This is a question that keeps coming up time and time again as we continue to wade through the waters of women’s health. Now the obvious answer is “Yes, someone can believe in whatever ideas they want to, regardless of how well they line up or how severely they contradict one another.” But the underlying question is whether or not it’s ethical to seek to end legal abortion while simultaneously trying to prevent access to contraception.
A contraceptive is a device (such as an IUD or the birth control pill) used to prevent conception. Note that conception is the fertilization of an egg and occurs before pregnancy.
The basis for this issue stems from religious doctrine and its interpretation. A large number of Christians are opposed to abortions because they believe that the human fetus (sometimes even a fertilized human egg) must be seen with the same rights and personhood as a post-birth child. The Catholic church also formally denounces abortion for the same reason. Additionally, the Catholic church is – perhaps famously – against the use of contraceptives among its members, as it believes sex and reproduction should never be uncoupled. Many other protestant churches and church groups are also against the free or low-cost distribution of contraceptives, believing that it will encourage non-married people to have extra-marital sex, which is accepted as a sin throughout Christianity and other religions.
Things start to get muddy, however, when one considers that the same freedom of religion that allows these and all other groups to practice their religions and engage in or abstain from whatever practices they choose also allows others to do the same. Under U.S. civil law, it is legal to use contraception and to engage in consensual sex with any consenting adult. It should also be noted that abortion is also legal in all 50 United States.
Some sobering facts:
- 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.
- 43% of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.
- Nearly all abortions (statistics vary, but most appear at over 90%) are the result of unwanted pregnancies.
Many pro-life politicians and other advocates strongly believe that illegalizing abortion is the best way to prevent it, despite undeniable evidence that – throughout world history as well as in the relatively recent history of this country – abortions will continue whether it is legal or not. Illegal abortions will simply be far more dangerous to the woman.
This brings many who are both pro-life and anti-contraception to a difficult place. If the overwhelming number of abortions occur from unwanted pregnancies, finding a way to reduce or eliminate the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies would be a sure way to reduce the number of abortions. The good news is that there is a way. And unlike banning abortions, this solution has never yet been tried on a large scale, so there’s significant hope that it might actually work.
The solution is making contraceptives easily accessible to everyone. Those who have religious conflicts of interest will find that they must decide which they, their religion, and their God finds worse: murder (as many pro-life people believe abortion to be) or allowing others to have sex in ways that they themselves are not permitted. You’d think the answer would be obvious, and yet for decades religious groups have actively fought against the disbursement of free, low-cost, and sometimes even full-cost contraceptives.
So can you be pro-life and anti-contraception? Certainly, but not without engaging in outright hypocrisy, and not without actively creating a need for the very procedure you’re so opposed to.