World Contraception Day: No Celebrating, Please
Religion & Liberty Online

World Contraception Day: No Celebrating, Please

John Seager, president of Population Connection, has written an article at the Huffington Post regarding World Contraception Day. Entitled (and I don’t think he meant for this to be a non sequitur), “A World Without Contraception Is No Place For People,” Seager mournfully asks the reader to envision a world where there is no birth control because “right-wing anti-contraception crusaders” have gotten their way. Now, he says, sex is only for procreation. (I’m not sure where he got this assumption; even the Catholic Church, which tends to have the strictest teachings about such things notes that sex is both unitive and procreative, and that it’s meant for a husband and wife to enjoy. “Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church #2362) Seager dolefully notes:

America would change — and quickly. For one, the birthrate would rise, most likely well above the slightly less than two children the average American woman of today has in her lifetime. It’s likely that more women and children would die. Pregnancy and childbirth always carry risks, and more births mean more chances for things to go terribly wrong.

With all those extra children, women would lose the ability to plan their own futures. Fewer women would earn college degrees, and they’d have a tough time working outside the home. Family incomes would fall, and our entire economy would suffer. It would be hard on the environment, too: One study found that every American baby generates nearly seven times the carbon footprint of every Chinese baby.

In short: It would be a disaster.

Seager is so very, very wrong. Let’s start with the economics. America’s not going to fall apart because of too many children. In fact, we’re going to fall apart because of too few children. Jonathan V. Last has written that our Social Security and Medicaid systems are going to collapse because we won’t have enough young workers to pay for those who’ve retired. He uses the term “demographic disaster.”

Next, Seager seems to think that women are dithering idiots. We can’t possibly make it through college without getting pregnant, let alone graduate with a degree. If we somehow manage to do that, we’ll be unable to plan our future because we’ve got some snot-nosed toddler whining at our feet. How could a girl possibly think in that environment?

Oh, yes, the environment. Seager is clear that American will stomp out a huge carbon footprint. Except for the fact that China already has more than triple America’s carbon dioxide omissions now. And they have a one-child policy.

And on this World Contraception Day, it’s good to know that science is thinking more clearly than Mr. Seager, showing substantial evidence that natural birth control methods can be just as effective as “the Pill.”

A scant 1 to 3 percent of women in the U.S. use FABM [Fertility Awareness-Based Models] as their contraception of choice, according to a 2009 study from the University of Iowa. But more want it, even if they don’t quite know what to call it: surveys conducted by physicians at the University of Utah show that when natural fertility-awareness methods are described to women, 25 percent say they would strongly consider using one as their means of birth control. But thanks to its glaring image problem and a set of just-as-formidable infrastructural hindrances, ignorance of fertility awareness-based methods is widespread. If more women looking for a non-hormonal, non-barrier, non-surgical form of birth control knew about FABM, then more of them could be practicing it to its utmost effectiveness—rather than doing it in the dark.

These fertility awareness models actually can work, and work well. A recent 20-year German study asked 900 women to track their fertility every day by monitoring their body temperature and cervical mucus, and use that information to avoid pregnancy. The study’s researchers found this to be 98.2 percent effective—comparable with the pill…

What’s not to like? Mihira Karra, chief of the research, technology and utilization division in USAID’s office of population and reproductive health, says women want this. Who doesn’t? “[O]ur big barriers are sitting at the higher medical, policy, and programming levels,” Karra states.

And with people like Seager giving us that apocalyptic post on this World Contraception Day, one can practically see a stampede to the pharmacy. Ignoring the healthy alternatives with no physical side effects, Seager’s ominous world is one where World Contraception Day is declared, but no one is celebrating.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.