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My grandmother had eight children, six of whom survived childhood. When she had her eighth child, she bled profusely and the attending doctor told her she must never get pregnant again because if she did, she would die. She would bleed to death and no one could prevent it.

The doctor told my grandfather the same thing. My maternal grandparents were Roman Catholic. Condoms were (and are) forbidden by the Church. Abstinence was the only option offered by the parish priest (is it an option when the only other option is death?).

My grandfather insisted on his husbandly prerogatives. How does the Church expect a woman in a traditional society to be able to refuse her husband's demands? My grandmother got pregnant. She died in a gusher of blood as the doctor and her mother stood by helpless. The ninth baby did not survive, either. So my mother and her five brothers grew up without a mother because some man in Rome said that God forbids condoms and doesn't care about what people need and people do.

Yes, my grandfather was at proximate fault, I admit. But his faith told him that he must be fruitful and multiply; that any form of birth control except abstinence was wrong; and that women are lesser forms of life, were "others" good only for bearing children or taking the veil. Also the Church teaches that sexual relief outside of marriage is wrong and so is masturbation. Saul of Tarsus, misogynist and sexually repressed, really messed up Christianity, in my opinion.

The effects of the loss of my grandmother (and the reasons for it) have rippled through the generations of our family, especially guilt and anger. Some of my cousins are, like me, rabidly anti-Catholic; some evince a version of the Stockholm syndrome and have taken holy orders (no priests). None of us is neutral on the subject.

[N.B. The year my grandmother died was the year that women were "given" the vote.]

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