Must one support contraceptives in order to be pro-life?

Recently, I’ve come across a new argument that the pro-choice camp is throwing out there that…well…like many of their other arguments, just doesn’t cut it. The argument goes like this:

If you support the eradication of abortions, you’ll support the use of contraceptives

If you don’t support the use of contraceptives, then you don’t really care about ending abortions.

The support for such an idea is that because contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies, contraceptives cut down on abortion. The effect of contraceptives is that the rate of abortions are lowered because the rate of unwanted pregnancies are likewise lowered. If women aren’t getting pregnant then they can’t get abortions.

The problem for those who are against abortion and contraceptives, however, is that they can’t support one to end the other. For such people (mostly Catholics), to support birth control is to support something unnatural in the act of intercourse, something that prevents life from coming about. Thus, even if supporting contraceptives would lower the rate of abortion they cannot support contraceptives, for as the saying goes, “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Does the above mean that Catholics aren’t ultimately pro-life though? By banning the use of contraceptives among their members, are they implicitly supporting the act of abortion? As someone who is pro-contraceptive (so long as the contraceptive is non-abortive), I would argue in favor of Catholics and say that they’re still pro-life because the argument presents a false dichotomy.

The choice isn’t, “Support contraceptives/raise abortion rates.” For one, Catholics support abstinence programs, which may actually work contrary to popular myth, so it’s not as though Catholics are doing nothing to lower abortion rates. But more importantly, there are other alternatives to ending abortion rather than lowering the conception rate via contraception. Catholics can (and do) support abstinence, which is the most effective way at avoiding pregnancy. They also support a woman bringing the child to term and if she is unwilling or unable to care for the child after that they support adopting the child out to someone who can. Likewise, there are Catholic charities that help women with the medical expenses during birth and even after birth.

Thus, Catholics are not against helping women or even helping to prevent abortion through social means (that is, by increasing the style of living of the poor). The problem for Catholics is they have one immoral action (the taking of an innocent human individual) and another immoral action (actively preventing conception). For them, you cannot commit one immoral action to prevent another, at least not on a regular basis.

Likewise, the situation isn’t so “either/or” as it seems. If we look at the case of lying to Nazis in order to protect Jews, this is an “either/or” case. In this case, lying becomes moral because it protects a human life. Were you to tell the truth, it would mean the immanent death of the Jews you’re hiding. In the case of contraceptives and abortion, however, if a woman doesn’t use contraceptives and ends up pregnant, it does not necessarily follow that an abortion will occur. She could carry the child to term and if abortion were outlawed, this would be her only legal option at this point.

It’s illogical to think that if one doesn’t support contraceptives that one supports a higher abortion rate. Rather, one can still hope for a lowered abortion rate by helping women carry their children to term.

Finally, the argument is extremely superfluous and really doesn’t add much to the discussion on whether or not abortion is moral. If abortion is the taking of an innocent human life and humans have innate dignity and a right to life, then that settles the issue. It could very well be that all pro-life advocates come out tomorrow and admit that they just want to prevent women from having sex and don’t care about abortion, such an action still wouldn’t negate the scientific and philosophical arguments the pro-life side has used.

It could be that Catholics are misguided in their prohibition of contraceptives in ending abortion, but this misguided knowledge doesn’t somehow justify abortion. It would only show Catholics to be ignorant, but it would say nothing about the morality of abortion.

With the above in mind, it should be seen that the newest pro-choice argument (or newest version of an old argument) is a laughable attempt to discredit the opposition without actually dealing with the substance of what the opposition has to say. It skirts the issue of the morality of abortion and simply creates a false construct so it can engage in ad hominem tu quoque. Such an argument should be dealt with quickly or responded with, “Even if what you say is true, how does that make abortion moral?” At the end of the day, advocates of such an argument generally lack the knowledge to argue on the morality of abortion, at least beyond, “It’s a woman’s right!” They offer little to not scientific of philosophical backing in their argument and instead argue from emotion. Unfortunately, we must deal with such people in the hopes of swaying others.