Do Sex Education and Access to Contraception Cut Down on Abortion?KENNETH D. WHITEHEAD
All human generations previous to our own, and all known human societies besides our own, have understood that sex had to be controlled; and they have therefore maintained in place moral and legal checks and sanctions aimed at insuring the necessary control of the powerful and unruly human sexual drive for the good of both society and the individuals in it. Our plan to liberate sex by means of contraception and sex education has now manifestly failed.
0n January 22, 1998, the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States, the Vice President of the is United States was not to be found among those regretting and rejecting this tragic decision — for example, by rallying at the annual March for Life on the Mall in Washington, D.C. This is what tens of thousands of other Americans do every year on that date in order to demonstrate their continuing opposition to a Supreme Court decision which has been responsible for more than 37 million deaths by abortion since 1973.
No: Vice President Albert Gore was instead speaking at a luncheon sponsored by people who were celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade . How anyone could actually celebrate such a thing is one of the still largely unexplained social and moral pathologies of our time. The luncheon in question was sponsored by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) which, before the Roe v. Wade decision, was known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws; once the Supreme Court had repealed all the abortion laws in the U.S. by handing down this particular decision, of course, the name of the organization for which the letters NARAL stood obviously needed to be changed.
In his luncheon address to NARAL, Vice President Gore pledged the continuing efforts of the Clinton Administration to keep abortion “safe, legal, and accessible” — a significant word change, by the way, from President Bill Clinton’s usual mantra to the effect that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Evidently the Vice President intended to pledge that abortion would remain accessible as far as the Clinton Administration continued to have anything to do with it, regardless of whether abortion was “rare” or not.
What the Vice President really emphasized, however, was that abortion should be made, in his words, “less necessary.” This could be done, he claimed, by government action to provide increased access to contraception; greater contraceptive usage would reduce the “need” for abortion, according to him. “President Clinton and I will propose a dramatic increase in family planning [funding] ... to make abortion less necessary all across America,” the Vice President promised. “To those who are anti-choice,” he added, “I say: if you want to work together to make abortion less necessary, you will find eager, willing partners among the Administration and the people in this room”1This, then, was the challenge posed to those who oppose abortion: by joining with the Clinton Administration to support an increase in government-subsidized birth control, we can supposedly help make abortions “less necessary.” Both the Vice President and his NARAL audience were no doubt oblivious to the fact that they were begging the real question of whether abortions are, or ever could be, “necessary.” And whether increased access to contraception would actually reduce the numbers of abortions was an assertion that badly needed to be demonstrated. It is, in fact, the principle [sic] question we shall be examining here.
The NARAL response to the Vice President identified the other most commonly recommended panacea besides more birth control for today’s high rate of abortions: namely, providing more sex education. NARAL frankly called for more sex education, more birth control, and [for] a requirement that health-insurance policies cover birth control.”2 We also need to examine the question of whether more sex education might cut down on abortions.
Certainly, the NARAL organization does not seem to be alone in imagining that sex education and birth control somehow represent answers to the modern plague of legalized abortion. This seems to be a very widely held viewpoint today, in fact; perhaps it is currently even the majority viewpoint.. Certainly it is almost immediately and uncritically accepted by most people as a rather obvious statement of fact almost as soon as it is articulated; it seems to be indicated by both common experience and common sense.
In February, 1997, when Congress was debating the question of U.S. Government Population Assistance Programs abroad, for example, a sizeable number of legislators from both parties stood up on the floor of the House of Representatives to argue and advance precisely this viewpoint as perhaps the chief justification for this type of foreign aid. Democratic Representative James P. Moran of Virginia told his colleagues that providing more family planning information and assistance abroad would “substantially reduce the number of abortions performed and ... reduce the exploitation of powerless people”; and Republican Representative Connie Morella of Maryland chimed in to say that “to reduce abortions we must increase access to family planning.”3
Member after member in the course of this House debate repeated roughly the same thesis: That greater access to contraceptive services would reduce the number of abortions. While members identified as “pro-choice” generally took the lead in articulating the thesis, many members identified as “pro-life” also advanced roughly the same arguments. None of the pro-life members really challenged the thesis, though; the suggestion was that they accepted it without argument. Most of them merely emphasized in their remarks that abortion should not be employed as a method of birth control; the implication was that while abortion itself was surely bad, the same could not necessarily be said of birth control itself.
More than one House member quoted Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who had testified before a House subcommittee that delay in allocating Population Assistance Program family-planning funds would “cause a tragic rise in unintended pregnancies, abortions, and maternal and child deaths.”
A letter was read from supposedly pro-life former Republican Senator from Oregon Mark Hatfield in which the influential former legislator stated flatly that “it is a proven fact that when contraceptive services are not available to women throughout the world, abortion rates increase.” Hatfield specifically declined to furnish any proof in his letter that this was in fact the case. “It is-pretty obvious,” he limited himself to saying.4
No member from either side of the aisle except Republican Congressman Ron Paul from Texas rose in the course of this particular debate to challenge or dispute what amounted to a monotonous litany of almost identical assertions that greater access to contraception reduces the number of abortions and maternal deaths; the members’ interventions filled more than 20 dense, three-columned small-print pages in the Congressional Record. House members certainly disagree about many things but apparently not about this; it seems to be the currently received wisdom in the Congress that contraceptive use prevents abortions — as it seems to be the received wisdom in our society at large, as a matter of fact.
One might almost have thought all these people were reading from the same script. Moreover, it appeared to be a script that had been distributed beyond the halls of Congress. The first lady, for example, Mrs. Hillary Rodham.Clinton, in a broad discourse on feminism which she delivered to a group of influential Argentinean women in Buenos Aires in October, 1997, similarly informed these ladies that “making better family planning information available lowers both maternal death rates and the number of abortions.”5 As late as April, 1998, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont was still writing in to the Washington Post to make exactly the same argument using virtually the same words.6
As it happened, there was a common script for all this received wisdom about how family planning allegedly cuts down on abortions. In March, 1996, the Alan Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood), in preparation for the coming debate in Congress about U.S. Population Assistance Programs abroad which we have been discussing, had produced and circulated a study purporting to show that a reduction in U.S. Government family-planning assistance abroad would result in what the study specified as some 4 million unwanted pregnancies, leading to some 1.9 million unwanted births and some 1.6 million more abortions’ These Alan Guttmacher Institute figures were quite specific and were presented as empirically established.7
The reality was, however, that this AGI study bore only a very questionable relationship to any real, established facts; in the real world, pregnancies, births, and abortions abroad have not been shown, and probably could not in the nature of the case be shown, to vary in accordance with the amount of U.S. foreign aid appropriations; neither Planned Parenthood nor anybody else has any real, empirical figures about how many unplanned pregnancies (and hence abortions) result from not having access to U.S. government-subsidized family-planning services. In my review of the issues since the late 1970s in AGI’s own flagship publication, Family Planning Perspectives, I found no major empirical research study that even addressed this question directly.
The AGI study in question hus consisted primarily of the working out on paper of another one of those “models” based on assumptions which are themselves posited in order to get a desired result, the principal assumption in this case being that contraceptive services do reduce the number of abortions.
This kind of circular reasoning, however, did not prevent the AGI study from being accepted as gospel on both sides of the aisle in Congress, in the State Department and in the White House as well. If you have rarely found your own Congressmen and Senators as receptive as this to some of your concerns, perhaps you need to consider employing Planned Parenthood to convey your particular concerns to them! Planned Parenthood certainly does seem to have been outstandingly effective in lobbying for the proposition that greater access to contraception decreases the abortion rate.
But is it true? Certainly there is a connection between the two: contraception is supposed to prevent, while abortion terminates, a pregnancy. Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, among others, reiterated this elementary point in the course of the House debate on U.S. Population Assistance Programs abroad. It remains a distinction which those legislators who are pro-life particularly like to emphasize.
And sometimes the relationship or connection between contraception and abortion does appear to bear out what the advocates of family planning say. For example, in Britain, in October, 1995, when the government issued a warning that many women on oral contraceptives were at risk from possible deep-vein thrombosis, many women immediately stopped taking their pills, and not a few unwanted pregnancies resulted. In the months that followed, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Britain’s largest independent abortion provider, reported a 10 percent increase in abortions.8 In this case, there seems to have been a definite relationship between no longer being on the pill and getting an abortion.
In reality, however, the overall thesis that abortions will necessarily be decreased by increased resort to contraceptives is not established by the facts of a case such as this. Rather, the case actually tends to show the contrary: it tends to show that many women already committed to avoiding a pregnancy (as evidenced by being on the pill) are prepared to go on to terminate such a pregnancy if one nevertheless comes about in spite of their intentions and prior “planning.”[sic] What comes to predominate in cases such cases as these is not the “method” of “preventing” a pregnancy but rather the intention not to be pregnant, whatever it takes.
Perhaps contraceptive use would more consistently forestall recourse to abortion if all contraceptive methods in use were absolutely foolproof. As is well known, however, there is no foolproof method of contraception; contraception often fails, as even its most ardent promoters frequently lament. The latest National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), covering the years 1988-1995,reports actual-use contraceptive failure rates of 7 percent for the pill, 16 percent for the condom, 2 percent for the diaphragm, and 30 percent spermicides.9
Citing the results of a number of studies, another prominent researcher in the field found that, even where controlled conditions sometimes pointed to a better record, the contraceptive failure rates for “typical users” averaged 3 percent or higher for the pill, 12 percent or more for the condom, and 18 percent or more for the diaphragm.”10 Other studies show comparable or even higher contraceptive failure.11
These same studies also point to another significant fact: namely, that the women studied report that 50 to 60 percent of their pregnancies were, in fact, unintended; about half of the abortion patients surveyed stated that they had, in fact, been practicing birth control in the month in which they became pregnant.12 According to another study, 58 percent of women undergoing abortions have experienced contraceptive failure.’13
Quite evidently, the practice of birth control does not necessarily or consistently prevent abortions. Nor does there appear to be any lack of access to contraceptives. The problems rather seem to be that the users fail to employ the contraceptives properly or the contraceptives employed too often themselves fail, for whatever reason.
Faced with these failures, the figures show that contraceptive users quite regularly then turn to abortion to accomplish the original aim they had intended to accomplish by means of contraception. Nor is the basic problem for contraceptors limited to the fact that the various methods of contraception often fail. There is the further fact of the undesirable and even quite harmful effects that some methods of contraception, especially those touted as most effective, verifiably have on the bodies and health of women; this is notably true of some of the various pills, of course.
As everyone knows, we have had more than a few “pill scares” since the pill was first introduced in the early 1960s as the supposedly perfect contraceptive, and these pill scares have usually been only too well founded.”14 Studies have shown that as many as 50 percent of women who go on the pill soon discontinue its use because of its effects on their bodies or health.”15
Then there is the possible harm to women from such birth control devices as the intrauterine device (IUD), which is actually an abortifacient. An example of this came out rather dramatically some twenty years ago in the case of all the deaths of and injuries to women traced to the Dalkon Shield IUD; the Dalkon Shield itself had to be removed from the market after its manufacturer was obliged to pay out millions of dollars to settle all the lawsuits against it. (Nevertheless the family planners and population controllers have far from given up on this method; it is supposed to have a failure rate of less than one percent; and it is still used by some 2 percent of U.S. women, and seems to be some 10 to 20 times more popular in Europe.16
No doubt both the high failure rate of typical contraceptives and such devices as the IUD, as well as the undesirable effects from using many of them, have contributed to the current high rate of sterilization among those who have otherwise bought into the contraceptive mentality. As man as 40 percent of American couples of child-bearing age who want to avoid pregnancy are today resorting to the sterilization of either the wife or the husband17 Nevertheless, sterilization too is often rejected by many, both because of its side-effects, and because it is not easily reversible—leaving the problem for those who do not want to be pregnant right back where it was before; they are still in search of an effective method.
In short, the rarely challenged proposition that modern man is now fully able to “control” the unwanted results of sexual intercourse by means of modem contraceptives and other devices is actually a highly dubious proposition; this type of “control” often turns out to be illusory in practice. And when to all the uncertainties, difficulties, and drawbacks of actually using the modern “methods” of contraception are added aesthetic considerations—the fact that all these devices, plugs, sheaths, chemicals or what have you really are unnatural for normal men and women—and when simple human carelessness is then also added in — forgetting to take the pill, leaving the diaphragm in the drawer, neglecting to replenish the supply of condoms or gels — what we end up with is a population which is caught up in the contraceptive mentality and apparently wholly persuaded that pregnancies must always be “wanted” and “planned”; but which is continually also always being frustrated and disappointed by the frequent and inevitable failure of whatever “method” has been chosen.
One study in Family Planning Perspectives reported that ignore than one-quarter of all married women not trying to become pregnant abandon their chosen birth control method, whatever it is, within the initial year of the use of the method.18 Thus, women who apparently see nothing morally wrong with contraception, who have actually adopted the use of it, and who would presumably gladly go on using it if it really were safe and effective and harmless, nevertheless regularly abandon its use in significant numbers for whatever reason.
Given this documented fact of what we can only call the widespread failure of the modern contraceptive revolution, which was once heralded as offering modern society such benefits, can we really be surprised if people now entirely persuaded of the “need” for what is still euphemistically called “family planning” turn massively to the solution which, in fact, our anti-life society has conveniently provided for contraceptive failure, namely, legalized abortion? After all, abortion surely is an effective, foolproof birth control method; by definition it succeeds only too efficiently in ending unwanted pregnancies.
The actual experience of American society over the past 25 to 30 years should have taught us that a population convinced that the “control” of births (conceptions) is “necessary” is going to resort to abortion on a massive scale to make that control effective when it proves to be otherwise ineffective. This is roughly what we have witnessed in our society since the late 1960s. Modern contraceptive “methods” allowing people to “plan” pregnancies and “control” conceptions created expectations which in too many cases could only be realized by an after-the-fact “method.”
Legalized abortion thus became strictly “necessary” in the minds of people who had accepted the imperative of “control.” Our society was not deterred from turning to abortion because it involved the killing of a child; the killing became accepted as the effective means of achieving the control. Our current Vice President unfortunately speaks for large numbers of our fellow citizens when he describes abortion as “necessary”; this is precisely the current rationale.
Nor is Gore’s view merely the opportunistic opinion of a working politician. Actually, it is “the law of the land.” In what one legal scholar describes as the “key passage” of the joint Opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (112 S. Ct. 2791 - 1992), which upheld the legality of abortion in the United States, the highest Court in the land based its judgment squarely on what it styled “the fact that for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail...”19
These are the exact words of the Supreme Court: abortion must be available “in the event that contraception should fall.” There is no hypocritical attempt here to pretend that abortion might somehow be made “less necessary” by the provision of additional government contraceptive programs. The Court in Casey frankly recognized abortion as the strictly necessary back-up for inevitably failed contraception. “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation,” the Court added, “has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”20 The imperative of the “control” of the “reproductive lives” of women has become more important than the question of whether or not their children’s lives are being taken in the process.
Contraception thus does not contribute, except perhaps marginally in limited cases, to reducing abortions. Rather, it helps create the expectations and the moral climate where abortion becomes acceptable to complete the plans and intentions which contraception has been unable to realize.
People in the fields of birth control, family planning, and population control have long understood and accepted this outcome. A study conducted in the early 1980s looking frankly at the real relationship between contraception and abortion concluded that even if all women used the most “reliable” contraceptive methods available, at least a third of all the abortions performed today would still be “necessary.”21
More recently, the Population Action International organization, confirming that “in the absence of perfectly reliable contraception, women often rely on abortion,” reached this same conclusion, which is very pertinent to our inquiry here: “Experts estimate that even with highly effective and virtually universal contraceptive use, at least 2 out of every 10 women would need to have an abortion to terminate an unwanted pregnancy over the course of their reproductive lives” [emphasis added]22
Albert Gore himself could not have stated the case more plainly. Some studies frankly conclude that, in the words of one of them, “the safest approach to fertility control is to use a condom and to back it up by abortion in the case of method failure.”23 Some abortion proponents even advocate abortion as a preferred solution to the problem of unplanned pregnancies, considering the many difficulties attendant upon the successful use of contraception as well as the many harmful effects of some contraceptives.
“There may be times in which women consider abortion a better option than contraception,” one such author writes. “Women can be afraid to use contraception in relationships where men have prohibited it and threatened violence. An abortion can sometimes be arranged without the sexual partner’s knowledge. What is more, to some women, ‘inducing a miscarriage,’ can seem more natural than taking a pill or having bits of metal inserted in the womb. If a woman is uncertain about her partner’s commitment to their relationship, she may use pregnancy to test the solidity of the bond; the pregnancy may not be unwanted unless he rejects it too ... “24
To such moral depths have we now descended in our society today. There is no longer even any question of husbands or wives or marriage; there are just “partners” and “relationships.” Pregnancy, moreover, is something merely to be “used” — and perhaps “rejected” at one’s option. While we cannot but be dismayed and immensely saddened by such casual — and callous — indifference and immorality, we cannot deny that today’s abortion statistics surely confirm how widespread such attitudes are today.
The author quoted here actually taxes Planned Parenthood and what she calls “the new puritans of the family planning establishment” with dishonesty and hypocrisy for pretending to oppose abortion in order, she says, “to win the allegiance of the seemingly muddled, ambivalent, and hugely ignorant public.”25 We can surely agree with her about the dishonesty and hypocrisy part.
Unfortunately, for the moment at least, the strategy of Planned Parenthood and of the family planning establishment generally, which consists of getting more family-planning money out of the Congress ostensibly in order to cut down on abortions, has largely worked: a clear majority of Congress, as well as, apparently, large numbers of the public at large, if not actually a majority, appear to believe that in order to reduce abortions we must definitely increase access to family planning.
The well-known and often repeated distinction that contraception prevents the conception of a child while abortion kills a child already conceived is, of course, perfectly true. Planned Parenthood itself was still promoting a slogan to this effect as late as the early 1960s; according to the organization’s Annual Report for 1996-1997, however, performing more-than-1 50,000 abortions in addition to all the abortion referrals the organization makes.26
The distinction that contraception merely prevents while abortion kills did not deter Planned Parenthood from moving into the promotion and performance of abortions on a massive scale once abortion was legalized, any more than this distinction deterred the Supreme Court itself from legalizing abortion in the United States. However clear the distinction may seem to be in words, it does not seem to make much of a difference or to have had much effect in the practical world. Planned Parenthood was already working for the legalization of abortion even as it advocated greater access to birth control as a supposed means of preventing (then) illegal abortions.27
By 1971, after a number of states had already liberalized their abortion laws, or else legalized abortion outright, the then medical director of Planned Parenthood was already candidly admitting that:
Planned Parenthood Affiliates have long been involved in programs of abortion information, counseling, and referral. Before the recent changes in abortion laws, these activities were, necessarily, unpublicized... [and] most professionals and volunteers associated with Planned Parenthood have accepted for a long time the necessity of abortion as an integral part of any complete ... family planning program [emphasis added].28
Here we encounter that old word “necessity” again! We see too how little respect for legality Planned Parenthood admittedly had, although its practices outside the law were necessarily “unpublicized.” In 1975, addressing the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the then president of Planned Parenthood in Canada spoke with equal candor about the whole question: “As for pregnancy, we have efficient methods to avoid it, and if they fail, abortion can settle the problem.”29
Thus, while some opponents of abortion may continue to emphasize the distinction between contraception and abortion (perhaps in order to avoid being obliged to take on the seemingly impossible task of attempting to oppose birth control itself in a culture almost wholly given over to the acceptance of it), Planned Parenthood and those who have adopted the contraceptive mentality, by contrast, simply accept both “methods,” and no longer even bother to distinguish carefully between them; both really are seen merely as “methods” intended to achieve the same agreed-upon end of controlling fertility.
It is in this context that methods of so-called “contraception” which are really abortifacient in their action, that is, they do not suppress ovulation but rather prevent the implantation of an already fertilized ovum, and are thus types of early chemical abortion, similarly come to be seen as “methods” of birth control that have become acceptable to many if not most people today. For our purposes here, by the way, we are not able to go deeply into the nevertheless very well established fact that some forms of so-called contraception, such as some of the pills, implants, and injections actually are abortifacient rather than contraceptive in their action, just as the intrauterine device (IUD) is similarly abortifacient in its action.
In practice, however, these distinctions are usually not made. Nor do the people in the family planning field help matters by insisting on continuing to call some plainly abortifacient methods such as the RU-486 pill “contraceptives.” In the current family planning literature, in fact, the use of the RU-486 pill or high doses of standard hormonal pills as forms of “morning after” abortifacient birth control are regularly referred to as “emergency contraception”; this is yet one more of the dishonesties — like the thesis that contraception cuts down on abortion — to which the family planning people regularly resort today — dishonesties which are nonetheless faithfully accepted and repeated by the media.
For our purposes here, however, we will maintain the rough distinction between prevention and termination of pregnancy, while showing that this distinction finally disappears in practice anyway. The idea that Planned Parenthood promotes contraception for the purpose of preventing or cutting down on abortion is thus necessarily a position that is advanced strictly for public consumption; it has no basis in Planned Parenthood’s philosophy or practice .The truth is that Planned Parenthood defines “family planning” as “averting the devastation of unwanted childbearing through contraception and safe, legal abortion” [emphasis added]30
Once priority came to be given in people’s minds to effective control of conception and pregnancy, abortion rather quickly became the final — and undeniably the foolproof — method of insuring the kind of control that was desired. Far from helping to reduce the number of abortions, contraception in the long run contributes to an increase in abortions; it does this by creating expectations that cannot be realized by the use of contraceptives alone.
Do studies exist that verify this fact and perhaps help explain why it is the case? As it happens, a recent study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, although it primarily addresses the problem of teenage illegitimacy rather than the problem of teenage abortion, provides a very interesting explanation of what we have in fact been seeing in our society over the past generation. This study, written by the Governor of the Federal Reserve System and two colleagues, points out that around 1970, at the very time when government subsidized family planning assistance first became widely available, and “the permanent cure for poverty seemed to be on the horizon,” since women were now able to control the timing and number of their children, what happened instead was that “single motherhood and the feminization of poverty began their long and steady rise.”31
It was around the same time, of course, that the long and steady rise in the number of abortions performed on teenagers began to rise as well, accelerating sharply after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in January, 1973. How was it that both teenage abortions and out-of-wedlock births surged at the very time that family planning assistance had become widely available? Should these figures not have dropped if the programs were effective?
The aughors of of The Quarterly Journal of Economics study dismiss the idea that such factors as the rise in the welfare state or joblessness among the populations concerned could even begin to account for the rise in illegitimacy. Instead they postulate what they call a “technology shock theory” which asserts that illegitimacy rates rose because of the availability of contraception and abortion. “The technological shock of abortion and female contraception,” they write, effected “changes in sexual and marital customs.” The availability of contraception and abortion, according to them, made young women more willing to “participate in uncommitted premarital sex.” Meanwhile, the men acquired the attitude that they need not take responsibility for “women who passed up available contraception and abortion options.”
These new attitudes very soon destroyed what these authors call “the shotgun marriage norm” — the traditional idea that a man ought to marry a woman he gets pregnant. But now “men who wanted sexual activity, but did not want to promise marriage in case of pregnancy were neither expected nor required to do so.” And as fewer women went to the altar, “the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock motherhood ... declined.”32
And, we can legitimately add, so did the stigma once associated with abortion decline in the same permissive atmosphere in which the stigma had been removed from fornication. There were now “remedies” available in the form of contraception and abortion for the unwanted consequences of fornication. It is significant, by the way, that the authors of this Quarterly Journal of Economics study do not distinguish between contraception and abortion; the distinction between them truly does fade out in practice; the two “methods” have the same effect as far as a poor and vulnerable population of young unmarried women is concerned.
What these authors style “technology shock theory” we can legitimately call: abandonment of the traditional moral code restricting sexual intercourse to the married state. It can no longer be considered any secret that this abandonment of the traditional moral code has become rather widespread in our society; and, in this situation, it is a simple fact that both contraception and legally available abortion are almost universally seen as the twin remedies for the consequences of today’s veritable explosion of sex outside of marriage. Both contraceptive use and the resort to abortions rise together in response to the “need” created by the decline in traditional morality.
In the two decades between 1970 and 1991, for example, the mostly steady increase in abortions undergone by teenage girls closely paralleled the increases in federal family-planning funds made available under Title X of the Public Health Service Act, the largest domestic federal-government family-planning assistance program. A study of the Tide X program conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control showed clearly that teenage out-of-wedlock births, teenage abortions, and federal funding of so-called family-planning assistance directed towards these same girls all rose together, and spectacularly so, in roughly parallel lines on the same graph.33
A Family Research Council investigator has pointedly summarized the results of the U.S. Government’s principal experiment in providing contraceptive information and the means to contracept (as well as the abortion referrals throughout most of the life of this program): “Since the introduction of Title X, the teenage out-of-wedlock birthrate per 1000 unmarried girls aged 15-19 rose from 22.4 in 1970 to 44.6 in 1992 ... Over the lifetime of Title X, the teenage abortion rate more than doubled. In 1972, the abortion rate per 1000 girls aged 15-19 was 19.1;in 1990, the rate was 40.6...”34
A few moment’s reflection on the birth control situation that actually obtains in our society today should convince us of how hollow the idea is that today’s high rate of abortions somehow stems from any lack of the means of contraception. Contraception is currently an all-pervasive feature of our society; it is literally impossible to escape from the regular and even blatant attention constantly given to today’s array of plus, plugs, caps, gels, and, especially, condoms, in our public discourse and media; what used to be sold discreetly from under the counter today unmistakably stares at you from the pharmacy counter. No society in history has ever been as well supplied with the means of birth control as our society — yet the abortion rate too remains at the astronomically high levels registered after the legalization of this lethal practice (with only a slight drop registered in the past several years).
How to explain this? The explanation that imposes itself almost irresistibly for anyone who honestly face the facts that and abortion are both inextricably connected manifestations of the same anti-life mentality that has currently practically taken over our society . In practice the distinction between preventing conception and killing the child who has been conceived usually gets lost; pro-lifers still tirelessly emphasize it, and properly so because it is true; but in the present climate, it seems to have little effect on the current continuing acceptance of abortion in our society; abortion is seen as a “necessary” method of birth control.
The inextricable connection between contraception and abortion has always been perfectly well known and understood by the people in the birth control field, whatever they may say from time to time for public consumption. The public has been too easily deceived about this (or itself wants to believe it). As far back as 1955, that early prophet of the sexual revolution, Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey himself, the architect of the post-World War 11 “Kinsey Reports” on human sexual behavior, told a Planned Parenthood Federation of America conference: “At the risk of being repetitious, I would remind the group that we have found the highest frequency of induced abortion in the group which most frequently uses contraceptives…”35
In their excellent and comprehensive 1991 book on Planned Parenthood’s social policies entitled Blessed Are the Barren36 Robert G. Marshall and Charles A. Donovan have compiled and quoted a number of studies prepared by proponents of birth control and abortion which show that the decision to contracept easily and often leads to the acceptance of abortion; and that there has always been a high and consistent correlation between the incidence of contraceptive use and that of abortion. We cannot do better than to summarize and quote several of these studies here:
As far back as 1932, a British physician, writing about the supposed indications for abortion in the British Medical Journal, noted that he had been “impressed with the attitude of mind of the woman, who has practiced contraception and who has failed to attain her object. Such woman seems to feel that she has a night to demand the termination of an unwanted pregnancy. The criminal aspect of the matter does not appear to enter her mind in the least.37
In 1936, a Planned Parenthood physician, Dr. Raymond Pearl, noted that “the number of induced abortions per 100 pregnancies experienced ... are from three to four times greater, generally speaking, among contraceptors than among non-contraceptors.”38
In 1940, a study focusing on Planned Parenthood’s own Margaret Sanger Clinical Research Bureau found that 41 percent of the pregnancies of contracepting women terminated in illegal abortion, while only 3.5 percent of the pregnancies of non-contracepting women did.39
In 1955, the concluding statement of a Planned Parenthood conference admitted: “It was recognized by conference participants that no scientific evidence has been developed to support the claim that increased availability of contraceptive service will clearly result in a decreased illegal abortion rate.” This PPFA statement was signed by, among others, Dr. Alan Guttmacher, longtime PPFA President; Dr. Louis M. Hellman, later Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs in charge of the Title X program; Dr. John Rock, co-developer of the original birth control pill; and Dr. Christopher Tietze, for many years Planned Parenthood’s principal researcher.40
In 1981, the same Planned Parenthood researcher, Dr. Christopher Tietze, wrote that there was “a high correlation between abortion experience and contraceptive experience ... women who have practiced contraception are more likely to have had abortions than those who have not practiced contraception, and women who have had abortions are more likely to have been contraceptors than women without a history of abortion.”41
Also in 1981, Dr. Malcolm Potts, one-time medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), commenting upon some studies conducted in Latin America, observed that “the poorest members of the community do not have a very widespread use of contraceptives, and the incidence of abortion is low. The middle classes attempt to control their fertility, and both the use of contraception and the incidence of abortion rise.42
Such are the conclusions of some of the studies compiled by Marshall and Donovan in their book Blessed Are the Barren. It should be noted that all of these studies were conducted by people engaged in promoting birth control (and later abortion). In my survey of more recent studies in the field, I did not find any similar candid statements frankly linking contraception with abortion, except for the one from the Population Action International organization quoted above.43
One reason for this recent lack of candor, of course, may well be that it now appears to be the fixed policy of the organizations engaged in the family planning field, in order to secure public support and government funding for their enterprises, to make the claim that family planning assistance cuts down on abortions; we have already seen how effective the 1996 Planned Parenthood “study” making this claim proved to be with Congress, the State Department, and the White House.44
Another reason we perhaps no longer regularly find such explicit reference made to figures citing high contraceptive use among those undergoing abortions may be that, in an era such as the present one when practically everybody does use contraceptives, the connection is now simply taken for granted; it does not need to be mentioned. Exact figures on how many people use contraceptives today are difficult to come by, in part perhaps because the family planners seem to conduct their studies only among those who do use them; but a conservative estimate is that more than 80 percent of all couples of child-bearing age either use contraception at some time or else get themselves sterilized.45
And our era, of course, is at the same time characterized by its massive number of abortions as well. When nearly everybody is contracepting, larger numbers are going to be getting abortions too. All these things go together; the linkage simply cannot be denied.
And the conclusions from the studies we have cited can be verified from other sources as well. For example, in the 1970s, two professors at Johns Hopkins University, John Kanter and Melvin ZeInick, conducted three separate surveys of teenage sexual activity, contraceptive use, and pregnancy. Among other things, they reported a rise in out-of-wedlock births to teenage mothers which went from 190,000 in 1970 to 240,000 in 1978; the rise in abortions among the same group went from 90,000 in 1970 to 500,000 in 1978. These were the same years, of course, when government sponsored family-planning services became widely available to the same populations Title X was enacted in 1970.
We have already noted in connection with Tide X the same meteoric rise also recorded by Kanter and Zelnick in both abortions and out-of-wedlock births at the same time that “family planning” was supposed to be providing the remedy for these problems. Examining the Kanter-Zelnick figures at the time, Dr. James Ford and Michael Schwartz concluded that “family planning programs have contributed directly to an increase in the rate of abortion an-long teenagers,” and that adolescents using contraceptives were actually more than 20 percent more likely to resort to abortions than those who were “unprotected.”46
More recent studies carried out by the family planning people themselves similarly fail to show any reduction in abortions as a result of the provision of contraceptive information and services. Most of the studies I have been able to find, in fact, do not even address the question of abortion. Nor is it clear what these so-called “family-planning services” do accomplish; they do not, for example, show any significant reduction in what are classified as “unwanted pregnancies” (whether the latter result in abortion or in bringing to birth the child that is conceived). The principal thing they seem to be doing, as far as one can see, is to provide public subsidies for today’s permissive lifestyles involving sexual promiscuity and immorality.
However that may be, we cite the results of four typical studies of the effectiveness of these contraceptive programs, as follows:
In 1990 survey of data collected at six school-based clinics, “none of the clinics had a statistically significant effect on school-wide pregnancies.”47
In a 1992 study of school-based clinics in St. Paul, Minnesota, “school-wide birthrates were not significantly lower in the years immediately following the opening of a clinic than in the years preceding it.”48
A 1994 study of contraceptive use and repeat pregnancies among welfare dependent mothers concluded that “although the majority of the young mothers were using a contraceptive method two years after enrollment in the study, half became pregnant again after the birth of their first child. An analysis examining the effects of the enhanced services, including family-planning information and counseling, shows that they did little or nothing to delay subsequent pregnancies.” (This particular study also found that 40 percent of these teenage pregnancies ended in abortion.)49
A 1995 assessment of a major effort in Philadelphia to increase contraceptive services to teenagers found that “teenagers in targeted communities showed no generalized improvement in rates of pregnancy and child-bearing, in knowledge of clinic services, or in attitudes towards contraception compared with teenagers in the entire city.” The study concluded that birth-control clinics may not be the most effective strategy for decreasing rates of pregnancy in the overall teenage population.50
Significantly, this last study, like most of these studies, does not provide any idea of the effect, if any, of these family-planning efforts on the abortion rate in the teenage populations concerned; indeed the study does not mention abortion at all. This is a remarkable omission, considering the continuing public claim by Planned Parenthood and its allies that these contraceptive programs help reduce the abortion rate. If this is true, it is fair to ask why there is hardly any empiricaI data on the subject in the many research studies published in Family Planning Perspectives over approximately the last 20 years.
The fact is that abortion remains an integral part of all these family-planning programs: it continues to provide the indispensable back-up for the inevitable failures that stem from reliance on contraceptives, as it does in our society at large. So much is this simply assumed and taken for granted today that a recent standard physician’s desk reference book on women’s health informs us that: “At this time many women are simply neither ready nor able to assume dominion over their own fertility and sexuality ... Abortion as a means of contraception will be necessary in this country for a long time to come.”51
“Necessary.” Exactly what the Vice President told NARAL; exactly what the Supreme Court decided in its Casey decision. From the material that we have reviewed here, however, it seems quite unlikely that increased contraception can or will render abortion in any way “less necessary.”
If contraception is not part of the answer to our current abortion scourge of nearly a million and a half abortions per year in the United States, what about sex education? The belief that sex education in the schools will have a positive and salutary effect on the behavior of young people currently seems to be very widespread in our society. At the present time some 22 states require or mandate classroom sex education, 52 and most of the other states recommend it; all 50 states either mandate or strongly recommend AIDS education.53 About 85 percent of all public schools in the United States offer sex education, according to one report, and most of the programs include instruction in abstinence, pregnancy, methods of contraception, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and HIV-AIDS .54
As we saw in the case of the apparent near unanimous belief of the Congress in the efficacy of government-supported contraceptive programs, belief in the efficacy of classroom sex education also currently appears to be very strong, if not overwhelming, among our politicians and legislators; in this they seem to reflect the widespread public support for sex education which, in fact, is both long standing and high.55
Why the approval rating for sex education should be so high is hard to understand when we consider all the indications, not only in the media but in the schools and in society at large, of how casually almost any kind of sexual activity is now tolerated if not encouraged-and of how little respect apparently remains for chastity and abstinence. Our teenage pregnancy and out-of-wedlock birth rates are at unprecedented levels. In 1940 only 4 percent of births in the United States were to unmarried women, compared with 11 percent in 1970, and 31 percent in 1993-that amounts to nearly a third of all births out of wedlock at the present time. By 1988 52 percent of teenage women in the United States were having premarital intercourse, compared with 29 percent in 1970.56
The teenage abortion rates have gone up proportionately; around 40 percent of teenage pregnancies currently end in abortion, compared to about 25 percent, or 1 in 4, of all pregnancies.57 All of these high rates have come about during exactly the same time period that sex education too was being institutionalized in the schools. Of course the contemporary increase in sexual permissiveness and the decline in traditional sexual morality must surely be attributed to a multiplicity of causes; but it has certainly not helped much to have presented under the authority of the school indoctrination in the acceptability of today’s various deviant “lifestyles” as well as in the use of the supposed modern means of avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases while in fact engaging in a kind of permissive sexual activity that is now too often taken for granted.
In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, though, the efficacy of classroom sex education nevertheless continues to be widely believed in, especially among some of the leaders of our society. In Virginia, in 1997, when the state school board attempted to soften the existing state-wide sex education mandate to allow local option to local school boards, the Virginia General Assembly, by a large bi-partisan vote, quickly passed a law reinstating the mandate. The legislators apparently believed that these “family life education” (FLE) programs, as they are almost universally mis-called, were responsible for a drop in teenage pregnancy and abortion rates; the Washington Post had reported this on the basis of unverified figures supplied by the advocacy group Zero Population Growth.58
The reality was a bit more complex. As the Family Foundation in Richmond, Virginia pointed out in a widely circulated fact sheet, the teenage pregnancy rate in Virginia had increased overall by some 163 percent since 1985—again, roughly the same years the FLE mandate had been in effect in the schools—with only a slight downturn beginning around 1995 (which the Family Foundation attributed to increased pro-life activity!). There was also a slight downturn in the abortion rate beginning after 1990, but this reflected a national trend.
But there was no evidence at all that either of these slight downturns could be linked to the FLE mandate in the schools. As the Family Foundation pointed out, quoting actual curricula, the sex education courses in place do not present abortion as particularly undesirable or as something to be avoided; they present it strictly as another modem medical procedure, meanwhile emphasizing its legality. The possible harmful effects of abortion on women, especially young women, are not brought out in these courses; nor, especially, do they make clear that an abortion always involves the killing of a living child. In the “Family Life Education Objectives” for the Fairfax County schools, for example, not a single objective is listed which even alms at reducing “teenage pregnancy, venereal disease, or abortions.59
It would thus appear that a certain type of mind is required to be able to believe in the efficacy of these programs, not only in the absence of any empirical evidence for their effectiveness, but even in the face of contrary evidence. Even though the governor of Virginia wisely vetoed the reinstatement of the state-wide FLE mandate in this particular case, a majority of the Virginia General Assembly still continued to favor it (although, fortunately, not a majority large enough to override the governor’s veto).60
Unfortunately, though, the type of mind that favors FLE programs appears to be flourishing today in other places besides Virginia. In New Jersey, for example, the state government mandated compulsory sex education as far back as 1980; sex educators in New Jersey appear to be totally integrated into.the educational establishment. Virtually every public school student is exposed to many hours of sex education, beginning in the early grades; teenagers are “immersed” in such topics as contraception, homosexuality, and so-called “safe sex.” Over 80 percent of New Jersey parents are supposed to favor this, according to surveys conducted by Rutgers University (around 60 percent of parents are supposed to favor the actual distribution of condoms by the schools).61
And yet, as one major researcher wrote in a widely noted article published in The Atlantic Monthly:
If comprehensive sex education has had a significant impact on teenage sexual behavior in New Jersey, there is little evidence to show it. The advocates cannot point to any evaluative studies of comprehensive sex education in the state. Absent such specific measures, one can only fall back on gross measures like the glum statistics on unwed teenage childbearing in the state. In 1980, 67.6 percent of teenage births were to unmarried mothers; eleven years later the figure had increased to 84 percent. Arguably, the percentage might be even higher if comprehensive sex education did not exist. Nevertheless, it is hard for advocates to claim that the state with the nation’s fourth highest percentage of unwed teenage births is a showcase for their approach.
The absence of empirical support for comprehensive sex education does not, however, discomfit or deter its advocates. Up and down the sex-education ranks ... there has been little effort to make a reasoned case for comprehensive sex education. Challenged, the sex educators simply crank up their rhetoric: criticize sex education, they say, and you contribute to the deaths of teenagers from AIDS...62
What is said here about the kind and quality of evaluative studies on today’s comprehensive sex education is very pertinent. Actually, there is an enormous amount of research done on the subject nationally, mostly by the advocates of sex education themselves; there is a veritable industry of sex education research, in fact, in which the researchers and writers interact with, and are often interchangeable with, the sex educators and advocates of all the various curricula. Yet the results of all this research are curiously — and significantly — inconclusive. A 1991 survey of a number of the curricula in use sponsored by the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, for example, concluded that “none of the educational programs evaluated ... had any measurable effects on participants’ sexual activity, contraceptive use, or pregnancy rates.“63
Another massive survey, reviewing the effectiveness of no less than 23 separate studies of specific “School-Based Programs to Reduce Sexual Risk Behaviors” — as the study was titled — claimed to arrive at a few more positive and definite conclusions. “Not all sex and AIDS education programs had significant effects on adolescent risk-taking behavior,” this survey admitted. But it did claim that “specific programs did delay the initiation of intercourse, reduce the frequency of intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, [and] increase the use of condoms or other contraceptives.” The survey included little quantitative data in support of these claims, however; and, indeed, admitted that there was “insufficient evidence to determine whether any of these educational or clinic programs actually decreased pregnancy, birth, STD or HIV rates.64
The proudest boast of this particular comprehensive survey, in fact, was that “our review indicates that some programs can increase the use of condoms and other contraceptives. The weight of the evidence from the national surveys indicates that sex education programs do increase the use of contraceptives and AIDS education programs do increase the use of condoms somewhat.65
So this is the best that this authoritative survey of 23 of the sex education programs in current use can claim: that the students may be using more condoms and other contraceptives-“ somewhat.” Even if this is true, however, it simply places all these unhappy teenage fornicators back into the same failure-prone category which we have already seen the contraceptors in our society generally also find themselves in, and unfortunately quite regularly.
The reliance that our educators and social workers, and the researchers who track their activities, nevertheless continue to place on the efficacy of modern contraception-in the face of all the contrary evidence-is little short of amazing, although it no doubt reflects the confidence that our society generally reposes in the idea of contraceptive use. At the end of April, 1998, for example, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) issued yet another favorable report concerning the supposed efficacy of sex education and access to contraceptive counseling. The NCHS cited a decline in the national teenage birth rate for the sixth year in a row; the rate is down some 12 percent since 1991. The NCHS report attributed this decline both to reduced sexual activity among teenagers (“abstinence”) and to better and more efficient use of birth control by them.
These NCHS conclusions in turn led to a spate of favorable articles in the press extolling the ostensibly successful technique of teaching “abstinence” to teenagers, but backing up the abstinence message with counseling about birth control. A well-known educator was quoted in one of them as saying that “technique without values gets you nowhere, but values without safety is a risky business.”66 — as if there were all that much “safety” in most modern forms of birth control.
The professed belief in such “safety,” however, is one of the current major superstitions of our professional sex educators; so is the idea that contraceptive counseling could somehow reinforce a true message of abstinence. There is little real evidence for the validity of these ideas, as we noted in the case of the sex education studies cited above; nor did the 1998 NCHS report provide any significant additional evidence that the recent relatively small decline reported in teenage births-down slightly from today’s astronomical, historically unprecedented levels! — resulted from the teaching of “abstinence” backed up by contraceptive counseling.
Actually, contraceptive counseling undermines the abstinence message, and necessarily so. Contraceptive counseling sends a double, ambivalent message to the teenager: “We really know that you are not going to abstain, whatever we may say; what you really need is ‘protection ......
We have already seen how inconsistently most modern contraceptives really provide this supposed “protection.” That the sex educators nevertheless continue to insist on its efficacy in what they put out for public consumption underlines one of the other defects in reports such as the one issued by the NCHS announcing the “good news” of the recent reduction in the teenage birthrate. The defect is this: this NCHS report nowhere tells us t what Extent this reduction in births to teenagers results from possible increased recourse to abortion by these teenagers; the report avoids the subject of abortion entirely.
The same thing is true of sex education research generally; it usually by-passes the subject of abortion The fact is that almost none of the studies mentioned above even attempts to establish the link, if any, between classroom family-life education and the incidence of abortion among those exposed to this type of education. The entire subject of abortion is simply absent from most of this sex education research. The people in the field studiously refrain from even mentioning it for the most part (even while they go on taking it for granted that abortion remains there as the “back up” in the cases of the contraceptive failures which they themselves are helping to multiply).
Why is this significant? It is significant because those who advocate and promote classroom sex education regularly claim that it is one of the as the answers to current social problems such as the high rate of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and abortions . It is presumably for this reason that our federal, state, and local governments continue to use our taxes to subsidize FLE on such a literally gigantic scale, while large numbers of Americans look on approvingly.
But if the research which is itself largely conducted by the advocates and practitioners of sex education shows rather overwhelmingly that it does not necessarily curtail teenage pregnancies and out-of-wedlock babies — these phenomena have sky-rocketed during precisely the same years that sex education has come into the schools, with only a slight decline in the birthrate recently—and if, meanwhile, these same researchers carefully refrain from even inquiring into what the possible relationship between sex education, birth control counseling, and abortion, also at sky-high rates, might possibly be — then the time has surely come to ask: what is the basis of what we may almost term our national superstition, namely, that sex education somehow serves some good and positive social purpose?
I fear that most Americans, including especially our legislators who go on mandating these FLE programs, have not looked very carefully at what modern comprehensive classroom sex education is. Nor have they looked very carefully at who the people are who typically promote it. Many people may still imagine that sex education courses are something like the “health” courses that were often found in the schools twenty and more years ago, courses that simply provided the kids with “the facts.”
Unfortunately, though, many other people, if the polls in favor of sex education are to be believed, may actually agree that more than “the facts” have become “necessary” today. Rather, the kids have to be taught to “take care of themselves,” that is, they have to be taught about modern prophylactics and contraceptives, as if these things really were the panaceas they are thought to be. In the era of AIDS, STDs, and “unwanted pregnancies,” when teenage chastity and abstinence have also come to be considered unrealistic and unrealizable, perhaps more people than we would like to think really have come to believe in the “necessity” of sex education, even when they do understand what it really is.
At any rate, let us be clear in our minds about what modern comprehensive classroom sex education typically is: the conscious aim and purpose of FTE is to indoctrinate the young into the attitudes, methods, and [im]morality of the contemporary sexual revolution. Nothing else but this is exactly what is being mandated in our schools on such a large scale today.
Some 25 years ago, on the morrow of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States, the present writer quoted the then president of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Alan Guttmacher, as follows: “We have won a splendid victory,” Dr. Guttmacher wrote in his Planned Parenthood President’s Newsletter on February 15, 1973. “But the enemy, though vanquished, is not liquidated,” he added. “Don’t discharge your troops!”67
What, in Dr. Guttmacher’s view, was the purpose in maintaining on combat alert the mobilized legions of Planned Parenthood? The purpose, as he stated quite explicitly, was to promote-sex education! Sex education was the means by which the younger generation was to be indoctrinated into the brave new world of sex for recreation and pleasure and without guilt or consequences in the form of inconvenient and unwanted pregnancies. All this was to be achieved by means of modern contraceptives with the legalization of abortion as decreed by the Supreme Court as the necessary back-up.
It was a former medical director of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Mary Calderone, testifying at the hearings of a U.S. Senate subcommittee that would shortly result in the enactment of legislation that would pour millions of dollars into government-subsidized family planning here and abroad from about 1970 on, who explained that comprehensive sex education had now become imperative at this “moment in man’s history when for the first time he can totally separate his reproductivity and his sexuality.”68 We have now seen how dubious this claim really is. This supposed new ability to effect this separation is what has lain at the heart of the modern sexual revolution all along, but we can now see the separation has only been maintained by the more than 37 million abortions in the last quarter of a century in the United States.
Dr. Mary Calderone herself moved from Planned Parenthood to found the Sex Information — and Education Council (SELLIS), which became the principal organization promoting sex education in the schools down to the present day. Classroom sex education had its genesis as part of the integral Planned Parenthood effort to promote a new permissive sexual ethic secured by access to contraception and to legalized abortion in case of slip-ups.
Abortion, contraception, and sex education are all part of the same “package deal”; they go together; they all came in together around the same time and under the same impetus. For example, the Presidential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future chaired by John D. Rockefeller, III in the early 1970s (“the Rockefeller Commission”) influentially seconded the efforts of Planned Parenthood when it published its Report in 1972 calling for the legalization of abortion (even before the Supreme Court had acted), subsidized abortion on request, sterilization, the dispensing of contraceptives to minors, and — what else? Precisely this: “That sex education be available to all, and that it be presented in a responsible manner through community organizations, the media, and, especially, the schools.“69
Once again we encounter the same “package deal” which includes sex education as one of its integral parts. It is ironic that the activities comprising this package deal should ever have come to be discussed under the generic term “family planning.” In fact, all of these activities involve planning not to have a family; they are all anti-family; “family planning” really means planning for sexual activity apart from any necessary connection with marriage and the family.
Similarly, family-life education means instruction and indoctrination in the contemporary attitudes, practices, and methods of engaging in sex apart from any necessary connection with marriage and the family. This is how FLE started; this is what FLE is. Even some of those engaged in it do not a1ways entirely understand this; but it is true.
Does contemporary FLE, what is in the schools today, subjected as it has been to constant though usually unsuccessful criticism throughout the thirty years or so it has been around, still exhibit the same permissive character that originated in the philosophy of Planned Parenthood? Let us conclude this study of ours by looking briefly at a sex education program Planned Parenthood of Michigan is promoting right now, today, in 1998, in the schools of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Based on a text entitled Changing Bodies, Changing Lives which Planned Parenthood uses in its Peer Educator Program (recruiting, training, and paying high schoolers to help teach fellow students about permissive sex), the classes include advocacy of premarital sexual experimentation, approval of homosexual relations, and questioning of parental advice and counsel on sexual matters. The text presents in an approving way first-person accounts of sexual activity of all sorts by young men and women; the authors value neither virginity nor virtue. Several actual quotations from the book include:
Everyone has values about sex-that is, everyone thinks some things are right and some wrong. Those of us who wrote this book do too. But our values are somewhat different from many of the traditional ones.
If parents or other adults who play a parental role in your life ... seem to fear your sexuality, or if they don’t want you to be sexual at all until some distant time, you may feel you have to tune out their voice entirely. Or it may be strong enough only to make you feel guilty.
We who are writing this book believe that a lot of society’s moralistic attitudes about sex can make people feel unnecessarily guilty about feelings and attitudes that are a normal part of being human [emphasis in the original].
….the only time any sex is perverted or immoral is if it is being forced on someone, or someone is doing it under pressure.
And, of course, far from aiming to discourage or cut down on abortions, this program takes it for granted that abortion is an integral part of the modern sexually permissive package deal; this is precisely what is being inculcated by the program; nor does the program scruple to counsel the student to violate the law in the interests of the supposed new sexual “freedom”:
If yours is a state that requires consent for minors and you feel you cannot inform your parents about your pregnancy, discuss this with the clinic counselor. Some clinics, like Planned Parenthood, have lawyers and a counseling staff to help you. They are very supportive.70
As we discovered earlier with regard to the provision of contraceptive services, this kind of classroom sex education is certainly not going to help cut down on any abortions; it is going to lead to an increase in abortions by indoctrinating more people in the contraceptive mentality of “planned pregnancies” and “wanted babies” only. It is in no way part of any solution; it is part of the problem.
And the problem itself, of course, is currently nearly universal in our society. Film director Mike Nichols, speaking in an interview about his movie Primary Colors, based on a novel of the same name about a philandering presidential candidate — both book and film being purely fictional, of course, with any resemblance to any actual person being purely co-incidental! — film director Mike Nichols probably articulated one of our basic current social and cultural assumptions as well as when he opined, “If this century has taught us anything, it is that sexuality is uncontrollable…everybody knows it.” [emphasis added]71
What the last quarter of a century should have taught us, on the contrary, is that sex must be controlled. A large component of our society today is literally being killed because of our failure to control it; and unless and until sex is brought under some kind of effective social control, this killing by abortion will continue to be deemed strictly “necessary,” regardless of what an Albert Gore might say for public consumption.
All human generations previous to our own, and all known human societies besides our own, have understood that sex had to be controlled; and all previous human generations and all known human societies have therefore maintained in place moral and legal checks and sanctions aimed at insuring the necessary control of the powerful and unruly human sexual drive for the good of both society and the individuals in it.
It was left to our society, vainly and foolishly imagining that we now possessed adequate technical means to control the consequences of untrammeled sexual activity, to attempt to abandon the moral and legal checks and sanctions which formerly circumscribed sexual behavior. Tragically, we imagined that we could somehow “liberate” sex from the former “taboos” that surrounded it. Our plan was to seek “control” of conceptions and births rather than go on maintaining the social sanctions and restrictions, as well as the actual laws, on sexual behavior itself that we once properly had; henceforth sex was to be “set free” and governed only by a philosophy of “do as you please.” This was what contraception was supposed to guarantee.
Our plan to liberate sex by means of contraception has now manifestly failed. The consequences of it are now out there for all to see: the continuing epidemics of teenage pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births and of sexually transmitted diseases of which AIDS is only one, and, especially, the epidemic of more than 37 million children killed by abortion since 1973; the number will reach 40 million by the time the millennium arrives. It is a number we ought finally to begin taking a little more seriously.
Whitehead, Kenneth D. “Do Sex Education and Access to Contraception Cut Down on Abortion?” Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly (Summer 1998): 22-40.
Reprinted with permission of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, and member of the Board of Directors of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and the author, among other books, of the recent Political Orphan? The Prolife Movement after 25 Years of Roe v. Wade (New Hope, KY 40052: New Hope Publications, 1998); and, earlier, of Agenda for the Sexual Revolution: Abortion, Contraception, Sex Education, and Related Evils (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1981). His study was presented at a conference of the Natural Law Studies Center in Northern Virginia on April 25, 1998.
© 2000 Fellowship
of Catholic Scholars
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.