Anti-Contraception Nuttery

Amidst a study suggesting that RU-486 actually reduces the risk of breast cancer, No Room for Contraception, a site that claims contraception is bad because it increases the risk of breast cancer (which it doesn’t), is rearing its head again. This time it’s an article that says that increased availability of contraception increases rather than decreases the abortion rate.

[Link] It’s a common assumption that contraception reduces the need for abortion in the United States. Yet the history of contraception and abortion in the 60s and 70s shows this assumption to be incorrect.

In the 60s, the legal status of contraceptives and the ability of married couples to use them varied from state to state. Most states had restrictions on how contraceptives could be distributed and who could use them. The United States Supreme Court would play a pivotal role in the increased access to contraception during this period by declaring various state restrictions unconstitutional.

(…)

During the course of these legal developments, the percentage of women aged 15-19 who ever engaged in premarital sex continued to rise. The figures rose from 30.4% in 1971 to 43.4% in 1976, and rose again to 49.8 % in 1979. [B]-1

As the number of younger and younger teens became sexually active, and as both married and unmarried women had increasing access to contraception, the abortion rates rose.

In 1972, the abortion rate for all women aged 15-19 was 19.1 per 1000 women (including married women). This figure jumped to 34.3 in 1976, and to 42.4 in 1979. [F]-1

Abortion rates did not decrease with increased access to contraception – they increased instead. So did the pregnancy rates – the only thing that decreased was the birth rate (due to increased abortion).

Whoever wrote this article needs to be summarily branded with an I, for idiot. A person with at least some understanding of causation would say that contraception became unrestricted in the US about the same time as abortion, so the rates of usage of both increased in the 1970s. A political hack with an anti-privacy agenda would say that this implies contraception causes women to abort more.

The part about pregnancy rates in the 1970s makes no sense. The article’s saying that contraception encouraged teenage sex, which encouraged teen pregnancy. Again, there’s a split: a reality-based individual would conclude based on the fact that the US teen pregnancy rate plummeted in the 1960s that contraception helps, while a hack would handwave a magical explanation why contraception actually increases the pregnancy rate.

It’s no coincidence that the country that has the broadest sex education and has the strongest contraceptive mentality, the Netherlands, is also the one with the lowest teen pregnancy rate. It also has a very low teen abortion rate, even though abortion is available on demand. Russia, which under Soviet rule had unrestricted abortion but very little contraception, had an enormously high abortion rate, which went down by more than 50% after contraceptives became readily available.

On the other hand, I feel that the mode of argument used by NRFC will get them very far. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster uses arguments similar to “The USA’s contraception and abortion rate both went up in the 1970s” to prove that global warming is the result of the reduction in the number of pirates in the last 200 years. So it could be that the folks at NRFC are especially favored by the FSM and will go to heaven after they die, where they’ll enjoy a beer volcano and a stripper factory.

(Hat-tip to Ann for the RU-486 study)

11 Responses to Anti-Contraception Nuttery

  1. Given that a much larger metastudy says that combined oral contraceptives do increase the breast cancer risk for up to ten years after use, a study as small as the one you cite isn’t going to convince me of the opposite. However, few women take COCs after 35 (since the risk of blood clots go up dramatically), so when the breast cancer rates rise, COCs is not going to be an issue.

    Can you tell I help out in the LiveJournal Birthcontrol community?

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Not based on your comment, no.

    I was looking for the precise risk factors when I stumbled upon that smaller study saying that the pill doesn’t cause breast cancer. The precise thing I was looking for was something I wrote in a previous post, that alcohol is an even greater risk (1.15 if you have two drinks a day, apparently) and yet nobody wants to prohibit women from drinking alcohol.

  3. Katie Kish says:

    “Not based on your comment, no.” You’re so mean.

    My doctor suggested that I take birth control, but to stop when I hit 40, if I’m still on it at that point. In general one in 231 women from birthy to age 39, thats

  4. Katie Kish says:

    Oh for crying out loud… Sorry for that… i used an html coder thingy

    “Not based on your comment, no.” You’re so mean.

    My doctor suggested that I take birth control, but to stop when I hit 40, if I’m still on it at that point. In general one in 231 women from birthy to age 39, thats “less than” 0.5%, will get breast cancer. from 40 – 59 the chances increase to like 4%. The overall risk works out to something like 14% over a life time. ( I wrote a paper on this ages ago) this was a Canadian quoted research paper, btw, I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes.

    The study that Therese is talking about is *the only* study that found a small connection between breast cancer and the pill. (We call that an erratic statistic in geography!) Dont you have to be on the pill for a consecutive 10 years for it to actually increase your risks? And you’re not supposed to stay on it for about 8 because of blood clot risks.

    The pill has been proven to decrese the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, it obvious relieves menstral pains (any woman on it can speak for that one…), pelvic inflammatory disease and cysts.

    If you’re still using older pills then your risk for breast cancer is higher, but the new ones like *shudder* elesse and try! have a decreased amount of hormones and crazy things. This takes out a lot of the down falls of the pill, like weight gain and getting moody and even breast cancer.

  5. Ruben says:

    >> increases the risk of breast cancer (which it doesn’t), is rearing its head again.

    One shouldn’t cite a single source from 2002 as proof that it doesn’t. The article we posted concerning breast cancer referenced 3 recent studies which were published/presented in the last year, all in peer reviewed and recognized publications. In addition it noted numerous studies over the past 20 years. Also the totality of the studies does show it does increase the risk.

    Finally, the study you cite found no risk for women *OVER 35* – it does not summarily dismiss the risk for those under 35!! (The women who were interviewed were from 35-64 years of age) Try actually *reading* the proof you reference, and not a secondary source!! While you are at it, try actually reading the NRFC articles you critique.

    >>Whoever wrote this article needs to be summarily branded with an I, for idiot. A person with at least some understanding of causation would say that contraception became unrestricted in the US about the same time as abortion, so the rates of usage of both increased in the 1970s.

    Contraception use and failure rates have a definite impact on the number of abortions.

    Consider this quote: “Contraceptive effectiveness exerts an increasingly important effect on abortion rates as prevalence increases—in other words, as contraceptive prevalence rises, contraceptive failure or misuse becomes a more important factor in determining abortion rates.” That wasn’t from some idiot, but from a published Guttmacher report.

    Also note that the article tries to address one group of women: unmarried teens, aged 15-19. Each age group has different dynamics, and what affects one group may work the opposite in other groups. When possible, stats for unmarried teens aged 15-19 were used.

    >>The part about pregnancy rates in the 1970s makes no sense. The article’s saying that contraception encouraged teenage sex, which encouraged teen pregnancy. …a reality-based individual would conclude based on the fact that the US teen pregnancy rate plummeted in the 1960s that contraception helps,

    First of all your “plummeted” link was to a chart on birth rates, and not pregnancy rates. Second of all, that chart data contains both married and unmarried teens. When possible, each group should be addressed separately. Consider that the number of married teens declined significantly in 1960-1965 and continued a slower decline from 65-70…

    The reality is, that when this is broken down by marital status, the rate for *married* teens dropped in the 60s, but not for unmarried teens — it rose. The article, when possible, tries to use figures for unmarried teens aged 15-19. This is a common practice among researchers….

    >>while a hack would handwave a magical explanation why contraception actually increases the pregnancy rate.

    I guess a hack would just react to the article without doing some thou rough research and without providing citable sources and figures for rebuttals. And I guess a hack would just cite a single 2002 *article* about a study as proof that the pill doesn’t cause breast cancer…

    >>It’s no coincidence that the country that has the broadest sex education and has the strongest contraceptive mentality, the Netherlands, is also the one with the lowest teen pregnancy rate.

    Notice that the article is about the US? Stick to the subject. In any event, there are numerous reasons for different scenarios in different countries. What happens in other countries is beyond the scope of this article.

    Also consider that many contraceptives are believed to act as abortifacients by preventing implantation. ( Oh yea I forgot, this isn’t considered a pregnancy by hacks who define pregnancy as beginning at implantation. 😉 ) Though the number of pregnancies which might have been aborted this way is unknown, changing the time of abortion is not a real reduction is it?

    >>Russia, which under Soviet rule had unrestricted abortion but very little contraception, had an enormously high abortion rate, which went down by more than 50% after contraceptives became readily available.

    As stated above, this article is about the US, and the article is very clear about that. It is the contraceptive mentality that sex is for pleasure and that offspring are optional which drives the demand for abortion in the US. There are numerous other factors which drive abortion in other countries, including the

  6. […] Ruben responds to my post about contraception and abortion. A lot of what he says is about the contraception-breast cancer link, where what he says is too weak to matter (my point that the pill increases the risk of breast cancer less than even moderate alcohol consumption remains unrefuted). The rest is another attempt to brush off statistics linking contraception to lower birth rates and abortion rates. […]

  7. […] moral codes overruling practical considerations. In contrast, it says, pro-choicers have a contraceptive mentality. In that framework, abortion, contraception, and sex education are all symptoms of the same […]

  8. Esmeralda the Lobster says:

    Not to disagree with your points, which are valid, but the above statistic only applies to Europe, not worldwide.

    Actually Japan has the lowest teen-pregnancy rate worldwide:

    “Among 46 developed countries, adolescent birthrates range from being low in 10 countries (Japan having the lowest at 3.9 births per 1,000) to high in five countries, including the United States (54.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19) “

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