Misconceptions about contraceptives

Here’s a question for you: when you lie in support of your pet cause, are you actually helping that cause? If you answered No, you’d be right. The reason is quite simple: when people find out that you’ve lied to them to get them to join your cause, they’ll walk away.

Okay to be fair, this isn’t entirely true. For example cancer research charities lie all the time by creating false hope. But the good they accomplish by raising money and directing that money toward cancer research makes up for it. The false hope, by the way, is the use of the word "cure", such as "Race for the Cure" with regard to breast cancer. Cancer cannot be cured in the same sense that other diseases can, but people keep hoping and pouring money toward it, and they’re still doing a lot of good.

But then there’s abortion, or rather the hardcore pro-lifers.

You don’t need to lie to support the pro-life cause, but it happens all the time. Actually with virtually any cause, you’ll have overt liars who think they’re doing good when in actuality they might be sabotaging a cause without realizing it.

With the hardcore pro-lifers, one of the more prominent information sites is LifeSiteNews.com. Recently they published an article responding to a woman who got pregnant while on an IUD.

Before going into the article, let’s get a few things clear up front. First, the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs is abstinence. But we do have other methods that do come close. If you’re going to be sexually active, the best way to prevent the spread of STDs is the condom. And to the lesbian and bisexual women out there, if you share toys with your female sex partners, you’re still at risk. As for preventing pregnancy, the best method is a pretty close match between the pill and IUD, or intra-uterine device. But the condom is still the most convenient and cost-effect method of preventing pregnancy as well.

But there is a caveat: all methods of preventing pregnancy require correct and consistent use. This includes abstinence. "Wait," I can hear people already saying, "there’s an incorrect way to be abstinent?" If you have to ask that question, you need to do some reading.

Now, on to the article: "Pregnant with an IUD: Pro-abortion writer baffled after contraception fails".

As I said, the IUD is one of the best methods of preventing pregnancy that exist. It is designed and recommended for long-term contraception, such as older women who are done having kids and want to keep their risk of additional pregnancies at a minimum without having the husband go in for the… umm… double-snip… They’re certainly popular, too. In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed the IUD as the top method of reversible contraception in use.

But IUDs are not perfect, but their failure rate is actually lower than that of the pill because it is difficult to be inconsistent with an IUD. And they are the longest-lasting of any method of contraception available, aside from lifelong celibacy.

But where LifeSiteNews gets it wrong is when they start talking about contraception.

While pro-abortion activists routinely claim that increased use of contraception will decrease abortion rates, pro-life advocates have argued that the data points to the opposite conclusion. The solution to the high abortion rate, they say, is not increased contraception, but rather to educate people on responsible sexual behavior.

Actually, no, pro-choice advocates do not routinely claim that increased use of contraception will decrease abortion rates. Instead we advocate simply what they already claim the solution is: better education regarding contraception and sex. Wait, is the pro-life movement actually becoming less anti-sex? Will they soon start advocating for comprehensive sex education in schools instead of that abstinence-only bullshit? Yeah, I doubt it.

Let’s get to the facts of the matter.

As I said above, contraceptive use must be consistent and correct to maximize its ability to prevent pregnancy. Again, no method is perfect. But pro-choice advocates don’t say that increased use of contraception will decrease abortion rates. Instead we advocate consistent and correct use of contraceptives to decrease the numbers of unintended pregnancies, with the idea being that this will also result in a decrease in the number of abortions.

The indecency at LSN continues, quoting Brian Clowes of Human Life International:

This story is about only one of the nearly two and a half million contraceptive failures that occur in the United States each year, and nearly half of these end in abortion. Women (and men) have been conditioned to use devices that just do not do what they are billed to do – prevent pregnancy.

Oh brother… The stupid! It burns!!!

First, there are approximately 5 million pregnancies each year in the United States, approximately half of which, or about 2.5 million, are unintended. So this guy is claiming that all unwanted pregnancies occur from contraceptive failures. Bullshit. Casual research will show the fallacy behind that claim.

As an example: coerced pregnancies. I touched on this in an article a couple years ago. Another example: rape. Need I go on?

The question that we cannot really know is how many unintended pregnancies resulted from not even bothering to employ contraceptives. After all, contraceptives that are never employed never have the opportunity to prevent pregnancy, let alone fail.

And to say that contraceptives do not prevent pregnancy deserves a slap in the face. They overwhelmingly prevent pregnancy. If that were not the case, they would not be around because no one would use them. What’d be the point?

Goes to show that it’s easier to lie to support your cause than to actually tell the truth. After all, telling the truth takes a bit of effort.

Clowes followed-up by saying, "Contraception has made us spiritually and emotionally lazy". According to what measure?

The LSN article then goes on to reproduce several anecdotes from women who have suffered contraceptive failures. This really isn’t a new revelation, folks. Contraceptives do fail. Condoms break. The effectiveness of the pill and patch can fluctuate with your body’s chemistry. The IUD can also fail. How is this a surprise?

One study released in 2011 showed that in Spain, the abortion rate rose in proportion to the availability of contraception, a result that confused the researchers who expected to find the opposite result.

The study in question is called "Trends in the use of contraceptive methods and voluntary interruption of pregnancy in the Spanish population during 1997–2007". It was originally published online in June 2010. This was a study in which women self-reported on the contraceptive methods they employed during the prior two years. Unfortunately the full text of the study is locked behind a paywall.

But there are a couple things we can deduce from this study. First, it followed 2,000 women and had them self-report their contraceptive usage every two years… Okay there’s the first problem with the study. And during that two year period, the self-reported results showed an increase in contraceptive usage among those 2,000 women. Here’s an obvious question: how does that compare to the rest of Spain?

According to the United Nations, the contraceptive rate among women between 2006 and 2010 was approximately 66%. The study showed contraceptive usage to be 79.9% in 2007 for the study’s population, so clearly we have one hell of a margin of error or some kind of disparity between the data.

But yet the hardcore pro-lifers snatched up this study as "proof" that increased usage of contraception does not result in a decrease in abortion rates. In Spain during the time period for the study, the rate of abortion more than doubled from 5.42 per 1,000 to 11.49 per 1,000 women. The study concluded that "factors responsible for the increased rate of elective abortion need further investigation." Indeed in the United States, a similar correlation was seen, just in the opposite direction.

The study itself also does not make the conclusion that the hardcore pro-lifers are drawing from this. It is an interesting correlation, but causation needs to be established, yet hardcore pro-lifers seem to think they know all the answers. Quoting Brian Clowes, "The whole idea is just to get people on contraception so they can sell them abortion."

Okay so let’s ask the question directly: are contraceptives giving women a false sense of security as far as preventing pregnancy? The available data clearly say NO.

Between 2006 and 2008, of approximately 61.8 million women of child-bearing age at risk for pregnancy, over 3 in 5 were using some form of contraception. If you do the math, that’s approximately 38 million women. In that same period of time, there was an average of approximately 830,000 abortions per year. Even if all abortions were the result of contraceptive failures – they’re not, but I’ll temporarily grant the premise – that’s still only a little over 2% rate.

Contraceptives do have a known rate of failure. It is the responsibility of those who are using them to know that and what to do to mitigate that risk. It is the responsibility of those who are sexually active to know how to employ contraceptive methods properly to reduce the chance of pregnancy to its lowest, absent abstinence. Yet many in the hardcore pro-life arena don’t want teenagers to be given a comprehensive sexual education.

The fact of the matter is that contraceptives work, contrary to what they seem to want to believe. Quoting Dianne Irving, PhD:

Since it is…a long-recognized and documented scientific fact that almost all so-called ‘contraceptives’ routinely fail at statistically significant rates resulting in ‘unplanned pregnancies’, is there any wonder that elective abortions are socially required in order to take care of such ‘accidents’? Thus abortion has become a ‘contraceptive’ in and of itself.

Long-recognized and documented scientific fact? Okay, I’d like to see some independent, peer-reviewed sources on that. And not all contraceptive failures result in a pregnancy.

But then the question they don’t seem to explore can be worded as this: what is the cause of contraceptive failures? In the vast majority of cases, it’s the person attempting to employ the contraceptive method failing to employ it properly or consistently. Indeed in the above-linked CDC study, they say this:

Given these findings—that many women who became pregnant did not think they could get pregnant—further research on factors related to nonuse and inconsistent use of contraception could be useful. A recent report on a national telephone survey suggested some possible explanations of nonuse and inconsistent use of contraception among unmarried males and females 18–29 years of age in the United States.

In other words, women who fail to properly employ a contraceptive method when they are at risk of an unintended pregnancy did so because they didn’t think they were at risk, despite wanting to avoid pregnancy.

I think it’s safe to say that the hardcore pro-lifers need to get a new dose of reality.The reality is this: contraceptives work.

With consistent and correct use of contraceptives, the risk of an unplanned pregnancy can be reduced to its minimum, but not eliminated altogether as contraceptives can and do fail, but not anywhere near the degree that hardcore pro-lifers seem to think. But also practicing abstinence can eliminate the risk of pregnancy and the transmission of STDs.

And with the reduction of unplanned pregnancies will also come the reduction in abortions, since the vast majority of abortions stem from unplanned pregnancies.