Last week I wrote about the importance of talking about abortion so that society can move beyond the labels of pro-choice and pro-life and learn more about the woman’s situation. I mentioned that if people truly wanted to decrease the amount of abortions (which I’m sure we all do) then we had to understand why people were having them and what could be done ahead of time to prevent these situations.
Unintended pregnancies is a universal issue that affects women from all walks of life. Did you know that nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended? That means that every one in two pregnancies is to a woman who says that she didn’t want to get pregnant. This doesn’t make them immoral or bad people, it simply means that they weren’t ready. Whether it is mentally ready, emotionally ready or financially ready, having a child requires a great deal of preparation. And, if one is not prepared, the choice to have an abortion or have the child can be equally difficult. Unintended pregnancies can be associated with negative consequences for the woman and child. This includes fewer opportunities for mothers to complete their education or achieve other life goals; more health risks; diminished likelihood of forming committed, mature relationships; lower likelihood of stable families; and a higher likelihood of poverty. That all said, aren’t unintended pregnancies something we all want to avoid, either to prevent abortions or prevent dysfunctional families?
Next to abstinence, contraception is the best way to avoid unintended pregnancies. But attached to the idea of contraceptives is both stigma and controversy. Controversy about who should use, who can access it and what people will do with it. But why so much controversy? Isn’t contraception a good thing? Isn’t it intended for the unintended? I personally find it slightly ironic that more often than not, the people who are gung ho about being pro-life are usually the same ones fighting against easier access to contraceptives. Arguments against contraception generally include the sacredness of sex or how it defies the institution of marriage. But I don’t think having sex before marriage or using contraception makes it any less sacred. Many are also concerned that making contraceptives more readily available will be condoning premarital sex over abstinence or increase promiscuity in young people. It is important, however, to understand that contraceptives don’t make people have more sex. Young people will continue to push boundaries and take risks. Allowing contraception significantly reduces these risk. In fact, using contraception can be seen as the responsible thing to do. They acknowledge the fact that they are not ready to bring another person into the world and don’t want to subject them to any hardships that might come with being born to someone who is not prepared. Everyone who wants to have kids wants to give them the best opportunities possible and they can only do that if they are in control of if and when they have them.
In short, there are basically two points here. First, if you want to lower abortion rates, you should try to prevent unintended pregnancies. Second, if you want to prevent unintended pregnancies among women, contraception would help. And while that may seem obvious, I’ll take the risk. But I guess the real question is how do we improve access to contraceptives. For starters, contraceptives must stay on the health agenda and continue to be given attention and resources. Barack Obama wants to require employers to cover contraception for their employees, at no charge. While this decision has met with great opposition, mainly on religious grounds, I think it gives way to a new beginning. Every woman deserves the right to control her future and every child deserves to be presented the best opportunities available. Contraception allows them to do this.
Contraceptives can save lives, and there shouldn’t be anything controversial about that.