Richael at AmplifyYourVoice.org presents still more information about the power of emergency contraception to reduce abortions. Perhaps 50,000 abortions a year are prevented in the US alone through EC. All Our Lives wants to systematically challenge misconceptions about EC among prolifers. Please contact us if you'd like to volunteer on this initiative.
In 2008 alone, something prevented an estimated 112.3 million abortions and 21.9 million miscarriages, and saved the lives of 1.17 million newborns and 230,000 mothers globally.
What is it?
Surely, one would imagine, it's something that groups who call themselves prolife would be all over themselves to promote.
One would imagine, unfortunately.
Because that something is: modern, voluntary contraception.
And most anti abortion groups are all over themselves to actively undermine it, or to profess "neutrality" on the subject.
When really, how can anyone be "neutral" about anything that spares women and babies so much misery and death?
Don't believe those statistics? They are here for all the world to see.
Jen isn't the only one at All Our Lives who is asking "What's next?" of those who seek to oppose abortion in such self-defeating ways.
I recently sent the following message to an organization that just brought controversial billboards on race and abortion rather close to home. Apparently the root causes of abortion are not eugenic and genocidal enough to claim their attention, even though attention to these and not simply to the end result, the incidence of abortion, would make a lot of unintended pregnancies and abortions go away.
Dear Life Always,
I hear that you plan to bring billboards into the African American majority areas of my city, saying that "every 21 seconds our leader is aborted."
Now I am pro every life, before, during, and ever after birth. And for this reason, I need to ask: why have I not heard of you coming before into the place where my family and I live, alleviating the very reasons why Black women and babies so frequently are involved in situations of unintended pregnancy, abortion, inhumanely unsupported parenthood?
Many Black women say they feel blamed and scapegoated by your billboards. Might this outcry not be a sign to you that your tactics are misdirected? Why not listen and learn in a spirit of humility?
I wish you'd take the money you are sinking into these billboards and spend it and fundraise instead on fostering everything and anything necessary to challenge the realities of institutionalized racism that account for the higher abortion rate among African American women, including the denial of health services such as family planning (prevention) and prenatal and postnatal care; institutionalized poverty; subsubstandard housing conditions; family and community violence; the enforced lack of educational and job opportunities; the criminalization of Black men; the ruthless stereotyping of Black women as sexually and reproductively feckless, irresponsible, destructive…
If every 21 seconds our leader is aborted, then prolife must mean getting on the case like this. It cannot mean anything one whit less. It cannot mean running away from or denying this full and inescapable set of responsibilities. And it must mean dealing with the fact that pregnancy and motherhood are twisted around by social conditions into forms of oppression that abort women's own leadership capacities!
And you know what? I'm sure Life Always is swamped with responses to these Obama-portraying billboards, but…I haven't heard back from them. And I wonder if I ever will.
Kristin Powers at the Daily Beast challenges the claim that lessening access to contraception will drive up the abortion rate. I have a few problems with her analysis:
- Powers cites a study from Spain showing that abortion rates rose alongside increases in contraception use from 1997 to 2007. Marysia already addressed this study, so I'll quickly recap her post: In some cases, an increased desire for smaller family sizes can outstrip the pace at which contraception use increases. In those cases, until contraception use catches up, abortion rates may increase. However, the majority of the evidence shows that in most situations worldwide, increasing the use of effective contraception reduces abortion rates.
- Powers seems to assume that the 54% of women who had used contraception during the month they became pregnant don't have a problem with access. That's much too simplistic. I can spot a number of potential access problems hidden in those data. For instance, many of the 76% (!) of respondents who say they used the pill inconsistently could be having trouble getting their pills on time every month. Most women can only get one to three months' worth of contraception prescriptions at a time; one study showed that allowing low-income women to get twelve months' worth of pills at a time decreased the odds of unintended pregnancy by 30%, and the odds of an abortion by 46%. Reproductive coercion is another factor that can cause women to use contraception inconsistently. Though this isn't strictly an access issue, family planning clinics have a role to play in helping women recognize and prevent reproductive coercion. Finally, how many of the women in this 54% are using a contraceptive method that's not right for them because they don't have knowledge of or access to a method that might work better, such as implants, IUDs, or sterilization?
- What about that 46% of women who weren't using any method; there are a lot of educational issues there. Powers cites a Guttmacher Institute fact sheet that says, "About half of unintended pregnancies occur among the 11% of women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy but are not using contraceptives. Most of these women have practiced contraception in the past." Why did they stop using contraception? Did they have trouble finding a method that fit their bodies and lifestyles? Did they need more education to help them evaluate their risk for pregnancy? How is defunding family planning clinics — and remember, Congressional Republicans are trying to defund the entire Title X program, not just that part that goes to Planned Parenthood — going to do anything but make these problems worse?
- It's true that 46% of women who get abortions weren't using any method of contraception, but most sexually active women of reproductive age do use it, at least to some extent. So a very small percentage of women — 11% — make up a huge percentage of women seeking abortions. Surely it's a worthy goal to keep that small percentage from becoming bigger by not making contraception harder to get.
None of this is an endorsement of Planned Parenthood as an organization. Their ideology is not ours. We believe in a sexual ethic of care and respect for all parties affected by a sexual act, including any children conceived. Still, the important point here is that family planning is vital and access in the U.S. isn't as good as it needs to be.
David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics and consistent life ethic proponent, and Cristina Page, a pro-choice activist, have co-authored an excellent post for the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog about preventing unplanned pregnancy and abortion.
To reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion, we know what works. And it is not simply moral outrage. Countries that have the lowest abortion rates in the world, such as Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, are those that have made contraception most easily available; typically free of charge. And so the cuts to family planning being pushed by House Republicans will have dire consequences, not only for their anti-abortion cause, but for many Americans interested in controlling when and how often to have a baby. Indeed, researchers have calculated the effect: cuts to Title X will result in an estimated 973,000 more unintended pregnancies. And those unintended pregnancies will lead to 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 more abortions each year.
They also point out how out-of-step pro-life politicians are with the majority of grassroots pro-lifers, 80 percent of whom support contraception (a statistic I've cited many times myself, and I'm thrilled to see it get out there in a high-profile forum). If there's a group in this country more poorly represented by its so-called leadership than abortion opponents, I don't know what it is. Most Americans who identify as pro-life don't support attacks on contraception and want our kids to learn more about sex than "don't have it." We know it takes more than simply moral outrage; but moral outrage makes for great political posturing and fundraising letters. So that's what we get.
All Our Lives belongs to the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, which addresses the shortage of family planning items among the global poor who want them. Already 200 million women worldwide want contraception but cannot access it. Is the US going to doom even more women to unintended pregnancies, abortions, and unsupported parenthood?
US Republicans are seeking to drastically cut US funding of UNFPA, the world’s largest family planning and reproductive health agency.
The proposed cut cannot be about abortion or coerced contraception. By law, US money cannot fund such practices. These two things also violate the mission of UNFPA.
So what is this cut about? All Our Lives has to wonder. Especially because UNFPA has played an important role in developing and distributing CycleBeads, a kind of natural family planning acceptable to people with religious objections to “artificial” methods.
Voluntary family planning is a basic human right. Why, once again, are US politicians trying to take it away-especially politicians who intone “prolife” but undermine everything necessary to prevent abortions?
The "prolife" movement as such, at least in the US–and probably elsewhere–miserably fails the sexual and reproductive rights and needs of young women. Instead of helping young women to prepare for and live healthy, happy sex lives and prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions, its sex-negativity and slut-shaming put them directly in harm's way. This story by Andrea Grimes is one bit of evidence. Realistically, what can those of us who believe in nonviolent sexual and reproductive choice do to serve young women's needs and undo the considerable harm done in the name of "respecting life"? Personally, I have been speaking out on this subject for over 25 years now. And I feel like I'm just beating my head on a brick wall.
Some who conflate contraception with abortion and oppose both are gloating over a study from Spain. It reports that as contraceptive use increased, the abortion rate went up.
The researchers concluded only that the reasons for the increase in abortion await further investigation, which is the responsible thing for scientists to say when they do not know yet.
However, the conflaters quickly decided that it must be because people were having more feckless, casual, irresponsible sex; because they can't be trusted to learn how to use family planning methods effectively; and of course because so many of those contraceptives are really abortifacients.
Other hypotheses are far more plausible.
The bulk of the available evidence shows that in almost all situations worldwide, contraception reduces abortion rates.
One observed exception: if contraceptive services are increased, but they do not keep pace with people's desire & need for smaller family sizes, the abortion rate may go up, temporarily, and then finally decline when programming catches up. Scaling up family planning programs in anticipation of such an increase can help prevent it. In other words, more contraception does result in fewer abortions.
The bulk of the scientific evidence also shows that IUDs and hormonal contraceptives truly prevent conceptions rather than implantations. Please read this report from Family Health International, as well as this testimony from the World Health Organization from the debate in the Philippines over reproductive health legislation. The International Consortium for Emergency Contraception publishes this informative fact sheet on EC.
Other possible factors for the increased abortion rate in Spain merit investigation. For example, how prevalent were reproductive coercion and other forms of violence against the women studied? Women who are subjected to gender-based violence are far more likely to experience contraceptive sabotage, unintended pregnancies, and abortions.
And how did providers and communities educate, motivate, and support contraceptive users? Were they advised on how to share decisionmaking about family planning with their partners? On how to close the gap as much as possible between common use and correct and consistent use effectiveness rates?
These factors are harder to research than rates of contraceptive prevalence and abortion, but such research could boost the lifesaving effects of more family planning access.
Thanyarat Doksone of the Associated Press reports from Bangkok, Thailand about the discovery of thousands of illegally aborted fetuses awaiting cremation at a Buddhist temple. The article remarks: "Although Thailand is home to a huge and active sex industry, many Thais are conservative on sexual matters, and Buddhist activists especially oppose liberalizing abortion laws."
But is there really a contradiction here?
I am someone who attempts to practice Buddhism. This religion like any other is divided between prolife and prochoice, and All Our Lives as an organization is open to people of all faiths and none. But Buddhist ethics do call for respecting both the unborn child's and the pregnant woman's lives.
Buddhist qualms about abortion generally have to do with reverence for life, not with sexual repression. Buddhist values call for sexual responsibility, to be sure, but modern understandings especially take such responsibility to include comprehensive sex education, the practices of contraception and safer sex, and LGBT rights.
And how is "a huge and active sex industry"–treating sex like a commodity marketed through a labor-exploitative industry–not simply the flip side of being "conservative on sexual matters"?
More to the point: many abortions worldwide, including those in Thailand, in places where abortion is legal and in places where it is not, are driven and historically have been driven by the intense shaming and ostracism forced upon single women and their children. At the same time that nonmarried women and any children they might conceive are subjected to these injustices–women's abilities to make their own choices, and informed choices, about having sex and preventing unintended pregnancies are often undermined by conservative sexual beliefs.
As a Buddhist I pray daily to relieve "suffering and the causes of suffering." I am praying for all who belonged in those small bodies– and for the women in whose larger, hopefully still living bodies these unborn children grew. For the unmentioned men who were partners to these pregnancies. For all who inflict miseries on women with "unauthorized" pregnancies, miseries so intense that abortion appears the only way out of being slut-shamed and trampled upon. For countries and cultures worldwide to learn, as quickly as possible, what precisely it means to respect the two profoundly interconnected human lives and bodies who are involved in each and every pregnancy, before, during, and ever after birth.
No doubt there are people of all faiths who pray for and nonreligious people who intend something very similar through their thoughts and deeds.
Tomorrow evening in Philadeplhia's Love Park, the organization Soulforce is having a Life Rally to stand against the hatred that drives so many LGBT people, or LGBT-perceived people, especially youth, to suicide. Systemic LGBT phobia is indeed a life issue. It threatens the lives of people worldwide through suicide, hate crimes including state-sponsored persecution and execution, family rejection into the cruelties of the street, and all too many other means. LGBT youth are more–not less–likely than heterosexual young people to experience unintended pregnancies, abortions, and unsupported parenthood, because they are pressured to be straight and as a result take risks with heterosexual sex. Just read Cecilia Brown's story–you can find it in our Links. If there is ever a prenatal test of sexual orientation, there will probably be a genocide of LGBT humans just as now there is a femicide of prenatally detected girls. Yet, outrageously enough, many–not all, but many–who identify as "prolife" on abortion are indifferent or outright hostile to the human rights of LGBT people to live and love. This makes no sense. Especially since the freedom to have same-sex relationships is a highly effective way to *prevent* abortion!