Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pro-Lifers & Birth Control

Gallup says 89% of American adults consider birth control morally acceptable. Gallup also says 50% of Americans describe themselves as "pro-life."

Let's assume all of the other 50% (the people who don't describe themselves as "pro-life") consider birth control morally acceptable. That leaves 39% of Americans who both describe themselves as "pro-life" and consider birth control morally acceptable. In other words, at a minimum, 78% of self-described pro-lifers consider birth control morally acceptable. But you wouldn't know it, would you?

I thought I was a minority in being both anti-abortion and pro-birth control. The polls say most pro-lifers are fine with birth control, so why doesn't it seem that way? I have some theories.

1) Pro-lifers who are more active in the pro-life movement are probably both more vocal and more ideologically "pure." In other words, perhaps the majority of self-described pro-lifers are fine with birth control, but the majority of pro-life activists (the people we hear from the most) are not?

2) "Birth control" is a vague term. There are many different types of birth control, and some are more controversial than others. For example, maybe most pro-lifers think condoms are a good idea but reject the morning after pill. Would they say, generically, that "birth control" is morally acceptable, or no?

3) The religious right is vocal about opposing the birth control mandate. People conflate pro-lifers with the religious right (and there's certainly a correlation, but still it's not quite accurate). People also conflate not wanting to pay for birth control with thinking people shouldn't be allowed to use birth control.

Anything I'm missing? Why do you think there's such a discrepancy between the perceptions of the pro-life movement and what an average "pro-lifer" actually thinks?

[Re-posted on Secular Pro-Life]


  1. There may be also the abstinence-only contingency in the pro-life movement. Some of the abstinence-only people may oppose teaching contraceptive methods because of moral opposition to contraception, but I would wager most abstinence-only support comes from moral opposition to pre-marital sex and the belief that teaching contraception would encourage such. Yet to an outside viewer, I could see how this could also come across as simple opposition to contraception. So you've got people actually opposed to contraception, people not opposed to contraception but opposed to teaching teenagers how to use it, and then a large number opposed to employers being legally required to subsidize birth control on their insurance plans...

    Definitely frustrating, but understandable. I guess I tend to suppose all pro-choice people are also evangelical atheists, and that's who I always hear from on this, but statistically that can't be true.

    1. Excellent point about abstinence-only education. You are a great commenter, did you know that?

  2. I think there are many pro-life Catholics who, because of church teaching, will not admit that they are personally pro-birth control.

  3. Probably. The Gallup poll said 82% of Catholics said they considered birth control morally acceptable.