Birth control access can cut abortion rates
On Feb. 27, my wife and I legally adopted our two children from the state. We chose to adopt for a variety of reasons. The United States has more than 120,000 kids up for adoption. We could talk about it or we could do something. We also want to reduce suffering and promote a culture of compassion and adoption.
I dislike abortion. There is suffering behind each one. By encouraging a culture of adoption and compassion, we help reduce this suffering. Worldwide contraception access would reduce suffering too.
Access to contraception is correlated with reductions in abortions and STDs. In the 1990s, Uganda, through a program called ABC for "Abstinence, Be Faithful, use Condoms" reduced its AIDS infection rate significantly. Then in 2003, the Bush administration committed $15 billion to fighting AIDs with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR funding promoted the A and B but pushed the C to the back.
Since 2003, Uganda AIDs and illegal abortion rates started to rise. In 2005, the illegal abortion rate was estimated at 54 per 1000 women. The flood of unplanned children has led to Uganda becoming the new international adoption hot spot. Now 20 percent of Uganda’s children are orphans.
Making abortion illegal may make us feel like a more moral people, but it doesn’t address the causes of abortion. In the industrialized world, where abortion is mostly legal, the rate is 26 abortions per 1,000 women; it is 29 per 1,000 women in the developing world, where it is mostly illegal. Of course, if abortion were legal in the developing world, rates would be higher.
Outside of legality other issues that determine the number of abortions a society has are access to and encouragement for contraception use as well as the existence of a social safety net and economic opportunity for children.
In France, a very secular society where contraception is readily available and encouraged and the social safety net is thick, the abortion rate was 14.5 per 1,000 women in 2008. In the United States, the most religious, industrialized country with a spotty record of birth control access, the rate was 19.6 per 1,000 women.
In Ireland where contraception is available, most abortion is illegal, and the social safety net is thick, the abortion rate was 4.4 per 1,000 women, not including abortions from pills gotten via the Internet.
A clear example of the power of promoting birth control to prevent abortion can be seen in Eastern Europe. In most Eastern Europe nations, abortion is legal but health care access is shoddy and economic opportunity is low. Contraception was neither culturally nor financially promoted. By promoting access to birth control, these nations cut their abortion rates from 90 to 44 per 1,000 women.
A recent study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology demonstrated that the abortion rate fell as low as 4.4 per 1,000 women when the women were given free access to the birth control of their choice. This reinforces what we’ve learned from comparing public policies and abortion rates between countries.
If given free access to birth control, the abortion rate will drop, as will the number of orphans and children without social support built into their lives. Children without family social supports inevitably require government social supports. Contraception access saves society money.
There are a number of beliefs that stand in the way of reducing abortion, such as access to birth control encourages sexual behavior and leads to more abortions and that birth control is immoral.
Our society may very well be more sexually promiscuous than it has been and contraception is becoming more readily available. However, most research finds no reliable connection between birth control access alone and increased sexual behavior. A sex-obsessed popular media is the more likely culprit for increased sexual promiscuity.
Some handpicked studies and skewed statistics show links between contraception access and increases in abortion. Most studies show the opposite trend. Our own nation’s rate of abortion is declining despite increases in sexual behavior and declines in religiosity, because of what appears to be increased access to contraception.
Maybe contraception is immoral. However, I would suggest that policies that cause children to be born into families that cannot support them, especially within nations that don’t have the resources to support them, are more immoral than promoting birth control.
Which is more moral: Uganda’s ABC campaign which promoted condoms and stopped AIDs in its tracks? Or a plan which largely ignored contraception for the general population, stigmatized people who have sex, and created 2.5 million orphans?
Brandon Givens is a Hall County resident and frequent columnist.