Polls suggest the strong majority (89%) of Americans think contraception is morally acceptable* (including most Catholics (76%), Evangelicals (90%), and pro-lifers (78%, minimum)). Research suggests the strong majority (over 80%) of sexually active American women use some form of artificial contraception. Note that, if about half of American women are pro-life, this means the majority of self-described sexually active pro-life women use artificial contraception.
*Update: as of May 2019 this number is up to 92%.
“Contraception closes the sexual act to the gift of life. Once a contracepting man and woman have allowed a contraceptive mentality to seep into them, they immediately view a newly created child as an inconvenience at best and as a hostile intruder at worst. For them, the only solution is to get rid of the baby through abortion. You see, contraception leads to the need for abortion.”
I have a real problem with this perspective. In fact, I have several problems with it, so I numbered them for you guys.
1a. First, I think the phrase suggests a religious perspective not everyone holds. Often people use the phrase “gift of life” because they believe God decides who will get pregnant when, and therefore pregnancy is a gift and God is the gift-giver.
But suppose *ahem* some people don’t believe in God; then the pregnancy = gift from God idea doesn’t mean much. (Not to mention how, for someone who wants to conceive but physically cannot, the idea comes across as fairly insensitive.) From a more secular perspective, pregnancy is the result of reproducible biological processes, and those biological processes don’t have a will. They’re not trying to give you a gift, or a punishment, or anything. They just work the way they do, and whether or not pregnancy is a gift really depends on how the people who get pregnant feel about it. Which brings me to:
Now, I still think if you accidentally get pregnant it’s almost always wrong to get an abortion, but that doesn’t mean I believe people have to feel happy, grateful, or gifted with their unintended pregnancies either. Even for women carrying planned pregnancies, it’s normal to feel some less-than-positive emotions throughout the process. Many people do feel their pregnancies are like a gift, and that’s wonderful. But many people don’t necessarily feel that way, and that’s okay too. In any case, it doesn’t make sense to chide people for avoiding a “gift” if (a) they don’t believe there’s a gift-giver and/or (b) they don’t consider the subject in question a gift at all.
2. “…allowed a contraceptive mentality to seep into them…”
(EDIT 7/16/14: Since publishing this post, several readers have informed me that, within some Catholic circles, there is a lot of conflict about whether NFP users have a contraceptive mentality. My point here is not to suggest NFP users have a contraceptive mentality, but do agree that they don’t. I just ask that those readers who recognize you can avoid pregnancy without accepting abortion further recognize you can do so whether you are using NFP or artificial contraception.)
Anti-contraception pro-lifers have told me NFP users are, by definition, more “open to life.” Yet NFP’s perfect use rate (0.4% unintended pregnancies) is on par with the pill and the copper IUD (0.3% and 0.6%, respectively) and is actually better than condoms (2%). (Again, these are all perfect use rates, not typical use rates.) It’s not NFP itself that is “open to life” – the method can be just as effective at separating sex from pregnancy as common artificial methods are.
If NFP users are more open to life, I suspect it’s because they are also more likely than other groups to be in communicative, committed relationships and to hold religious beliefs that incline them to be pro-life. And that’s exactly my point: it’s not the method of avoiding pregnancy that tells us how a couple will react to an unintended pregnancy; it’s a whole lot of factors. If NFP users get a pass on the “contraceptive mentality” accusation, it’s because the lone fact that people want to have sex and not get pregnant isn’t enough to insist they’ve let some insidious mindset “seep” into them.
|It’s actually more complicated than this.|
There are a lot of factors that affect how people feel about pregnancy (planned or unplanned), and emotions can run the gamut. As I mentioned, it’s not uncommon for even people who got pregnant on purpose to feel some anxiety and hesitancy, especially during a first pregnancy. And it’s not uncommon for people who didn’t intend to get pregnant to feel some excitement and anticipation.
4. “For them, the only solution is to get rid of the baby through abortion.” Clearly not. See the above stats. Plenty of people carry unintended pregnancies to term. Plenty of people want to have sex, don’t want to get pregnant, and are still willing to carry a pregnancy should it happen.
It’s not accurate to insist that people who use artificial contraception must have the vaguely ominous “contraceptive mentality” that inevitably leads to abortion.
1. Contraception decreases unplanned pregnancies.
|Look at this chart. Just look at it! Source.|
3. The pro-life movement is about saving human lives, not controlling sex lives.
There is nothing about purposefully preventing fertilization that destroys human lives. When we try to position being pro-life in opposition to using any artificial contraception, we make it seem like being pro-life is about how people should be having sex instead of about protecting already-created human lives. I don’t think that’s what most anti-contraception pro-lifers mean, but I can understand how people would be confused. And if that is what you mean, go away.