‘If conservatives really believe in the evil of abortion, they are morally obligated to embrace a policy that stands to limit it so impressively’

Eric C. Miller, writing at Religion Dispatches, calls the bluff of evangelicals and others who have based their entire politics on opposition to legal abortion.

Miller presents the compelling argument for contraception as the most effective approach to radically reducing the abortion rate. If that is the goal — as opponents of legal abortion claim — then the Affordable Care Act is a more effective means of achieving that goal than overturning Roe v. Wade would ever be.

But what if that goal was only a pretense? What if opposition to legal abortion wasn’t really based on a desire to reduce the number of abortions, but were based mainly, instead, on a desire to control and punish women?

Well, if the latter were true, then those claiming to want fewer abortions would be among the loudest opposing the Affordable Care Act and fighting for the candidate who has pledged to repeal it.

This is not hypothetical. This is the evidence we have. This is proof — political action that contradicts the sanctimony and pious words. This is the proof that exposes the disingenuous lie that has shaped American politics for more than 30 years.

Here’s a big chunk of Miller’s piece, “Barack Obama, Pro-Life Hero“:

On October 3, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine published a study with profound implications for policy making in the United States. According to Dr. Jeffery Peipert, the study’s lead author, abortion rates can be expected to decline significantly — perhaps up to 75 percent — when contraceptives are made available to women free of charge.

… As most observers surely know, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) requires insurance coverage for birth control, a provision staunchly opposed by most of the same religious conservatives who oppose legalized abortion. If Peipert is correct, however, the ACA may prove the single most effective piece of “pro-life” legislation in the past 40 years.

… Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called the data “an amazing improvement,” adding, “I would think if you were against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access.”

But it remains the case that, by and large, those most opposed to abortion are not “100 percent for” contraception access. In fact, Peipert’s study comes at a time when more than thirty federal lawsuits have been filed by social conservatives bent on overturning the ACA’s contraception mandate.

… In providing strong documentation that no-cost contraception is successful in dramatically limiting abortions, Peipert has placed the ACA’s opponents in a potentially difficult position. Fierce resistance to abortion is a central plank in the social conservative platform, and has for decades served as one of the standards around which millions of activists and voters have rallied. That a path to the drastic decline in abortions that these individuals have so desperately sought has suddenly been provided them by a president they so openly despise is, at the very least, a political puzzle.

But by addressing the problem of unintended pregnancy—rather than the politically fraught problem of abortion — “Obamacare” addresses the issue at its root. Though abortion has served as the central locus of the “culture war” for nearly forty years, it has always been a secondary concern — a problematic solution to a deeper and less sensational problem. By insisting on mere illegality, pro-life forces have turned a blind eye to the troublesome side-effects of illegal abortion even as they dedicated themselves to a largely symbolic political victory.

In the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, we have a previously unimaginable opportunity for satisfying compromise on abortion. In accordance with liberal demands, the procedure will remain safe and legal, and reproductive choices will be extended to those who have been unable to afford them in the past. In exchange, conservatives will see abortion rates plummet, achieving a result comparable to that of illegality but without the fierce controversy or government imposition in the lives of individuals.

… If conservatives really believe in the evil of abortion, they are morally obligated to embrace a policy that stands to limit it so impressively.

  • Alena

    I have to seriously disagree with you take on the ACA. Before
    I even tackle the “contraception reduces abortion” argument, it’s
    crucial to mention a couple of points that you did not include.

    1) The ACA, with the mandate for institutions to provide contraception for
    employees via mandatory healthcare insurance, violates freedom of conscience.
    Setting aside the fact that hormonal contraception often causes very early
    abortions, and whether you (collective “you”) believe that
    contraception is sinful or not, the fact remains that there are thousands of
    Catholic, Christian, Orthodox, and other religious hospitals, schools, small
    businesses, and the like that are being required to provide a service that
    directly contradicts their moral and religious beliefs. Let’s say for the sake
    of the argument that contraception does in fact drastically reduce abortions
    and that it would do a lot of good to the society. However, the government still
    cannot step in and demand that the employers at the Catholic hospital down the
    street, who believe in the sinfulness of contraception and therefore cannot in
    good conscience purchase a healthcare plan that would provide free
    contraception for its employees, provide this anyway. It does not take a
    constitutional scholar to recognize that this is a blatant affront on the right
    of people of faith to freedom of conscience. If the government can’t force Jews
    to purchase or sell non-Kosher items, it certainly cannot force other people of
    faith to provide something that contradicts their beliefs.

    2) In 2014, certain provisions in the ACA will go into effect that force people
    enrolled in certain healthcare plans to pay an abortion premium from their own
    pocket, irrespective of their religious or moral convictions. So basically,
    people objecting to abortion will have to go find another healthcare plan that
    doesn’t contain this premium. This hardly seems an attempt to reduce abortion.
    This is one of numerous articles that I found from back in the spring when this
    premium was finalized: http://www.bdfund.org/obamacareincourt

    Even if both of these points didn’t matter, this post makes a moot
    point, because contraception has not helped to reduce abortion in this country.
    Although I could explain why myself, it’s more economical to simply link you to
    this post:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/11/does-contraception-reduce-the-abortion-rate.html.
    I’m not linking it because this guy is Catholic – it’s excellent simply for the
    logical
    and factual evidence he presents as to why contraception should not and
    cannot be used as a means to reduce abortion. I’d like to add one stat
    that I
    don’t think he mentions in this article. There is a report by Edin and England
    (“Unmarried Couples with Children”) that shows that since the introduction of
    “family planning” (i.e. contraception) in the U.S. via Title X,
    nonmarital
    births were 5.3 % in 1960, 11 % in 1970, 18% in 1980, 28% in 1990, 33%
    in 1999, and 41% today. If contraception limits pregnancy rates, we
    should not see this enormous explosion of extramarital births since the
    introduction of the pill.

  • EllieMurasaki

    [citation needed]

  • Lunch Meat

    It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that this is a blatant affront on the right of people of faith to freedom of conscience.

    So I assume you’re in favor of making sure Jehovah’s Witnesses institutions don’t have to purchase health care plans that cover blood transfusions? Institutions whose owners are vegan don’t have to purchase health care plans covering drugs made from animal products or tested on animals? Institutions whose owners believe in faith healing don’t have to purchase health plans that cover physicians and medicine? Institutions whose owners are Jains don’t have to purchase health plans covering antibiotics or chemotherapy?

    There is a report by Edin and England (“Unmarried Couples with Children”) that shows that since the introduction of “family planning” (i.e. contraception) in the U.S. via Title X, nonmarital births were 5.3 % in 1960, 11 % in 1970, 18% in 1980, 28% in 1990, 33% in 1999, and 41% today. If contraception limits pregnancy rates, we should not see this enormous explosion of extramarital births since the introduction of the pill.

    Are you serious? Lots of married people use contraception (me!!) and many unmarried people don’t use contraception. That’s a completely irrelevant report. You should be looking at whether contraception reduces unplanned pregnancies. (Unfortunately I’m at work and don’t have time to read BadCatholic’s post currently.)

  • Lunch Meat

    In 2014, certain provisions in the ACA will go into effect that force people enrolled in certain healthcare plans to pay an abortion premium from their own pocket, irrespective of their religious or moral convictions. So basically, people objecting to abortion will have to go find another healthcare plan that doesn’t contain this premium.

    I’m not sure what provision you’re talking about, since the article you cited is short and vague, but this: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/mar/21/blog-posting/does-barack-obamas-health-care-bill-include-1-abor/ seems to cover your assertion. The short answer is: Yes, if you choose to be enrolled in a private healthcare plan that covers elective abortions, you will be “forced” to pay a premium to that healthcare plan. That’s how premiums work. But every insurer that offers a healthcare plan covering elective abortions must also offer a healthcare plan that does not cover elective abortions, and they must inform their customers which is which. No individual will be forced to enroll in a plan that violates their consciences. How is this not good enough? Do you want to mandate that no one is allowed to offer insurance plans that cover abortion, just to make sure no one accidentally pays for it because they don’t pay attention?

  • Greenygal

    From the linked report: “As Guttmacher researcher Stanley Henshaw noted in his review “Unintended Pregnancy in the United States“, “contraceptive users appear to have been more motivated to prevent births than were nonusers”. The CDC has consistently reported that the majority of abortions are performed on women who were using contraception at the time of their last menstrual cycle, that is, at the time they conceived. If contraceptive users are more motivated to have abortions than non-contraceptive users, then it is not ridiculous to posit that the increased use of contraception in the USA was a major factor in the simultaneous increase in abortions.”

    There are several relevant points here:
    1) The CDC report linked is from 1998.  More recent data would be nice.
    2) The majority in question is 58%, so not an overwhelming percentage either way.   (It’s from a study conducted in 1994 and 1995, so I also question “consistently.”  If he has more extensive data, I’d like to see it.)
    3) The CDC report follows that statistic up with an entire paragraph about how the women’s use of contraception “might have been inconsistent or incorrect.”
    4) That paragraph concludes: “Therefore, education regarding improved contraceptive use and practices as well as access to and education regarding safe, effective, and affordable contraception and family-planning services might help reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and, therefore, might reduce the use of legal induced abortion in the United States.”  If you’re quoting a report that doesn’t agree with you, I think it’s more honest to say so.

    As for what he thinks the reason is for why the use of contraception causes people to have abortions that they would not have otherwise, I’ve read that paragraph three times and I’m still confused:

    “The use of contraception is the attempt to have sex while avoiding having children. To conceive a child despite using contraception means that that attempt has failed. If the attempt fails, then that newly created human life naturally represents a failure. The contraceptive mentality — a mentality I believe can exist whether or not one uses specifically uses contraceptive devices while having sex – carries over into pregnancy. If I want to avoid a child while having sex, chances are I will want to avoid a child when my partner becomes pregnant. This is not to say that all couples who use contraception will always abort. Of course not! This is merely to say that the contraceptive mentality leads to a temptation to abortion, and where there is temptation there is failure, and where there is failure, the stats reflect it.”

    What this actually seems to be saying is that people who don’t want children don’t want children.  Fair enough.  I still don’t see any support for the idea that using contraception makes them not want children, instead of the other way around.


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