Monday, October 02, 2006

How A Bill To Reduce Abortion Lost Pregnancy Prevention Initatives

William Saletan authored an interesting piece in Sunday's Washington Post, "Where the Rubber Meets the Roe," which addresses how the proposal that became the Pregnant Women Support Act lost the aspects that might have helped prevent unwanted pregnancies, despite the backers' goal of reducing abortions by 95% over the next 10 years. A few excerpts (keep in mind that I have not yet fact-checked Saletan's numbers):
Meanwhile, Democrats for Life of America , which has eight members of Congress on its advisory board and works with 30 others, has devised a plan to reduce the abortion rate by 95 percent " by helping and supporting pregnant women ." Rep. Timothy J. Ryan (D-Ohio) was set to lead the charge. Then Ryan looked at the data and realized that to get anywhere near that target, he and his colleagues would have to provide more birth control. That's when the squirming began.

Some of Ryan's antiabortion allies worried that "morning-after" pills might prevent embryos from implanting, so he omitted such pills from his bill. They opposed requiring private insurers to cover contraception, so he took that out, too. They complained that other pregnancy-prevention bills hadn't emphasized abortion reduction, so he put abortion reduction in the title. They wanted sex education programs to emphasize abstinence; they got it. The only troublesome thing left in the bill was birth control.

It broke the deal. Democrats for Life abandoned Ryan and began a contraceptive-free alternative.


The objectors make several arguments. They point out that birth control pills, like morning-after pills, can block implantation of an embryo. But there's no evidence that this has ever happened. The chance is theoretical, and breastfeeding poses the same chance, so you'd have to stamp that out, too. Critics also note that many birth control methods can fail. That's true, but it's an argument for using two methods, not zero.

Third, they protest that federal family planning money supports Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions. But only 14 percent of this money goes to the organization, and fewer than 9 percent of Planned Parenthood clients go there to have an abortion.


Does the increased risk from more sex outweigh the decreased risk from more protection? Do the math. On average, contraception lowers the odds of pregnancy by a factor of seven. If you're capable of having seven times as much sex, congratulations. The rest of us will get pregnant less often, not more.
[Note: if you have trouble accessing the article, try BugMeNot, or the condensed piece in Slate.]

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MeSH Tags: Abortion, Induced; Contraception; Pregnancy/prevention and control


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