By Valerie Tarico | 23 January 2012
One of the great ironies of American society is that most abortions in the U.S. are caused by conservative Christians. Read the statistics: Forty nine percent of pregnancies in this country are unintended, a rate that has been painfully stable for almost 30 years. Almost half of those pregnancies end in abortion. Or, to turn it around, over 90% of U.S. abortions are the result of accidental pregnancy. U.S. rates of unwanted pregnancy and abortion far exceed any other country with similar economic development. So does our rate of religiosity. The fact that we are outliers on both is not a coincidence.
Three aspects of conservative Christianity promote abortion: pro-natalism, an obsession with sexual sin, and an emphasis on righteousness over compassion.
The numbers are in. The most effective way to reduce abortion is to de-stigmatize sexual education, de-mythologize virginity, and invest in broad access to the most effective contraceptives available. In the secular Netherlands, that formula has knocked abortion down to 7 per 1000 women annually, one third the U.S. rate. So why does the Religious Right keep their focus on restrictive laws instead of contraceptive access? Why do they promote person-rights for zygotes, in contradiction to the very essence of personhood? Why do they oppose medically accurate sex ed? Why do they pledge to defund Title X family planning? Because they’d rather be right than solve problems.
And because abortion isn’t really what interests them. They want purity. They want righteousness. They want designated breeders. Even those who don’t overtly promote more births are unable to see that competitive breeding was baked into the desert religions from the beginning.
The world is on the cusp of a contraceptive revolution. Compared to the best birth control available to your parents (the Pill), latest generation long-acting reversible contraceptives, also known as LARCs, drops accidental pregnancy by 10 to 50 fold. Each year one in twelve women on the Pill gets pregnant. Over a lifetime, that’s two or three extra pregnancies per woman – unsought children or abortions. With a Mirena IUD or Nexplanon, that drops to one in 500, because a LARC toggles the fertility default to “off.” If that wasn’t enough, some LARC’s also get rid of that messy monthly uncleanness (Leviticus 15:19-24) brought on by Eve’s curse.
Someone who wanted to prevent abortions would advocate showcasing LARCs in every teen health class in the country. They would make sure that the most effective contraceptives available were available to all. They would be more focused on wise childbearing than on virginity. Those who say they are all about ending abortion, don’t—because they aren’t.
This is Trust Women Week, a week to honor the moral and spiritual wisdom that women invest in our reproductive decisions. Join the virtual march. Listen to Deborah or Deb or Angela or Joy tell her abortion story at the 1 in 3 campaign. If you are ready, tell yours. And spread the word!
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist. She is the author of ‘Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light‘. She is also the founder of WisdomCommons.org.
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