The science of why opponents of abortion should support access to contraception
Posted on November 1, 2012
Yesterday I came across a post on a website called Catholic Culture in which Jeff Mirus, as part of a broader post on religion and the upcoming election, attempts to outline what he considers the three central principles of abortion opponents:
First, we may not vote for any candidate because we wish to continue or increase existing access to abortion (or any other evil). Second, we may not vote for any candidate who regards abortion as a right or seeks to expand the abortion license unless that candidate is, at the very least, less in favor of intrinsic moral evils than all other viable candidates. And third, we must exercise our civic responsibilities in a way which, on careful consideration, we sincerely believe will minimize abortion (or other equivalent intrinsic moral evils, if any exist) most effectively.
I think this is accurate, but one of the major flaws with this general position is that — as pointed out in this remarkable essay by someone who left the so-called ”pro-life” movement — banning abortions does not actually reduce abortion rates. Yes, you read that correctly. In fact, abortion bans only make the procedure more dangerous for both the mother and embryo, which should profoundly trouble so-called “pro-lifers.”
As it turns out, there is a way to reduce abortion rates, but I suspect Mirus might not like it. Alongside Mirus’ three principles, many abortion opponents hold another view: that contraception use is immoral. Yet science shows that the best way to minimize abortions is to make contraception freely and widely available:
The Contraceptive Choice Project, conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., enrolled 9,256 women and teens from 14 to 45 years of age in the St. Louis area between 2007 and 2011. The participants were all uninsured, low-income, or otherwise determined to be at risk for unintended pregnancy.
Each woman was given a choice of birth control methods, ranging from long-term and more expensive contraceptive devices, such as the intrauterine device (IUD) or an implant, to more common methods, including birth control pills, the ring and the patch. Since price wasn’t an issue, about 75 percent of participants chose the implanted methods, which are more effective than short-term methods.
The results were significant: The annual birth rate among teenage girls in the study from 2008 to 2010 was only 6.3 per 1,000, compared to the much higher U.S. rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for girls the same age. And the abortion rates among among all participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women over the two-year period, substantially lower than the national rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008.
Which means abortion opponents who also oppose contraception use should probably stop and think for a moment, as their opposition to contraception is undoubtedly hindering their work to reduce the number of abortions performed.