with the typical use of other contraceptive methods, however, they are comparing apples to oranges. From a public health perspective, it is important both to subject abstinence to the same scientific standards that apply to other contraceptive methods and to make consistent comparisons across methods. However, researchers have never measured the typical-use effectiveness of abstinence. Therefore, it is not known how frequently abstinence fails in the real world or how effective it is compared with other contraceptive methods. This represents a serious knowledge gap. People deserve to have consistent and accurate information about the effectiveness of all contraceptive methods. For example, if they are told that abstinence is 100% effective, they should also be told that, if used correctly and consistently, condoms are 97% effective in preventing pregnancy. If they are told that condoms fail as much as 14% of the time, they should be given a comparable typical-use failure rate for abstinence.”

You say, “please don’t take up the narrative that the Pope was somehow giving some form of approval to condom usage”. I have no such narrative. Please don’t treat me with any less charity than you would the Pope.

You say, “Your extrapolation that the use of contraceptives can be part of an apprenticeship in the practice of chastity is a non sequitur.” You can call it what you want, but it remains that contraceptive use has been a part of people’s apprenticeships. For some, it may be a “first step of taking responsibilty”. You say it “inherently unchaste” but all apprenticeships are not perfect. And it is all part of God’s plan, whether you like it or not.

108. JimBeam says:

The real shame is that women are taught that responsibility involves taking high doses of hormones or otherwise suppressing their reproductive system instead of being taught how their bodies actually work.

EVERY woman should understand the basic principles of fertility awareness. (And every man should have some foggy idea of what that is as well, although less detail is required.) Different women will, of course, use this awareness in different ways, but if women knew how their bodies worked and that they can only get pregnant for a few days out of the month, and reliably determine when these days are, I doubt they would be as interested in artificial hormones or mechanical implants.

109. Name says:

“Birth control does not magically turn women into wanton, sex-crazed maniacs, and just because a woman uses birth control doesn’t mean she’s having considerably more sex than someone who is not.”

Considering that hormonal birth control tends to lower women’s sex drives, this is more true than you probably realize.

110. alanl64 says:

Quick question. We keep talking about contraceptions allowing women to be mens sex slaves. And women giving themselves away to men for sex. Does not contraception allow women to use men as their sex slaves? Do not men give them selves away for sex? Do men not lose a bit of their soul with each sexual encounter without benefit of marriage?
I am a little confused by all this “blame the men” attitude. Now I know I am gay so maybe I don’t get it, but still seems to me that it is awfully one sided against men here?
Is that truly the case? Serious questions here, I hope someone is brave enough to answer.

• Nick C says:

Alanl64
You have hit the nail squarely on the head! That’s the whole point; people are using each other as objects, putting the self before the other and not truly sacrificing the self for the other. It is only through the sacrificing of the self to the other where a deep loving and giving relationship can be formed. It is within this context where two people are mystically joined to become one body and one flesh. Artificial birth control interferes with this joining of a husband and wife; it subverts the relationship and makes one an exploiter of the other. Just think of how much misery, physical pain, disease and death could be avoided if people only treated each other as themselves, if men and women did not exploit each other for temporary pleasure and self-aggrandizement. This is the ideal that leads to true freedom and equality between men and women. By your question I suggest you “get it” much better than others. Being gay has nothing to do with your specific question. Just being human is sufficient.

I suggest you check out, “The Theology of the Body,” by John Paul II, or his earlier book, “Love and Responsibility”

Concerning your question on, “losing a bit of one’s soul with each sexual encounter without the benefit of marriage.” First we are not “losing” anything. What we are talking about is sin resulting from not obeying one of God’s commandments. Second, marriage is not a “benefit” given out so people may procreate without offending God. In brief, marriage is a mystical sacrament instituted by God. It is a foreshadowing of the love and unity that exists in the Trinity. Marriage is a word that encompasses this mystery and sums up the sacramental union of a man and women who become one flesh. It is not just a contract or “civil union,” although in many cases our secular society has reduced it to just that. So sexual intercourse outside of marriage reduces that act to just its physical and pleasurable aspects. It reduces man to the level of animal and denies the divine spark in all of us. This is the sin of sex out of marriage, a reduction of man to mere animal and a denial of our personhood and the deity within all of us.

111. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, you say “There is no such thing as morally responsible sex outside of marriage.” People can engage in sex outside of marriage AND be taking steps of moral responsibility, just as the Pope himself said. And people can engage in sex inside of marriage AND be morally irresponsible. For that matter, it’s possible that the unmarried person might be going to heaven fifteen minutes after having sex outside of marriage while the married woman ends up burning in hell after giving birth to 10 kids with her husband.

You say, “Within marriage, sterilizing the act is immoral. ‘Sterilize’ means to render the act only for recreation.” First, one needn’t use contraception to accomplish that. Second, not all sex with contraception is reduced to “only recreation”. As you have already said, there remains the possibility of procreation even when contraception is used. Indeed, according to you, contraception “actually makes it more likely”.

And as to “math exam” and “factual answer”, the “factual answer” is unknown. Everyone in the class may guess, including the young girl at the front of the class who thinks she has the “factual answer” and that it’s a “math exam”.

112. Meredith says:

Stacy – Thank you for the great article. It was interesting to read all the comments also. You asked Larry to explain the following: “And would you please explain this: 1-(1-0.85)^n or 98% What is “n”? What kind of math are you doing? 1-(1-0.85)^n is the same thing as 0.85^n and it is a mystery how you got that to equal 98% if n is supposed to be a year. Please explain.” By following order of operations for the expression 1-(1-0.85)^n, you would calculate what is in parentheses first and raise it to the “n” power, then subtract that answer from 1. This is not the same expression as 0.85^n. It appears Larry used n = 2, which would give an answer of 0.9775 or about 98%.

113. alanl64 says:

Nick,
Thanks for the direct answer without being condescending. I appreciate it. I don’t agree but I appreciate the directness of it. It was appearing that several appeared to be blaming men.

114. Nick C says:

I love how some people like to quote out of context. Its a great quote but Peggy Sue takes it out of context and miss applies it. Nice try…

The question the Pope was answering was in reference to AIDs and the spread of STDs. The complete Pope quote on condoms follows:

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”

The Pope went on to say in response to another question

“She [the Church] of course does not regard it [the use of condoms] as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

So you see the Pope was referring to the intentions of the individual to assume responsibility for the spread of a disease. This is what is meant as a first step in the direction of moralization. He was NOT talking about the use of condoms as a means to sexual activity outside of marriage and separated from the act or procreation.

The true solution as stated by the Pope can, “lie only in a humanization of sexuality.” See my comment drawing from the Theology of the Body by JPII

115. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Nick C, if you actually think that “Peggy Sue takes it out of context and miss applies it”, you can always look in the mirror to find your problem: YOU read “Peggy Sue” out of context and misapplied it. If you want a culprit, you need look no further than yourself. You are it. Remember: read with charity, write with charity, no less than you’d give the Pope or Jesus. It may save you some punishment down the road.

116. Greg says:

Thank you for this great blog!

Can I also suggest to all the readers/responders not to use the “birth control” term? It has nothing to do with neither birth nor control.

As per HHS mandate I would like to point that tre are two issues here:

1. The Catholic Church does not prevent people from using contraceptives. She warns people that it has more impact on the users than simply unexpected pregnancy or STDs. She also is not preventing people from cheating on their spouses. She warns that there are consequences. Bad consequences. On the other hand government wants to force the Church to pay for what she knows (let’s say believes) is bad for the people She loves. This force is an attempt to take freedom from Her and that leads us to the second issue:

2. Freedom defines ability to do whatever one wants as long as others are not being harmed. That would be “secular” definition. That shows that using contraceptives is part of freedom (even when it is ultimately bad for the user) while forcing someone to use or pay for it is against freedom. The Church understands why contraception is bad and comunicates it to the world, to all of those who want to listen and want to know the truth rather being right no matter what.
The Church says that freedom is not license to sin but liberty to do what one ought to do.”. One ought to love neighbor and if one knows that something is wrong and harms the other one, one has obligation to speak out. The other one does not need to believe or listen. And that has to be accepted and the Church accepts everyone’s right to chose his her own path of life even if leads to spiritual death and danger of hell.

Blessings,
Greg

117. Rachel says:

Very interesting article… Something that may be of interest here is that there aren’t any studies that actually flesh out the failure rates of hormonal contraceptives for longer than a year at a time. I’m sure there are reasons for this — like, it’s the bare minimum they had to do to get FDA approval, etc. — but doesn’t it bother anyone that there haven’t been any long-term studies on the efficacy of or side effects from hormonal contracaption? Another note: it is estimated that breakthrough ovulation occurs 1-3 times per year for the average woman on hormonal contraception. See, the studies only look at pregnancy as the failure end-point, not at lack of ovulation (which is their primary method of action). I find this interesting when looked at in the context of average pregnancy rates among those not contracepting: pregnancy usually occurs within a year, the average couple will get pregnant 15% of the time in any given month, not every (in fact, not even most!) act of intercourse results in pregnancy, and so on.
I still think the most straight-forward reason to NOT use contraception is because it physiologically “breaks” that which is not broken. It is the only case in medicine where a drug is prescribed to “treat” normally functioning anatomy for the purpose of causing a diseased state.

118. Kdoc says:

Since teens who take the pill have a significantly higher risk of getting triple negative breast cancer (very aggressive form) their risk of pregnancy over time would actually likely be lower since they would die before finishing out their reproductive years. Abortion has the same effect on the triple negative bc risk. If we’re really lucky, the excess hormones will get into our water supply and knock off an entire generation of females making the whole conversation moot. Of course, who’d eventually be around to pay into Social Security for the survivors is somewhat worrisome, but oh well! I’ll be dead by then anyway. Sorry kids. (see Science Daily, 10/30/08)

119. Steinar says:

So the “typical-use failure rate” for the pill is 8%, 17% for condoms. The key word here is “typical-use”. That begs the question, what’s the “typical-use failure rate” for abstinence, I wonder.

People make mistakes, either it is forgetting the pill, or forgetting abstinence. So what’s this discussion really about? That people on the pill are more likely to make mistakes than those promoting abstinence?

Or is the argument that if you “forget” abstinence, then you’re not really abstinent. Well, of course not, but if you forget the pill, you’re not really on the pill. If you fail to use a condom correctly, you’re not really using it. The argument cannot be restricted to one’s favourite contraceptive.

120. Jeff McLeod says:

Two completely different kinds of memory are implied in “forgetting to take the pill” and “forgetting to abstain.”

The weirdness of the latter ought to signal us that we’ve got our concepts all muddled. Right?

Two memory systems. The one applying to taking the pill is mechanical. For example, you can forget where you placed your car keys. Random errors or distractions can trigger an error.

But you don’t “forget” that you are married, or that you survived a terrible car crash. These facts aren’t “stored” in your memory file cabinet like the location of your car keys is stored. These facts are part of the fabric of who you are morally.

So I don’t “forget” not kick my puppy, or forget my parents deserve my respect, or forget that every human being has a right to life.

But I can forget to turn off the stove. Or to take birth control pills.

Apples and oranges.

121. Excellent Jeff. I knew where you were going when I read the first line and I LOL’d as they say in online vernacular. I did abstain from rolling on the floor (ROTFLOL) though, as I don’t forget that I’m holding this kid in my lap that I call a son. Haha.

Thanks to the others for a great discussion, and some other great comments, good points well-taken!

I’ve got to stay off-line today and finish a paper (before I forget to write it!)

122. Nick! “First we are not “losing” anything.” Thank you for the explanation about marriage!

Greg, “Can I also suggest to all the readers/responders not to use the “birth control” term? It has nothing to do with neither birth nor control.” Yes!!! Good point!

Rachel, “Another note: it is estimated that breakthrough ovulation occurs 1-3 times per year for the average woman on hormonal contraception.” That’s absolutely right! We don’t know how many human lives are really conceived because the ones that do not implant are not usually known.

Kdoc, “I’ll be dead by then anyway. Sorry kids. (see Science Daily, 10/30/08)” Yes, pretty dismal. I’ll check out that article, I think I already know which one it is though. THANK YOU!!!

123. Steinar says:

Jeff,

I was talking about mistakes, since mistakes are how you get the “typical-use failure rate” figures. Forgetting the pill, “forgetting” abstinence, “forgetting” or struggling with a condom, are all mistakes. Just different parts of the conscience are involved in each case.

I suppose you’re not saying that abstinence is better because it’s easier to remember? Memory is totally beside the point.

I was simply pointing out that it’s meaningless to compare typical contraception with perfect abstinence. That’s apple and oranges. Just as it is meaningless to compare perfect contraception with typical abstinence. People may intend to the take pill. People may intend to abstain. It’s not a perfect world. So let’s not compare things in the perfect world with things in the real world.

124. Jeff McLeod says:

Steinar, do you honestly believe there is sense in the statement: “I forgot not to get drunk and crash my car last night.” ???

I think I’ve hit on something important in distinguishing the two different world views in this thread! You seem so smart Steinar, yet you think the assertion I just gave is different from forgetting to take birth control only as a matter of degree?

The difference is qualitative. One of them is a mechanical error (forgetting to take the pill) the other is an error of intention (Aquinas’ marvellous word!).

Maybe now we have a framework for a discussion on this important question?

125. Jeff McLeod says:

Steinar, I noticed you’re saying the two kinds of “forgetting” are apples and oranges. We totally agree on that.

But some people in the comments are saying they are comparable. People on your side of the debate. They’re suggesting that just as we compute a failure rate for birth control, we can compute a failure rate for abstinence.

I’m agreeing with you they are apples and oranges.

But as a consequence, it means Stacy’s model is valid for “forgetting” to take the pill, and thus her numbers stand. But a probability makes no sense in quantifying an error in intentionality, in abstaining, so the calls on this thread to run the model for “forgetting to abstain” or “forgetting not to commit mass murder” are frankly bizarre.

Forgetting to take a pill is an innocent failure. Forgetting not to commit mass murder is an excuse the perpetrator gives in the case when he actually lacks the courage to face himself and his darkness.

Forgetting to give your kids a twinkie in their lunchbox is an oversight. Forgetting to give them love and attention is a sin. Forgetting to allow yourself to conceive them in the first place is whole other level of sin if you’re Catholic.

126. Dropping a quick, but relevant, quote I just came across reading Chesterson on Thomism (because studying with a Kindle makes it very easy): [emphasis mine]

The fact that Thomism is the philosophy of common sense is itself a matter of common sense. Yet it wants a word of explanation, because we have so long taken such matters in a very uncommon sense. For good or evil, Europe since the Reformation, and most especially England since the Reformation, has been in a peculiar sense the home of paradox. I mean in the very peculiar sense that paradox was at home, and that men were at home with it. The most familiar example is the English boasting that they are practical because they are not logical. To an ancient Greek or a Chinaman this would seem exactly like saying that London clerks excel in adding up their ledgers, because they are not accurate in their arithmetic. But the point is not that it is a paradox; it is that parodoxy has become orthodoxy; that men repose in a paradox as placidly as in a platitude.

Chesterton, G.K. St. Thomas Aquinas By G. K. Chesterton (Kindle Locations 1445-1451). Kindle Edition.

127. LJP says:

Jeff,

First, thank you, I am learning a great deal from your comments.

Second, I have to make a remark regarding the final sentence of your last comment:

“Forgetting to allow yourself to conceive them in the first place is whole other level of sin if you’re Catholic.” [emphasis mine]

I understand what you are saying, but we need to be careful not to imply a sense of moral relativism to our doctrines. A sin is a sin is a sin, whether one agrees with or understands it. Obviously levels of culpability are dependent upon one’s level of understanding…but we are all subject to the same Natural and Divine Law. Perhaps that is what you implied with “other level of sin”, sorry if I misinterpreted, but I thought it deserved clarification for the readers.

128. Kell says:

I can tell you that oral contraceptives didn’t work for me, I took them the same time every day (as directed) and never missed a day. That is how my oldest was conceived, after he was born I was taking oral contraceptives while breast feeding and got pregnant again! After my second child was born I started practicing NFP and it was 5 years later that I had my third child. Still practicing NFP, it’s the only thing that’s worked so far.

129. Name says:

It’s good to know that all you need is some highschool statistics math to declare causation. I don’t know why we even bother having more complex areas of statistics. I mean you clearly account for all the variables. Also if you keep mentioning that you’re totally not doing this to brag about how “geeky” you are it is bragging about how geeky you are, which you aren’t (you suck at math and logic).

130. Howard says:

Stacy, I came to this discussion late. How would male impotents affect the figures? I have seen numbers of 18%+-. If the male is not aware, then birth control effectivness percents are skewed. Also, does the original data take this into account? I am assuming that a male is necessary in this process or else these measures are meaningless.

131. Name says:

LJP one flaw in “A sin is a sin is a sin, whether one agrees with or understands it” If one does not agree with it it is not a sin. To you maybe, but not to the person doing it. There is no mathematical equation to prove that.
So if I have premarital sex it is not a sin. My marriage to a man is not a sin. Stacy is very fond of telling me I can call it what I want but she will NEVER acknowledge it. Well guess what kids, if you have the power to ignore the law of the land in favor of the law of god, then you CANNOT turn around and say it is a sin if we don’t think it to be so.
I know you think you can argue the point because you have “truth” (borrowing from both Stacy’s and Leila’s tendency to quote words that they don’t believe in) but again if I don’t believe it is the “truth” then it is not the “truth” to me.

132. alanl64 says:

sorry last comment was mine, I hit send to quick

133. Offended Math Major says:

Howard the model she uses doesn’t take any factors into account other than the two typical failure rates into account. the biggest problem is the assumption that the failure rate is static over time and take a single year of statistics, assumes it is a probability and extrapolates 10 years of data from that. Your math is bad and you should feel bad.

134. Howard says:

Offended Math Major, if you are referring to “Howards math” and not Stacy’s I agree with you. Math has always been a hated subject of mine. I ask for clarification among you geeks about geek math.

135. webster says:

truth: the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality
fact: a piece of information presented as having objective reality
objective: of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind

facts, data, and truths are verifiable and do not require you to acknowledge them. they are independent and unconnected to your beliefs. Please stop misusing these words. You’re not allowed to redefine words. For example the phrase ” is a sin” is a grammatically factual statement. Sin is a abstract concept and is not verifiable, or independent of the speaker, therefore not a fact. The phrase should be “I believe is a sin.” Beliefs can not be facts and facts can not be beliefs. Every time you do this you weaken any argument you are trying to make and look like an idiot.

136. alanl64 says:

I actually broached this mathematical equation to my hubby who has a masters in epidemiology. My understanding is that if take as prescribed the probablility of pregnancy while on oral contraceptives does not necessarily increase each year. Of course the probability of not taking them as prescribed probably does increase, so perhaps that will affect the probability of getting pregnant. But I am not that smart so perhaps I am wrong on this.

I am however smart enough to know that one simple will never to forget to crash their car last night. The argument that is the same as forgetting to take a pill seems illogical to me.

And I think abstinance would have a close to 100% failure rate if we were to measure it as so. I mean how many who have reached sexual maturity die without having sex?

137. Howard says:

Name (you must have had a tough time in school), I think you are just proving one of Stacy’s points. You said: “If one does not agree with it it is not a sin.”

Definition of SIN in Webster online
1
a : an offense against religious or moral law b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible c : an often serious shortcoming : fault
2
a : transgression of the law of God b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Clearer thinking would lead a person to say, “I want to do this and I feel it is ok”. I think you would have a stronger case instead of trying to change the English language.

138. Telemachus says:

Since nobody has bothered to clarify this, I will, because there appears to be a grave need.

The proper understanding of “failure-rate” is as follows: something is attempted, and because of something that is not willed by the person making the attempt, the attempt fails.

The failure-rate of contraceptives can be properly spoken of because there is a will (to avoid pregnancy) during an attempt (having sexual intercourse). Even if one forgets to take the pill, there is still a will to avoid pregnancy… unless the will has changed, in which case “failure-rate” no longer applies.

You cannot properly talk of a failure-rate of abstinence because abstinence by its very nature is a willed thing. You can’t will abstinence while simultaneously engaging in sexual intercourse. That’s logically impossible. One can have a lapse in judgement, yes, but that’s not a “failure” of abstinence. That’s a change of the will. We could only call unchaste sex a “failure” of the will in the sense that it does not live up to God’s desires for us.

Is any of this making sense? Failure-rates apply to means, not to wills and intentions. There are many people here making a basic category error. May clarity of thought prevail.

@Peggy Sue

I’ve assumed that you are a Catholic because of some of what you’ve said, and your reliance on statements by Church figures to bolster your arguments. I may be wrong.

Quote: “I have no such narrative. Please don’t treat me with any less charity than you would the Pope.”

How was my comment uncharitable? You are taking up the narrative I’ve ascribed to you. Read your own statements above. You are parroting the same narrative that the mainstream media was promoting when “Light of the World” first came out. It’s not a legitimate interpretation of what the Pope was saying. Don’t try to shame me into not calling you out on this.

Quote(s): “You can call it what you want, but it remains that contraceptive use has been a part of people’s apprenticeships… For some, it may be a ‘first step of taking responsibilty’ [sic]. You say it [sic] ‘inherently unchaste’ but all apprenticeships are not perfect. And it is all part of God’s plan, whether you like it or not.”

I don’t know where you are getting this “apprenticeship” stuff from if not extrapolating it from a paltry set of statements by members of the leadership of the Catholic Church.

There is no category in Catholic sexual morality for “apprenticeship,” poorly interpreted statements by the Pope notwithstanding. It has been affirmed over and over during the Church’s 2000 year history that human sexuality is only properly expressed in a chaste married relationship. Contraception, by its very nature, violates chasteness. If you don’t believe me, please start reading:

Finally, this one floored me: “[I]t is all part of God’s plan, whether you like it or not.” Are murder, rape, theft, etc. all part of God’s plan, too? I acknowledge that God allows these things to occur as part of an overarching plan of salvation, but that in no way makes them moral licit.

Wary regards,
Tele

139. Telemachus,

THANK YOU!!!

Thank you for the clarifications. I’m tied up today and only able to check in briefly, so thank you for addressing those things.

140. Jeff McLeod says:

LJP –

Thank you! I completely agree with you. When I qualified my statement … “is a sin if you’re Catholic” … that was indeed very misleading. A sin is a sin.

I accept your correction and urge other readers to accept it as well.

141. Jeff McLeod says:

Stacy, thanks for the fabulous Chesterton quotation.

St. Thomas Aquinas is more valid today than he ever was. The twisted, pretzel logic of the modern age would have appeared surreal to St. Thomas. He would always, always insist on returning to common sense, to everyday language.

Chesterton really “got” Aquinas. His book is possibly the best intro to Aquinas I’ve ever read.

142. derp says:

tldr; Herp Derp bad math derp derp bad logic herp derp derp derp look how special and geeky I am derp derp derp

143. Rachel says:

A couple other points that I think are worthwhile here: 1) Much of the recent discussion has revolved around the typical failure-rate of the pill due to something like forgetting to take the pill as prescribed. While that is a significant aspect of the discussion, I think it’s also important to note that the pill fails for reasons other than the woman forgetting to take it. These include: illness, diet, use of other medications (such as antibiotics, but others affect it too), stress, a change in dose and/or brand (esp. with generics), and just plain old “the pill didn’t work” (see Kell’s comment above). 2) I’ve been practicing medicine for almost 8 years now and I have seen my fair share of women who became pregnant while on hormonal contraception. In practice (and I recognize this is simply anecdotal), I think the “typical-use” failure-rates are actually higher than reported. I’m going out on a limb here, but I would speculate that most of the efficacy studies for HC are both old (10 or more years) and narrow in scope. (Something you may not know about FDA drug studies: people have to meet strict criteria to be included in the study in the first place, and then have to maintain other strict criteria to be included in the reportable values. Personally, I’m always a little suspicious of the studies that are authored by the drug companies that stand to make huge profits from FDA approval — the date is relatively easy to manipulate.)

144. Howard says:

Using just this one stat and assuming averaging, I think that it is clear that if 8 pregnancies occur every year for every 100 women who use birth control that year, then after 10 years we will have had 80 pregnancies occur total for every 100 women. This does not say that we will have only 1 per woman. The odds remain the same (8% per year) but the number of babies keeps multiplying for the same group of women. Is this not true?

145. Jeff McLeod says:

Telemachus,

Careful, Peggy Sue is accurately quoting the Catechism when she refers to chastity as including an apprenticeship in self-mastery (CCC 2339).

I recognized the phrase as soon as I saw it.

I believe the point being made is that one does not become chaste via a “new years resolution” but rather by a personal encounter with the truth. How many teens leave their Catholic retreat believing that the good feeling alone is enough to make them chaste? Without the basis of truth and personal transformation, it’s just a new years resolution.

Even St. Augustine revealed how his personal transformation to chastity wasn’t complete for many years. It doesn’t mean he made “mistakes” in the intermediate period. It means he refused and resisted the truth, he deceived himself for many years after his first promptings from the Holy Spirit.

146. That’s a good point Jeff.

To use some other aspect of life as a substitute, it’s like eating. Humans need to eat and they need to reproduce, to sustain the race, so it’s a decent analogy.

The pill is like taking diet pills to maintain your weight in such a disordered way that a person assumed he could eat as much of anything as he wanted and would be protected from becoming overweight. The failure rate only compounds over time, the longer you live that way the more likely you are to fail.

The dependency on the pill would encourage no responsible behavior and over time the person is not only likely to be overweight anyway, but to also suffer from the unnatural substances in his body that trick natural functions. Eating for recreation only, not for nutrition. The pill has also been compared to bulimia. Eat all you want for pleasure, throw it up to get rid of it. Not healthy, dangerous over time. Protects you from nothing.

So when you say (analogously) that eating healthy (i.e. self-control) is not as effective, you miss the point. Eating healthy requires some investment of effort on the part of the individual, development of virtue and trust in one’s self, as opposed to placing trust in an inanimate pill or device.

(Steroids for athletes is also a good analogy. I think.)

It’s the difference in lifestyle, and what one chooses to trust. Even if the lifestyle isn’t perfect (which it never is) it is a much better way to live – to strive to be more virtuous – than to give up and succumb to animalistic vice.

Like I said, contraception is falsely touted as the responsible thing to do if you aren’t going to be responsible in the first place. It’s not a matter of if, but when it fails.

147. That last part was kind of directed at Peggy Sue and others who argue along those lines.

(Derps need not apply.)

148. Name says:

Your logic makes no sense…8% effective rate means 8%… not 50%…

149. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Telemachus, you asked “How was my comment uncharitable? You are taking up the narrative I’ve ascribed to you. Read your own statements above. You are parroting the same narrative that the mainstream media was promoting…”

I am not “taking up” any narrative that you seek to “ascribe” to me. I’m not your talking doll that thinks and speaks whatever you ascribe. You would be disrespectful and uncharitable if you do not respect my authority over what I say. Your interpretation of what you think I said is yours. Do not pretend it is mine.

You say of your interpretation that “It’s not a legitimate interpretation of what the Pope was saying.” Again, you are speaking of your interpretation. You say it is not legitimate, “ascribe” (i.e. project) it upon your baby doll, pretending it’s not yours. You then wag your finger at your doll and say “Don’t try to shame me into not calling you out on this.” But I know your doll is filled with straw. Call yourself out on it. I don’t shame you. You shame yourself enough.

You say “I don’t know where you are getting this…” But whatever “this” is to you, it comes from you and belongs to you.

You ask, “Are murder, rape, theft, etc. all part of God’s plan, too?” Absolutely. “[T]hat in no way makes them moral licit.” Never said it did. And so, licit or not, it remains that contraception is part of God’s plan for the salvation of man. And, licit or not, and whether you appreciate it or not, it remains that contraceptive use has been a part of people’s apprenticeships in the practice of chastity.

You say, “The proper understanding of ‘failure-rate’ is as follows: something is attempted, and because of something that is not willed by the person making the attempt, the attempt fails.” But while that may be the “proper” understanding in your mind while you were making that particular statement (and even that is questionable as your purported definition appears to describe only one form of failure with no further regard to rate), it would not be the “proper” understanding in regard to many other statements that use that term in other senses. Indeed, for example, the term “failure” is widely used to refer to any lack of success or any nonperformance of something due, required, or expected — whether or not the nonperformance is willed or unwilled by the nonperformer, or caused by anything willed or unwilled by the nonperformed, or whether there was any so-called “attempt”, or whether or not the nonperformer was even aware of the purported standards of performance, or whether the expectation was reasonable given the circumstances, etc. Thus, by such definition of “failure”, if the standard is that an ummarried person is not to have sex, then it would be “proper” to say that any unmarried person who has sex has therefore by definition “failed”, whether that person had “attempted” to not have sex or maybe had at times willed to have sex. And we can extend this further by adding Stacy’s definition of “abstinence means not having any sex”, whereby any act of sex counts as a failure of abstinence. Alternatively, in regard to pregnancy, we can easily create a “failure” rate for abstinence by simply counting all pregnancies, regardless of anyone’s alleged will. And if you don’t consider it “proper”, it remains that other people do.

Likewise, the “proper” understanding of the term “abstinence” is under the authority of the speaker, and different speakers may use different meanings (as has already been shown on this forum), and even the same speaker may use different meanings at different times (as I can easily demonstrate), and even intend multiple meanings. Whether we think it “proper” or not, people can and do speak of a failure-rate for abstinence, and compare abstinence with contraception in terms of failure/success rates, and may even consider abstinence as a contraceptive method. All such uses are “proper” when given “proper” respect.

You say that “abstinence by its very nature is a willed thing”, but in practice, the word “abstinence” is very often used in reference to situations where in reality it may not so much be an act of the will as it may be a matter of happenstance. By its very nature, “the will” is rather private and a person may not even be certain as to what he wills or doesn’t will, and as to what he thinks he wills and even when he thinks he’s certain as to what he wills, he can be wrong about it. So too, something may be in part willed and in part unwilled, and the degree to which something is willed can vary. Thus, some or no part of abstinence may be willed, and some or no part may be unwilled. Indeed, people can and do speak of unwilled abstinence, unwilled restraint, imposed abstinence, etc. There are people who will also argue that the notion of an individual will refers to an illusion. You can disagree, but it remains that “failure rate” as used in science and the English language is not dictated by any particular religion.

As to “You can’t will abstinence while simultaneously engaging in sexual intercourse”, that might be so as to however you are interpreting those words, but even if we allege that abstinence requires an act of the will in a particular direction, it remains that a person may be engaging, i.e. physically and even mentally occupied to some degree, in sexual intercourse AND not have a will contrary to abstinence. If you don’t understand how that can be, that does not make it a “logical impossibility”, except perhaps to the extent that your logic is limited by your limited understanding.

You say, “One can have a lapse in judgement, yes, but that’s not a ‘failure’ of abstinence.” But one can also say that it’s not a “failure of the Pill” if a person has a lapse in judgment as to using the Pill. The pill doesn’t fail because someone forgets to take it or misuses it. Yet, researchers count it towards the “failure rate” of the Pill. Thus, as the Guttmacher Institute points out, we need to avoid apples and oranges comparisons when speaking of abstinence in a discussion about typical failure rates for the Pill.

You say, “Even if one forgets to take the pill, there is still a will to avoid pregnancy… unless the will has changed, in which case ‘failure-rate’ no longer applies.” But that is not the standard by which the failure rate for the Pill is calculated by researchers. The woman’s “will” is not counted; only her pregnancies are counted. Whether it’s the woman’s forgetfulness or her deliberate choice to not take the pill or even a deliberate choice to go off birth control and get pregnant or whatever, it all contributes toward the reported “failure-rate” of the Pill for typical use regardless of whatever her will was or wasn’t. And likewise, many would recommend the same be done for people who claim to practice abstinence: if a woman had enrolled in an “I practice abstinence” study, then whether the woman fails, forgets, deliberately gets pregnant, is raped or whatever, regardless… every pregnancy gets counted nonetheless toward the “typical use” failure rate of the “I practice abstinence” program.

150. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, you wrote, “contraception is falsely touted as the responsible thing to do if you aren’t going to be responsible in the first place”. Actually, that’s not what most people who use condoms/contraceptives “tout”. Namely, most do not add the part that you included in your tout, i.e. “if you aren’t going to be responsible in the first place”.

That said, what do you think is “the responsible thing to do if you aren’t going to be responsible in the first place”?

The Pope has said that using condoms can be a “a first assumption of responsibility”, “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

151. Peggy Sue,

That’s the way the HuffPo spun it, but HuffPo is not the best source of Catholic theology.

Do you think male prostitution is ever responsible? Yes or no.
Do you think teen sex is ever responsible? Yes or no.
Do you think sexual promiscuity is ever responsible? Yes or no.

Since you are a relativist, so it seems, let’s just deal with your opinions.

152. Howard says:

Peggy said “The Pope has said that using condoms can be a “a first assumption of responsibility”

He was not praising condoms, he was praising a person. Cutting off my right foot can be a positive move for getting out of a bear trap but not the recommended method.

153. Alanl64 says:

Stacy what if the teens are married, would that make their sex responsible?
Could you define “sexual promiscuity” for us?

154. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, the wording of your questions is ambiguous. For example, doesn’t the Catholic Church permit teens to marry? And don’t we hear every day that “sexual promiscuity” is “ever responsible” for this and that?

You say, “Since you are a relativist, so it seems, let’s just deal with your opinions.” No, how it “seems” to you is your opinion.

Promiscuous means indiscriminate.

Teens, yes, I do think they can be mature enough to understand true love and commitment, wait for marriage and even be married, but those people today are far and few between. Both my grandparents fell in love and married as teens and stayed married for over well over 60 years until death.

I wrote about them here: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/02/trasancos-pecan-pie-protestantism/

156. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Howard, condoms are a created thing, and their very existence is good. As for praise, I quote some of the Pope’s words on the subject: “Let us admire with faith the work of the Creator and praise his greatness.”

157. Peggy Sue,

“Stacy, the wording of your questions is ambiguous. For example, doesn’t the Catholic Church permit teens to marry?”

I asked *you*. Why does it matter what the Church permits?

“And don’t we hear every day that “sexual promiscuity” is “ever responsible” for this and that?”

What??? Could you just answer the question?

***You say, “Since you are a relativist, so it seems, let’s just deal with your opinions.” No, how it “seems” to you is your opinion.***

Haha! That’s a keeper. So are you a relativist? Some things you’ve said sure line up with relativist thinking.

158. Howard says:

Peggy, your philosophy is interesting, but, you cannot justify it with a meaning that the Pope did not express. His comments were about a homosexual act and was explained in more depth after it was misinterpreted. A condom by itself is a neutral physical object. We are all referring to its use not its existence. Misusing the Creator’s things made (he does not own a condom factory) such as inventivness and synthetic latex cannot be justified by your last quote.

159. Howard says:

Peggy, even the Koran condemns certain drug use saying that they were made by Allah but the negative effect of user outweighs the positive.

160. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Howard, you wrote, “your philosophy is interesting, but, you cannot justify it with a meaning that the Pope did not express… Misusing the Creator’s things… cannot be justified by your last quote.”

Nowhere do I claim that any misuse is “justified” nor claim the Pope said such a thing. If you interpreted something you read as saying such a thing, that’s your doing, your “misuse”.

You wrote, “His comments were about a homosexual act and was explained in more depth after it was misinterpreted.” No, actually, “homosexual act” (and “male prostitute”) were both misinterpretations, mistranslations of his comments. The Pope did use an example of “a prostitute”, and some persons in the media mistranslated it as male and others erroneously then assumed that male prostitute meant homosexual act, and hence you’re running around talking about homosexual act, but as Fr. Lombardi subsequently quoted the Pope, “This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual.” And when we look at the original reported German and read the clarification, we find that it was not limited to male nor homosexual act, and never was specified to be either, except by persons such as yourself who don’t know what you’re talking about. In fact, although his example spoke specifically of a prostitute, what he said about the situation isn’t necessarily limited to prostitutes either.

As to “use” of condoms, there are both licit and illicit uses. As to whether God “owns” condom factories, all things belong to God. And whether you like it or not, God loves condoms, even used condoms, “For you love all things that exist”.

161. Steinar says:

Jeff,

You’re a bit stuck on the word “forget”. No, few would put it this way: “I forgot not to get drunk and crash my car last night”, but it could be said this way: “I made a terrible mistake and got drunk and crashed my car last night”. The point is, it does happen that people get drunk and crash their car. And most of the time it’s not because they firmly believe that getting drunk and drive is the right thing to do. It’s a mistake. And the percentages in question include the mistakes.

Let’s look at the 17% “typical-use failure rate” for condoms instead. Unless that figure includes “I forgot to bring one”, it’s all about not using it correctly. Ok, it’s a 0.0…% possibility that it ruptures even when used properly, but let’s keep the theoretical or near theoretical cases out of the discussion (or we could also include the possibility of a failure rate for abstinence due to, say, washing underwear together). Again, the point is, there is a human factor here, and it applies both if you intend to use contraception or if you intend to abstain.

162. Steinar says:

To clarify my point of entry to this discussion, I just happened to drop by it and spotted a faulty argument. I’m not here to argue for or against contraception or abstinence (it’s none of my business anyway). My stance is just that I’m against faulty arguments.

163. Howard says:

Peggy, I believe I remember his meaning correctly which was not an approval of condom use for heterosexual sex. You are interesting but acidic and treading on irrational. I was trying to visualize God using a condom and had no luck. I suppose I should understand what is inside of your head exactly, but alas, I am but mortal. I usually apply “love” to persons and again have trouble thinking of myself as loving a condom. The only licit use I could come up with was in a water balloon fight.

164. Howard,

LOL!

165. alanl64 says:

Well Stacy I guess I don’t consider sex as either a responsible or irresponsible act. So here we differ I think.
I think male prostitutes (and female, not sure why you left this out) can be responsible in what they do (ie don’s spread disease)
Teen sex being responsible, well if you think married teens can be responsible then logic would dictate that unmarried teens can be responsible. But again I think teens can act responsibly in this area as well.
As far as promiscuous sex, again it is neither responsible or irresponsible. I don’t see the need for one to be promiscuous, but like many here I fear I too had my day.
I have a feeling this answer is something of a non answer because at the very core I can’t answer yes or no to the questions, because as I stated sex is not a responsible thing to me. The actions taken around sex can indeed be responsible or irresponsible, but the act itself is neither.

Howard
“You are interesting but acidic and treading on irrational. I was trying to visualize God using a condom and had no luck. I suppose I should understand what is inside of your head exactly, but alas, I am but mortal.”

I think you should start calling out all who are irrational and acidic. Point it towards the catholics who are as well. Because people see things differently does not make their points irrational.

” I usually apply “love” to persons and again have trouble thinking of myself as loving a condom.”

A condom is not a person. A person using a condom is not a condom. When a husband beats his wife (or wife husband) does they not still “love” them? I see the argument “we love you, that is why we want you to recognize god the way we do” and this is how I see that love you offer, as abuse. I realize it is not intended that way by you, but as a happily married gay man can you explain how I could see it any other way?

” The only licit use I could come up with was in a water balloon fight.”
I think you should stick to balloons.

166. Howaard says:

Alan164 said “think you should start calling out all who are irrational and acidic. Point it towards the catholics who are as well. Because people see things differently does not make their points irrational.”

I am pleased that you follow everything I have written but you seem to have missed the parts where I answered Catholics who deny Church teachings. As for your last line, I agree completely but do not see how it applies to my comment.

But, Peggy Sue said I should love a condom!

As a husband of many years to a wife who was beaten by a former husband and nearly killed , I can tell you that he did not express love in those acts – he expressed his own anger towards a precious person. I believe that you love another man but the sexual component does not make it the same as me loving my wife or me loving my grandfather.

167. alanl64 says:

Howard
“I believe that you love another man but the sexual component does not make it the same as me loving my wife or me loving my grandfather.”
I really am not sure what you are saying in this statement?
Can you elaborate?
And of course there is a sexual component to loving one’s spouse, just cuz the plumbing works different doesn’t make the love any different. To think I love my husband the same way I would love a family member or a friend just shows how little you all understand about homosexuality.

168. Howard says:

To elaborate and believe you are really interested. I loved my grandfather in a different way I loved my wife. Because my children were adopted and she had a tubal ligation (we were not Catholic to head off remarks), there was a time when we both had the same overwhelming desire to make a baby, to see a baby born, to take care of a baby, to fulfill what apparently we mated for. It surprised us both and was almost unexplainable. I wanted my grandfather to never suffer and always be honored. I loved his personality and relationship to me. I felt the same for my wife; but added things. Not a matter of degree but of kind. I love you in a different way.

Years ago I lived in the SF Bay Area. One morning I got a call from a homosexual family friend. He and his partner invited my family to their home to celebrate Mother’s Day with a breakfast. We went and were happy to engage in fun conversation with two intelligent people. One was a Professor at a local college and the other I can’t remember what he did, we were not as close. All the years I knew the first guy, we never discussed his lifestyle or he mine. I am disappointed that homosexuals today do not honor my marriage the way they did.

I defer to Stacy for an explanation of Humanae Vitae which explains it infinitely better than I could ever do.

169. alanl64 says:

Howard,
I am not being purposely thick here, but you are saying that you love your wife differently than you love your grandfather? Because yes they are different kinds of love.
You do of course understand that some who marry will chose not to have children, yet you don’t say they are not married, you don’t say they love each other as just friends.
I don’t understand why you think that your gay friends of old honored your marriage more than we do now. I am not sure how my wanting to be legally married dishonors your marriage in any way, shape or form. If anything you should see our desire to be married as honoring marriage on the whole.

170. Howard says:

Alan164 said: ”You do of course understand that some who marry will chose not to have children, yet you don’t say they are not married, you don’t say they love each other as just friends.”

I don’t say lots of things but that is not an indication of anything except that I don’t lots of things.

Choice or inability may thwart a major purpose in marrying but does not change it. If a couple has no desire for each other sexually and do not engage in sex, then yes I would say they are just good friends. The Church may even annul the marriage.

“I don’t understand why you think that your gay friends of old honored your marriage more than we do now.”

Because they didn’t claim that they had the same kind of relationship. I realize that this is harder to understand. To remove the child creation component and/or the obvious lack of “fit” from marriage is to reduce the union to mere friendship. If the component is not present for inherently biological reasons (a dog and a woman cannot have a baby or homosexuals) it is obvious. The harder case is after menopausal marriages. These are exceptions, and it would be unwise to eliminate an entire command to go forth and be fruitful because of them. God is still able to do what he wishes and these couples must also be open to procreation to be married.

As I said, I am not the best person to articulate these concepts.

171. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Howard, there are “marriages” of all kinds, of peanut butter and jelly, of words and music in a hit song, of the moon and the sun, of two men or two women, of more than two people, of man and animal, in games of pinochle, etc. This menagerie of “marriages” reflects the fact that the English word “marriage” has a variety of meanings/definitions. Perhaps you think that many of these definitions are invalid and are not to be accepted. But in her love, without approving of homosexual acts, bestiality, or sex between peanut butter and jelly, the Catholic Church uses, understands and accepts all these definitions of the word “marriage”, even if you consider it to be “acidic”, “irrational” or contrary to other things you’ve heard previously from the Church.

172. Howard says:

Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy Sue……join the Catholic church …….get married if you are not ……..learn NFP……..live happily ever after. Your group will have a 1% divorce rate.

173. alanl64 says:

Howard I think you are articulating perfectly well. I understand what you are trying to say. However all I hear is if a marriage does not beget a baby it is not a marriage. It is a continuing theme that no one seems to express directly, but rather you fall back on “as long as they are open to life”. Sorry but to me a marriage is more than just the ability to create a baby. Maybe I have watched too much lifetime television movies.

And you have no idea if your friends considered their relationship to be the same as yours, you are just assuming they didn’t. But as you said you didn’t discuss it then you have no real idea.

I am sad that you think I am dishonoring your marriage by thinking mine is the same kind of relationship. But then you seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to dishonor my relationship.

Also please understand that we are talking civil marriage, not religious marriage. They are seperate.

174. Howard says:

Alan164, Actually I was anticipating your comment about my friend’s thoughts. I can only know what was expressed verbally and non-verbally over the years. Actually he was more my parents friend as he was older. No rational person expects a person to read minds. You don’t know either.

Since I don’t consider civil or government enacted anything as a source of good or truth. A civil marriage to me is as meaningful as paying taxes or getting a building permit. Something some legislatures decided to do. It may mean a sanction to you, an approval, hence the use of the word marriage. Since we have replaced God with law in this country I can understand that approach. Get the Church to marry two men and we can have a different conversation.

I am actually very sorry I cannot honor your relationship as I do not believe it is honorable or healthy for society.

Can you shed some light on the reports that people among your community are talking about men and women couples who seem to quit sexual activity after about 5 years but stay together?

175. Howard says:

To clarify. My best friend who’s father was an alholic and killed himself also became a heavy drinker. He died at 50 from drinking and being overweight. I did not approve of his life style and considered it harmful to his family. I loved my friend dearly, but did not honor his drinking.

176. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Howard, according to national media sources, men and women couples, married and unmarried, “who seem to quit sexual activity” after a few years is quite common. Some say it is one in five married couples, and “one in three non-married couples who have been together two years or longer have a non-sexual relationship”. Of course, Mary and Joseph didn’t have sex at all, and they are an exemplary married couple.

177. Howard says:

Peggy, what is it among homosexual couples? (What thought is she going to purge this time to go with her answer?).

178. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Howard, “homosexual couples” are far more difficult to identify and query than heterosexual couples. There are far fewer of them and most do not live as openly. Therefore, the research is far less available and far less reliable. Even the terminology causes problems for research, as in whether two persons of the same sex who live together would be called a “homosexual couple” unless in fact they were sexually active and were willing to admit it. But in my experience, I have not found any conclusive evidence by which to proclaim that the figures would be different for homosexual couples vs heterosexual couples, all other things considered equal (e.g. marital status, years together, income, education, willingness to talk about it, etc). It would be disrespectful to the truth to ignore these important considerations.

179. Alanl64 says:

Howard
You are correct, we cant read minds. You are the one who claims they honored your marriage more than I did. Maybe you should not have made that statement.

As you feel about the government I feel about your church. Not being rude, just making my point. You cannot hold me to the authority of your church, or your god. I don’t need your approval, gods approval or the government on my marriage. We fight for the recognition. That’s all. There are legal recognitions that go with civil marriage. Y’all may say you could care less about them but I’m pretty sure most of you take advantage of them. And I’m not going into what they are, been there, done that, aint doing it again.

And I cannot say I am upset about you not being able to honor my relationship because you don’t find it honorable or healthy for society. I feel the exact same way about those who consider their religion to be the one that should be the basis for how societies act.

180. Alanl64 says:

Howard,
My community? Do you mean the town I live in?
Yes I know what you mean, and I can’t speak to that as I am unfamiliar with it. Most marriages have ebb and flow in their sexual relationship to my understanding. I would assume a great many marriages have times where sex stops. Isn’t that why we chose partners based on a plethora of reasons rather than just sexual compatibility? I guess I don’t understand the sex obsession that so many of you seem to have. It seems to be all marriage is to you. My marriage is about so much more than sex.
Can you get a link to these reports?

181. Howard says:

Sorry for the delay but I really do have other activities and a sleep schedule.

Alan164, said ”You are correct, we cant read minds. You are the one who claims they honored your marriage more than I did. Maybe you should not have made that statement.”

We are In casual conversation not scientific debate. I haven’t even thought about him in many years.

You cannot hold me to the authority of your church, or your god. I don’t need your approval, gods approval or the government on my marriage. We fight for the recognition…..

I hold you to no authority. Authority will hold you by itself.

I guess I don’t understand the sex obsession that so many of you seem to have.

Alan, do you mean multiple me, or the same as My community.

Can you get a link to these reports?

What reports are you referring to?

182. alanl64 says:

Howard,
Yes we were in conversation, I get questioned and tested regularly about my statements. I in turn do the same. You might not have thought of it in many years but you did make it as a difinitive statement. It was not.

By authority do you mean god?

Yes I refer to not personally you, but rather the you who post on this blog here. If that is a community then yes. When you refered to “my community” to what were you refering?

As for the link to the reports, I am refering to the reports that you mentioned when asking about sexless gay marriages.

183. Howard says:

Alan said: “…you did make it as a difinitive statement. It was not.

It was a statement and based on my impressions. Not unreasonable. This is not the presidential campaign. If you want to turn it into science, we would have to ask him. I don’t see the point anyway.

By authority do you mean god?

I mean any authority you question. That is the nature of authority – to hold you accountable. I have not part in the process.

When you refered to “my community” to what were you refering?
Alan, you already answered that yourself. My community? Do you mean the town I live in?
Yes I know what you mean, and I can’t speak to that as I am unfamiliar with it.

As for the link to the reports, I am refering to the reports that you mentioned when asking about sexless gay marriages.

I was referring not to printed reports that I have read but statements made on television. Peggy seemed to answer that question.

I did dig up some links that discuss what we are talking about. As you would expect these sites are not located in Castro St.

http://www.courage.cam.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9:gay-myths-a-catholic-psychologist-examines-the-data&catid=2:resources&Itemid=6

http://www.courage.cam.org.au/

http://unitedfamiliesinternational.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/myth-buster-monday-is-homosexuality-genetic-immutable-or-unchangeable/

A book I recommend – “The Victory of Reason” by Rodney Stark

http://www.catholic.com/documents/gay-marriage

As I said, I am not as articulate as others and I offer the following:
The Catholic Church takes a very high view of marriage and human sexuality. As the account of Genesis shows, marriage and sexuality were created by God and given to mankind as gifts for our benefit. Scripture records God’s statement that “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). As a result, “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Some may forego the good of marriage to serve a higher calling (cf. Matt. 19:10-12), but it is a good nevertheless.
Marriage is a conduit through which God’s grace flows to the couple and their children.1 The Catholic Church understands marriage between a baptized man and woman to be a sacrament, a visible sign of the grace that God gives them to help them live their lives here and now so as to be able to join him in eternity.2 For Catholics, marriage is social as well as religious, but its religious.aspects are very important. The Bible repeatedly compares the relationship between man and wife to that between God and Israel (cf. Hos. 9:1) or between Christ and his Church (cf. Eph. 5:21-32). For Catholics, marriage is a holy vocation.
Since the Church sees marriage as holy, it believes it must be treated with reverence. It also recognizes that marriage is basic to the health of society and therefore a public institution that must be defended against harm.

184. Howard says:

I think we are far afield from the topic. So I move on and let others have the last word.

185. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Howard, you wrote, “I did dig up some links that discuss what we are talking about”. Actually, you dug up links to propaganda that cherry picks from the research bucket, selectively picking and distorting fragments to support their view while widely ignoring others that refute it, and then at times even declaring their view to be “fact” (not to mention claiming the opposing view to be “myth”) when the research they’ve cited does not. Authors of the studies they’ve cited have spoken out against that kind of misuse themselves.

186. alanl64 says:

Peggy Sue, in fairness to Howard he did allude to that.

Howard, all I can say is you are right in what catholicism says. But I don’t follow catholicism so I don’t have to follow it’s rules.

It’s been a pleasure, you have been a quite polite conversationalist.

187. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Alan, no one has to follow the rules, and consequences are not limited to people who follow the rules.

188. Howard, THANKS for those links. Courage is a great organization.

Peggy Sue,

Did you want some information about the “gay gene”?

Could you be more specific about what you find wrong with Howard’s links.

It is true that it is quite ridiculous to think that a gene can be responsible for manifest behavior. It’s like looking for the thread in a sweater and trying to say the thread makes the sweater look the way it does.

189. alanl64 says:

Stacy
I hear the “gay gene” is found in the same part of the brain as the “catholic gene”

You mention the gay gene why?

And if there is no gay gene? So what?

We are who we are. Some say they can change, some say they can’t. Those who want to change (and please understand by change I mean not act on their homosexual desires. I think if you look around you will see that most don’t actually end their same sex desires, they just don’t act on them anymore) should, because clearly they are not willing to accept who they are, and without accepting who they are they have no chance of having a good life. Those os us who can accept who were are have a much better chance of having a good life. It would be even better if people stopped telling us we are wrong and just went about their business.

As you say I don’t need your permission to call it a marriage.

190. The math is quite a bit simpler than presented in the article. The simpler calculation is used routinely in actuarial science. The use of the binomial distribution is reminiscent of the metaphorical use of a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito. The table entries are easily reproduced using 1-(1-fr)^n where “fr” is the annual failure rate and “n” is the number of years. This same calculation came up not long ago in an “Ask Marilyn” column where Ms. vos Savant initially made one of her rare missteps. The questioner wanted to know the probability of avoiding a drug test over the course of a year if 25% of the workers are tested for drugs using a random sample each quarter. With respect to the 98% statistic used in reference to contraceptives use by Catholic women, one should recall the phrase popularized by Mark Twain, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Unlike the inventors of the 98% “statistic”, the author here clearly presents and documents the only assumption backing the entries in each table. That is precisely how probabilities should be presented.

191. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, you asked, “Did you want some information about…” There’s much that is often called “information” but I already have peer-reviewed scientific information, thanks.

And you asked, “Could you be more specific about what you find wrong with Howard’s links.” Yes, I could.

192. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Thomas Kilcoyne and Stacy, the tables shown contain some errors, apart from rounding. For example, the listed (typical use) rate of 17% for condom use should instead read 15%, as 15% is the rate from the cited source and the rate that was used to compute the adjacent 5 and 10 year figures in the presented table.

193. Jeff McLeod says:

Peggy Sue Got Married

The movie that was named after you was the movie that made me believe briefly that Nicholas Cage was destined to become a great actor.

So I re-calculated the table for adults and found the number of pregnancies per 100 for adult condom use was:

5 year = 56
10 year = 80

1 – (1 – .15)^5 = .56
1 – (1 – .15)^10 = .80

Those are the numbers Stacy entered in the Adult table.

It looks to me like the 17 was a typo because any place where actual calculations were required, the results are exactly what would occur if one were to plug in p = .15.

It would be pretty weird if Stacy had arrived at those exact numbers if she were actually using the incorrect 17% failure rate for adults. It looks to me like she used the 15% failure rate which you admit is the correct one. In other words, I think this is a case of an innocent typo, not a systemic method error.

194. Thank you Jeff!

Yes, Peggy Sue, it’s a typo. Sorry. Ah, how they plague me.

The point still stands. Birth controls over time fails to prevent pregnancy, which really makes abortion the ultimate “birth control”.

195. Thomas Kilcoyne,

THANK YOU for your excellent comment! Very good point, one that Jeff made earlier. I used the binomial distribution because 1) that’s what the book I referenced used, and 2) pregnancy is a binomial event, you either are or you are not pregnant, and each year is an independent event.

But you are right, it is simpler to calculate the other way (except that I short-cut with that website calculator after I verified it worked!).

196. Peggy Sue,

Me: And you asked, “Could you be more specific about what you find wrong with Howard’s links.”

You: Yes, I could.

Me: Then please do. I hold the Courage Apostolate in high regard.

197. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Jeff, yes, it looked to me like someone (but I don’t know that it was Stacy) used the 15% figure for the table calculations. Likewise, I too might think someone made a typo, but again, I don’t know that it was Stacy.

Nevertheless, “innocent typo” or not, if this were “on a math exam”, perhaps Stacy would want it to “get an F” unless it “happens to agree with the factual answer”. I leave that to Stacy.

198. Peggy Sue,

Yes, if it were an exam, I should be responsible for that typo. I already passed math class though – by the grace of God!

199. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, the FDA and birth control manufacturers publish the fact that “birth control over time fails to prevent pregnancy”. The published one-year rates already clearly show that, whether it’s perfect use or typical use. And yet, it remains that an 8% failure rate with birth control is more than 10 times LESS than an 85% failure rate without birth control. And if those rates stay the same “over time”, the 10x difference in pregnancies also doesn’t change “over time”.

As to myths, I might begin by touching on “1st Myth: Gay persons are born that way (there is a gay gene)”. First of all, “born that way” does not merely mean “there is a gay gene”, and second, the term “gay gene” is a misleading pop culture term. On the first, by the time someone is born, he/she is already more than a product of mere genetics. Even so-called genetically identical twins are not born identical. And the genetic apparatus of so-called identical twins are not necessarily identical at birth, and may continue to deviate further from one another throughout life. Identical twins have different fingerprints, even though there is a genetic component/factor/basis to fingerprint patterns and they may appear the same at birth. On the second, there is significant scientific evidence both for and against the existence of a so-called “a gay gene”, i.e. genetic components/factors/basis for sexual orientation. It remains an open question in science. And even if it were scientifically established that there is in fact a single identifiable so-called “gay gene”, the mere existence of a gene or genes does not necessarily dictate a particular sexual orientation, and thus, identical twins could express the gene(s) in different ways. Therefore, contrary to the implication in the linked article(s), the mere fact that identical twins can have different sexual orientations does not prove that there is not “a gay gene”. My identical twin and I could both have genes for a particular condition, but it may be that only one of us or neither of us or both of us develops the condition later in life. In summary, science has not disproved that anyone is “born that way”, and the Catholic Church does not teach that no one is “born that way” either.

And I’ll throw in the next one too: “2nd Myth: Once gay, always gay. Sexual orientation can actually change.” It cites Dr. Spitzer’s analysis of telephone interviews, i.e. “200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation”. Note the word “reporting”. Telephone reports do not scientifically establish that anyone’s sexual orientation “can actually change” from homosexual to non-homosexual. The “200 participants” were rounded up from ex-gay ministries and the like, and Dr. Spitzer reported that he struggled to find enough volunteers willing to claim a change even after three years of his searching for volunteers. He was scraping the bottom of the barrel to find these people, much like we’d have to do to find people willing to claim to have seen flying saucers and Bigfoot. There was no independent, objective determination that any of the 200 participant’s sexual orientation actually changed or even as to what the participants’ actual sexual orientations were at any time, before, during or after (e.g. that persons actually formerly had a homosexual orientation rather than they have a bisexual orientation or just worried they might have been “gay”). And so religiously-motivated persons alleged to have experienced changes by telephone and demonstrated that they had been taught to use different vocabulary. It no more proves a change in sexual orientation than claims such as “I’m not gay any longer (but I continue to experience same-sex feelings from time to time)” or “(I might be the poster child for Ms. Bisexual and still be as bisexual as I’ve ever been but) recently I’ve only been sexually active with the opposite sex and so I have not had much recent interest in same-sex relations”, etc. Even then, some participants reportedly subsequently recanted their alleged changes. The alleged “actual change” reminds me of the infomercial where people in the mall are stopped, put on a bracelet and then claim to have better balance.

Dr. Spitzer himself said of the alleged change, “Although I -suspect- change occurs, I suspect it’s very rare.” Note the word “suspect”. And, “I was appalled at how media simplified it. It’s easier to say ‘homosexuals can change’ than to say ‘a number of homosexual indicators on a continuum’ can change.” Indeed, a change in a reported “homosexual indicator” is not the same as an actual change in sexual orientation.

200. enness says:

I’m grouping my remarks in a way that I hope will make sense.

Let’s say I take azithromycin for a sinus infection. I’m not under even the most bizarre “House, MD” scenario going to wind up with a new, helpless human being in need of constant care.

Tony wrote: “All medical interventions have “failures”, but the fact remains that oral hormonal contraception (the example you use) is among the most efficacious medications on the market.”

If you, personally, cannot afford any risk, you cannot afford ANY risk, period, no matter how efficacious the method.

John wrote: “Since handguns sometimes fail to stop a home intruder, I plan on not using mine if someone breaks into my house.”

If you want to take the risk that it will be commandeered and used against you, or that someone innocent will injure himself by mistake, that’s up to you. But I doubt you go around challenging people to duels — I imagine most of the time, it remains put away in a specific location. In other words, you don’t tempt fate, so to speak.

Stacy wrote: “I hope you aren’t trying to grasp at the straw that the reason women need birth control for free is because they are all being raped in the US. Please tell me that’s not the case.”

Exactly. I can only speak for myself, but I haven’t been. Abstinence is working very well. I don’t see the wisdom, given my habits, of continuing to ingest a carcinogen on the chance that someday I may be raped.

Casual Lurker: “A woman who chooses to have a very active sex life is going to do so with or without the availability of birth control. A woman who chooses not to have an active sex life is going to do so with or without the availability of birth control.”

What makes you so sure of that? I imagine that is true in some cases, but it’s an extremely hard sell that it has no predictable effect on anyone’s decisions, ever.

College Student: And suppose there is a failure in the pill, as there have been at least twice in a pretty short and recent time period? Pfizer was the first to screw up, recalling 1 million packages, and then Glenmark. I’d be feeling pretty angry at both the company and myself if I did everything ‘right’ but got screwed over anyway.

Steinar: when I was on the pill I often forgot to take it. I have never “forgotten” abstinence. The notion is, frankly, ridiculous. People don’t “forget” to be abstinent, they make a conscious decision not to be — even if this decision is ill-considered and made in a split second.

“You’re a bit stuck on the word “forget”.”

Well it’s the word YOU chose!

201. enness says:

Alan, I hope you’ll excuse some of my early sarcasm, you’ve proven to be more open to honest conversation than my impression was at first. I’m posting it all anyway because somebody else may still need to hear it.

“Yes, abstinence will create no unwanted pregnancies, this I think we can all agree is a fact.
And I understand why you think more unwanted pregnancies occur because of contraception, but I think if you got your way and contraception was illegal you would more than likely see an increase in unwanted pregnancies.”

Hold on a second! Stop the presses! Where did ANYBODY say anything about it being made illegal?

“And I will ask how many of you anti contraception folks were virgins when you married? Have any of you ever used contraception?”

I am not married, I am a virgin, and I used the pill for cramps and monthly skin outbreaks — until I found out much of what I know now, which led me to regret what I had done and seek other options. Not that this is anyone’s business or has the slightest bearing on the point at hand, but it isn’t a deep dark secret either.

“Lets not talk about how women were treated generally before birth control.”

How were they treated, generally? It’s not like either of us was there, very probably. What accounts we have may be an example of self-selection (this is probably insufficient, but there’s some evidence that unhappy people are more likely to complain than happy people are to issue praise: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/146772/) I’m not saying it couldn’t have been that bad, but it seems equally possible that we have regressed in some areas while progressing in others, as opposed to it being strictly linear.

“Quick question. We keep talking about contraceptions allowing women to be mens sex slaves. And women giving themselves away to men for sex. Does not contraception allow women to use men as their sex slaves? Do not men give them selves away for sex? Do men not lose a bit of their soul with each sexual encounter without benefit of marriage?”

Good question, the answer is yes, absolutely. But among many men, so I understand, there is an impression that women tend to be the gatekeepers.

Alan, all is not relative. If you and I see a solid-colored apple sitting on a table we can have a great argument about what color it is, but one or both of us is going to be wrong, and possibly color-blind. Even if both of us are wrong it does not mean there is no right. Something either is a sin, or is not, although circumstances/intent do play a role (a pill used one way is contraception, but another way manages endometriosis). It isn’t not a sin for you but a sin for somebody else; that is a logical contradiction. Sin is egalitarian that way.

202. enness says:

Peggy Sue Got Married:

“Indeed, people can also be dissuaded by contraception from engaging in sex”

The whole point of it is to make sex seem more feasible.

“Meanwhile, among people who do not use contraception, children may be both unwelcome and unintended.”

But I bet more of them realize they can’t blame it on anyone or anything else.

“And it is all part of God’s plan, whether you like it or not.”
Now you’re being arrogant (in fact I can almost hear the “nyah nyah!” that ought to follow that comment). It may in a broad sense be “God’s plan” because humans have free will, but we have no indication that contraceptive artifice is God’s intention for anyone, other than the fact that some crafty humans invented it. I could present you with indications to the contrary. Where did you find this personal direct line to the Almighty in which He contradicts Himself? Or are you referencing a completely different God than the Biblical one?

“Stacy, you say “There is no such thing as morally responsible sex outside of marriage.” People can engage in sex outside of marriage AND be taking steps of moral responsibility, just as the Pope himself said. And people can engage in sex inside of marriage AND be morally irresponsible. For that matter, it’s possible that the unmarried person might be going to heaven fifteen minutes after having sex outside of marriage while the married woman ends up burning in hell after giving birth to 10 kids with her husband.You say, “Within marriage, sterilizing the act is immoral. ‘Sterilize’ means to render the act only for recreation.” First, one needn’t use contraception to accomplish that. [All true, what is your point?] Second, not all sex with contraception is reduced to “only recreation”. [This rests on a highly subjective assessment.] As you have already said, there remains the possibility of procreation even when contraception is used. Indeed, according to you, contraception “actually makes it more likely”.

You have strung together a number of true statements, but have tried to make them add up to something they do not. You are misrepresenting Catholic teaching and the statements of the Pope. It is not permissable to do evil that good may result, although this may be less troublesome than willing evil for evil’s sake. You claim you are not making an argument, but it is heavily implicit in your attempts to twist the statements of the Pope and of the Bible to use against them.

“unwanted effects of driving”? The semantics here are getting kind of silly.

“Howard, there are “marriages” of all kinds, of peanut butter and jelly, of words and music in a hit song, of the moon and the sun, of two men or two women, of more than two people, of man and animal, in games of pinochle, etc. This menagerie of “marriages” reflects the fact that the English word “marriage” has a variety of meanings/definitions.”

Good grief, what a flight of fancy. Peanut butter and jelly are literally married? Do I really need to explain figurative versus literal? I think I’m going to call it a night.

203. Enness,

Haha! I read through all of you posts. I hope the people you addressed respond. I cracked up at the “nyah, nyah” part.

It was as funny as Howard’s:

“Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy Sue……join the Catholic church …….get married if you are not ……..learn NFP……..live happily ever after. Your group will have a 1% divorce rate.”

Thank you Enness for a great summary!

204. Telemachus says:

Peggy Sue,

Check these out. Maybe you’ll come to the realization some day that its not honest to take people’s statements out of context, then re-contextualize them in an imaginary world which you’d like to live in.

I have some simple questions for you, Peggy Sue: Is Stacy’s analysis in the original post right or wrong? Why or why not?

And please don’t say “Because the Pope thinks condoms are faboo!”

-Tele

• Nick C says:

Telemachus, see my entry on March 29 and Peggy Sue’s reply on the same date. I have been following the conversation and I agree with your comment on not only the Pope’s quote but also on many of the other comments made by Peggy Sue that professes a rather unique interruption of Catholic teaching, doctrine and shall I say, at least in my opinion, a misguided view of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I hope we are dealing with a case of invincible ignorance as opposed to just plain old ignorance. At least then there is some hope.

205. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Enness, you said “People don’t ‘forget’ to be abstinent, they make a conscious decision not to be”. But in any number of circumstances, people can easily forget to be abstinent, to abstain. A common example is dieting. Some people diet by eating only half of what is served at the restaurant and then taking the remainder home to eat later. But it happens that people can be distracted by the table conversation only to later look down at their plate and realize in surprise that they’ve eaten more than half. They had forgotten their diet, forgotten to abstain. They did not consciously choose to break their diet.

You said “The whole point of [contraception] is to make sex seem more feasible.” That may be your opinion, but the fact remains as I’ve said: People can also be dissuaded by contraception from engaging in sex. People can find contraception to be disgusting, sexually repulsive, a huge red flag.

You said “you’re being arrogant”, but you talk about yourself. Whatever your interpretation may be, it is yours. If you want to argue whether contraception is part of God’s plan, you can argue with yourself, as you have admitted yourself that “It may in a broad sense be ‘God’s plan’”.

You confessed that “You… have tried to make them add up to something they do not.” And you said “You are misrepresenting Catholic teaching and the statements of the Pope.” Again, whatever your interpretation may be, it is yours. I did not claim it’s “permissible to do evil that good may result”. You alleged, “it is heavily implicit in your attempts to twist…”, but that’s your twisted interpretation. Please keep working on your confession.

206. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Telemachus, perhaps YOU and Enness will “come to the realization some day that it’s not honest to take people’s statements out of context, then re-contextualize them in an imaginary world which you’d like to live in.”

207. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Nick C, whatever “misguided view” you may have in your opinion is yours.

208. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

For example, Stacy wrote that “the widely held assumption that birth control ‘works’ is not considered over time”, and she subsequently posted, “The point still stands. Birth controls over time fails to prevent pregnancy.” But the FDA and contraceptive manufacturers widely publish the failure rates, the same numbers Stacy used in her calculations, and they clearly demonstrate on their face that contraceptive use both (1) “works” to prevent most unintended pregnancies “over time” AND (2) doesn’t prevent a minority of unintended pregnancies “over time”. This “widely held assumption” regarding contraception use “over time” is supported by the research.

Stacy wrote that “birth control does NOT prevent unintended pregnancy, but over time it actually makes it more likely”, but the figures show that among 100 women, typical use of the Pill results in 8 pregnancies per year compared to 85 pregnancies with “unprotected intercourse”. That is more than a 10-fold decrease. And if the same failure rates continued “over time”, say 10 years, typical use of the Pill would result in 80 pregnancies compared to 850 pregnancies with “unprotected intercourse”. Again, more than a 10-fold decrease. Thus, contraceptive use prevents unintended pregnancies. Lots of them. And if we used Stacy’s formula to calculate numbers of pregnant women, virtually 100 of the 100 women will become pregnant over the 10 years with “unprotected intercourse”, compared to 57 women becoming pregnant using the Pill.

Similarly, Stacy wrote that “typical-use of condoms over 5 years actually makes a woman more likely to get pregnant than not”. But the cited numbers do not show that condom use “makes a woman more likely to get pregnant”, whether it’s condom use over one year, five years or 50 years. Instead, the numbers indicate that typical condom use reduces the number of unintended pregnancies by nearly 6 to 1 compared to “unprotected intercourse”, and again, that’s whether we’re talking one year, five years or 50 years — as long as the same typical-use failure rate continues over the time period.

But what about not having sex at all? Doesn’t “typical-use of condoms over 5 years actually makes a woman more likely to get pregnant than not” compared to not having sex at all? The studies may say 75 pregnancies in a group of 100 women using the condom over 5 years, but the notion that it was the condom use that caused those pregnancies or that condom use made the women “more likely” to become pregnant is not sufficiently substantiated.

Back to Stacy’s formula, it’s purported calculation of the number of women pregnant over time is built upon assumptions built into Stacy’s chosen formula and her choice of that formula, assumptions that are neither thrashed out nor proven by “Stacy’s analysis in the original post”. The mere number of, for example, 8 pregnancies per year among 100 women, if that same rate continues “over time”, speaks to 80 pregnancies over 10 years, but not that those 80 pregnancies would necessarily be to 57 women. To come up with a prediction of the number of pregnant women over time requires “further magical assumptions”, or a formula such as the one Stacy chose in which such additional assumptions are built-in. And, of course, it doesn’t mean the calculation would reflect reality. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but “Stacy’s analysis in the original post” does not substantiate it.

And even if it were the case that 57 out of the 100 women will become pregnant over 10 years, speak Spanish and have brown eyes, that does not mean it is “more likely than not” that “a woman” named Margie would become pregnant, speak Spanish and have brown eyes. It may be Margie’s nature that she’s more diligent in her contraceptive use than most or that she or her partner is less fruitful, or she cuts back on the sexual intercourse when most others don’t, or that she hates Spanish and has blue eyes. In other words, just because Margie is “a woman” does not mean she is typical. Again, even if most women were to become pregnant over the 10 years, it does not mean it was ever “more likely than not” that Margie, Ethel, Gertrude and whoever else would become pregnant.

Stacy goes on to opine that “if someone’s idea of being responsible is to use a pill/device when you don’t want to be responsible in the first place, then responsible use of said pill/device is probably an unwarranted expectation.” Even people opposed to contraception don’t always remember to take their pills, and Stacy provided no proof for the notion that contraceptive users have more trouble remembering to take their pills than people opposed to contraception have trouble remembering to take theirs or to remain abstinent.

Stacy wrote, “birth control over time normalizes abortion…. this calculation proves it using their own reported estimates”. No, the calculation does not prove it, and neither did “Stacy’s analysis in the original post”. She just said it did.

209. Peggy Sue,

If you roll a dice once, there’s a known probability of rolling a “2″.

If you roll a dice 5 times, the probability that you will roll a “2″ just once, goes up because you rolled the dice more times.

If you don’t want to land on a “2″, don’t roll the dice.

QED

210. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, people don’t want to die in car accidents, but they still drive their cars. So too, many people don’t want another child, but they still have sex — and use contraception to reduce the odds. Even third graders throw the dice. Everyone does until the game is over and the lights go out.

211. Jeff McLeod says:

Peggy Sue,

What if we could reduce the risk of Russian Roulette from 1:6 to the lifetime risk of dying in a car accident which is estimated to be 1:83.

(Some say it can be done by using heavier bullets, for example).

Do you know anyone who would play? or would most people continue to abstain from Russian Roulette?

When the consequences are immediate and understood at a visceral level, we all do the right thing.

I think there is a little self deception involved in risk assessment, such as the in thinking about the safety in driving a car. We tell ourselves it can’t happen to us, or that we’re invincible. But I don’t think we calculate the odds. I think we actually avoid thinking about the odds as much as possible. I think we all drive around feeling more confident than we are mathematically entitled to feel.

Which is why Stacy wrote this wonderful article

212. alanl64 says:

Enness
Thanks for the kind words.

I will try to respond.

Yes no one said contraception should be illegal. I was going to an extreme. I like to do that occassionally. What do you think Stacy’s reasoning for blogging about the ineffectiveness of contraception?

“And I will ask how many of you anti contraception folks were virgins when you married? Have any of you ever used contraception?”

I am not married, I am a virgin, and I used the pill for cramps and monthly skin outbreaks — until I found out much of what I know now, which led me to regret what I had done and seek other options. Not that this is anyone’s business or has the slightest bearing on the point at hand, but it isn’t a deep dark secret either.”

It’s funny how this is no ones business, but you are making other people’s private business your business. Does it matter what the percent of failure birth control has? Do you think people using it don’t know? My point is that so many here are being somewhat hypocritical by saying it is wrong, but oh I used to use it until I learned the error of my ways. That just doesn’t work for me.

“Lets not talk about how women were treated generally before birth control.”

How were they treated, generally? It’s not like either of us was there, very probably. What accounts we have may be an example of self-selection (this is probably insufficient, but there’s some evidence that unhappy people are more likely to complain than happy people are to issue praise: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/146772/) I’m not saying it couldn’t have been that bad, but it seems equally possible that we have regressed in some areas while progressing in others, as opposed to it being strictly linear.”

Women throughout history have been treated as property, being weaker (mind and body) and unequal in a negative sense. Do you argue this point?

“Quick question. We keep talking about contraceptions allowing women to be mens sex slaves. And women giving themselves away to men for sex. Does not contraception allow women to use men as their sex slaves? Do not men give them selves away for sex? Do men not lose a bit of their soul with each sexual encounter without benefit of marriage?”

Good question, the answer is yes, absolutely. But among many men, so I understand, there is an impression that women tend to be the gatekeepers.”

Can you elaborate? Not sure what your intended by gatekeeper? And so what if men view things this way, that doesn’t make it right.

“Alan, all is not relative. If you and I see a solid-colored apple sitting on a table we can have a great argument about what color it is, but one or both of us is going to be wrong, and possibly color-blind. Even if both of us are wrong it does not mean there is no right. Something either is a sin, or is not, although circumstances/intent do play a role (a pill used one way is contraception, but another way manages endometriosis). It isn’t not a sin for you but a sin for somebody else; that is a logical contradiction. Sin is egalitarian that way.”

Yes we can indeed argue about the color of an apple, but see that is “provable”. The color does not change depending on our belief system. Sin, well sin indeed does change. I don’t believe in sin. I believe in right and wrong. And the problem is we all see right and wrong differently. I don’t see premarital sex as wrong, and I don’t see contraception as wrong. You see them as wrong and as sin. I see promiscuity as wrong, but really not my decision for those who chose it (myself included in my younger days)

213. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Jeff, for more general appeal, I’d think you’d need to not only “reduce the risk of Russian Roulette from 1:6 to the lifetime risk of dying in a car accident which is estimated to be 1:83″ but also (1) distribute the risk over greater time as with driving and (2) significantly increase the benefits of Russian Roulette. Otherwise, we’re talking apples and oranges. The alleged risk of dying in a car accident when calculated on a per trip basis is very small and that one trip can have substantial benefits.

Yet, even without changing the risks and benefits, there are people who play Russian Roulette, whether it be the “right thing” or not.

And while you might opine that “we all drive around feeling more confident than we are mathematically entitled to feel”, others may opine that there’s no entitlement, that it’s all a gift lasting as long as God wills, to be appreciated as however life unfolds. Meanwhile, others sit at home, afraid to drive. Whatever the case may be, they all contribute to the soup.

214. Peggy Sue,

I see your point maybe in marriage. There are other issues there with contraception and communication.

But…

Teens? BC is touted as the responsible thing for teens to use if they aren’t going to be responsible in the first place. (I know, I know, repeat.)

Give 100 of them BC pills.

By the time they are 20, a third of them will be pregnant. By the time they are 25, most of them will be.

Wouldn’t that suggest that teaching kids why they should be abstinent is more important if you really want to address the teen pregnancy problem?

(And please don’t link liberal articles that say AOSE doesn’t work. I can link just as many conservative articles that say otherwise.)

On a parenting level — which is better Peggy Sue?

2) Don’t give yourself away because you deserve better, repeated 100x a day for ten years with proper instruction on human development.

215. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, countless people, whether they be teens or whoever, have been told/taught about abstinence and yet they still have sex. Even Catholic priests and nuns who were under vows have had sex.

Also, parents are not limited to the two extreme choices you listed, and even if they were to be so limited, I’m not aware of credible research proving that either of your extremes is better than the other at preventing pregnancies, and especially not when it comes to the effectiveness for specific persons rather than simply group statistics.

I note that your tout, i.e. “BC is touted as the responsible thing for teens to use if they aren’t going to be responsible in the first place”, contains both an “abstinence first” advocacy and a fallback of contraception. It thus can be read as placing “abstinence” as “more important”.

216. Peggy Sue,

You should visit the young adult magazine I edit and read about how those young adults are living faithful and full lives, and then compare that to the crap NARAL and Planned Parenthood promotes. It’s easy to see where good and beauty and truth lie.

http://www.ignitumtoday.com/

vs.

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/info-for-teens/

They don’t fall back on weaknesses. They strive to be stronger.

I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that.

217. alanl64 says:

So Stacy I guess the question to be is asked is there a happy medium between the faithful and full lives the catholic youth live and the crap lives the others live?

I’ll give you a hint. The answer is yes there is.

218. As with the other topics this one has gotten a little off track I’ll still commend everyone for mostly being nice….

As a non christian I’d be interested in knowing how you feel about a man having a vasectomy? There is no killing of anything, and it is 100% effective. I also know that should I change my mind about childern I can always adopt one that was born into unfortunate circumstances.

This would seem to fall in line with many religous principles; I’m not being greedy (i Don’t NEED to have my own offspring) and it’s the ultimate gift of charity (giving a great life to a child that might have a hard life).

Thoughts?

thanks!

219. Peggy Sue Got Married says:

Stacy, you say “those young adults are living faithful and full lives… They don’t fall back on weaknesses,” but everyone sins and to sin is hardly being faithful. Similarly, “strive to be stronger” is not unique to “those young adults” and can apply just as well to young adults who read or appear on the Planned Parenthood website. Anyway, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God, not to web magazine editor.

220. ChrisCintheD says:

I am going by what we do when we are trying to figure out how many times a machine will fail over the course of its life when given a % failure over a short period of time.

p = probability of the event happening in 1 year = 0.086
q = probability the event will not happen in a year = 1 – 0.08 = .914

So, we want to know how many times the event will occur over 10 years

(1-p)^10 or q^10 = .406 or 40.6%

Which is still high, but not quite has high as what you had. Remember our Six Sigma training? 6-sigma control is better than 3-sigma control. It doesn’t mean 3-sigma is ineffective, it simply is not *as* effect as 6-sigma controls. It is also important to remember 6-sigma is not feasible in every single case.

It’s like we discussed in the other thread, if you understand statistics (in this case, probabilities) it is not that shocking. And I think most women would rather use protection than not, considering the super-low effectiveness of the withdrawal method.

And on a completely anecdotal level, HBC has not failed me or my sister. It failed my mom 3 times, tho! Law of averages?

221. Chris,

This isn’t a continuous process of quality control though. It’s a discrete event, a discrete probability distribution not a continuous Gaussian distribution.

That’s why I said I was only using the probability reported by the manufacturers. They report 8 in 100 women on birth control per year of typical use will become pregnant. Pregnancy is a yes or a no. The women are discrete units, the year is an independent trial. It is like rolling a dice, discrete outcomes, independent rolls.

That’s the math.

On a personal note, I understand now that intimacy is really only possible in marriage. You give all of yourself to a spouse in a sacred bond of love and communication. It follows, then, that the most intimate communication must be totally open, love, union and trust – and the gift of children. It’s not “come here baby, let me use your body for pleasure but first medicate or wrap yourself in plastic so that no unplanned failure will happen.” People misunderstand why Catholic doctrine does not permit contraception. It’s about love, which is really where freedom is found. Anyway…I just offer that perspective so you understand why we don’t really think in terms of pregnancy being a “failure.”

222. ChrisCintheD says:

Stacy,

I used binomial distribution in my math, which is correct for machine failures (it will either run or fail, you could use geometric dist, too) and this question we have in front of us. What does your math look like? If I missed it in an earlier comment, I apologize.

You missed the point I was making with six sigma/three sigma. That was in relation to Condoms, HBC, Sterilzation, Abstaining (and using each method perfectly). Abstaining is more effective than sterilzation, but that doesn’t mean sterlization is ineffective. Sterilzation is more effective that HBC, but that doesn’t mean HBC is ineffective …

“Anyway…I just offer that perspective so you understand why we don’t really think in terms of pregnancy being a “failure.””

I get your point. However, if you are trying to not get pregnant, whether you are married or not…and you get pregnant, your method failed. If it doesn’t matter if you get pregnant or not, there is neither success nor failure.