SPL supports reducing unplanned pregnancies through increased use of contraception.
It’s true that abstinence is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, and we support those who choose to be
sexually abstinent - for whatever reason. However, we recognize that abstinence is not a realistic option for
everyone. For the many people who are sexually active and are not prepared for or do not desire children,
SPL encourages the use of contraception. We believe that when used correctly and consistently, contraception
has the potential to decreases rates of unintended pregnancy and therefore rates of abortion.
SPL recognizes that some pro-lifers have major reservations about contraception:
Some pro-lifers are concerned that widespread use of contraception can actually increase the unintended
pregnancy rate by encouraging people to make risky sexual decisions.
Some pro-lifers are concerned about the medical side effects hormonal contraception has for many women.
Many pro-lifers are concerned that various forms of contraception are abortifacient.
All of these concerns are important considerations.
Effect on pregnancy rates
People for and against contraception cite research that examines overall contraception and abortion rates in
different countries at different times. Some of that research suggests an inverse correlation between contraception
and abortion (as contraception use goes up, abortion rates go down), and some of that research suggests a
correlation instead (as contraception use goes up, abortion rates also increase).
It’s important to remember that this type of research looks at the relationships between two factors (abortion and contraception) among many relevant factors. For example, abortion rates can also be affected by a country’s overall religious beliefs, social support for pregnant women and parents, gender egalitarianism, abortion laws, sex education efforts, and so on. In order to establish a causal relationship between contraception and abortion, research would ideally include control groups that account for all these other relevant factors. It’s pretty difficult to design such research. It’s likewise difficult to tell if patterns we see in other countries would be reproducible in the United States, because we have to find a way to account for our different cultures and how those might affect abortion rates.
However, there is research that examines contraception use on sample sets that are smaller and more controlled than samples of entire countries, and that research shows that contraception decreases annual pregnancy rates for sexually active people. Certainly there’s no dispute that, in any given instance of an individual choosing to have heterosexual sex, that person’s chances of creating a pregnancy decrease significantly if the person uses contraception. SPL believes contraception could go even further in decreasing pregnancy rates if we can better educate people on the proper use of contraception.
Medical side effects
SPL understands that some forms of hormonal contraception can create negative side effects for many women. While this is an important medical consideration, we do not see it as specifically relevant to the abortion debate. Whether a woman chooses a certain method of contraception will likely depend on many factors, including the side effects that method can have. We encourage every woman to discuss what form of contraception, if any, will work for her with her licensed medical professional.
SPL also supports the use of the most effective forms of Natural Family Planning (NFP). Since NFP is about women understanding, rather than manipulating, their cycles, NFP doesn’t entail some of the medical side effects other contraception methods include. Many women who use NFP feel empowered by the high level of knowledge they gain about their bodies, and NFP is a relatively inexpensive method of maintaining a sexually active lifestyle while avoiding pregnancy.
SPL agrees that if a form of contraception is abortifacient, we cannot support its use; this includes contraception that prevents implantation. We recognize the spirited and ever-evolving debate about whether and which forms of contraception are likely to prevent implantation.
We believe the preponderance of evidence suggests oral contraceptives such as the pill and Plan B (the morning after pill) are unlikely to prevent implantation. Dr. Rich Poupard has written some great articles at Life Training Institute (a pro-life blog) explaining why it’s unlikely these oral contraceptives would affect implantation: here is one of his articles on the pill and here is one on Plan B.
However we understand that there are conflicting studies, and that truth-seeking people can land on either side of this debate, or remain uncertain. The American Association of Pro-Life Ob/Gyns agrees, stating they believe “each individual physician should evaluate the available information [about oral contraceptives], and then follow the leading of his/her conscience in this matter.”