Widely available birth control and abortion have dramatically changed people’s attitudes toward sex and marriage. The result is that the very problems everyone hopes contraception and abortion will solve–nonmarital pregnancies and high abortion rates, and poverty–have actually gotten worse.
This happens as sexual intimacy becomes the normal price of a relationship (because it’s perceived to be non-risky), while at the same time women are expected to ensure that they don’t get pregnant. If they do get pregnant, it becomes expected that they will consider abortion as a solution.
So non-marital pregnancies increase, due to human nature’s “risk compensation” response.
Risk compensation refers to human beings’ willingness to engage in risky behavior when they perceive that its dangers have been reduced or eliminated. Think increased speeding deaths following safety belt mandates.
When convinced that birth control and abortion are fail-safe insurance policies, men and women have much more, not less, non-marital sex. It becomes an expectation for women to have sex with men before receiving a commitment. The drastic increase in non-marital sexual activity leads to much more, not less non-marital pregnancy.
In addition to the increase in non-marital sex, the risk compensation response also shifts the burden of sex-without-kids to women. When women have the “right” to use contraception with abortion as (in the words of our Supreme Court) “backup”, babies that result from sex are considered a problem that could easily have been avoided. The old expectation for men to take responsibility for the child via a “shotgun” marriage is out. The social expectation shifts to women to “manage” their pregnancy while unmarried.
After birth control began to flood the U.S market in the 1960s, and after the 1970 passage of the federal Title X program providing large-scale contraception handouts, and after the legalization of abortion in 1973, we have seen rates of non-marital pregnancy (as well as other problematic outcomes) shoot up:
You may notice that while abortion rates have fallen in recent years, they have never fallen below the levels existing before such programs went into effect.
Obviously, factors in addition to widely-available contraception and abortion also bear responsibility for our current predicaments. But the fact remains that it is both simplistic and inaccurate for abortion advocates to insist that more contraception will lead to fewer abortions and non-marital pregnancies.