Quick Response #24: More Birth Control Will Eliminate the Need for Abortion

In this quick response video, Emily Albrecht explains why the idea, commonly cited by pro-choice people, that just providing more birth control will end the perceived need for abortion is false. Just as increased contraception in the last 50 years has not eliminated or radically reduced abortions, providing even more access won’t change the fact that banning abortion is the best way to eliminate most abortions.


One common and frustrating objection to restrictions on abortion is that we don’t need to restrict abortion, we just need more access to birth control. If people could just access contraceptives, they say, then abortion wouldn’t be necessary.

(intro sequence)

The reason why this objection is so frustrating is because it’s so plainly false! Since Griswold v. Connecticut was decided in 1965, creating a “constitutional right to privacy” and setting the stage for broadly available contraception in the years to come, birth control has gone from uncommon to freely available. Many colleges have containers of condoms in bathrooms and dorm hallways all over campus!

You might have noticed, but abortion hasn’t gone away just because birth control is everywhere. The annual abortion rate in the United States has dropped from a high of 1.6 million in 1990 to under 900,000 in 2017, but it’s not clear that contraception even had much of an effect on that, let alone that it ENDED abortion. Just to repeat: we’re 900,000 abortions a year away from making good on the claim that freely available birth control is enough to make abortion unnecessary.

What’s more, using birth control becomes a justification for freely available abortion access. After all, you use birth control because you don’t want to give birth. According to a Guttmacher study, women also get abortions for primarily the same reasons they use birth control: because they don’t want more children, because a child would interfere with work, or because a child would cause financial hardship. When contraception fails to prevent pregnancy—and there’s ALWAYS a chance that it fails—those reasons don’t go away. And so the next logical step is to use abortion as a final, lethal form of birth control. The goal is not to be pregnant and not to give birth, and abortion functions as the backup plan for securing that goal. Whether or not a woman chooses abortion, the logic that justifies it as an available choice is still there.

More birth control hasn’t eliminated abortion, and it won’t eliminate abortion. If someone makes this argument to you, first ask them why there are still abortions and when they think birth control would make them go away. Second, ask them what they think should happen when contraceptive methods fail, and be prepared to talk about the failure rates of different methods of birth control. During a lifetime of use of reversible contraceptive methods, the average woman will experience 1.8 contraceptive failures, otherwise known as 1.8 pregnancies PER WOMAN while she is actively using contraceptives. For more information on failure rates, you can check out the CDC website and contraceptivetechnology.org. Links in the description.




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