In a recent blog post that 'went viral' entitled, "How I lost faith in the 'Pro-Life' movement", author Libby Anne presents a compelling argument on how the goals of the pro-life movement are not in sync with the ways in which the movement aims at accomplishing these goals. Despite her arguments, Anne's blog misses the primary question seeking to be answered in the pro-life/pro-choice debate: when does a human life become a person deserving the protection of the law?
There are many arguments for and against abortion, but at its root, the pro-life movement is based upon the ideal that ALL human life has dignity and should be protected. Scientifically, we can prove that human life begins at conception (find sources here and here), so then the question we must ask ourselves is when does this life become valuable and therefore necessitate protection under the law? The answer to this question is the crux of the pro-life argument and while not all pro-lifers may be the best at articulating it, the primary reason we believe abortion should be outlawed is because we believe that every life has value and therefore should be granted the legal right to life.
Libby Anne’s main premise on the pro-life movement's misplaced goals is that the greatest way to reduce abortion is through widespread promotion of birth control. This fails for two reasons: First, while birth control may reduce abortion numbers in the short term, especially in developing nations, it has failed to reduce unintended pregnancies in developed nations that have had birth control for long periods of time. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, unintended pregnancies have been on the rise in the United States over the past few years (see unintended pregnancy rates in the US over time, here). And it is these unintended pregnancies that are the main cause for abortion. Also, according to the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of all abortions are performed on fetuses conceived while the woman is on birth control. When more than half of the pregnancies that lead to an abortion happen while birth control is being used, it does not make sense to put forth large amounts of effort in promoting its use.
The second and more important reason for the lack of promotion of birth control is that it goes against the very basis of the pro-life argument: human dignity. Pro-lifers as a whole do NOT advocate outlawing birth control, but many of them see the promotion of birth control as disrespectful to the dignity of women. This is because the normalization of contraception allows the consequences of sex (the possibility of pregnancy, emotional attachment, STDs, etc.) to be disregarded. This allows men to view women as objects for sex and not as the beautiful and dignified person who should be valued for much more than sex.
Indeed, from my conversations with other men, I can tell you that birth control has allowed men to disregard the fact that behind sex there is a person. And that person has feelings and a life that has value far beyond what is offered in short term sexual relationships. I understand that there are many reasons for which birth control is used, but there are natural consequences that come with having sex that must be realized. Women tend to have a much better understanding of this because they are much more closely effected, but many men and women in this age of birth control act as if there are no consequences to the sexual act.
Birth control allows the consequences of sex to be pushed aside. It takes away the need for sex to be considered as more than just an act of pleasure. With birth control it becomes easy for both parties to wrongly assume that they can enjoy sex without thinking about the emotional and physical meaning behind the act. Squandering the need for these considerations squanders the respect of the dignity of the man and the woman involved in the sexual act. Respect of human dignity is at the heart of the pro-life movement and as such, the movement cannot stand behind something that inhibits this respect of dignity. With regards to those who do use birth control, I understand there are many complexities and cases which I do not fully understand. I am trying to point out the other effects that sex without consequences has on the dignity of the people involved.
As it pertains to the pro-life movement, it makes no sense to promote something that allows the consequences of sex and, in certain cases, the dignity of women to be ignored. It is important that birth control is not pushed upon women for ulterior motives, however well intended, which may allow her to be used. The promotion of birth control does not solve the unintended pregnancy problem, but instead leads to a culture where the consequences of sex are not fully considered by both parties. This leads to a devaluation of the sexual act as well as the people involved which is not something that can be encouraged by a movement focused on the value and dignity of every life.
-Stephen Wandor is a senior aerospace engineer and VP of communications for Notre Dame Right to Life