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25 May 2006
Professor Slams Ethics Of Rhythm Method Contraception

The "rhythm method" of contraception favored by the Catholic Church may actually kill off more embryos than other contraceptive methods, such as coils, morning after pills or oral contraceptives, suggests a provocative article in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The rhythm method relies on sexual abstinence during the most fertile period of a woman's menstrual cycle, around days 10 to 17 of the cycle. It is condoned by the Catholic Church because it doesn't interfere with conception, so allowing nature to take its course.

It's generally believed that the rhythm method works because it prevents conception from occurring. But, says ethicist Luc Bovens, it may in fact owe its success to the fact that embryos conceived on the fringes of the fertile period are less viable than those conceived towards the middle.

Bovens contends that we don't know how much lower embryo viability is outside this fertile period, but he says we can calculate that two to three embryos will have died every time the rhythm method results in a pregnancy. "Is it not just as callous to organize your sex life to make it harder for a fertilized egg to survive, using this method, as it is to use the coil or the morning after pill," asks Bovens.

US pro-life campaigner, Randy Alcorn, who has equated global oral contraceptive use to chemical abortion responsible for tens of thousands of embryo deaths, is completely wrong in his assessment, says Bovens. "If all oral contraceptive users converted to the rhythm method, then they would be effectively causing the deaths of millions of embryos," argues Bovens.

Bovens adds that regular condom users, whose choice of contraception is deemed to be 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, would "cause less embryonic deaths than the rhythm method. The rhythm method may well be responsible for massive embryonic death, and the same logic that turned pro-lifers away from morning after pills, IUDs, and pill usage, should also make them nervous about the rhythm method."

Source: Journal of Medical Ethics

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