On its face, it seems reasonable that if it is possible to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by means of contraception, then it is also possible to reduce the number of abortions. But in practice this strategy does not work, due to several factors.
First, while contraceptives do reduce the chances that pregnancy will result from an individual sexual act, the widespread use of contraceptives increases risky sexual behavior overall. This is demonstrated by the dramatic increase in the number of sexually transmitted diseases and illegitimate births over the past four decades, even as contraception has become more and more widely available.
Next, we must realize that contraceptives often fail. Over half of the women who seek abortions each year report that they were using a contraceptive at the time they became pregnant. Of the nearly 12 million women on the birth control pill, eight to nine percent become pregnant each year, which means nearly a million pregnancies occur annually from Pill failure alone.
Another critical factor in why contraception is no solution for the problem of abortion is that the long-term use of contraceptives may predispose women to seek abortion when those contraceptives fail. Contraception severely weakens the link between a couple’s sexual activity and any responsibility to make a lifelong commitment or raise a family together. Pregnancy is no longer seen as a natural consequence of sex, but a negative side effect.
Moreover, the practice of repeatedly taking action—through the use of contraceptives—against the possibility of pregnancy may make it easier to take action—through abortion—to end a pregnancy when it occurs.
Those who continue to insist that contraception is the answer should explain why sexually transmitted diseases, illegitimate births, and abortion are endemic in American society today, despite the fact that contraceptives are available at any drug store, widely promoted in our schools, and heavily advertised in the media.
Promoting ever greater use of contraceptives will not work to reduce the number of abortions. Rather, we must work to change societal attitudes towards sex and reconnect sex with its proper context of marriage and family.
Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2003, April 30. Contraception less reliable than you might think. http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2003/04/30/843232.htm.
Guttmacher Institute. 2008, July. Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html.