Correction: Please note a correction in the July 4 article on abortion: The Lincoln-Douglas debates did not occur in 1820, but in 1858. The Missouri Compromise in 1820 was passed to preserve the balance of power between slave and free states. In 1858, Stephen Douglas argued for a pro-choice approach to slavery in all states, where voters should choose. Regardless, there is no choice if the group in question has no representation.

I found your commentary on abortion to be compelling, but you missed this issue of birth control! It is these same religious organizations that despise abortion that also are against birth control. It seems to me both sides have this common ground: preventing unwanted pregnancies. You need to address birth control to even hope to budge the needle either way.

—Douglas

Douglas, your comments raise important questions regarding how we might begin to “push the needle” toward actual dialogue on abortion. I agree birth control is an opportunity to find some common ground. Unplanned pregnancies drive the question, “Is this an extension of the woman’s body or a human that deserves life?” Unfortunately, there is huge misunderstanding of what pro-life means and what it advocates, especially pertaining to religious groups. In his comments, Douglas specifically referenced the Catholic church’s position on birth control.

There is a growing misinterpretation of religion, its role in society and its position on moral issues. The media accuses religious groups — particularly Christian — of anti-modernity and anti-progress. They are vilified for their stances on issues, including birth control, euthanasia, capital punishment and gay marriage. However, what we hear from the media is not actually the truth. Just because religion takes a stand on black-and-white moral issues does not make it anti-modernity. Remember, we live in a world where people think they can do whatever pleases them, but living that way opens the door to a whole lot of bad things. Being told that something is wrong is a good thing. It means that someone cares about us, that someone loves us enough to want to help us achieve our best selves.

The Catholic Church does not actually advocate for or against birth control in public debate. Rather, the church has always promoted the view that humans are uniquely able to exercise self-control. There is a difference. Achieving self-control, by its very nature, requires discipline, practice and patience. In a world that encourages immediate gratification, whether through Amazon’s two-hour shipping, instant messaging, pornography at the click of a button or real-time updates on day-to-day minutiae, self-control goes by the wayside. A pill, an abortion … these are easy ways out. However, self-control is what makes us distinctively human. It is called free will, the ability to make decisions. Every decision has a consequence.

True, birth control can prevent unplanned pregnancies, but we need to think seriously about what that means. Right now, generally speaking, contraception equals the birth control pill, or at worst, the Plan B pill “just in case.” In my June 20 column, I discussed the scary aspects of the birth control pill. While some women may never suffer side effects or may feel it is their only option for health reasons, multiple scientific studies show that it has long-term harmful effects, especially for young girls. In a society hypersensitive to equality between the genders, we fall severely short in this area. The responsibility for preventing pregnancy rests in women’s hands, and when something fails, it is her fault. Men walk away, no strings attached. Women take the health risks, women have to follow the regimen and women have to suffer the side effects. How is that fair?

The idea that religious groups are anti-birth control is just wrong. They support programs like Natural Family Planning (NFP) and self-discipline like abstinence. Contrary to popular opinion, NFP is not a program promoting as many children as possible, but a program promoting conscious planning and spacing of children. It is safe, natural and requires communication between husband and wife. The responsibility is shared, but it is hard work, and while technologies like the Daysy Monitor have made things easier, this is not instant gratification. This is an exercise in patience, self-control and mutual respect. It is, however, a healthy alternative for any couple interested in improving their relationship while avoiding the pill’s side effects.

For unmarried people, the only 100 percent effective form of birth control is abstinence. This practice is the ultimate form of self-control and self-respect. Chastity is power. It is not prude. Young people who learn to practice abstinence carry strength of character and self-respect with them throughout their lives. All things considered, I fail to see how religious groups can ever be vilified for advocating self-control and self-respect when it comes to birth control.

Yes, birth control is essential, but not in the form of a pill. Birth control must come in the form of profound love and respect for humanity, including unborn children. Only then can we move the needle on the abortion debate because therein lies the heart of the matter. With deep love for others comes accountability and self-discipline. When all lives matter, beginning before conception, society is aligned to true north and great things can happen.

Theresa Brown can be reached at tbcontrarian@gmail.com. No question or comment is too scary, difficult or offensive.