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Can the Catholic Church agree to condom use by HIV-discordant couples?

L Bovens
Journal of Medical Ethics
Vol. 35, No. 12 (December 2009), pp. 743-746
Published by: BMJ
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20696696
Page Count: 4
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Can the Catholic Church agree to condom use by HIV-discordant couples?
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Abstract

Does the position of the Roman Catholic Church on contraception also imply that the usage of condoms by HIV-discordant couples is illicit? A standard argument is to appeal to the doctrine of double effect to condone such usage, but this meets with the objection that there exists an alternative action that brings about the good effect—namely, abstinence. I argue against this objection, because an HIV-discordant couple does not bring about any bad outcome through condom usage—there is no disrespect displayed for the generative function of sex. One might retort that the badness of condom usage consists in thwarting the unitive function of sex. I argue that also this objection cannot be upheld. In conclusion, if there are no in-principle objections against condom usage for HIV-discordant couples, then policies that deny access to condoms to such couples are indefensible. HIV-discordant couples have a right to continue consummating their marriage in a manner that is minimally risky and this right cannot be trumped by utilitarian concerns that the distribution of condoms might increase promiscuity and along with it the HIV infection rate.

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