Contraceptives Work

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%.

5 Responses to Contraceptives Work

  1. ruben says:

    >> 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).

    Nice brush off. To weak to matter, except for those who die from it? The risk is real, and women do die from it, and it’s not later in life in the 40s or 50s.. And as far as what carries a higher risk, I have never made an issue of that. Many things can lead to cancer, some carry more risk than others. We have no disagreement there.

    >>The rest is another attempt to brush off statistics linking contraception to lower birth rates and abortion rates.

    Really? How was it a brush off? The article deals with the US and the history from 1960-1970. It wasn’t about Russia, the Netherlands, etc, and it wasn’t about the 1990s or 2000s.

    >>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.

    This is interesting since PP puts it the reduction at 75% contraception 25% abstinence for 98-95, my own research using PPs formulas puts it at 61% abstinence for a study from 90-95, and I have yet to read the latest study which cites the 86% contraception figures. And if I recall correctly, the first two contraception figures (PP, mine) are for *sexually active* teens, and not all teens who ever had sex – in other words, a subgroup, but I could be wrong here. Anyway this is a follow up article I’m writing and takes too much space to address here, and it doesn’t apply to the claims of the article.

    Plus you are missing the whole point, in that from the *60s to 70s*, the contraceptive mentality caused abortion rates to rise. You can’t deny the correlation, and even AGI, the (former?) research branch originating from Planned Parenthood, knows there is a relationship with contraception failure and abortion rates. You brush that off quite well.

    >>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%.

    As I said, I haven’t read this yet. To properly analyze the issue, IMO, it must be broken down into different stages. 1995-2000 is a stage I have yet to get to (I do have info and an article in the works on 90-95). And it’s not just abstinence by and of itself which reduced the abortion levels IMO – I think there were significant cultural issues which also played a role. (My article will detail that as well).

    >>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.

    Once again, this is out of scope. The article deals with the 60s and 70s,and you are applying recent studies to somehow change history for that time period. But the stats remain the same.

    >>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:
    You ignore history. The only way you can even make an argument is to step outside of the scope of the article. You have yet to disprove the article’s claim that contraception played a role in increasing abortion in the 70s.

    >>There are no reliable abortion statistics in the US predating 1972.
    I believe there are reliable stats from 67 – 72 for states which made abortion legal. They may not have reliable across the nation (illegal abortions), but for states with legal abortions there are stats available (some very detailed, ie, out of state residents, etc.) And what does this have to do with pointing to a

    >>>> 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.

    Notice that those rates increase and not decrease: 1972: 95, 1973: 96: 1974:99, 1975, 101, 1976.. etc. Increasing access to contraception did not change these figures! Regardless, the chart still mixes married and unmarried teens. Also, the problem with that data is it does not account for chemical abortions (blocking implantation via oral contraceptives), or the different rates by marital status.
    >>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.

    Once again, you mix married and unmarried. Unmarried teens had a rise in pregnancy rates and births. This is what the article addresses.

    >>Looking just at unmarried teens makes sense only in a society without a long-term change in sexual mores.

    Wrong. Looking at unmarried teens in the US makes sense, because it highlights the problem that the contraceptive mentality amplifies: pre-marital sex among teens, and a rising abortion rate among them. In the 60s and 70s marriage was being delayed, not really being replaced (as far as I understand it).

    Also the total number of children desired was rapidly changing, which was aided by contraception, and which contributed to rising abortion rates. Unless you have new data for this timefram, you’ll have a devil of a time trying to credibly and accurately refute the claims of the article, something you have yet to do.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    True things are true in general. “Increased availability of contraception fosters a contraceptive mentality, which increases teen pregnancy rates” is a testable hypothesis. The problem with it is that it fails the most basic tests, like international comparisons and temporal correlations in other periods of time. This is how science works: people falsify hypotheses.

    A better explanation for the increase in teen pregnancy in the 1970s is that the baby boom caused the number of unwanted children in the US to skyrocket in the 1950s, which then had a delayed effect in the 1970s. This effect failed to repeat itself in the 1990s because of Roe vs. Wade; that abortion has a delayed effect on social issues was already established for crime by Steven Levitt, so a similar effect on teen pregnancy is conceivable. This hypothesis more or less passes international tests, because although European countries, which have vastly lower rates of teen pregnancy than the US, have more restrictive abortion laws than the US, they also make abortion freely available to low-income women.

    About the higher risk, you’ve cited breast cancer statistics as an argument for restricting the availability of birth control. Do you also support banning the sale of alcohol to women, requiring women to exercise regularly, and imposing balanced diets on women to reduce their obesity risk?

  3. MikeeUSA says:

    Women’s Right’s is bad for men.

    What have us men gotten from women’s rights? Marital rape laws (an Irish man was just jailed for 6 years for raping his wife), domestic violence laws, easy divorce laws, child support laws, etc etc etc.

    http://mikeeusa.blogspot.com/
    https://cat2.dynserv.org/bb/viewforum.php?f=43

    Death To women’s Rights.

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