Should You Be Worried About a Full Frontal Attack on Contraception?

If, as a conference held September 22nd-23rd stated, "Contraception Is Not the Answer," what on earth is the question? Surely it was not, "What is the best way to reduce abortion?" No, the focus of the conference was the evil of contraception throughout society. The speakers presented a comprehensive attack escalating a new political strategy of the far right.

The pro-life organizers of the conference called the decidedly middle-class, white audience "brave" for making history attacking the "golden calf of contraception." According to the Centers for Disease Control, most American women who have had sex have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lives. Fr. Thomas Euteneuer told the gathering, "When you sow contraception, you reap abortion." Holding the majority of women in this country responsible for abortion demonstrates the extremism of their agenda.

They blame contraception for encouraging sexual activity, damaging women's bodies, divorce, undermining God's will, reducing responsibility of men, giving women sole control over conception, and for causing abortion. Despite the proven effectiveness of contraception, Jennifer Roback Morse from the Action Institute said that "the reality of imperfect contraception makes the divorce culture and the abortion culture inevitable."

The conferees maintained the sole purpose of sex is creating babies within marriage, which is out of sync with modern American attitudes. The speakers said women should stay at home and raise as many children as possible, instead of having a career and "selfishly" choosing to be childless. They rail against our "immodest" culture, advise home schooling, and bemoan the decrease in the birth rate (while at the same time building the case against immigration).

Social conservatives could achieve incremental gains chipping away at contraception, similar to the many small changes they have made to abortion policy over time. Fr. Euteneuer explicitly aims to deny funding that provides contraception to lower income women, in an effort to bring home the international policy developed in tandem with the Bush Administration to deny reproductive health services to women around the world.

Will this approach appeal to Americans? It's easy to see how the very upbeat approach might. "Kids are fun," exclaimed Morse cheerily as she went on to explain that once you stay home with two children, you might as well have more because then "they entertain and take care of themselves." The speakers who mentioned they had six to ten children received resounding applause. Their cheerful passion and sense of humor resonates, potentially stigmatizing parents who prefer to choose if, when, and how many children to have.

The sobering reality for many families is that, according to the government, the average child costs between $184,00-$284,000 to raise, before college, and that does not account for the lost income that many families rely on from the mother's income. Saying this doesn't reduce a child to finances, it's a simple reality check most families face.

Beyond the happy baby-talk, their message promoting large families has an undercurrent of fear, isolation, depression, divorce, infertility, and immigration. British demographer Andrew Pollard, appealed to patriotism and exploited emotions saying, "contraception is like having 9/11 every day for thirty-five years." He blamed the decrease in births for the increase in immigration and linked the latter to terrorism: "The problem is a lot of [countries] have seen the solution in getting larger numbers of immigrants in and up to now for Britain alone they've been taking them from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and the problem is we've been growing our own bombers."

Anti-abortion groups usually downplay their opposition to contraception. Yet more than 250 people strategized how to restrict and possibly eliminate the surest method to prevent unplanned pregnancy. This is not a splinter in the pro-life movement, though some of its other leaders are afraid of alienating mainstream America by supporting this ideology outright. Now this broader agenda of the anti-abortion movement has finally shown its true colors.

It is unlikely Americans will reject contraception to embrace this regressive vision. However, it is possible this strategy could gain traction with mainstream conservatives, given their disproportionate influence on public policy. Now the question remains, are Americans ready to give up contraception and everything that shift in policy would mean for families, schools, health care, business, and government?

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  • ameliajayne40

    While I find this article interesting, I find the lack of references to the name of the conference or the location or the names of the speakers concerning. It seems that this article is more about rhetoric than about a real movement to reduce or eliminate access to contraception. Is it really relavent that 250 Catholics got together to discuss contraceptions? Who are the “the conferees” and what is “their” strategy?

  • tyler-lepard

    Thank you for your comment, AmeliaJayne40. This piece is my last post in a series about the "Contraception Is Not the Answer" conference. This article provides the framework and was originally written for print, not online, but I will go through and add relevant links – which may help alleviate your concern. However, I would recommend reading my other posts (check the CINTA tag) that get into the specifics of various presentations for more detail.




  • corysold

    Just because modern America has decided to take on a culture of death and decide that sex outside of marriage is ok, doesn’t make it that way. If we all decided tomorrow that rape was ok to do, would that necessarilly make it right? Right and wrong are always the same, our opinions of it don’t change that. It seems odd to me that no one ever mentions that the rise of abortion, divorce and STD’s occured at the same time as the rise in contraception, but obviously that is just a coincidence. I also never hear anyone mention the hundreds of women that die every year because of their use of contraception. I guess they are just the unlucky, why should we needlessly let people know that it is possible to die from use of contraception. While I applaud your zeal, you are frankly way off base on this one. I agree with you, women do have a choice. They have a choice to avoid sex if they don’t want to take the chance of having a baby. Once they make that choice, killing an innocent child isn’t a choice they should get to make. Sex isn’t a right, it is something that, when experienced in the right frame of mind and context, is a wonderful expression of love. It shouldn’t be perverted into an act of lust that everyone has a right to.

    You also fail to mention that there are natural forms of family planning that are as or more effective than forms of contraception. Nobody is saying that you must have as many kids as possible. They are saying that kids are wonderful and if you are able to, having many kids is a great thing. However, if there are just reasons to avoid them (financial, emotional, pyschological) that a natural form of family planning, that is as effective as the birth contraol pill, is a legitimate and morally acceptable way to do it. Don’t make it seem as if contraception is the only way to avoid a family, because it certainly is not.

    One more question I would like you to address. If contraception works so well, why does the abortion rate continue to rise? There were over 1 million abortions last year. If contraception works so well to stop unwanted pregnancies, why does it seem that we have so many more of them?

  • andy

    Assuming this diatribe was written in a few moments with little thought about the details, I’ll suggest a few things to you Cory:

    – Your motivation on these issues, I would guess, comes from a fervent Roman Catholic faith or similar set of convictions. Questions of right and wrong and answers that you are prone to give for them may well make sense within that framework, but they do not translate directly to conversations about right ways to govern and legislate in a religiously and culturally diverse secular state. Your religious assumptions can influence — but should not dictate — the rights of others in public life. I’m sure you might discover that some Roman Catholic theologians and philosophers would agree.

    – Your note that women have a choice whether or not to have sex reveals a remarkably sheltered and limited understanding of the world. Some women do, many do not. Again, assuming that your argument is motivated by religious convictions, there is very little compassion in your words. Rape by a stranger may be an extreme case; I’m sure you’d discover if you read more widely or even talked candidly with your neighbors that many women are forced to have sex by husbands, boyfriends, family members and friends all the time. Your suggestion that women who choose abortion are sexually irresponsible is appalling and incredibly unintelligent.

    – Natural family planning: no one I have ever read on this site suggests in any way that natural family planning shouldn’t be allowed. Natural family planning presents no moral problems, so long as it is a choice that its practicioners freely choose. That is what Tyler is talking about above — permitting individuals to make choices that are the best choices they can make based on their personal convictions and needs. NFP is not the problem. The problem is that some NFP supporters insist that nothing else should be permitted to anyone, regardless of their beliefs.

    Your concerns about morality and “doing the right thing” could be very useful to public debate, but your ignorance and unwillingness to extend respect to others are poison in the well that will keep your perspective from being taken seriously.

  • mernlar

    Wow, that just seems like an immense stretch. Hundreds die? And here I was thinking that by preventing the transmission of STIs like HIV, barrier contraception methods were actually PREVENTING deaths–and not hundreds, MILLIONS. And who dies from using a condom or diaphragm? Please, enlighten me. There must be hundreds of examples.

    Having elimitated barrier forms of contraception, let’s move on to hormonal contraception. Now, contraception forms like the birth control pill, patch, and ring do have side effects. Women over a certain age, smokers, and people who have a history of blood clots should probably consider other methods of contraception because of the risk of side effects. But, speaking as a person who is very well informed on the topic of drug safety, I can state that the contention that hundreds of women die each year as a result of hormonal contraception use is at best a gross exaggeration and at worst patently false. Check with the FDA’s MedWatch system of reporting adverse events, or the history of any drug on the market today–HUNDREDS of deaths, or even serious adverse effects that don’t result in death–results in a drug being pulled from the market immediately (see: Vioxx, Bextra). This is simply not the case with hormonal contraception. Like any ingested chemical substance, it is not risk-free. Risks and benefits must be taken together and decisions must be made BY THE WOMAN WHO TAKES THE RISKS. Not by me, and DEFINITELY not by you.

    And you know what? Sex is a right. Every person over the age of eighteen has a right to consensually engage in sex for whatever reason they see fit. Sexual impulses are natural and good and right. Unless you plan on segregating men and women into dormitories guarded by homicidal robots that prevent people from sneaking out for a little ilicit canoodle to make love, not babies, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of people’s natural desires. Contraception is the best way to do that.

  • corysold

    Any study done on the Birth Control Pill will show that there is a 1 in 200,000 chance of a woman developing fatal blood clots. With 10 millions women on the pill today, that means 50 will die, just from blood clots. This does not include any other causes of death such as cancers and what not that don’t have enough research behind them to be conclusive one way or the other (I have seen studies that go both ways). So this apparently has been slipped by MedWatch and I contend that there will be hundreds of women who will die due to chemical contraception. To say this is false is simply covering up the issue. I too, am well versed in the issue of hormonal contraception, and these are simply facts. Why else would the warnings be on the pamplets in the packages. I agree the risk is very small, but a risk none the less.
    I also never stated that there weren’t desires that would be difficult for men and women to control. That does not mean that we all need to give in to those desires or that those desires are healthy. By that logic, adultery would be okay because one spouse or another had a desire to be sexually intimate with someone other than there spouse.
    Nobody has explained to me yet that if contraception is such a great thing, why, since contraception became widely available in the early 1960’s that we have seen a rise in divorce rates and adultery, a rise in STD’s, a rise in abortion, a rise is pre-marital sexual activity, a rise in breast cancer, a rise is single parent households, a rise in unwed mothers and a rise in single mothers below the poverty line. For something that is supposed to be so great, it sure seems to have caused a lot of problems. We can sit here and discuss statistics all day. It is not merely coincidence that the rise is all of these bad things came at the same time as the rise in contraception. Look beyond your stats and opinions and look at the real world results of contraception.

  • andy

    I would contend that one of the major reasons that vocal opponents of contraception like yourself aren’t taken seriously is that your arguments are unintelligent, not because of your religious perspective.

    Statistics do not work the way you describe above, and you’re guilty of making very false conclusions. a 1 in 200,000 chance applies to EACH use of hormonal contraception; it does not apply across the board to all use of contraception. There could just as easily be 1,000 deaths within your group of 10 million users as there could be zero deaths — concluding that 50 will die is statistical nonsense. You can contend away, but there’s a good reason that major medical groups, the FDA, and others aren’t nearly as worried. And it’s not because of some vast left-wing conspiracy.

    As for making an argument from coincidence: To say that it’s worth looking at is one thing. To say that contraception is causal is another thing entirely. Just for kicks, I could say that I conclude that nylon is the cause of high pre-marital sex rate because it is clear that the rate has increased since the invention of nylon. Or the atom bomb. But good thing that’s never a way to prove something.

  • corysold

    There are studies to be read, warnings on every package, actual people who have died, recalls on patches, yet you do not want to admit that there are dangers and even deaths attributed to hormonal contraception. Fine, as I said, we can both twist the stats to make any argument we want, lets leave that for now.
    However, you can not deny that contraception has caused many societal issues. Let me explain further. Before contraception, what was one of the main deterrents of pre-marital sex and adultery? The risk of pregnancy. However, take away that risk (somewhat) and what will you get? Increased rates of pre-marital sex and adultery. What will increased rates of adultery cause? Increased divorce. What will increased divorce cause? More single parent households. Further, for those who are not married and having sex using contraception. I think we can agree that the user failure of the birth control pill is 95% or 5 pregnancies out of 100 uers in a year, regardless of the number used, my point is that it is not 100% effective. This is higher than some contraceptives methods, but lower than others, so I think it is a fair number to use. So, if more people are having sex because they think they are safe, more people will be having unwanted pregnancies. What do unwanted, out of wedlock pregancies cause? Number one, increased abortions. Abortions don’t bother you, so you probably are unfazed. However, for those who don’t abort and don’t utilize adoption, we end up with single mothers, unwed who are unable to support their children and live below the poverty line. I won’t go into how this leads into increased prostitution and drug use. So, I think it is faily evident to see how this slippery slope works. You can use sarcasm to show that nylon is the cause of all this, or you can look at the issue from an objective perspective and see that this makes a whole lot more sense.

  • mernlar

    Clearly, you don’t get it. Guess what! Teen pregnancy, adultery, and yes, even abortion happened before birth control. Divorce happpened before birth control. It’s not new.

    I won’t even get into your completely ridiculous use of statistics–Andy did an excellent job of dispensing with the nonsense you spewed there. But here’s another hint–a 99% success rate for contraception means that every time someone has protected sex, there is a 1% chance of failure, not that it fails 1% of the time.

    And guess what–every drug on the planet comes with the same kind of warnings as birth control pills. Every drug on the planet results in adverse effects and yes, even deaths. But, like birth control, they also help people live better and healthier lives.

    Really, this all comes down to the fact that you think that you are the boss of me, Andy, and everyone else on the planet. Thankfully, that’s not true–the only person who can tell me what to do and get away with it is my mother, and she’s pro-choice, pro-contraception, and really, really smart.

  • niv

    Whoa, back up a sec.

    “if contraception works so well, why does the abortion rate continue to rise?”

    Good question. The answer is, it doesn’t! Let’s look at the CDC’s stats:

    “A total of 857,475 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC for 2000 from 49 reporting areas, representing a 0.5% decrease from the 861,789 legal induced abortions reported by 48 reporting areas for 1999 and a 1.3% decrease for the same 48 reporting areas that reported in 1999. The abortion ratio, defined as the number of abortions per 1,000 live births, was 246 in 2000 (for the same 48 reporting areas as 1999), compared with 256 reported for 1999. This represents a 3.8% decline in the abortion ratio. The abortion rate (for the same 48 reporting areas as 1999) was 16 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years for 2000. This was also a 3.8% decrease from the rate reported for procedures performed during 1997–1999 for the same 48 reporting areas.”

    ” In 2000, even with one additional reporting state, the number of abortions declined slightly.”

    So where exactly does that indicate the rate is up? Something must be contributing to lower the abortion rate. I wonder what it could be?

  • corysold

    I must admit, the way you are trying to use stats is frankly hilarious. Read the studies. Nearly every study that is done on the birth control pill uses a one year period. Nearly every study states that there is a 92%-98% success rate (depending on the study) Every study continues by saying that means that between 2 and 8 women can expect to become pregnant in the given year. These are facts. Not a CHANCE of becoming pregnant, 2-8 women WILL become pregnant. By your logic, that 98% success rate would actually be much lower if there was only a chance of it being successful. Trust me, I am trying to strengthen your argument. What you are saying is that there is a 99% CHANCE of success, not that it succeeds 99% of the time.
    I am not you boss, God is.

  • corysold

    Check out this website look at the section of abortion photos, you can find it down on the left. I am not asking you to do this from a religous point of view. I simply want to make sure that you know what an abortion does. If, after looking at that, you can still tell me that abortion is ok, and that we should be allowed to do that to babies. If you think that is ok, I truly pray for you.

  • ian

    Hi again, Cory.

    You have been active… Engaging in the abortion debate effectively — for either side, I believe — requires much more than pictures. Regardless of where someone stands on whether the act is right or wrong, there are many issues at stake that should be considered.

    I’ll point you to our colleague Francis Kissling’s website, and to her article, “Is there life after Roe?” as a starting point: