Last month, The Lancet journal revealed the latest results from a study on abortion trends calling for a new response to the stagnant or increasing abortion rates of the developing world. Contrary to our belief that abortions decrease with stricter laws or marriage, the study suggests that neither leads to a reduction across many African, Asian and Latin American countries.
Conversely, over the past 25 years, North American abortion rates have dropped by 40 percent. Why? Mostly because women in developed nations have increased access to contraceptives. It’s worth noting that the Lancet findings are not without detractors, and some experts have even raised questions about its methodology. But none of the questions surround the horrific global abortion rate of one out of every four pregnancies.
A solution that seems to be yielding serious results is increased availability to contraceptives. Of course, some Christians—and most Roman Catholics—do not support contraceptives. Usually, the line of thinking is that the promotion of contraceptives simultaneously promotes sexual activity outside the confines of marriage. But The Lancet research actually shows that a majority of women globally who get an abortion are married. This fact significantly changes some of the assumptions of many Christians about the viability of promoting contraception as a part of the pro-life fight for life.
This is partly why even Pope Francis is shifting his stance on contraceptives in places affected by Zika.
Here are some of the benefits:
Contraceptives Save Lives.
It is important to know that in developing nations, where many women are living on less than $1 or $2 per day, the systemic challenges of extreme poverty create obstacles for good health, especially among women and children. Timing and spacing of pregnancies is critical to surviving the complications of pregnancy and childbirth. If a woman waits to have her first child until she’s at least 20, she is five times more likely to survive than if she had the child before she was 15. And if she can space her children just three years apart, they are twice as likely to survive the first year of life. Access to contraceptives is crucial for mothers and families as a life-saving mechanism.
Contraceptives Reduce Abortion.
Over 220 million women around the world say they want to avoid their next pregnancy but they lack the education and the resources to do so. As The Lancet study suggests, if we do nothing abortions may continue to increase. However, if we could increase access to contraceptives to meet this need, it is estimated that it would result in 50 million fewer abortions per year worldwide. We are convinced there is no better way to rethink the pro-life movement than championing this effort.
Contraceptives are Supported by Conservatives.
In a recent national polling project conducted by Hope Through Healing Hands, conservatives were asked their view of contraceptives as it related to access to women in developing nations and saving their lives. These conservatives showed a statistically significant increase over the last three years indicating greater, more positive beliefs regarding contraceptives than their liberal or moderate counterparts. Sixty-three percent of political and religious conservatives support allowing women and couples in the developing nations to determine the timing and spacing of pregnancies in a manner that includes the voluntary use of methods of preventing pregnancy—not including abortion—that are harmonious with their religious values and beliefs.
This is important and encouraging news to share among those advocating for women and children in the pro-life movement. Those who are on the front lines of championing contraceptive access to reduce abortion in the developing world are having national impact among conservatives!
A New Response
A new response to the abortions in the developing world is advocating for the protection and increase of funding for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies from our U.S. government. Conservatives know that contraceptives save lives and allow families to flourish. If we can provide access to contraceptives, moms can go back to work to combat extreme poverty; kids can stay in school; families can feed their children; and we can improve maternal and child mortality outcomes.
Given the latest outbreak of the Zika virus this year, we know that in some cases contraceptives are imperative to reduce incidences of birth defects, like microcephaly. Pope Francis has supported contraceptives in these cases for women in Latin American countries.
Pro-lifers might just have a new response.