Now You Tell Us

The advocates of contraception have finally admitted in public what some of us have known for a while: The Pill doesn’t work very well. Professor James Trussell of Princeton, one of the world experts on failure rates of various forms of contraception, told a conference in the UK:

“One in 12 women taking the Pill gets pregnant each year because they miss so many tablets. …Half of all pregnancies in America are unintended and half of those happen because contraception failed or was not taken properly, the rest were not using any contraception.”

I just spoke at an abstinence education conference in South Carolina on this very subject of contraceptive failure. South Carolina Parents Involved in Education brought together middle and high school teachers and guidance counselors for training on abstinence. Probably two-thirds of the audience was female. Easily half the audience was African-American.

I showed the participants this chart (Table 2) reporting failure rates of the Pill broken down by demographic groups. It turns out that poor, cohabiting teenagers using the Pill have a failure rate of almost 50%: 48.4% to be exact. That means, out of 100 low income girls taking the Pill, who are under the age of 20 and living with their boyfriends, 48 of them will have a pregnancy within 12 months.  

People usually gasp when I show that chart. (Last year I did an article on the subject. The lefty netroots went nuts.) My South Carolina teachers weren’t surprised. They see “contraceptive failures” among their students all the time. A little thought will tell you why the failure rates are so high: the women aren’t using their contraception correctly. Prof. Trussell confirms this point:

“Studies have shown women miss three times as many pills as they say they do. Computerized pill packs have revealed that … between 10 per cent and 14 per cent admitted missing more than three pills in a month, actually between 30 per cent and 50 per cent missed that many.”

Now you tell us, after years of government sponsored contraceptive education, that women still aren’t using it consistently or correctly. Experts like Dr. Trussell have given up on educating women on proper contraceptive use. His preferred solution is long-acting hormonal contraceptives, like implants and injectables. In other words, he proposes that women chemically neuter themselves during their peak child-bearing years.

Prof. Trussell also admitted what American pro-life leaders have said all along: “emergency contraception” is not a magic pill. “Increasing access to emergency contraception will not reduce unintended pregnancies and the resulting abortions, despite a massive Government drive to provide it free to young girls. It is unrealistic to expect women to take the emergency contraceptive every time they have unprotected sex.  It has not reduced unintended pregnancies in America or anywhere else that has introduced it.”

You heard it here first, folks: Contraception, even the emergency type, is not realistic.

The experts don’t seem to consider a major alternative: we could encourage teenagers to take sex and child-bearing seriously. Our culture actively promotes sex as a recreational activity. We come up with more aggressive and intrusive forms of contraception because we can’t bring ourselves to tell teenagers that they should take sex seriously.  

We seem to be unwilling to face the fact that contraception itself contributes to the problem of not taking sex seriously. Contraception allows people to get involved in relationships that can’t possibly sustain a pregnancy. We then call the resulting pregnancy “unintended,” a mechanical problem requiring a technical solution. After all, we are not supposed to be “judgmental” or “moralistic” about sex.

But there really is something wrong with purely recreational sex with someone that would be a disaster to be a parent with. We are using the other person as an object that gives us pleasure. We are not seeing our sex partner as the potential parent of our child, which they are, even if we don’t “intend” it. We are not giving ourselves completely to the other person. We are holding ourselves back, even as we expect sexual satisfaction from them. We have created a culture of “use and be used,” instead of “love and be loved.” The fact that the other person agrees to be used doesn’t make it OK.

As long as adults consider unlimited sex an entitlement, our young people will have problems that contraception can’t solve.  

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  • Grace Harman

    God told us: “Be fruitful and multiply”. Pregnancy is according to our nature, but contraception is not. God told us to be married (married people even live longer.) God denounced “fornication” and considered all sex outside marriage impurity.
    The LIE that started the problem of “unwanted pregnancy” was: that you could or should have sex outside marriage, which was always forbidden in past times. (In the Bible barrenness was always a “curse” and babies were truly a gift from God.)
    All contraceptives have failure rates. Most of them also have dangerous side-effects. This is never a “help” for women, but an illusion that opens the door to abortion. Waiting until after marriage for sex would prevent most of this issue and Natural Family Planning (which is actually more effective than the pill etc.) would help families to space children. It involves both people and brings them closer together, making a benefit to marriage rather than pushing them apart as contraception does.

  • Richard Bell

    Obviously, the thing that needs to be done is to press home the point that the unreliability of contraception means that consenting to sex is consenting to pregnancy. It would be nice if it was informed consent.

  • nursejulie

    It is also necessary to point out that even when the pill is taken responsibly and timely, it can still warrant a pregnancy! A very responsible protestant I know who waited until getting married to have sex is now 2 months pregnant. She went to the doctor because she was so tired and not feeling well. When asked several times if she could be pregnant she said “No, I’ve been on the pill for 5 months and take it every day at the same time.” On her way home from the doctor she decided to buy a home pregnancy test and guess what!? The doctor told her she’s part of the 1% who gets pregnant taking the pill. I believe that percentage is much higher than we can possibly know.

  • James

    This comment only generally relates to this article.

    Surely, the contraceptive and population control movement is connected to people’s desire for a near-perfect, near-harmonious world with limited war and less waste. It is connected with all the wonderful studies into the animal kingdom and explorations of vast unknown tracts of land that comprise that sliver of cosmos accessible to man. It would seem like these people are well-intended though they do not grasp the inherent harmony between man and nature, and they do violence to their conscience as they carry out the means for a “moderate” humanity. Maybe, they count this as sacrifice on their part, as an abused woman might sacrifice for her obsessed lover. Their bravery is cowardice, and their sense of justice is without logic. Yet they may honestly consider themselves heroes.

    I don’t mean to excuse the behavior of cowards and killers, but if this is their interior belief, all we have left to really accuse them of is faithlessness – an amnesia of God’s existence and His offer of reconciliation in Christ. Yet, even here, many of these people are inheritors of a culture bereft of God…