21 Jul We Need Abortion Because Contraceptives Are Imperfect
“Why didn’t you go on the pill?” “I thought you used condoms?” “It can’t be mine, because we used contraception!” “You probably got pregnant on purpose!” “But I pulled out!”
These are just a few of the phrases a newly pregnant young woman often hears from a partner, from a parent, and even from her own doctor. The stigma of an unplanned pregnancy remains strong in a society that turns every single discussion on reproductive health and freedom of choice into a moral debate.
Next comes the withdrawal of support, not just financial support, but also emotional and psychological support. Partners and disgruntled parents blame the woman for a pregnancy. She’s labeled as irresponsible, reckless, and slutty. Some even believe that a woman who gets pregnant should suffer the consequences of a difficult pregnancy as punishment for her “wrong-doing.”
A closer look at contraception can clarify many of this misconceptions. First and foremost, contraceptives are not perfect.
For the longest time, women were told that the pill was 99% effective. That implies that “if” a woman is on the pill and she got pregnant anyway, it’s her fault. However, what most people conveniently forget is that those statistics, the 99% effectiveness of the pill, is based on “perfect use.”
In the article, “What Are the Real Odds That Your Birth Control Will Fail?” Robbie Gonzales compares “perfect use” statistics against “typical use” statistics.
The data shows that among couples who use the male condom as their main form of contraception and who use it perfectly, 18 out of 100 women will get pregnant over a ten year period.
However, among couples who rely on the condom as a form of contraception, and who use it like the average user does, 86 out of 100 women will get pregnant over a ten-year period. That’s an 86% failure rate over 10 years!
As for the pill, 3 out of 100 women who use the pill perfectly will still get pregnant over a ten-year period. And 61 in 100 typical users will get pregnant over a ten-year period.
There is a huge gap between “typical” contraceptive use and “perfect” contraceptive use. The next silly question we’re bound to ask is, “Well, why didn’t you use it perfectly?”
Because people are not perfect.
Men can accidentally use expired condoms. Men sometimes place their contraception in warm places that weaken the condom. Sometimes men forget to pinch the bulge on the tip. Sometimes the condom isn’t the correct size and it slips off or tears. Sometimes you put it on inside out, because it was too dark.
A woman on the pill can miss a dose, run out of pills, or take it in the wrong order (taking a placebo instead).
There are, literally, so many ways that contraception can fail, and it would be completely unfair to “punish” a woman with a forced pregnancy just because a contraceptive failed.
The stigma and judgment placed on the shoulders of young pregnant women add to their suffering and mental anguish. Are we supposed to allow these women to be forced into motherhood just because a bunch of misinformed people think they’ve been reckless?
What we need to do instead is to remove the stigma of an unwanted pregnancy and decriminalize abortion. Because, the truth is, we don’t live in a perfect world. We are not perfect people. We don’t make perfect decisions.
Our government’s decision to deny us proper reproductive health options is literally forcing us to be perfect or suffer the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy. It’s quite ironic, I think, that it is also imperfect people (the government, the church, conservative groups) who demand an unrealistic perfection from others.
Gonzales, C. R. (2014, September). ” What Are the Real Odds That Your Birth Control Will Fail?” Retrieved on: May 3, 2017.