Babies and border fences

Richard Stith makes an interesting argument against the idea of promoting contraception to reduce the abortion rate:

The second crucial element of any truly pro-life position is that it be pro-child, not merely anti-abortion. Opposing (even hating) abortion by promoting more contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies misses the fundamental point. The deep problem is callousness toward the unborn child. To propose contraception as a means to cut down on the numbers of abortions is like proposing a border fence to reduce the number of discriminatory acts against immigrants to the US. Even if contraception and fences do cut down on the number of wrongful acts, they may at the same time heighten the hostility that leads to such acts.

Stith’s point that all pro-life efforts must be undertaken with an attitude of respect, not opposition, to the unborn child is well-taken. Some groups, especially those trying to reduce teen pregnancy, promote the attitude that having a baby is horrible and will ruin your life, so you’d better use birth control! Among its many other failures, this approach isn’t exactly likely to lead to increased respect for the life of the child.

However, I think there are a couple of problems with the border fence analogy. I use analogies all the time myself, so I’m aware that they’re never perfect, but I think the flaws here are relevant and instructive. Building a border fence to keep immigrants out is an action against existing human beings, one which deprives them of the ability to travel freely, to visit family members, and to seek employment. Contraception doesn’t deprive an existing human being of anything.

Hostile acts against immigrants generally have at their root bigotry and xenophobia (albeit often spurred by economic and social insecurity). Wanting to postpone or avoid childbearing, on the other hand, doesn’t usually stem from animus toward children. Even under the best of circumstances, childbearing is a profoundly life-altering experience. It’s legitimate to prefer not to take it on, and to take whatever non-violent steps one chooses — whether total abstinence, periodic abstinence, outercourse, or contraception — to try to actualize that preference. None of those non-violent measures is necessarily anti-child in itself; what matters is the attitude motivating them.

There’s a real risk that people will feel entitled not to have a baby because they used contraception, and will abort if a pregnancy occurs anyway. I think this is what opponents usually call “the contraceptive mentality”. I don’t see that as an argument against contraception, but as an argument for realism and responsibility in our sexual behavior. Ideally, couples who use contraception would do so knowing that they might conceive despite their plans, and prepared to support their child if that happens.

That may sound utopian, but it’s actually pretty common. About 50% of unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion — which means about 50% don’t. That’s not nearly enough, but it should encourage us to find out more about what influences women to choose life for their unplanned children.

Contraception is a tool. Just as it takes more than a hammer to build a house, contraception access by itself won’t ensure safe, healthy sexual behavior. But it’s a tool that most pro-lifers, and most Americans, think should be available to everyone who wants it, and we’ll fight to keep it available.

Pro-life, pro-contraception

Please leave links to your blogswarm posts in the comments! I’ll update the main post with links throughout the day. Also, if you don’t have a blog, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

* Marysia of the Nonviolent Choice Blog with We Are Pro-Life and Pro-Contraception. I especially like the last link she provides, which leads to a debate she had with a contraception opponent. The debate covers statistics on contraception and abortion rates, as well as a brief discussion of whether birth control pills really are abortifacient.

* LAMom weighs in with two posts (awesome!): Effectiveness vs. Rights, in which she argues that “Does it decrease the abortion rate?” isn’t all that matters; and A Couple of Old Contraception Posts, where she rounds up some of her previous thoughts on the subject. (By the way, Joan, I totally don’t think that’s cheating; it’s nice to have all this in one place.)

* Anthea has a quiz! (Hint: the answer is never “because we hate teh sex and teh wimmins”)

* In On Contraception, Jonathan argues that public political opposition to contraception harms the pro-life movement, and that it should be left up to private consciences. As an added bonus, he includes a beautiful picture of his new baby!

* At last, my own contribution, Babies and border fences. You can also check out the “contraception” tag to see what I’ve said here before.

If you signed up (and even if you didn’t!) and didn’t manage to get your post written today, please feel free to post it late. I’ll either link it here or do a follow-up, depending.

Many thanks to all participants! Y’all rock.

Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus formed

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA 5th) has launched the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus. Its goals include educating members of Congress on Down Syndrome issues, promoting better treatment and education for people with Down Syndrome, and advocating for the rights of people with Down Syndrome and for support for their families. Representative Morris has a son with Down Syndrome, who is my daughter’s age. (via Mommy Life)

Pro-life Obama supporters: please join!

I recently posted the following to the Pro-Life for Obama group, and there’s been some good discussion. If you’re a pro-lifer who’s planning to vote for Obama, please join the group and help us figure out the best ways to promote the cause of progressing beyond abortion.


I would like to know what other people think about what our role should be as pro-life supporters of Barack Obama. I’m voting for him and planning to help him get elected, but at the same time I think it would be wrong not to challenge his stance on abortion. I’ve written him a letter based on my blog post here, asking him to consider whether support for abortion and some of his other policies are really consistent with the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But a letter’s not going to change anything.

I think that we should act as a community to encourage Obama to continue talking with pro-lifers and to adopt policies that would reduce abortion, while at the same time challenging him to show the same respect and compassion for unborn humans that he promotes for everyone else.

Possible goals include:

* Trying to get platform language adopted that stresses the importance of preventing abortion not only through preventing unintended pregnancy, but by removing the barriers to women choosing life;

* Making the above official policy of the Obama administration, with appropriate action taken by the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach (which I’m guessing Obama would probably restore) and other relevant agencies;

* Promoting adult and induced pluripotent stem-cell research instead of embryo-destructive research;

* Having a pro-life, preferably consistent-life-ethic, speaker at the Democratic National Convention;

* Keeping the ban on funding of elective abortions with public money, though allowing funding to groups such as UNFPA (which has not been found to support forced abortion in China, contrary to what some people say) and anti-AIDS programs.

Any other ideas?

Does anyone here have any contacts with Bob Casey Jr., Tim Roemer, or James Oberstar? Those are pro-life names I recognize from Obama’s “Catholic Advisory Council” (full list here). Or, for that matter, are there any other pro-lifers working with the Obama campaign that he might listen to?

Have others here contacted the Obama campaign with your pro-life concerns?

Abortion literacy

Dave Andrusko of NRLC has been asking for examples of abortion illiteracy — things many people don’t know, but should if we’re to have a meaningful public debate. As he puts it:

But how can people participate in the abortion debate without a more-than-passing acquaintance with the basics? Indeed, if people know next to nothing about abortion–what it is, its impact on the wider culture, what led us to where we are today, to name just three– how can they meaningfully participate in the public square?

My question to you is this: what precisely are those basics? Put another way, if you were able, what fundamentals would you weave into the intellectual warp and woof of our culture in order to raise the public’s literacy on abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia?

I figured that his readers would cover the more usual topics such as the facts about fetal development, so here’s what I sent in:

* I’ve run into people who believe that Roe v. Wade ruled that the right to privacy is so broad as to include the killing of a person in the case of abortion. That is not what the Supreme Court ruled. They specifically stated that if the unborn child were considered a legal person, that the right to privacy would not apply. They then decided that the unborn child is not considered a legal person with human rights.

* Most prominent “right-to-life” politicians aren’t actually running on a “right to life” platform. They’re instead running on a “pass laws against abortion” platform. On the national level, they propose to overturn Roe vs. Wade by appointing “originalist” or “strict constructionist” justices who will rule that since the right to abortion (and/or the right to privacy) is not specifically spelled out in the Constitution, that it’s up to states to decide. This would then allow states to pass laws against abortion even without declaring the unborn child a legal person with human rights. Of course, it would also allow states to keep unrestricted abortion.

No major presidential candidate in either party ran on a platform of getting the unborn child declared a legal person with human rights. [I later amended this to note that Mike Huckabee did.]

* The abortion issue is not a battle of the sexes. There is no statistically significant difference between the views of men and women on abortion.

* Most people oppose the legality of most abortions. The cases in which a majority of people believe abortion should be legal account for fewer than 10% of abortions. When they claim to have a “pro-choice majority”, abortion advocates are counting people who believe that abortion should be legal in some circumstance as “pro-choice”. When people with the same beliefs run for office, they are “anti-choice extremists”.

* About 80% of self-identified pro-lifers are pro-contraception.

* Countries in Western Europe where children receive comprehensive sex education, and where responsible use of contraception is encouraged and expected, have achieved much lower rates of abortion and teenage pregnancy than the United States.

* Pro-life is not strictly a conservative, Republican, Christian, or religious position.

He hasn’t written the follow-up column yet, so he might still be taking submissions. You can reach him at daveandrusko@hotmail.com if you have any suggestions.

Mother’s Day

From the mindful mission, I learn that 178 House Republicans voted against a resolution “Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother’s Day” — but not before first voting for it. It’s a purely symbolic resolution, so no big deal, but I can’t help wondering why they switched their votes. Maybe word got out about some of the original “goals and ideals of Mother’s Day” in the U.S.:

The cause of world peace was the impetus for Julia Ward Howe’s establishment, over a century ago, of a special day for mothers. Following unsuccessful efforts to pull together an international pacifist conference after the Franco-Prussian War, Howe began to think of a global appeal to women.

“While the war was still in progress,” she wrote, she keenly felt the “cruel and unnecessary character of the contest.” She believed, as any woman might, that it could have been settled without bloodshed. And, she wondered, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?”

Pro-life, pro-contraception blogswarm May 31

Are you as tired as I am of the linking of opposition to abortion with opposition to birth control?

If so, please write a pro-life, pro-contraception blog post on May 31 and leave a link in the comments here. I will do my own post, plus a roundup of all your posts. Note: though I’d love to see some thoughtful discussion of the Pill, the post doesn’t have to be specifically about that.

Eighty percent of pro-lifers are for contraception. Eighty percent. It’s time for our voices and our arguments to be heard for a change. Please spread the word!

EDITED TO ADD: Blogswarm, not blogstorm. Which I actually knew, but I’m not getting a lot of sleep lately.