Relax, Mr. Superhero. Those treacherous pro-lifers who want to take away everyone’s birth control and doom them to more abortions don’t actually exist.
This misleading meme is about the “HHS Mandate,” which says that under the Affordable Care Act, all employers must offer birth control in their health plans. Most Americans believe that the Mandate’s exemption for religious employers is far too narrow. It doesn’t exempt, for example, groups of religious nuns who provide care for the elderly poor. Now, president-elect Trump and Congress have promised to repeal and replace the ACA, which would end the HHS Mandate.
This meme is directed at pro-lifers who support Congress’s and the President-elect’s stance against the HHS Mandate. It rests on two claims:
Claim #1: Contraception prevents abortions by keeping women from getting pregnant.
Two problems with this. First, some contraceptives are potential abortifacients. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states on their website that when using combined hormonal birth control or IUDs, “the lining of the uterus thins, making it less likely that a fertilized egg can attach to it.”[i], [ii] It is unknown how often this thinning actually results in pregnancy loss, but many pro-lifers consider these contraceptives risky at best. The meme might as well read, “If you don’t want women to get abortions, then don’t oppose coverage for drugs that might cause abortions.”
Furthermore, the claim that contraception prevents unplanned pregnancies and abortions on a societal scale is dubious. 51% of women who have abortions used contraception during the month they became pregnant.[iii] In 2010, the CDC noted that although contraceptive use was “virtually universal among women of reproductive age,” half of all pregnancies in the U.S. were still unplanned.[iv] It’s arguable that widespread contraceptive use places MORE women at risk for unintended pregnancies over the long term, by persuading more women and men to risk nonmarital sex.[v]
Claim #2: Objectors to the HHS mandate are opposed to insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Most people looking at the meme would assume this. However, the real objection raised is that the government should not force religious employers to provide birth control coverage if doing so violates their deeply held beliefs. Even the Little Sisters of the Poor, who fought the Mandate all the way to the Supreme Court, did not object to the government providing free contraceptives to their employees as long as they weren’t involved.[vi]
But what if the ACA were entirely repealed? As previously noted, the CDC wrote in 2010 that contraceptive use was nearly universal among women of reproductive age. So two years before the HHS Mandate was issued, almost everyone was already using birth control. It’s more than safe to assume that, should the ACA be repealed, the vast majority of American women will still have access to contraception if they want it.
So maybe Mr. Superhero should find a real villain to fight.
Laura Doroski is a homeschooling mother to 3 young children. A graduate of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, Laura founded the college’s Catholic Student Union and Students for Life. Because freedom of religion, women’s and family issues are now inextricably linked, Laura is doing what she can for the sake of her kids to speak out about the consequences of women suppressing or circumventing their reproductive systems and denying life to their own children.
[i] American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ 185. COMBINED HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL: PILL, PATCH, AND RING. “How do combined hormonal methods prevent pregnancy?” http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Combined-Hormonal-Birth-Control-Pill-Patch-and-Ring
[ii] American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ 184. LONG-ACTING REVERSIBLE CONTRACEPTION (LARC): IUD AND IMPLANT. “How Does the IUD Work?” http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Long-Acting-Reversible-Contraception-LARC-IUD-and-Implant#work
[iii] Guttmacher Institute. Induced Abortion in the United States. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states
[iv] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Use of Contraception in the United States: 1982-2008. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_029.pdf
[v] Women Speak for Themselves. How the Message of “Contraception and Abortion are Key to Women’s Equality” Fails Women and Society. http://womenspeakforthemselves.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Risk-Compensation-fact-sheet-FINAL.pdf
[vi] Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty. A Little Sisters Win Helps All Americans. http://thelittlesistersofthepoor.com/a-little-sisters-win-helps-all-americans#contraception