Note the sources of the above quotes.
Contraception is not the answer. We deserve better.
Why We Want More than Birth Control
Boy howdy. This response ended up taking many more hours of research than I had expected. I had hoped to be able to google these quotes, show how they had been taken out of context, and be done with it. Turns out that running down the sources of most of these quotes is harder than you would expect it to be, what with online libraries and whathaveyou. Why? Two reasons: The first is that a simple Google search of the quotes will only get you a cornucopia of pro-ignorance articles (and commenters on pro-choice articles) all parroting the exact same list of 18 karat quote-nuggets. The second reason is that these quotes are old.
The most recent was made about 18 years ago. The oldest, 61 years ago. Let that sink in. Think about how the demographics of contraceptive users have changed, and how they’ll continue to change (in the US) with the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Think about the advances that have been made in contraceptive technology since the days of computers that look like this:
My girlfriend uses her smartphone to remind her to take her pill. How many women could do that in 1996? But, for the benefit of argument, let’s temporarily assume that the quotes in the original post can all be taken at face value and that at various times several doctors, who were respected sex-educators and advocates of contraceptives, stated that contraceptive use led to higher rates of abortion. In this case, my response is…
THEY WERE WRONG
The evidence that increased contraceptive use leads to lower rates of abortion is overwhelming:
“Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant. The parallel rise in abortion and contraception in some countries occurred because increased contraceptive use alone was unable to meet the growing need for fertility regulation in situations where fertility was falling rapidly”
- 2003 study
“The abortion rate declined 8.0% between 2000 and 2008, from 21.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15– 44 to 19.6 per 1,000. Decreases in abortion were experienced by most subgroups of women. One notable
exception was poor women; this group accounted for 42.4% of abortions in 2008, and their abortion rate increased 17.5% between 2000 and 2008 from 44.4 to 52.2 abortions per 1,000….
…The economic recession that was occurring in 2008 may have made it harder for poor women to access contraceptive services, resulting in more unintended pregnancies. Alternately, when confronted with an unintended pregnancy, poor women who might have felt equipped to support a child, or another child, when not in the midst of a recession may have decided that they were unable to do so during a time of economic turmoil.”
- 2008 Study
“A new study by investigators at Washington University reports that providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by a range of 62 to 78 percent compared to the national rate.”
- 2012 study
“Our simulations are performed using FamilyScape 2.0, a microsimulation model of family formation. We simulate both increases in contraceptive use among non-contraceptors and improvements in the consistency and effectiveness of contraceptive use among existing contraceptors. Our results show that changes in either margin of behavior are likely to produce sizeable effects. For example, we find that, if 25 percent of non-contracepting unmarried women under the age of 30 were to begin using contraception, abortion and nonmarital birth rates among unmarried women in this age group would fall by about 25 percent and about 13 percent, respectively.”
- 2013 Study
“There were fewer than 17 abortions for every 1,000 women in 2011, the latest year for which figures were available, according a paper published Monday from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights think tank. That is down 13 percent from 2008 and a little higher than the rate in 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The study did not examine the reasons for the drop. But the authors suggested that one factor was greater reliance on new kinds of birth control, including intra-uterine devices such as Mirena, which can last for years and are not susceptible to user error like daily pills or condoms. They also noted the economy as a contributing factor, because people tend to adhere more strictly to their birth control during tough economic times. But they did not credit the recent wave of state laws restricting access to abortion, because most of those took effect in 2011 or later.“
- 2014 study
And those are just a few of the sources I found by Googling “abortion rates contraception.” I guess all the pro-ignoramuses reblogging this post couldn’t be bothered.I should be able to stop this post right here. The claim that contraceptives lead to more abortions is demonstrably wrong, regardless of who made it. But, I set out to analyse these quotes one by one. So, returning to the world of reality, in which I am highly skeptical of the original post’s sources, we will delve into decades long-since passed and try to work out why, if at all, these things were said.
The Kinsey Quote
This is the oldest of the bunch; spoken in 1955 and published three years later, after Kinsey’s death. This is indeed an accurate quotation from a conference sponsored by Planned Parenthood. This Google Book entry is the closest thing to an online version of the original publication I was able to find, but it only lets you see a few sentences at a time. It does, however, confirm this longer version of the quote, taken from the pro-ignorance article which seems to have originated this list of quotes:
“At the risk of being repetitious, I would remind the group that we have found the highest frequency of induced abortion in the group which, in general, most frequently uses contraceptives. I don’t think it is entirely carelessness. As I pointed out before, you don’t do anything putting on your clothes, or going to bed, or drinking, or eating with absolute regularity. And I think it is just too much to hope that we can ever have any contraceptive practice, outside of temporary sterilization, which is going to prevent this occasional slip that accounts for a high proportion of undesired pregnancies and abortions, especially among those of the upper socioeconomic levels.”
Note that Kinsey specifically bemoans the “absolute regularity” needed for contraceptives. Remember that 2014 study that attributed the recent drop in abortion rates to improved contraceptive technologies that don’t require a daily pill? (Scroll up if you don’t.) I would love to have access to a full digital version of the conference’s write-up. While more recent data renders one man’s 60-year-old opinion moot, I am still curious to see what the wider context of Kinsey’s statements was. “But it seems so straightforward what he meant; More contraceptives = more abortions,” you object. Well, as you are about see, a lone piece of information can appear to mean something very different when deprived of its context.
The Guttmacher Institute Study
Note that the original post does not quote the Guttmacher Institute study (And hey, this one is only 18 years old!) but merely pulls a single statistic out of it. This one I was able to find in its entirety, and it turned out to be a textbook case of fact-mining. You see, the cited figure is 100% true. Out of a sample of almost ten-thousand women who had abortions, 58% were using contraceptives at the time. Case close. Contraceptives suck 5evar. Right? Wrong. You see, deprived of its context, the lone figure becomes a lie.
Lets pretend for a moment that I don’t have access to the full text of this study; I only have the lone fact from it the pro-ignoramus wanted me to see (58% of the women who had abortions were using contraceptives). I can still prove it’s bullshit just with armchair reasoning.
Consider that the sample set is made only of women who had abortions, rather than a random sampling of women using contraceptives. Now consider that if I asked you to find a group of women who were likely to be using contraceptives, you’d be damn smart to look for women who recently had abortions, since the obviously don’t want to be having a baby right now. While the quote-miners are likely trying to imply that the 58% overlap is proof of contraceptive failure rates or that contraceptive use leads to abortions, the only real reason for the correlation is the common third factor among the two groups; NOT WANTING TO BE PREGNANT.
If lots of people are using contraceptives, which have a small but present failure rate, it stands to reason that most of the people getting abortions; didn’t want kids, tried using contraceptive, but were the unlikely few that experience contraceptive failure.
Let’s say a birth control method X has a failure rate of 1%. A doctor sees 1,000 women who want abortions. 500 of them say they were using method X when they got pregnant. A pro-ignoramus (correctly) concludes ”50% of the women who had abortions were on contraceptive X.” What they fail to mention is the 49,500 other women (the 99%) that never got pregnant in the first place because of method X.
Not convinced by my armchair reasoning?
Let’s look at some excerpts from the exact same study the original post quoted:
“The patterns of contraceptive use among abortion patients may or may not mirror the use patterns of all women at risk of unintended pregnancy. Each contraceptive method entails a different probability of becoming pregnant, and women’s method choice often differs by their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Consequently, users of each method may differ in their likelihood of carrying an unexpected pregnancy to term or of having an abortion.”
“According to the 1988 NSFG, 90% of women at risk of unintended pregnancy are using a contraceptive method and 10% are not. The abortion indices for current users and nonusers are therefore 0.6 and 4.3, respectively, indicating that women using any method are only about 15% as likely to have an abortion as are women using no method. In other words, even though contraceptive use is often imperfect, it reduces the probability of having an abortion by about 85%.”
Gee, I wonder why they didn’t quote that last line.
The Judith Burty Quote
Honestly, I hit a brick wall with this one. The quote is supposedly from a 1981 edition of ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper, but strangely, The Scotsman’s archives don’t have any articles more recent than 1950, and their main website has nothing older than 2000. I couldn’t find much out about Judith Bury either. Googling her just brings up lots of pro-ignoramuses copy-pasting these same quotes. As with the Kinsey quote, more recent research renders the point moot, and (especially given my findings with the previous statement) I would be very interested to see the full context of the quote,
The Malcolm Potts Quote
So what year did Dr. Malcolm Potts predict that there would be a rise in abortion rates as people “turned to contraception”? 1973. Yes, this is really some cutting-edge material here. Again I cannot find the original source for this quote. The pro-life article that seems to be the originator of this list of “quotes” (see what I did there?) gives the following citation:
Malcolm Potts, M.D., Medical Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, in 1973.
Quoted in Andrew Scholberg, “The Abortionists and Planned Parenthood: Familiar Bedfellows.” International Review of Natural Family Planning, Winter 1980, page 298.
Yes, their source is literally, “Some 34-year-old anti-choice propaganda said that he said that.”
Well, since I can’t find the full context of “Dr. Pott’s” quote, lets see what the real Dr. Potts has to say on the matter. Here’s a quote from a paper he co-wrote in 1990:
“If more funds were available to expand counselling services and increase the use of newer, more effective methods such as subdermal implants, abortion rates could be lowered. Thus, all those who are disturbed by the tens of millions of abortions that take place each year must work together to help bring about a significant reduction in that number by advocating a considerable increase in investment in family planning services and in support for contraceptive research. Without such a change, it is possible that more legal and illegal abortions will be induced in the 1990s than in any previous decade. Whatever happens with funding, universal access to safe abortion could undoubtedly save the lives of a million or more women in the 1990s.”
You can check out more of his more recent research into family planning in developing countries here. Regardless of what Dr. Potts said or didn’t say in 1973, or in 1990, abortion rates are now at their lowest since 1973. The authors of the study that found that specifically credit the development of new kinds of birth control. You know, the ones that weren’t around during the decades these quotes seem to be from.
“Sex Education: A Teacher’s Guide” quote
Ok, last quote from the original post. Who wants to guess what decade it’s from? Let’s see, the quote is from a sex education book put out by the Canadian government in….1973! (Why does that year keep coming up?) Unfortunately there aren’t any online copies of this ancient tome floating around, the department that published the book hasn’t even existed for twenty years, and I’m not paying $50 to buy a used copy to debunk some anti-sex douche-canoes on the internet. So, I’ll have to supply some other Canadian (2012) statistics:
“In Canada, the teen birth and abortion rate is 27.0/1,000 women between the ages of 15-19 versus 61.2/1,000 in the United States.The abortion rate among all women of reproductive age (15-44) in Canada is 14.1/1,000 versus 20/1,000 in the United States. Put another way, the teen birth and abortion rate is more than 50% higher in the United States versus Canada and the abortion rate is about 25% higher in the Unites States. Canadian women also have something else. They have access to health care and sex education is widely taught in the schools. Laws, cost, and indignities don’t reduce abortion, knowledge and contraception do.”
Furthermore, the quote’s claim that “abortion is the most widely used birth-control method in the world” is patently absurd, and a well known abortion myth. Contraceptive use is increasing, while rates of both contraceptive failure and abortion are decreasing. Consider:
“In 2010, publicly funded contraceptive services helped women prevent 2.2 million unintended pregnancies; 1.1 million of these would have resulted in unplanned births and 760,000 in abortions. Without publicly funded contraceptive services, the rate of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births and abortions in the United States would all be 66% higher; the rates for teens would be 73% higher. The number of unintended pregnancies averted by public funding was 15% higher in 2010 than in 2006, even though the number of clients served fell 5% during that period. This is partially because more family planning clients currently use highly effective contraceptives, such as long-acting reversible methods, than previously. More importantly, women who are unable to obtain public services are more likely now than in 2006 to be using either no contraceptive method or a less effective one, probably because of the recession.”
- Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2010
In conclusion, (and as we already know) if the pro-ignorance movement had any interest in actually preventing abortions hey would advocate for better sex education (not ‘abstinence only’), better ease-of-access to contraceptives, less restrictive abortion laws, and welfare programs that make it easier for women to afford to keep their children. These things have been proven to reduce abortion rates. Restricting abortions and discouraging contraceptives increase the frequency of abortions. But of course, the pro-ignorance movement actually has very little interest in preventing abortions. “It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.”
by-grace-of-god, I’d like to think the studies I’ve linked here will change your mind about contraceptives, but they probably won’t.
THE PILL DID NOT EVEN EXIST IN 1955. HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL WAS NOT A REALITY WHEN KINSEY SAID THAT. JUST AS AN ADDED REFERENCE POINT.