Some pro-lifers believe contraceptives are a necessary tool for helping prevent abortions. To many, it seems logical. Contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies. No unwanted pregnancies mean no abortions. Therefore, many people believe contraception is the answer to our problem. However, this issue is more complicated than many people realize, and I would like to share my thoughts on why I disagree with this idea.
As a faithful Catholic, I believe contraception is a violation of the natural law and disruption of God’s vision for human love. I believe it is immoral. However, my argument is not strictly a moral one. I’m not just opposed to contraception because I don’t like it. I’m opposed to contraception as a means to preventing abortion because it’s a plan that doesn’t work.
When hormonal contraceptives first hit the market, they were designed as a method of family planning. They were meant to be used by married couples to help them decide how many kids they wanted. In fact, in the United States, it was initially illegal for unmarried couples to buy hormonal contraceptives.
However, many people, and soon most people, desired to use contraceptives for different purposes. They wanted consequence-free casual sex. They wanted to use contraception as a means of “liberating” sex from marriage and the creation of life.
According to a 2014 study from the Guttmacher Institute (a pro-choice organization), only 14% of mothers receiving abortions were married. The study said, “The 2014 abortion index of 0.4 for married patients indicates that they were substantially underrepresented among abortion patients relative to all women of reproductive age.” (emphasis added). It is clear that sex outside of marriage is responsible for the overwhelming majority of abortions.
Moral objections aside (for argument’s sake), it could be said that contraception is often successful in preventing pregnancy at the micro (individual) level. However, at the macro (societal) level, contraceptives have separated the exclusive social bond between sex and marriage, which has proven to be quite problematic. If cheap, effective and easily accessible contraceptives were successful in preventing unmarried women from getting pregnant, as its advocates often claim, then the percentage of births out of wedlock would be almost 0%. But this is far from the truth.
According to a 2014 report from the CDC, 40.2% of children in the United States are born to unmarried women. Additionally, given that the overwhelming majority of children who are aborted (and therefore weren’t born) belonged to women who were not married, the percentage of conceptions to unmarried women is even higher than the percentage of births. According to calculations performed with the 2014 statistics provided by the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute, 46.6% of American children are conceived between unmarried parents.
While the idea of contraception preventing unmarried women from getting pregnant may sound nice in theory, social scientists have found the reality of human behavior to be different, and the data proves this. The actual result of cheap and accessible contraception has been far more children conceived out of wedlock, and consequently, more children who are at high risk for being aborted (recall that 86% percent of the women who get abortions are unmarried mothers).
We can’t change the whole world, and we’ll never wipe abortion completely out of existence, even if we make it illegal. But we can certainly change our little corner of the world, and we can certainly save a few lives. If we successfully teach the young people in our church communities to respect the natural bonds between sex, marriage, and life, lives will be saved. If we educate people on the numerous practical and spiritual benefits of saving sex for marriage, they’ll never even consider having an abortion. And if we stay true to protecting God’s virtuous vision for human love, you can be sure that our Father in Heaven will be helping us in our mission to protect all human life.
The challenging part of this work is that we don’t always get to see the difference we’re making. When we give a poor person a meal, we know exactly what we gave him, and we can give ourselves a little pat on the back knowing that our effort was successful.
Pro-life work isn’t usually like that. You won’t know if your witness inspired someone else to say no to abortion. A good catechism teacher can’t know how many abortions he may have prevented by teaching his students well about sex and marriage. But God does know. God always sees the fruits of our labor. God always appreciates us working to make a positive change in the world, even if we can’t see that change ourselves. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.
“God does not call you to be successful; he calls you to be faithful.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta