Contraception has reduced abortions to lowest level in nearly 40 years


Andrew Sullivan frames the issue THUSLY:

The [abortion] rate is now roughly where it was in 1973, when Roe went into effect. So without getting rid of the legal regime for abortion, rates are now almost where they were before it came into effect. It seems to me that this somewhat brutally undermines the case for a policy of coercion and criminality going forward. If we can halve the rate of abortion under Roe, and effectively make its impact neutral on abortion rates, without criminalizing abortion, don’t we have a win-win?

And this is surely where the Catholic Church in particular needs to make a choice, it seems to me. If abortion is by far a worse evil than contraception, and if contraception clearly dramatically reduces the chances of abortion, then there is a moral imperative to end the regime of “Humanae Vitae” (the papal ruling that rendered all sexual activity outside marital, unprotected sex a terrible sin).

The argument of “Humanae Vitae” made no sense at the time and still doesn’t (and was imposed by Pope Paul VI over the objections of his own commission into the subject). But rigidly sticking to an unpersuasive rule when it may be leading to the far worse evil of abortion, is a function of fundamentalist perversity.

We now have the evidence to support the contraception-vs-abortion argument. Why cannot the church or the religious right (which has historically had no problem with contraception) seize on the near-halving of abortion rates in twenty years and aggressively redouble the contraceptive strategy that has been so successful? Or is their obsession with criminal prohibition related to issues other than the saving of potential human life?



  1. Contraception is responsible for the decline? I would think the recent wave of state laws restricting abortion might have more to do with it.


  2. Neftali: Sorry, but you’re wrong. In the piece to which I linked in the post above, Andrew Sullivan says this:

    “Some pro-lifers are crediting the wave of restrictive legislation passed since 2011, but the data only go up to 2011! And besides, the drop has been going on for more than twenty years now, in a huge success for the pro-life movement, and for the pro-choice movement.”

  3. Yeah…I also saw this article from Mother Jones which also dispels my thoughts about the new state restrictions.

    “The authors did not investigate the reasons for the decline. However, since rates of abortion fell consistently across almost all states, and the time period covered by the study predates the surge of state-level anti-abortion laws, the overall decline is likely not the product of new restrictions, the study notes. A few states, however, may have experienced declines related to new restrictions. Missouri’s abortion rate dropped 17 percent between 2008 and 2010, the authors note, perhaps reflecting the impact of a 2009 state law requiring women to seek in-person counseling before getting an abortion. Still, Jones and Jerman write, “It is crucial to note that abortion rates decreased by larger-than-average amounts in several states that did not implement any new restrictions between 2008 and 2010, such as Illinois (18%) and Oregon (15%).”


  4. Also interesting to note from that Mother Jones article is the general gradual decline regardless of who is in office, or what is the state of the economy, or any perhaps any of the other usual culprits that pundits like to point to.

    So I guess perhaps people are using contraception more? Or people just don’t like the idea of abortions any more? Perhaps the thought of being a single parent isn’t as taboo anymore either. Probably a mixture of everything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *