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We Need to Talk About Contraception, Too

Banning abortion doesn’t stop it from happening — the only thing that prevents unwanted pregnancies is reducing the conditions that cause them in the first place. And for that, there are few things better than basic contraceptives

The abortion procedure is the last step in a long line of acts and conditions that produce the need for an abortion itself. If we want fewer abortions to occur, we could start by expanding resources like free childcare and maternal health care for mothers and families, particularly low income ones, to help people feel more financially secure in their ability to raise children. 

On a simpler level, we could also expand contraceptive options, making them free and readily available, so that fewer unintended pregnancies occur. Hell, we could even just ensure that more people understand how to prevent pregnancy by doing away with abstinence-only education. All of these options are proven to reduce the number of abortions that take place. So why aren’t anti-abortion advocates more focused on these, instead?

There are some who are, like the TikToker @staxioms, who recently made a video appealing to pro-life people on these grounds. “I think a fetus is a life, but I also think abortions should be legal,” he said. He then went on to highlight a number of studies and data, such as how, although abortions increased in the first few decades following Roe v. Wade, they’ve lowered to pre-Roe v. Wade levels over the last 10 years. Moreover, he highlights how teenagers in states that primarily offer abstinence-only education are more likely to become pregnant than those with comprehensive sex-ed, and that increased access to birth control reduces abortion rates dramatically. Lastly, legal abortions drastically reduce the number of deaths that occur as the result of abortion complications. “I hope you understand that if you’re conservative and don’t stand by these policies, it does really kind of feel like you’re just interested in controlling women,” he said. 

Of course, the argument that legal abortions cause fewer women to die is another seemingly pro-life element — if you’re truly pro-life, you’d also want to protect the lives of people who might die getting an abortion. But as some states discuss prohibiting abortion in cases of ectopic pregnancies, which are 100 percent fatal for both mother and fetus when left untreated, it’s clear that the label of “pro-life” is innaccurate. 

Regardless, the goal for those who wish for fewer abortions to occur ought to be to address the reasons why an unwanted pregnancy occurs in the first place. Ideally, this would mean amending the systemic conditions that cause many women to feel incapable of raising a child. At the very least, we ought to help prevent people from becoming pregnant by promoting comprehensive sex education and contraceptives. Hormonal implants, IUDs and vasectomies are all around 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancies, and some studies have estimated that providing free birth control to women can reduce abortion rates by 62 to 78 percent. 

All of this seems to be a losing battle, though — as with abortions, those who oppose them on the basis of life begining at conception have several ideological workarounds that often cause them to oppose birth control, too. Some, for example, believe that the birth control pill can induce an abortion by causing the uterine wall to reject an already fertilized egg (which is untrue, as birth control prevents an egg from being released in the first place). Similarly, some believe that sex itself should only occur for the purposes of reproduction, and that promoting either comprehensive sex-ed or contraceptives betrays this. 

Even so, there are plenty of Christians and technically anti-abortion advocates, like @staxioms, who see abortion as an essential legal right — in addition to the need for better social safety nets, health care and education. So if we can’t agree on abortion, maybe we can at least start addressing some of the reasons they happen in the first place.