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Am I right to tell my CCD students they should not take the pill for medical purposes?

Full Question

Every year my high-school-aged CCD students ask me if it is okay to take the pill for medical reasons. My response to them has always been “No," because the pill masks certain conditions but does not get to the root of treating the problem. Is this a good answer?

Answer

You are conflating prudence with a moral requirement. By saying it is not okay, you are giving your students the impression that there is a moral prohibition against taking drugs ordinarily prescribed for contraceptive purposes for other legitimate medical reasons. Your reason for doing so, though—the ineffectiveness of such a treatment—is a prudential concern. There are other prudential concerns (e.g., it could weaken commitment to chastity), but it is unhelpful to blur what should be a sharp distinction between prudence and moral requirement.
Explain forthrightly that some drugs have more than one purpose. They can be taken for a good purpose (e.g., to regulate cycles, to treat acne), and they can be taken for a bad purpose (e.g., contraception). If a drug that has both effects is taken solely for the good purpose, then it is okay to take that drug. But we should be certain that such drugs are the best possible means of treatment. Since there are reports that the pill only masks symptoms and does not treat the actual malady, it may be better for teens and their parents to explore alternative treatments that will seek to cure the problem. One Catholic apostolate doing work in this area is the Pope Paul VI Institute (www.popepaulvi.com).

 










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1 comment

  1. Susan Reply

    I’m glad you pointed out that taking birth control for a legitimate medical purpose is not a sin. I have PMDD. When I don’t take birth control, I am in severe physical pain and have major mood swings, all of this last for weeks every month, which effects my life and those around me, negatively, none of which occurs when the pill is treating my symptoms. I have been taking the pill for years and I am not less committed to waiting for marriage and am in no way committing a sin by treating my medical condition.

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