Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Attack on Contraception

The Attack on Contraception
Where the Rubber Meets RoeThe pro-life case for contraception.
By William Saletan
Slate Magazine

The issue that never changes is finally changing.

If you're one of the millions of Americans who don't like abortion but also don't like the idea of banning it, good news is on the way. In the last three weeks, two bills have been filed in the House of Representatives. Without banning a single procedure, they aim to significantly lower the rate of abortions performed in this country. Voluntary reduction, not criminalization or moral silence, is the new approach.

How do you stop abortions without restricting them? One way is to persuade women to complete their pregnancies instead of terminating them. The other is to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place. And there's the rub—or, in this case, the rubber. The two House bills used to be one proposal, backed by an alliance of pro-life lawmakers and organizations. The alliance split because one faction wanted to fund contraception and the other didn't.


In short, the good news is that we no longer have to fight about abortion. The bad news is that we're now fighting about contraception. The old question was abortion as birth control. The new question is abortion or birth control. To lower the abortion rate, we need more contraception. And that means confronting politicians who stand in the way.

In the last two years, Hillary Clinton, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and many pro-choice House Democrats have conceded that abortion is tragic and that its frequency must be reduced. Third Way, a progressive think tank, has pushed hard in this direction.

Meanwhile, Democrats for Life of America, which has eight members of Congress on its advisory board and works with 30 more, has devised a plan to cut the abortion rate by 95 percent "by helping and supporting pregnant women." Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, was set to lead the charge.
Then Ryan looked at the data and realized that to get anywhere near their target, he and his pro-life colleagues would have to provide more birth control. That's when the squirming began.
Some of Ryan's allies worried that morning-after pills might prevent embryos from implanting, so he omitted such pills from his bill. They opposed requiring private insurers to offer contraceptive coverage, so he took that out, too. They complained that other pregnancy-prevention bills hadn't emphasized abortion reduction, so he put abortion reduction in the title. They wanted sex education programs to emphasize abstinence; they got it. The only troublesome thing left in the bill was birth control.

It broke the deal. Democrats for Life abandoned Ryan and launched a contraceptive-free alternative. With it went Americans United for Life, the National Association of Evangelicals, and 13 pro-life House Democrats, led by Rep. James Oberstar, the Democratic co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus. Ryan added his name to their bill, but they refused to add their names to his. Focus on the Family, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Rush Limbaugh, and Rep. Chris Smith, the Republican co-chairman of the Pro-life Caucus, excoriated Ryan's bill. The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, based in Ryan's district, sent him a letter asking him to withdraw it.

The objectors make several arguments. They point out that birth-control pills, like morning-after pills, can block implantation of an embryo. But there's no evidence that this has ever happened. The risk is theoretical, and breast-feeding poses the same risk, so you'd have to stamp that out, too. Critics also note that many birth-control methods can fail. That's true, but it's an argument for using two methods, not zero.

Third, they protest that federal family-planning money supports Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions. In fact, however, only 14 percent of this money goes to Planned Parenthood, and fewer than 9 percent of Planned Parenthood clients go there for abortions. So, even if Planned Parenthood diverted family-planning funds to abortion—which would be illegal—we're talking about a tiny fraction of the money.

Above all, the critics insist that contraception will backfire. As the Youngstown Diocese puts it, "Promotion of contraception leads to more extra-marital sexual intercourse, which leads to more unwanted pregnancies, which leads to more abortions."

There's a thread of logic to this argument. It's facile to assert, as some liberals do, that contraceptives don't cause sex any more than umbrellas cause rain. The belief that you're protected does make it easier to say yes. But denying that contraceptives reduce your risk of pregnancy is as crazy as denying that an umbrella reduces your risk of getting wet.
Does the increased risk from more sex outweigh the decreased risk from more protection? Do the math. On average, contraception lowers your odds of pregnancy by a factor of seven. If you're capable of having seven times as much sex, congratulations. The rest of us will get pregnant less often, not more.

And that's what the data show. Ryan's bill targets women with family incomes below 200 percent of the poverty rate, since they have higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more difficulty finding or affording contraception. Among these women, the percentage using contraception declined from 1995 to 2002. As predicted by contraception opponents, the rate of sexual activity also declined, though only slightly. Even better, from a pro-life standpoint, when these women got pregnant unintentionally, the percentage who chose abortion fell.
Less contraception, less sex, more women choosing life. So, the abortion rate among these women went down, right?

Wrong. It went up. The decline in contraception overwhelmed the decline in sexual activity, resulting in a higher rate of unintended pregnancy. And the increase in unintended pregnancy overwhelmed the increase in women choosing life, resulting in more abortions. From a pro-life standpoint, trading contraception for abstinence and a "culture of life" was a net loss.
That's why Ryan insists on birth control. He's tired of pious slogans and symbolic bills crafted to save more congressional seats than babies. He's had enough of the debate between life and choice. He wants a new abortion debate. "You're either for reducing the number, or you're not," he says. He's made his decision. Now make yours.

A version of this article also appears in the Outlook section of the Sunday Washington Post.

19 comments:

browneyedsoul06 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
browneyedsoul06 said...

Sex is an issue that’s obviously always going to make the news, but what I want to ask everyone who’s reading this blog is: what exactly is wrong with contraception?

I understand that in Catholicism, the use of any form of birth control is outlawed but aside from that, there’s no real reason to be against contraception, especially if you’re anti-abortion. President Bush isn’t helping things with the abstinence only sex education currently implemented in schools (my high school, however, was taught about contraception), due to the fact that this country needs to be educated and get the unfiltered facts. You don’t want young adults (especially young girls; it can be argued that contraception is one of the few ways that women can take control of their bodies and not be the "other", but be equal) not to know about condoms, birth control and all of the various forms of contraceptives out there. Information needs to be provided to students about the safety of contraceptives. Let the student decide what they want to do.

Politicians put their own interests ahead of their people; how many unwanted pregnancies could’ve been avoided with contraception? How many STDs wouldn’t be as rampant? How many children wouldn’t have to suffer the agony of not having a home?

A stat from the article that caught my attention was that using contraception reduces your odds for pregnancy by a factor of seven. Seven. I beg the politicians and uber conservatives to forget their sexual repressions/dysfunctions and realize how much good they can do for their public if they understand the benefits of birth control.

gorefan said...

This rubbish about the government encouraging females to have sex is not only preposterous but hypocritical. Where was the hue and cry about the government encouraging men to have sex when Medicare subsidized Viagra?! I have a feeling that the religious fanatics' opposition to birth control is not as much out of fear of increased fornication as it is out of the desire to continue the unjust subjugation of women. This opposition to birth control originates from the ridiculous double standards which should have been obsolete decades ago. The double standards said that women had to walk the (very)straight and narrow while men could commit a wide range of boorish acts, such as smoking, alcohol consumption,and fighting.

Hypocrisy is not the only problem with this opposition to birth control. Abstinence-only education, which many leaders of the religious right advocate in place of birth control, is a very impractical way to reduce unwanted pregnancies in America. According to a June 2003 Reuters report, a study at Northern Kentucky University found that more than three-fifths of people who took abstinence pledges wound up breaking them and fornicating anyway (I have the brilliant Al Franken, author of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, to thank this very useful information). In comparison to birth control (which, as said in the article, reduced odds of pregnancy by a factor of seven), abstinence-only education is a downright pathetic way to reduce unwanted preganancies. Saying abstinence-only education is better than contraception is like saying the horse-and-buggy is a more effective form of transportation than the automobile.

viper10 said...

All I can say to this is, bravo! It's about time someone started to do something regarding this issue. When abortion first became a topic all people did was argue with each other whether or not it was moral. Now we actually have committies in congress trying to come up with ways to prevent having to make the choice. It is true however that more choices for contraception will increase the amount of sex people have, but it will also do it's job to prevent pregnancies. Of course these fail once in a while, but they work nine times out of ten. When it comes to teens having sex and getting pregnant, studies have shown that schools teaching abstenance in sex-ed classes have a greater success rate than schools that teach just contraceptive use. Overall I think that if the studies set forth in this article are followed, than there will be less abortions.

rodeo8 said...

I a hundred percent agree, it is time that someone do something about this. At least now there is away to prevent abortion, therefore it will not be such a moral debate at this point.

People are going to do what they want to do and regardless of what the risks are or what you have been told. Teenagers have a higher rate of unexpected pregnancy than any age group, at the same time these teenagers have all been through sex education and either way it has not changed their mind. Some people just have to learn for themselves or even worse, the hard way especially when it comes to sex. Teenagers are going to have sex, regardless of whether they are told to or not and whether they have protection or not. However there are still going to be teenagers who don’t have sex, the rate doesn’t go up or down based on whether there is protection or not. Therefore why would you take protection away? Taking protection away will just lead to more pregnancies, which will lead to more abortions. By having protection at least there can be a prevention of pregnancies to begin with as opposed to have all kinds of unwanted pregnancies and then increasing birth control and the rate at which fetuses are killed.

East_KY said...

First of all let me state where I stand on the issue of abortion. I am not particularly in favor of it but I also believe that a woman has the right to choose what she wants to do. I believe that there is nothing wrong with promoting contraception if it means cutting down on the risk of abortion. It is the safest way to avoid unwanted pregnancies, therefore cutting down on the rate of abortions. It is also much healthier than using no contraception at all by cutting down on the likelihood of getting an STD. I don’t understand why the Catholic is so opposed to contraception. What alternative do they have to offer? Surely it isn’t Abstinence they want us to embrace. In my opinion this is an unrealistic expectation. I believe that young people are going to have intercourse regardless of whether they have contraception or not. While it may not be the smart thing to do, it definitely happens. So why not offer some form of protection. It’s like stopping the problem before it starts. The Catholic Church is going to have to come up with some sort of other alternative besides abstinence to get me to change my mind. I doubt that they will.

osubuckeye said...

Let me begin by stating that contraceptives help women in so many more ways than just preventing pregnancy. The birth control pill helps to control hormone imbalances, menstrual cycles, and menstrual pains. I don’t agree with the statement that providing contraceptives will promote women to have more sex. Choosing to have sex is a personal option. I can understand that someone may want to have sex but won’t because she is not on the pill, so once she gets on the pill she has sex. But by choosing to at least wait till she was protected she more than likely won’t get pregnant, and therefore probably won’t get an abortion if that was an option for her. In response to browneyedsoul06, I can understand how using contraceptives could make women equal instead of “the other” as Simon De Beauvoir feels. With the help of contraceptives women can control their lives a little better and not be bogged down by “womanhood”. Now there “womanhood” won’t stop their activity in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter. Contraceptives should be provided to women. People need to take into consideration all of the benefits of contraceptives, not just that it can prevent pregnancy.

tbugg04 said...

It seems to me that they are trying to take some what of an easy way out. Basically I think that what they are trying to say is that they realize that people are not going to stop having sex and with that in mind they need to find more effective ways to prevent pregnancy. Personally I think that safe sex education rather then abstinence is a much better way to go about teaching young people and that if this was tough then I think that it would help reduce some of the unwanted pregnancies that happen. I am for situational abortion, I do not think that it is ok to have an abortion if you were just being careless and got pregnant. However if you are raped for example and get pregnant then I think that the woman should have a choice if she wants to keep the baby or not. There are many other options that are much better then abortion like adoption for example. There seems to be this general trend to try and get women to keep their babies full term instead of going straight to an abortion. There is also much controversy with the morning after pill because many people feel that by taking that pill is it in a sense the same thing as an abortion. I think that a woman should have control over her body and what happens to her. By trying to get rid or limit abortion women are loosing control. Personally the best thing to me would be to come up with more contraceptives and still allow women to choose whether she will keep the baby or have an abortion.

Mr.Liberal said...

Abortion has been a leading issue in the United States, since the decision of Roe V. Wade back in the 1970s. What are we to do? I don't think that you can outlaw abortion, because it is the right of the person as to if they want to keep the child. However I do think that there needs to be a better program on the prevention of unwanted pregency. This means a better education for teens on how to have safe sex and to look at the idea of a better birth control. There does need to be a limit on how long someone can wait for an abortion. Meaning that after a certain time in the pregency that the woman can no longer have an abortion. One thing that is never looked at with abortion is the rights of the father. The father has no say it what happens to the child. That seems as though it isn't right. The father did after all provide have of his DNA to make the child, so why should he not have equal say in the outcome of the child?

Buck_FuSh_9 said...

I have a feeling that this will not be the last time that a bunch of people, specefically men, in designer suits and no inclination to the needs of women will be making the important decisions when it comes to a woman's body.
I am heatedly supportive of the pro choice movement. I believe a woman has a right to an abortion in any situation no matter what her age, color, or circumstance. It is her decisions and her decision alone. I do not think that more funding should be pumped into contraception and alternatives for abortion. The bills proposed by the likes of Rep. Tim Ryan are fruitless. Passing out rubbers as if they were Girl Scout cookies and "helping and supporting pregnant women" like Ryan wants to is nothing more than a carefully veiled scheme to deny a woman a right to an abortion. Religious fanatics and staunch conservatives have been known to manipulate abortion laws to prove them as mute in some cases. With implemented parent notification and age limits a woman's right to an abortion is already being hacked away. Now with this proposed contraception heat wave that is passing through Congress I think that it is a severe step when it comes to the control a woman is supposed to have over her own body. As for dispensing contraceptives that would promote promiscuity among women I think that is absurd. You don't see men being targeted, lampooned, and vilified for their sexual choices. I think it all goes back to the player versus whore scenario. We applaud a man for as many pants as he can get into but a woman is a slut with a tarnished reputation. In conclusion, Congress, conservatives, and anyone else in opposition to abortion should just lay off. It is a woman's RIGHT to choose not someone elses.

Lindsay said...

I find it interesting that so many oppose the use of contraceptives. Especially in the case of Catholics, and many people have mention. Catholics oppose abortions for typical religious reasons, and they oppose contraception, because they feel that sex is merely for procreation, so to use contraception is to use sex for something that God had not intended. However, the rhythm method (keeping track of a woman's ovulation schedule and having sex when she is least fertile) is the only contraception approved by the Catholic church, and studies show that it has the potential to kill more fertilized eggs/feteoi than abortion. By waiting til the woman is least fertile, one is also waiting until the woman's uterus is least able to support a fertilized egg. So it a couple uses the rhythm method, and the egg is fertilized, it will not be able to implant in the uterus, and will die. If a couple has sex just once a month, that has the potential for one egg, twelve months in a year, til the woman reaches menopause . . . you do the math. Sorry, off on a tangent.

Anyway, this is more of an issue of female promiscuity than it is of "saving babies." Of course, I feel that most issues with reproductive rights are about female promiscuity. The simple statement that it will "cause" people to have more sex is a red flag that it is an issue of promiscuity, and the mere fact that our culture encourages male promiscuity while condemning female promiscuity shows that limiting contraception is an effort to limit female promiscuity. Honestly, what gender does pregnancy affect most directly? Women. So then what gender would limiting contraception affect most directly? Women. It is an attempt to curb the sexuality of women. This is not about saving babies. It hardly ever is.

Hendrix said...

I think it is about time someone started to help decrease abortion. I'm not completey opposed to abortion but im not for it either. I think in certain cases abortion should be an option for example if ahving a baby could kill the mother, or if the woman was raped, cases like this I don't see anything wrong with it. But now days it seems everyone is having abortions because they just don't want a kid. I have 4 close friends who have had abortions just because they felt they were to young to take care of achild. I think this is selfish of them because they just don't want to give up there childhood. their are so many people in the U.S. who want to adobt newborn babies but it is merely impossible. The going rate for a newborn is close to 35,000 dollars. But there are hundreds of abortions performed a day. Why not give these people a child they would love and cherish instead of killing it.

Some would say that havng the option of abortion is a move toward women equality. I don't aggree, just because you can choose to have a kid or not doesn't make you any more equal. Its just an easy way out.

Increasing contrception would be a good prevention of abortion. Also increasing education on teen pregnancy would help as well. since you can't limit abortion this would be a good way to try to prevent it.

Hendrix said...

I think it is about time someone started to help decrease abortion. I'm not completey opposed to abortion but im not for it either. I think in certain cases abortion should be an option for example if ahving a baby could kill the mother, or if the woman was raped, cases like this I don't see anything wrong with it. But now days it seems everyone is having abortions because they just don't want a kid. I have 4 close friends who have had abortions just because they felt they were to young to take care of achild. I think this is selfish of them because they just don't want to give up there childhood. their are so many people in the U.S. who want to adobt newborn babies but it is merely impossible. The going rate for a newborn is close to 35,000 dollars. But there are hundreds of abortions performed a day. Why not give these people a child they would love and cherish instead of killing it.

Some would say that havng the option of abortion is a move toward women equality. I don't aggree, just because you can choose to have a kid or not doesn't make you any more equal. Its just an easy way out.

Increasing contrception would be a good prevention of abortion. Also increasing education on teen pregnancy would help as well. since you can't limit abortion this would be a good way to try to prevent it.

Lindsay said...

@ Hendrix

If you make exceptions for abortion in the case of rape, then you are not worried about decreasing abortions for the sake of saving children, you are pro-punishing-women-for-having-sex. I have a serious problem with any type of pro-lifer who makes exceptions for rape. This is not pro-life. It is pro-punishment for female promiscuity. Regardless of how horrible rape is, a person who is truly against the killing of fetuses would not allow for it, even in this case. If you allow for it because a woman did not consent to sex, then your basis is that consent. There is no difference in the fetus. The difference is that in one case, a woman made the choice to have sex, where in the other, she did not. I can understand exceptions for the mother's life, because pro-life is about saving lives, right? A life in this case would still be saved. To claim that abortion should be reduced because you disagree with the reasons women have them is arbitrary. Either women are given rights over their own body and the right to control their own sexuality, or they aren't. Reasons are irrelevant.

raiden5060 said...

Abortion is obviously a very contentious issue, but as far as I’m concerned there is only one reason why any government would outlaw abortion and that is to control the sexuality of women. It’s a very slippery slope and when restrictions are placed on abortion you can rest assured that it won’t be long before ALL contraception is outlawed.
The right-wing has been seeking to outlaw abortion for one primary reason and that is to take women’s destinies out of their own hands and place them in the hands of the government. The sad thing is millions and millions of people who genuinely care about the fetus have been duped by this dubious objective. I understand completely and I sympathize with those who feel concern for all human life. I just wish people would understand that when the government restricts abortion, it isn’t doing it out of love for the fetus; it is doing it out of contempt for the mother. A woman CANNOT be free to determine the course of her life if she cannot control her sexuality. Therefore, a woman’s freedom is fundamentally tied to her reproductive freedom—so on the abortion issue or any reproductive issue for that matter CHOICE is essential for the liberty of all women.

Anonymous said...

Posted by jrhorne:

Personally for me abortion is the the most controversial topic i face in any kind of discussion because It is the one issue that i really have more of a conserservative idealology towards. Previously it was said that abortion was really about control and regulation of a womans sexuality in a prior post. Let me begin by stating and stating clearly I really could careless how premicious a woman does or does not choose to be with her sex life. She is a grown woman, knows all the pros and cons and can make up a grown up decision. But here to me is where the question of responsiblity enters the picture. Each of knows about consequences of what we do in this life, and no matter HOW you look at once possible consequence of unprotected sex is the production of a zygote, fetus, baby what have you. Knowing this often caution is thrown to the wind because abortion is todays modern womans scape goat for having to deal with reality. Is there ever a time for abortion, I think there are cases that is IS justified in, but if you look at the general statistics anywhere the over whelming majority cases of abortion recorded each year are not due to medical procedures done to save the mothers life, nor they cases of incest or rape victims. It is the direct result of people being at the core irresponsible. Alot of the above posts talk only about the rights of the mother in the situation and completely forget the rights of the father and the fetus themselves. For example if a woman chose to have the child of a man who prefered she didnt, would her choice directly effect him? Its pretty obvious it would, and its things that this to me that i cant understand how a father has exactly NO say say over this procedure. Now i know the response to this statement is that fact that the whole process is directly effecting the womans body. Thats her egg, and her body that is growing in and you cant disagree with that. But you also have to agree that at least half of that ownership of said zygote, fetus also belongs to a man. This brings us of course into the quesion of parental rights and boundaries, and the time period that a fetus becomes a baby. The EXACT reason I cannot stand abortion laws as they stand is dealing with my own personal expirance on the matter. I personally had a friend who I had known at once time for roughly six to seven years and who was nine months pregnant. On that day she was to deliver her baby, ON the RIDE to the hospital, she was sideswiped by a man who under the influence of narcotics and alcohol while driving. Janie was sitting in the back seat, right where the man hit her families car and died instantly. Now later when it came time for the court case to come against said man, he only had to deal with what he did to Janie and not her baby that could of been born anyminute. And since they baby only ever breathed for itself thanks to a ventilator it under our law was never alive so it was something that man didnt have to deal with. Now i love how in our government abortions laws allow for the situation above to occur, but once when a man was caught poaching black bears he was charged with 3 accounts of poaching in a state park due to the fact the bear was pregnant. Is the hyprocrisy coming clear yet?

And no matter where you stand about the issue abortion to say like on person above did that safe sex shouldnt be promoted is just plain silly. Whats wrong with having the public informed and having viable access to contraceptives that prevent pregnancy and the spread of STD's? Cause we all know that stopping the spread of unwanted pregnancies and STD's is such a horrible concept...., but anyway yeah lets do what they said! Cause as we all know ignorance is bliss right up until the momment it comes back to bite you on the ass.

gorefan said...

I did not say that schools should not teach safe sex. In fact, I argued the opposite, that safe-sex measures should be taught alongside abstinence from sex instead of having abstinence-only education(Abstinence-only education is where it is taught that staying a virgin is the only to avoid pregnancy or an STD). While abstinence is the most surefire way to avoid those things, I agree with jrhorne that we should also teach teenagers condoms and contraception just in case they give in to temptation. Just to be clear: it was not safe-sex education I was attacking, it was the opposite, abstinence-only education.

Peace and Love said...

“The old question was abortion as birth control. The new question is abortion or birth control.” Ah! These should be in reverse. Immediately, this writer irks me. Abortion is turning into birth control and that’s because it is simple and consequence free. Contraceptives stopped the initiation of pregnancy, but its unavoidable. People are still going to have sex and make unintended babies. Birth control is not erroneous. Once those babies are made, birth control can’t do anything. Only abortion can determine the fate of the growing fetus.
William Saletan brings up several unnecessary barges into the abortion discussion. Somehow, in most abortion articles, money and religion are tied in. Writers and arguers no longer flirt around the idea as if something is moral or tends to lean a specific way to the grounds of the individual. Everything revolves around money. Planned Parenthood only performed abortions on nine-percent of their visitors. How exactly is this a relative statistic? I believe this could be arguing to support pro-choice, rather than pro-life. Contraceptives are tied in closely with abortion because both prevent a birth of some kind. Well, in a way, aren’t they similar? I’m not saying either is wrong or right by any means, but I do feel that Saletan could provide a much more fused argument, especially over abortion and contraceptives. It’s a very touchy subject and it definitely capture individuals attention.

the procrastinator said...

It is about time that the government decides to acknowledge the fact that people are going to have sex. They are going to have pre-marital sex, post-marital sex, and just straight up sex. There is always going to be that chance of getting pregnant and people assume that risk without really understanding that they could actually get pregnant. This new attitude that America has about sex will also result in more unwanted pregnancies. This increase in unwanted pregnancies led us to the arguments over pro-choice and pro-life. But finally there is an initiative to put an end to that argument and face the facts. People are going to have sex, how do we help them prevent unwanted pregnancies?
The government is supposed to work in the best interest of the people in which it governs. If the government notices that there is a need for contraceptives then the government should work to get those contraceptives to the people. It is time for us to get off the bible trip and face reality. Some people will choose to follow the bible and not use contraceptives however, those people who choose to use contraceptives should have every right to get them and they should be easily obtainable.