The Chicago Tribune had an article this weekend by Judith Graham that indicates that the religious right is now broadening their focus on abortion to include opposition to contraception itself.
Emboldened by the anti-abortion movement’s success in restricting access to abortion, an increasingly vocal group of Christian conservatives is arguing that it’s time to mount a concerted attack on contraception.
Their voices were raised in Rosemont on Friday and Saturday at an unusual anti-abortion meeting that drew 250 people from around the nation to condemn artificial birth control. Experts at the gathering assailed contraception on the grounds that it devalues children, harms relationships between men and women, promotes sexual promiscuity and leads to falling birth rates, among social ills.
Even prominent Protestant leaders like Albert Mohler are recognizing this growing trend:
“Contraception is more the root cause of abortion than anything else,” Joseph Scheidler, an anti-abortion veteran whose Pro-Life Action League sponsored the conference, said in an interview.
No one knows how many supporters Scheidler and his colleagues have, but conservative leaders are watching to see if the anti-contraception rhetoric gains traction.
Of special interest is how closely evangelical Christians are willing to align themselves with traditional Catholics on the issue. The Catholic Church long has opposed contraception, but evangelicals generally embraced its use–until recently, some argue.
“It is clear there is a major rethinking going on among evangelicals on this issue, especially among young people” disenchanted with the sexual revolution, said Rev. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “There is a real push back against the contraceptive culture now.”
Whether or not Mohler is right about young people, the sympathetic sentiments of a key leader in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination adds fuel to the debate.
Let’s also not lose sight of the broad religious right support for abstinence-only sex education, which is clearly tied in with anti-contraception views. Under Federal rules, in order to qualify for funding as an abstinence-only program a curriculum is forbidden to even mention contraception except to point out failure rates (usually vastly exaggerated at that).
The illogical thinking of some of these people is absolutely astounding:
“I think it’s great that more pro-life people are finally speaking up about it,” said Helen Mazur, 27, who flew in from Philadelphia with her husband for the conference, called “Contraception is Not the Answer.”
“It’s always been a touchy subject, but you have to stand strong on your beliefs. Contraception is the root cause of the explosion of the amount of abortions in the world,” Mazur said.
Wow. If you want to see an explosion in the number of abortions, all you have to do is ban contraception. Widespread availability of contraception absolutely reduces the number of abortions, as does comprehensive sex education. The Netherlands has the world’s most comprehensive sex education curriculum, offering contraception and pregnancy and STD testing not only freely but anonymously as well. The result: the rate of teen pregnancy in that country is 1/7th the rate of American teens, and so is the rate of abortions among teens.
And the illogic doesn’t stop there:
Another line of argument against contraception, that it harms relationships between men and women, is advanced by Janet Smith, professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
“When people use contraception, they’re not asking themselves, do I want a lifetime relationship with this person or would this person be a good parent,” Smith explains. “They’re simply hooking up, typically because of sex, and sliding into marriage.”
The result, Smith says, is disappointment and divorce.
For crying out loud, is this woman braindead? More people slide into marriage because they get pregnant than because they’re trying to prevent it. Using birth control helps avoid bad relationships brought on by “shotgun weddings”, relationships that are damaging for all involved. If you are not ready to have children, it is absolutely irreponsible not to use contraception. If these cretins have their way, the result will be the exact opposite of what they claim. It will be an explosion of unwanted pregnancies and abortions and a great deal more unhappy relationships.
I think if the religious right really decides to take up this fight, they’re going to lose public support in a serious way. While a lot of people have moral qualms about abortion, very few, even among Catholics, feel that way about birth control. The percentage of women who have used birth control at some point in their lives is over 90%, and I don’t think any sane person could view this as anything but healthy. Clearly, we are better off as a society with fewer unwanted pregnancies and with the ability to put off pregnancy until one is ready for the enormous challenge and commitment of being a parent. And as the Tribune article points out, over 90% of American support access to birth control.