We now live in a world in which we talk about casual, recreational sex. A young man meets a young woman and says “Nice to meet you, would you like to have dinner, go to a movie, and then have sex.” She says “Sure, why not?” The only thing that is strange is the element of formality in such an encounter.
Casual sex is very common in our culture. At one time people thought that you shouldn’t have sex unless you were in love. You shouldn’t have sex until you were prepared for babies. And you’re not prepared for babies until you’re married. It’s a very clear equation. People thought these elements made up a package deal. And it’s not hard to figure out the justification for those premises.
In our culture we think that having babies and having sex are two entirely different activities. You certainly don’t need to be prepared for babies when you have sex. You certainly don’t need to be in love when you have sex. You don’t need to be married to have babies. In fact, you don’t have to have sex to have babies! It’s a very curious world. In fact, apparently people get married and don’t have sex. We now have what are called “sexless marriages.” You can read about them on Dr. Phil’s website.
What was once a natural package, we have completely torn asunder. It is my contention that contraception has been one of the elements that has torn apart the natural connection between love, sex, marriage and babies.
We have come to the point where we talk about an accidental pregnancy. It’s always been a phrase that has mystified me. You can slip on a banana by accident; you can fall off a cliff by accident, but you can’t get pregnant by accident.
I used to work in a pregnancy help center. Young women would come in and would tell me that they got pregnant “by accident”. I’m this left-brained philosopher and thus very logical. It would make my brain start to cramp up when I would hear a woman say she got pregnancy by accident. I would look at these young women in a mystified way and say, “Well, you were having sex weren’t you?” Then, of course, their brains would start to cramp and they would look at me like I was some sort of freak and they’d say “Of course I was having sex.” And I’d say, “Well you know if you get pregnant through an act of sexual intercourse that actually means that something has gone right, not that something has gone wrong.”
When you hit the gas pedal and the car goes forward you don’t go “huh, how did that happen?” We know the cause and we know the effect. It is simply a fact that when an act of sexual intercourse leads to a pregnancy, it means that something has gone right, not that something has gone wrong.
What do you think has contributed the most good to our culture in the last half century? Contraception, cars, computers, iPods, cell phones? We cannot imagine ourselves without cars, computers, iPods or contraceptives. We have become totally a contraceptive culture. If right now all contraceptives were taken off the shelves, we’d hear the screeching of brakes all over the place of people who had been going off to do something they wouldn’t be doing if a contraceptive weren’t available to them.
We’ve become a culture that’s been defined by contraceptive sex. People hardly know anything else now. The contraceptive pill was not developed until the late 1950s. Up until that point there was the condom, the diaphragm, and douches — some using Lysol. In the late 1950s the contraceptive pill was developed, put on the market and people thought it was going to be — in fact they still think it is going to be — the salvation of mankind. It would control the population crisis. It would reduce the number of unwed pregnancies and abortions. (We all know that that hasn’t happened.) And we thought it was going to improve marriages.
I’m going to make an argument that as a matter of fact rather than doing a great deal of good, I think contraception has been very damaging to our culture.
Teen Sex Practices
Some people want to keep throwing more and more contraceptives at teenagers. They think that somehow this will stop them from getting pregnant. But all the evidence suggests otherwise. In 2003 sixty two percent of 12th graders had had sexual intercourse. Of course, there’s a significantly higher percent that had sexual activity, the sort that President Clinton sort of introduced into popular culture. I recently read that seventy percent of kids having left high school claim to have engaged in oral sex. The data about teen sexual experiences other than intercourse are more limited. In 1995, fifty-three percent of teen males age 15-19 said they have been masturbated by a female. Forty nine percent had received oral sex, thirty nine percent had given oral sex and eleven percent had engaged in anal sex.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
There are three million new cases of Chlamydia every year, a major cause of infertility in the United States. Chlamydia is very much connected with a growing problem with infertility. Not so long ago about ten percent of couples were infertile, now over 15 percent of couples are infertile. The major cause of the increase in infertility is sexually transmitted diseases. Often when a woman gets a sexually transmitted disease, she gets a lesion. When that lesion heals there is scarring. Scarring in the fallopian tubes causes the embryo to implant in the tube rather than travel to the uterus. You might have noticed that there has been a huge increase in ectopic pregnancies, over 600 percent since 1970. Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition. The embryo cannot possibly come to term in the fallopian tube and if it continues to grow, it can cause the tube to rupture and the woman could bleed to death.
Another major STD is the human papillomavirus (the HPV); there are between 5.5 and 6 million new cases of every year. The HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer. A vaccine for the HPV has been discovered, but it doesn’t protect against all forms of the HPV.
The incidence of the HIV which causes AIDS is much lower than all the others — there are many fewer than 100,000 new cases each year. But that is where a disproportionate amount of the money for research is going.
Fifty years ago there were only two sexually transmitted diseases: syphilis and gonorrhea. Now there are about 35 to 50 different sexually transmitted diseases.
The growth of the incidence of unwed pregnancy tells an amazing story. In 1960, three percent of white babies were born out of wedlock and twenty-two percent of black babies were born out of wedlock. In 1960 six percent of all babies born in the United States were born out of wedlock.
In 1960 it was hard for a teenager to get a contraceptive. Teenagers had to go to a seedy gas station, a seedy hotel to find a condom machine and buy a few condoms. Now they can get condoms in their Welcome Back to School kit.
In 2003 about 24 percent of white babies were born out of wedlock. Sixty-eight percent of black babies were born out of wedlock and 34 percent of all babies born in the United States are born out of wedlock. Metro Detroit actually has the highest unwed pregnancy rate in the United States: it is seventy-five percent. If you want to try to discover the source of poverty and social dysfunction in Detroit, this is a place to start.
Most of those who live in poverty in the United States are single women with children. It’s not that there aren’t jobs; it’s that when a woman has a child at home she can’t get the education that will qualify her for the jobs that exist. She can’t earn the money that will pay for child care and her job. So she has to live off of welfare. Greater availability of contraceptives has not led to a reduction of out of wedlock pregnancy; in fact out of wedlock pregnancy increases with availability of contraception.
It is a social disaster that one out of three babies born in the United States is born to a single mother. Over one out four pregnancies ends in abortion. One out of two marriages ends in divorce. So what does this mean? Let’s work out the stats. Only about twenty-eight percent of the babies who are conceived in the United States will be born and born to a mother who is married — to a mother who will remain married to the same man for the rest of her life. Every other baby conceived in the United States is either going to be aborted or born to a single mother, or born into a household that is touched by divorce. Do you wonder why we have the problems we have? This is a very good place to start looking for answers.
Children and Poverty
About 68 percent of the children that live with a never-married parent live in poverty. Forty-two percent of those living with a parent who is separated live in poverty. About 38 percent of those living with parents who are cohabiting live in poverty. Only 12 percent of children living with parents who are in their first marriage are living in poverty. My guess is that most of those people are in the early years of their marriage. As they are married longer they build up some savings etc. so that they get out of poverty. So if you want to look at the major sources of poverty in the United States a very good place to look is at single parenthood: women having children out of wedlock and people cohabiting, getting separated, getting divorced.
Does access to contraception reduce abortions? 63 percent of women who are getting abortions have never been married. Eleven percent are divorced, six percent are separated and one percent are widowed. Eighty-one percent of those getting abortions are not living in the married state. Fifty percent of the women who go to abortion clinics claim that they were using a contraceptive when they got pregnant. They are seeking an abortion because of a contraceptive failure. The other 50 percent say that they have used a contraceptive in the past; they just weren’t using it at this particular time. Often these are teenagers and sometimes women in their 20’s. They break up with their boyfriend, they don’t like the side effects of the contraceptive pill, they stop taking it, the boyfriend comes around or they get a new one and before they get on the new birth control regime, they have sex and they get pregnant.
Nineteen percent of those getting abortions are married. But so far as I can tell the major reason for the abortions of the married women is not poverty. There are many reasons. One is that 10 percent of babies conceived by married women are conceived by someone other than her husband. We also have an enormous increase in the use of in vitro-fertilization. Three or four embryos are implanted and then two or three are selectively terminated and that means aborted. You’ll also notice there is a radical decrease of individuals with Down syndrome in our culture. If pre-natal testing detects a baby with Down syndrome, the baby is often aborted. I can’t tell you how many women call me and tell me that their doctors tell them that either because of their own health or because of some anomalies of the unborn child, they need an abortion. Of course I always recommend that they go to a good pro-life doctor and get a second opinion. Almost always they inform me that this doctor tells them that they can get through the pregnancy alive and healthy and that the baby is either alright or they will be able to live with the challenges of having a baby with defects.
Contraception Leads to Abortion
Even the Supreme Court says that contraception leads to abortion, in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Casey was the democratic pro-life governor of Pennsylvania; he and the people of Pennsylvania put certain restrictions on abortion. Most of those actually were upheld by the courts: for instance, a teenager had to get her parents’ permission; a married woman had to at least inform her husband that she was getting an abortion. But Planned Parenthood, which is the biggest abortion provider in the United States, challenges all restrictions on abortion and challenged Casey. Pro-lifers were thrilled. We thought this is going to be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to look again at the question when human life begins. Apparently all members of the Supreme Court had lost their library cards at the time of Roe vs. Wade, because they couldn’t get to the library to discover when human life began. They didn’t know. For some reason, they couldn’t get access to the textbooks that have been saying for decades and decades that human life begins at conception. Embryology textbooks, gynecological textbooks, obstetrical textbooks, genetic textbooks all say human life begins at conception. We were hoping that maybe this time around, 20 years later, they were going to be able to go to the library, open a textbook and find out. But instead the Supreme Court said that, in some critical respects, abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception. These are the words of the court: “For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” So the Supreme Court was saying that they’re not going to look at the question of when human life begins because our cuture has become absolutely dependent upon abortion: people need abortion should their contraceptives fail.
But is that true? Contraceptive failure doesn’t mean a woman needs an abortion. If a contraceptive fails, then it is only just to give the baby life. The problem is not that the contraceptive has failed but that the women are having sexual intercourse with someone with whom they have no intention of having a baby.
That is not God’s plan. God meant the day that a woman first found out that she was pregnant to be one of the very happiest days of her life. When she gets that first positive pregnancy test, she would call up her husband and say, “Darling we’re starting our family. I’m pregnant.” The two of them go berserk. They paint the nursery. They spend a couple hundred dollars on phone calls. They buy a book with babies’ names. They are deliriously happy. Their life has moved to a new level.
A couple years ago was the first year in the United States that the number of positive pregnancy tests to single women was higher than those to married women. The day a single woman finds out that she’s pregnant is not the happiest day of her life. A lot of you have been there. Maybe your girlfriends have been there, your sisters, your friends. An unmarried woman gets a positive pregnancy test and thinks “What do I do now? Do I marry him? Why would I marry him? I barely know him. He is a jerk. Why would I marry him?” Or maybe, she thinks, “Yes, I do want to marry him. I’m crazy about him.” But you can’t imagine how many women don’t marry even the men who want to marry them, because they don’t want to feel like they trapped him into marriage. A number of women will get abortions even though the man by whom they got pregnant wanted to get married.
Some women decide to become a single mother. Certainly, many women do an incredibly good job of it. Some men are also very good providers in those situations. But generally it is difficult. All sorts of problems arise with being a single mother. Virtually every single mother would say she would like to have a husband to help her raise her children.
Some women have an abortion, the worst of all decisions and one from which it is very hard to recover.
Some few women put their babies up for adoption. Among my brothers and sisters there are 3 adopted children. We love these children like crazy. We love the mothers of those children who were generous enough to give up those children so that we could have the families that we wanted to have. But to give a baby up for adoption, although an incredibly generous and marvelous thing to do, is very painful.
Contraceptives as Abortifacients
Many people don’t know that the chemical contraceptives in and of themselves are abortifacients. What does that mean?
The pill, Norplant, Depo-Provera, and the patch, are chemical contraceptives. They put in a woman’s body synthetic forms of the hormones that she has when she’s pregnant. A woman who is using a chemical contraceptive is in a state of pseudo-pregnancy. Her body “thinks” it’s pregnant. Women don’t ovulate when they’re pregnant. There’s no point in ovulation if a woman is already pregnant.
The body is designed to get pregnant. Month after month a woman’s body functions in such a way as to accommodate a pregnancy. If a woman is already pregnant there is no point in ovulation. A pregnant woman is produces hormones that are going to gestate and nurture the embryo within her rather than to create a new human being. In the insert that comes with the pill or any one of the chemical contraceptives, it is first called an “anovulant” because it stops a woman from ovulating. If there’s no egg there, if a woman does not ovulate, she cannot possibly get pregnant.
Sometimes women who are on contraceptives ovulate anyway. A healthy woman wants to ovulate. That’s what her body is designed to do. She has a little war going on in her body if she’s not really pregnant and she is using a chemical contraceptive. Her body is trying to produce the hormones that cause ovulation but the synthetic hormones are trying to suppress production of those hormones. Sometimes a woman’s own natural hormones win out. If a woman doesn’t take the pill the same time every day or if she’s taking other medicine that might interfere with the hormones, she might produce her own fertile hormones. Some 2-10 percent of the time, a woman who is taking the pill ovulates. The ovulation rate is even higher with Norplant and Depo-Provera, possibly as high as 40-60 percent of the time. A woman who is using those is still ovulating, but she’s not getting pregnant. Why is she not getting pregnant? It may be because the fertile mucus is not there to help carry the sperm to meet the egg.
That is, chemical contraceptives work by “changing the viscosity of the mucus.” The same hormones that help a woman ovulate also cause her to produce a certain kind of mucus, called fertile mucus, that helps carry the sperm to the egg. The mucus that is affected by chemical contraceptives is not as efficient in carrying sperm to meet the egg.
Sadly, a woman using a chemical contraceptive may be getting pregnant but self-aborting. As I mentioned, sometimes a woman’s own hormones override the hormones in the chemical contraceptive; she ovulates and produces enough fertile mucus so that sperm does get carried to fertilize the egg. The sperm in fact meets the egg and fertilizes it. Now there is a new little embryo, a new little human being. That embryo tries to travel down the fallopian tube and implant in its mother’s uterine wall. But the mother may not be able to sustain the pregnancy because she is not producing the progesterone necessary to sustain implantation. The same cluster of hormones that cause a woman to ovulate and produce fertile mucus are the same hormones that help her build up the endometrial wall, where the new little human being is going to implant. Yet, because the woman has been repressing her natural hormones her endometrium is thinner than it ought to be. She doesn’t have the full production of the hormones that will produce a nice rich endometrial wall. So instead of implanting a new little human being it is sloughed off. The pharmaceutical inserts for chemical contraceptives speaks of them “preventing the nidation of the fertilized ovum”. “Nidation” means “nesting.” Chemical contraceptives prevent the fertilized ovum, the new little human being, from nesting in the uterine wall.
Most women taking a chemical contraceptive month after month, don’t know how many times in any given year, in any given couple years, they may in fact be conceiving, Although they conceive, they will not be gestating their child because it will not implant.