The Corner

Doubts About Contraception’s Effect on Abortion Rates Are Reasonable, Not ‘Delusional’

The responses to my writing about the relationship between contraception and abortion never cease to disappoint me. Back in 2010, I participated in an exchange in Public Discourse about the book Red Families v. Blue Families and the role contraception was playing in the U.S. abortion decline. In my article, I questioned the role of contraception, in part because abortion rates were declining faster in red states than in contraceptive friendly blue states. In his response, Northwestern University Law Professor Andrew Koppelman failed to engage my arguments or present data indicating that contraceptives were effective. Instead, he stated the argument is “silly” and laments that it is “astoundingly stupid and tragic that this is what we are arguing about.”

Yesterday in NRO, I had a blog post where I considered various factors that might be reducing the incidence of abortion. These include legislation, shifts in public opinion, reductions in teen sexual activity, and increased contraception use. For a variety of reasons, I have doubts that increases in contraception use have had much to with the long term abortion decline. First, the increase in contraception use predates the abortion rate decline by many years. Secondly, despite increases in contraception use, the unintended pregnancy rate has remained relatively stable over time, and has even increased slightly since the mid 1990s.

Yesterday in Salon, Katie McDonough said that I was “delusional” because I have doubts about the role contraception has played in the abortion decline. McDonough did not raise questions about the accuracy of my data. She did not present additional data. She did not offer any additional arguments. Nope, she just called me a name. She spent the rest of the article attacking pro-life laws and other pro-life efforts to dissuade women from obtaining abortions.

I have a simple question for McDonough and others who think that contraception is responsible for America’s long-term abortion decline: If contraceptives are effective and contraceptive use has increased, why has the unintended-pregnancy rate gone up? Again, statistics from both Guttmacher and the National Center for Health Statistics and the both show the unintended-pregnancy rate has increased since the mid 1990s. Honestly, I am not expecting much of a response. It is unfortunate that instead of thoughtfully engaging the arguments that I put forward, McDonough and others simply choose to engage in childish name calling.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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