Reducing the U.S. abortion rate by
reducing unwanted pregnancies
Joint pro-life & pro-choice activity. The St. Louis
study & implications for the Affordable Care Act.
This topic is a continuation from a previous essay
The future of joint activity by the pro-lifer and pro-choice movements:
We suspect that finding "common ground" between the two movements will prove to be very difficult, for at least two reasons:
- Any program to drastically reduce the number of abortions by minimizing
unwanted pregnancies would have to involve comprehensive education of
adolescents starting before they become sexually active -- that is, well before 16 years of age or Grade 11. Some people in the pro-life movement would
be unwilling to agree to such programs and will only accept abstinence-only educational programs in schools.
of the leadership in the pro-life movement are devout Roman Catholics, who view any use of contraception to be a
major sin, unless it is a church-approved method based on fertility awareness
and is used by a married couple.
Indications of resistance to joint effort by the pro-life community:
One indication of the resistance of the pro-life movement to reducing
abortions by reducing unwanted pregnancies was heard on the Eternal Word
Television Network (EWTN) broadcast on 2007-JAN-23 during the 34th Annual
March for Life in Washington, DC. Two speakers made a point of mentioning that
their goal is not to reduce the number of abortions; it is to eliminate
entirely -- presumably by criminalizing abortion and eliminating access to abortion.
Another indicator was an article in Life Site News attacking the Democrats in
Washington for promoting what LifeSite calls a "Plan to promote more
contraception and thereby make pro-lifers look like hypocritical extremists."
Joseph D'Agustino, of the Population Research Institute writes about the Democratic legislators:
"Now that they have taken control of our national legislature, they must
appear to care about reducing abortion while not doing anything that would
actually reduce abortion and alienate their fanatically pro-death base, and
at the same time isolate truly pro-life Americans in the minds of the
so-called 'abortion grays'."
"These are American voters who have qualms about abortion but do not wish it
outlawed, and are thus susceptible to appeals from either side of the
abortion divide. Most abortion grays view as unpleasantly extremist both:
"Because of Roe v. Wade and political realities, banning most abortions is
not on congressional pro-lifers' agenda for the time being, so pro-abortion
forces have found another way to do harm, in more ways than one. Their
approach could not only divide and demonize pro-lifers, but would spread
disease among youth, increase their psychic distress, and inflate the number
- The NARAL, Barbara Boxer types who embrace even partial-birth abortion and
- Principled anti-abortion activists who believe every single unborn child
should be saved however inconvenient he [sic] may be."
"The Dems’ plan is to promote contraception as a means of reducing abortion
and watch pro-lifers, who know contraception increases abortion, squirm as
the media portrays any opposition to more federal funding for contraceptive
programs as hypocritical extremism on the part of pro-lifers." 1
2012/2013: Contraceptives and the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare):
Creation of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA and Obamacare) was largely motivated by a desire to:
- Extend medical insurance coverage for young adults by allowing them to be covered under their parents' insurance policies;
- Drastically lower the number of uninsured Americans. In 2012, some 15.4% of Americans -- 48 million people -- lacked health insurance.
- Require health insurance providers to make policies available for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
- Make contraception and routine preventative care available to women.
The Institute of Medicine advises the federal government on issues of public health, medical care, research, and education. 4 They produced two reports recommending that access to contraceptive materials be included in all health insurance plans without cost to the employee. They concluded that such access would reduce the number of unplanned, unexpected pregnancies and thereby significantly reducing the abortion rate.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded to the Institute's recommendation by creating the "HHS Mandate" as part of the ACA. It requires health insurance plans to include the supply of free contraceptives to all female employees who wanted them, with no copays, co-insurance or deductables. It also includes regular preventative care for women.
The mandate was originally to become effective on 2012-AUG-01. It proved to be very controversial. Faith groups were exempted from the mandate. However, originally, organizations affiliated with religious institutions, like social service organizations, religious schools and universities, etc. were not exempted. Changes in the mandate's rules as they apply to religious employers were proposed during 2013-FEB, and finalized by HHS during 2013-JUN. 5 The mandate now includes an "accommodation" in which women working for religious employers who oppose contraception usage will now receive payments directly from insurance companies for contraception services.. 5
One major snag with the mandate involved "morning after" contraception supplies (a.k.a. emergency contraceptives, and EC). Plan B is one of the best known types of EC:
- Researchers originally believed that emergency contraception would prevent pregnancies by inhibiting ovulation, or preventing fertilization if ovulation had already occurred. Some suggested that in rare situations it could function by a third method: the medication might prevent the implantation of the resultant zygote in the inner wall of the uterus. However, subsequent research showed that this third mode of operation does not happen in practice.
- The Roman Catholic Church and many religious and social conservative religions, para-church organizations etc. teach that pregnancy begins during the process of conception. In spite of the scientific evidence that EC does not inhibit implantation in the uterus, they concluded that it can. Thus they regularly claim that EC can prevent a pregnancy that has already started. They commonly describe ECs with phrases like: "drugs that can cause early abortions." 5 Sometimes, they simply refer to EC as abortifacients with the implication that they always work by triggering abortions.
- The conflict spread to employers at some evangelical educational facilities, parachurch groups, and secular businesses like Hobby Lobby who do not want to allow their employees to have free access to contraceptives -- including EC -- in their health plans. They also refer to EC as abortifacients in spite of the extensive evidence that they cannot act in that way.
- The conflict has triggered lawsuits involving 200 plaintiffs who are attempting to be exempted from the HHS Mandate.
2012-OCT: The St. Louis study and the expected impact of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), on future abortion rates:
The results of an unusual study in St. Louis MO were released during 2012-OCT. 2 It was designed to test the effects of free contraceptives on the abortion rate. It involved more than 9,000 women in St. Louis. Many were poor or lacked health care coverage. 39% of the women in the study had difficulty paying for their basic expenses. Many of them could not afford contraceptives. They were given the freedom to chose from any contraceptive method at no cost to them. Their options included free birth control pills, IUDs, or contraceptive implants. Many women chose the latter method which normally cost hundreds of dollars to insert. Results showed only 6.3 live births per 1,000 teenagers among the group. This compares to a national average rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens during 2010 -- a massive reduction. The abortion rate was 4.4 to 7.5 abortion per 1,000 women in the study which compares to the national rate of almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women. Again, a massive reduction.
Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, commented:
"As a society, we want to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortion rates. This study has demonstrated that having access to no-cost contraception helps us get to that goal."
Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, commented:
"It's just an amazing improvement. I would think if you were against abortions, you would be 100 percent for contraception access." 2
Dr. Breeden's comments would seem to be obvious. Although his conclusion would be accepted by essentially all secularists and by the vast majority of adherents to most faith groups, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is unalterably opposed to both abortion and contraception. Further, the Church's moral theology teaches that it is not permissible to commit a minor sin in order to prevent a major sin. Thus, engaging in contraception -- even if it were considered to be a relatively minor sin compared to abortion -- is not permissible even if it prevents the death of an human embryo or unborn fetus which many Catholics regard as equivalent to murder of a human person.
Jeanne Monahan, spokesperson for the Family Research Council suggested that increased use of contraceptives could encourage riskier sexual behavior. She said:
"Additionally, one might conclude that the Obama administration's contraception mandate may ultimately cause more unplanned pregnancies since it mandates that all health plans cover contraceptives, including those that the study's authors claim are less effective." 2
Monahan apparently was unaware of one of the main findings of the study -- the drastic reduction in pregnancies and abortions among those given the option of choosing any form of contraception at zero personal cost.
Over time, as Obamacare is implemented, the percentage of women using contraceptives is expected to increase, the number of unwanted and unexpected pregnancies will drop and the abortion rate will also drop.
- Joseph D'Agustino, "Democrats plans for
dividing and demonizing pro-lifers. Plan to promote more contraception and
thereby make pro-lifers look like hypocritical extremists," LifeSiteNews.com,
- "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012," U.S. Census Bureau, 2013-SEP-17, at: http://www.census.gov/
- "Study: Free birth control leads to way fewer abortions," CBS News, 2012-OCT-05, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/
- Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, "Leading Health Indicators for Healthy People 2020: Letter Report," Page IV, Institute of Medicine, at: http://www.nap.edu/ This web site provides a free download.
- Michelle Bauman, "HHS mandate for religious groups finalized with few changes," Catholic News Agency, 2013-JUN-28, at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
Copyright © 2007 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2007-JAN-22
Latest update: 2013-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson