The “Misconceptions” of Contraception: Enough to Make Sun Tzu Cringe

Robin Summers

Robin Summers is the Senior Policy Analyst for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA).
The famous Chinese general, Sun Tzu, in his infamous military treatise, "The Art of War," wrote: "All warfare is based on deception." Common sense tells us, however, that for a deception to prove effective, the lie must ring true. That is where the enemies of reproductive choice fail in the newest stratagem in their war: the attack on contraception.

[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]A couple of weeks ago, anti-choice activists gathered in Chicago for a conference entitled, "Contraception Is Not the Answer." You may have read about it in the Chicago Tribune, or in blogs like this one. The organizer of this attack on contraception was none other than Joe Scheidler and his Pro-Life Action League, the man who vowed to stop abortion "by any means necessary" and the group he called the "pro-life mafia" - the same group that proclaimed a "year of pain and fear" in the 1980s during a rash of violent attacks on abortion providers and clinics. Now it seems that our friend Joe has decided that contraception is the cause of most, if not all, of society's problems.

Robin Summers is the Senior Policy Analyst for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA).

The famous Chinese general, Sun Tzu, in his infamous military treatise, "The Art of War," wrote: "All warfare is based on deception." Common sense tells us, however, that for a deception to prove effective, the lie must ring true. That is where the enemies of reproductive choice fail in the newest stratagem in their war: the attack on contraception.

[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]A couple of weeks ago, anti-choice activists gathered in Chicago for a conference entitled, "Contraception Is Not the Answer." You may have read about it in the Chicago Tribune, or in blogs like this one. The organizer of this attack on contraception was none other than Joe Scheidler and his Pro-Life Action League, the man who vowed to stop abortion "by any means necessary" and the group he called the "pro-life mafia" – the same group that proclaimed a "year of pain and fear" in the 1980s during a rash of violent attacks on abortion providers and clinics. Now it seems that our friend Joe has decided that contraception is the cause of most, if not all, of society's problems.

The purpose of the event was, in the words of its organizers, to "confront the misconceptions about the effects of contraception." Intrigued, we sent one of my NFPRHA colleagues to the event for a bit of information gathering, to find out just what these so-called "misconceptions" were first-hand. Boy, were we in for a surprise. Pretty much anything and everything positive that you've ever heard about, or experienced, using contraception was maligned. Enable a woman to plan and space her births? How dare we! Allow a woman to pursue her educational and professional goals? Oh, the humanity! Reduce the need for abortion? Blasphemy!

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That's right, I said reduce the need for abortion. Because that's what contraception does. It enables women (and men, for that matter) to avoid unplanned pregnancies that can result in abortion. Each year, publicly supported contraceptive services help women prevent 1.3 million unplanned pregnancies, which would result in 632,300 abortions, 533,800 unintended births and 165,000 miscarriages. In fact, 52 percent of the unplanned pregnancies each year occur to the 11 percent of women at risk who report not using any method of contraception in the month they became pregnant. Contraception is a common sense, proven approach to reducing the need for abortion in the United States. Unfortunately, our enemies on the other side of the common sense fence have decided that contraception is the "root cause of abortion more than anything else."

I'm sorry. Did you really just tell the Chicago Tribune that contraception causes abortion, Joe?

It is a well-documented fact that a woman who wants two children will spend five years pregnant or trying to get pregnant and roughly 30 years trying to prevent pregnancy. Last year, NFPRHA conducted nationwide polling on the attitudes about and use of contraception. Before conducting the polling, we knew that Americans overwhelmingly use contraception – 98 percent of all women who have had sex have used contraception – but we wanted to know how people feel about access to contraception, including whether there is a serious difference between those who describe themselves as pro-life or pro-choice.

We found out that we're not delusional – people across the political and religious spectrum think contraception is as positive and important as we think it is.

  • 88% of Americans support access to contraception;
  • 80% of individuals who identified themselves as pro-life support access to contraception;
  • 72% of those polled believe access to contraception is very important; and
  • 85% of the public finds using contraception to be morally acceptable, including 8 of 10 Republicans.

Yet despite these numbers, despite the common sense appeal of contraception, despite the health benefits of contraception to women, families, and society, a handful of "activists" have decided that the "contraceptive culture" has warped our feeble minds and left us morally bankrupt. The arguments made in Chicago against contraception? Let's review:

  • Margaret Sanger was a "she-devil;"
  • Birth control paved the way for women to work outside the home, something that is "not natural;"
  • The divorce rate between 1960 and 1970 doubled, the result of contraception;
  • Sex should only exist inside marriage for the intent of procreating, and that contraception allows sex "without consequences;"
  • No comprehensive sex-ed program has ever been found to reduce the rates of STDs or pregnancy in participants; and
  • The loss of children due to contraception and abortion is like having a 9/11 every day for 35 years.

There was also discussion of a study of monkeys having sex on an island that supposedly illustrated why contraception is bad, but that one is just too strange to recount. The point is that after hearing the full report from this conference, I have to say that I was rather perplexed at how anyone thought these ideas, these deceptions, were going to be an effective tactic in the war on choice.

"All warfare is based on deception." Maybe the next line Sun Tzu wrote should have been, "Just make sure your deceptions pass the laugh test."

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