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The morning after pill

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 Contents - Aug 2004AD2000 August 2004 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: New challenges for Catholic education - Peter Westmore
Pope's representative reminds Australian religious leaders on liturgy abuses - Archbishop Francesco Canalini
News: The Church Around the World
Getting serious about orthodoxy: an American bishop shows how - Michael Gilchrist
Catholic politicians and informed conscience - Bishop Michael Sheridan
Bioethics: Embryo stem-cell research: time for a moral benchmark - Christopher Pyne MP
The morning after pill - Bishop Anthony Fisher
History: Catholic education: triumph over adversity - Cardinal George Pell
Carnivale Christi: Whatever happened to beauty in art? - Paul Fitzgerald
The Catholic Church and the Greens: why? - Tony Kearney
Letters: Missal translation - Pastor David Buck
Letters: Hymn parody - Peter Hannigan
Letters: Casual trend - Gina Voskulen
Letters: Parish revitalised - Br Con Moloney CFC
Letters: Threats to family - Gordon Southern
Letters: Abortion - Anne Boyce
Letters: Relearning needed - Anne Lastman
Letters: Gospel dates - Jack R. Nyman
Books: DANIEL MANNIX: Wit and Wisdom, by Michael Gilchrist - Hermann Kelly (reviewer)
Books: A Guide To The Passion Of The Christ : 100 Questions - Fr Scot Armstrong STL (reviewer)
Books: Interview with the author of 'The Da Vinci Hoax' - Carl E. Olsen
Books: More new titles for 2004 from AD Books
Reflection: Why teaching in a Catholic school is far more than a profession - Fr Dennis Byrnes

Australia is hypersexed, ageing and sterile. Australians are having more sex than ever before, at an earlier age, with more partners, no strings attached. But they are not having children. We have a copulation explosion and a population implosion.

Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that our birthrate has plummeted to 1.73 babies per woman, the lowest on record. That's half the rate it was four decades ago and far below replacement level of 2.1. Principally for this reason our median age - currently 36 years - will rise to 50 in the next few decades. This worries governments and economists, and there are lots of proposals about stemming the tide. Yet there are powerful forces operating for our demographic demise.

"Morning after pill"

To take just one example also in the news in recent months: the "morning after pill" Postinor-2. Oddly, if you want a milder dose of this potent drug (to take as a contraceptive), you still need a prescription: but if you multiply the dose several times, to levels thought risky for some women and deadly for any already-conceived children, you can get it over-the-counter in a pharmacy.

The Health Minister supports a return to requiring medical advice before giving out such potent drugs. He is concerned that girls as young as 13 may get the drug with little or no information or supervision. Doubtless he has seen the Sydney Sun Herald reports that pharmacies cannot or do not provide the expected counselling and that, in at least one case, a cosmetician was dispensing it.

Mr Abbott is not alone in his concerns. In the professional judgment of the Australian Medical Association, the US Federal Drugs Administration and some pharmacists, this drug is unsafe for over-the-counter distribution. Add to this its potential to cause early abortions and there is little wonder many in the community are worried.

Yet as soon as Mr Abbott raised his concerns, various "sexperts" cried foul. At least two cultural factors seem to be involved here.

First, there is the tendency in our society to pharmacologise the whole of human reality, looking to drugs to address quickly and cleanly every human need from grief to obesity, unruly children to ageing. But drugs are no answer to sexual irresponsibility and may only add to a false sense of security about "recreational sex" by promising the backstop of emergency contraception.

Secondly, talk of "emergency" here means new children are being portrayed as intruders, the enemy, something nasty to be warded off at all costs, even with hazardous drugs. For two generations now we have experimented in mass sex education, condom and pill supply, abortion on demand - you name it - and still some babies escape the net. So we'll add one more filter, the morning after pill, as readily available as vitamins.

Instead of being socialised to love our lives, our marriages and our children, we are increasingly being taught by our culture to fear our fertility, to withhold it even from our spouses, to drug-bomb it out of existence. Instead of being encouraged to be generous toward the future, we are rewarded for living only for today. Australia is dying in the process.

Most Rev Dr Anthony Fisher OP is an Auxiliary Catholic Bishop of Sydney

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 17 No 7 (August 2004), p. 9

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