Why Contraception Leads to Abortion

Manila Bulletin, June 19, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Why Contraception Leads to Abortion


MANILA, Philippines - Some well meaning individuals support the RH Bill because they contend that a more widespread availability of contraceptives will reduce illegal abortions in the Philippines.

They sincerely bewail the thousand of illegal abortions being performed yearly in the Philippines and they are of the opinion that making pills, condoms and other contraceptive devices more freely available, especially to the poor, will actually reduce these illegal abortions.

Such an opinion is based on pure speculation that is not based on empirical science. On the other hand, there is abundant research in countries where contraceptive devices are freely available in vending machines or the corner drug store demonstrating that abortions tend to increase with the widespread use of contraception.

I have lived in two countries where contraception has been practiced for decades - the United States and Spain - where hundreds of thousands of babies are being aborted every year. Even prescinding from the medical fact that some so-called contraceptives (e.g. the "morning after pill" and the IUD) do not prevent fertilization but kill the human life before implantation, the RH Bill should not be passed because it will encourage the widespread use of artificial contraceptives, which in turn will increase abortions.

Some of our economists who favor the RH Bill are still too enamored with the sterile tool of econometrics. They subject economic data to purely mathematical and statistical analysis without having recourse to the behavioral sciences that can capture more completely the very complex reality that the human being is.

It is no surprise that a good number of "economists" who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in the last decade or so come from other social sciences or make full use of the findings of such disciplines as social psychology, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, etc. One such Nobel laureate is George Arthur Akerlof of the University of California (Berkeley). In 2001, Akerlof shared the Nobel Prize in Economics with Michael Spence and Joseph Stiglitz.

From the psycho-sociological studies of Akerlof, we find strong empirical evidence that the widespread use of contraception has increased the rates of divorce, abortion, single motherhood and psychologically disturbed children - which are not only social ills but can lead to significant increases in public spending to address the consequent social problems.

Akerlof described a phenomenon that he labeled "reproductive technology shock." He demonstrated through empirical studies in the US that new technologies that had helped to spawn the late 20th Century sexual revolution - modern contraceptive devices and legal abortion - had not only failed to suppress the incidence of out-of-wedlock child bearing but also had actively worked to increase it.

How can we explain the "reproductive technology shock" from the viewpoint of behavioral science? For women who had not been using contraceptives, these technologies had transformed the old paradigm of socio-sexual assumptions, expectations, and behaviors in ways that were especially disadvantageous.

For example, the availability of legal abortion now allowed men to view their offsprings as the deliberate product of female choice rather than the chance product of sexual intercourse. Thus it encouraged biological fathers to reject not only any supposed obligation to marry the mother but also the very idea of paternal obligation. Behavioral changes like these are what are completely ignored by those advocating the RH Bill. They only focus on the short-run problem of reducing illegal abortions or the number of mothers dying at child birth.

Even their assumptions about the short-term benefits of making contraceptives available to the poor can be questioned for lack of empirical evidence. I have seen no studies showing that those who procure illegal abortions would have not become pregnant if they had access to contraceptives.

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