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.
First, Ann conveniently found another study about contraception, which explains that 86% of the reduction in teen pregnancy rates in the US in the 1990s was due to contraception rather than abstinence. The basic idea of the study is to look at teen pregnancy in 1995 and 2002, and then look at sexual activity and contraceptive use. The percentage of sexually active girls between ages 15 and 19 went down from 51.7 to 46.8, but contraception use shot up from 66.1% to 81.7%, and use of two contraception modes at once increased from 11.2% to 26.1%.
The 86% figure comes from taking the specific contraception methods used and their failure rates, and then measuring the decline in the risk of pregnancy and separating it into a component due to lower contraceptive failure risk (22.3% vs. 33.8%) and a component due to lower sexual activity.
The confidence interval of the 86% figure is 66%-118%. In other words, the margin of error includes a possibility that the reduction in teen pregnancy was entirely due to contraception, and even that sexual activity increased rather than decreased, despite the explosion in abstinence-only education.
So the culture of contraception, whatever that means, doesn’t increase pregnancy rates. The specific criticisms of my other points don’t hold much water. To wit:
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…
There are no reliable abortion statistics in the US predating 1972. The surveys done suggest the abortion rate in the 1950s and 60s wasn’t much lower than in the 1970s, but there are no reliable statistics of the general pregnancy rate, or the abortion rate. However, for what it’s worth, the total teen pregnancy rate in the US in 1972 was 95, whereas the birth rate alone was 96.3 in 1957. It’s unlikely that the abortion rate increased materially between 1957 and 1967, when the first state legalized abortion; in 1967 the teen birth rate was down to 67.5, so we’re looking at a 30% reduction in teen pregnancy that coincided with the advent of the pill and an increase in women’s rights.
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….
Looking just at unmarried teens makes sense only in a society without a long-term change in sexual mores. In a conservative society, where as a rule unmarried people don’t have wanted children, separating groups based on marriage status makes sense. But in a rapidly liberalizing one, it doesn’t, since liberalization increases the number of people who have wanted children out of wedlock, often living with their partners without marrying them.
At the National Review, Stanley Kurtz complains that 56% of births in Sweden are out of wedlock, and concludes that liberalism contributes to moral decay. But in Sweden that is not really a social problem, since parents often choose not to marry, as a relevant review in the Monthly Labor Review explains. A summary of statistics from the Council of Europe says in Sweden 74% of children live with their two biological parents compared with 66% in the more conservative UK; in the US 30% of children live in single-parent households, which are only a subset of the households covered in Sweden’s 26% and Britain’s 34%.