Assessing Facts About Abortion And Contraception

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute demonstrates that the national abortion rate has dropped recently. Moreover, this drop is not correlated with a decrease in the number of accessible providers.

What does this all mean? Will Saletan at Slate discusses the causes and consequences of this phenomenon, arguing that it proves that pro-lifers have it wrong: limiting access to abortion does not actually cause the number of abortions to go down. This is for a couple of reasons: first, overall birth rates are down nationwide (a 9% decrease by some counts), and second, the decline in abortions occurred nationwide, not just in states with overly restrictive laws.

One of the factors that accounts for this change, then, is the increased incidence of available contraception. According to the Guttmacher study, this may have to do with a shift toward more reliable birth control methods: “In addition, substantial shifts in the contraceptive method mix away from less effective methods have been observed, particularly toward uptake of LARC [long-acting, reversible contraception] methods, such as the IUD. In 2002, only 2% of contraceptive users were relying on LARC methods, but this proportion rose to 9% in 2009. If LARC use continued to increase during the study period, this could help explain the national decline in abortion incidence.”

I agree with Saletan that “Culturally, most pro-life bills are a waste of time.” However, that quote points to exactly what needs to change: the culture. I agree wholeheartedly with Libby Anne’s blog post at Patheos about how pro-life arguments are, ultimately, misguided and self-deluding about their goals and methods. She writes:

The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.

That whole post is worth a read, but I just pasted in her conclusions (backed up by plenty of evidence in the post itself) about why telling people abortions are bad doesn’t work. That kind of rhetoric cruelly impacts women without equal access to resources, and it ignores the fact that women’s bodies already naturally reject at least 18% of fertilized eggs. I was surprised to read that statistic, but not disturbed. It kinda puts a dent in the pro-life argument if women’s bodies are already regulating their reproductive potential in a way that is completely natural. Does that make all women into baby-killers? I should think not. Let’s remember: a fertilized egg is not a baby, and anyone telling you that is trying to convince you to accept a load of rhetoric that is ultimately anti-woman.

I hope to see more policy makers familiarizing themselves with the Guttmacher findings. Let’s keep working with fact-based evidence in order to improve our public policies and the lives of our citizens!

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.