Commentary Contraception

LifeNews Goes Ballistically Delusional Over Study Linking Contraceptive Use to Lower Rate of Abortion

Amanda Marcotte

In a move of utter predictability, a major anti-choice website angrily denounces a strong, multi-year study that shows that contraception access reduces the abortion rate. Which is, of course, more consistent with hating on sex than any concern for preventing abortion.

If anti-choice activists were really against abortion rights because of “life” and not because they desperately want to control and punish female sexuality, there is one thing the would never, ever do. One, simple thing. And that very simple thing is this: They would not make complete fools of themselves trying to find every reason, no matter how tenuous or seemingly fabricated, to deny a study that demonstrates that women who have free, accessible birth control have lower abortion rates. Simply admitting what is clearly obvious—that women who prevent unintended pregnancy have fewer abortions—would be an easy way to prop up the illusion that the movement to ban abortion is about “life.”

Naturally, of course, LifeNews.com couldn’t contain themselves, instead posting an article denying this study by spit-balling a bunch of half-baked, grasping criticisms. In doing so, they make abundantly clear, once again, that they oppose contraception just as much as abortion. And mainly they do because they are stuck in a rabbit hole of wishful thinking, believing—despite the whole of human history to disprove it—that if people just didn’t have access to reproductive health care, they would stop having sex for fun.

The weakness of this grasping piece has to be seen to be believed. First of all, you have what Erin Gloria Ryan called the “studies have shown!” argument.

Jeanne Monahan, Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity says the study is flawed.

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“The report may appear persuasive, but it’s in direct conflict with studies from Sweden, the U.K., and Spain, which show that contraceptive use actually leads to higher pregnancy and abortion rates because it encourages riskier sexual behavior,” she says. “In this instance, Washington University chose women who wanted reversible contraceptive methods, but didn’t compare their data with that of a neutral control group.”

The “studies” aren’t described, linked, or named, making it difficult for an outsider to compare them to this one, or even to verify that they aren’t being made up completely. But the notion that the women weren’t compared to a neutral control group is, of course, silly—their abortion rates were compared to the national rates of abortion generally. Monahan is probably thinking of “women who think sex is icky and don’t have it except within marriage for the purpose of procreation” as a “neutral” control group, but considering that 95 percent of Americans have sex before marriage and 99 percent of women who have had sexual intercourse have used contraception, the reality is that any such group is not only not neutral, but statistically insignificant.

In other words, this is some serious grasping. Epic grasping, of the sort in which you would only engage if your need to believe that non-procreative sex is inherently evil trumps even your desire to be taken as a serious person who can effectively comprehend even the most basic of statistics.

The rest of the article is, if you can believe it, even more of a garbled mess of wishful thinking. The writer tries to argue that the women “self-selected,” which is an oblique way of implying they are slutty sorts whose desire for non-procreative sex puts them outside of the norm. But, as noted above, women who desire non-procreative sex are the vast majority, to the degree that those who don’t have it are statistically insignificant, particularly when discussing reproduction. (Plus, if women as a group were not interested in sex for pleasure, the abortion rate for women as a group would be much lower naturally, something this pathetic non-analysis conveniently forgets.)

The last, desperate attempt to undermine this study is to toss out what logicians call a “red herring” by claiming the study is invalidated because they didn’t include lengthy medical histories of the over 9,000 women studied. But why would that make the study more accurate? They are being compared, as a group, to the entire population of American women, whose lengthy medical histories are also not included. Unless they’re trying to insinuate that somehow the CHOICE project was secretly recruiting infertile women and trying to conceal that fact, this is an irrelevant bit of noise, tossed out for no other reason than denying that contraception works matters to them more than pretty much any other concern.

Of course, the reason that these kind of stunningly delusional articles come out of anti-choice publications on a daily basis is that their entire ideology is rooted in a strange and unsettling fantasy, a belief that sex for pleasure is somehow unnatural and terrible… and that if they fight hard enough, most people will give it up forever. It’s a belief that’s so far removed from how ordinary people live their lives that it’s hard to compare it to much else in our society, which is saying a lot in our modern political environment of shameless lying. It would be comical, if this movement of deeply delusional people wasn’t one of the most fierce and powerful social movements in the country today, capable not just of passing a lot of legislation but of nearly bringing the federal government to a halt to satisfy their hatred of contraception. 

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