If you heard this once, you heard it a million times. If only we all increased use of contraception, then we would see the number of abortions decrease.
Does such an argument hold up under scrutiny?
Let us turn to a papal encyclical, written by Pope Saint John Paul II, for some clarity. After all, no one else more famously opposes contraception and abortion as the Catholic Church.
The following is from section 13 of Evangelium Vitae (‘The Gospel of Life’). I will add my commentary along the way, and all emphasis is my own.
The Pope points out that some contraceptives (oral ones, especially) actually can cause chemical abortions. So much for preventing abortions!
“In order to facilitate the spread of abortion, enormous sums of money have been invested and continue to be invested in the production of pharmaceutical products which make it possible to kill the fetus in the mother’s womb without recourse to medical assistance.”
He follows with a general observation about the unethical nature of contraceptive manufacturing:
“On this point, scientific research itself seems to be almost exclusively preoccupied with developing products which are ever more simple and effective in suppressing life and which at the same time are capable of removing abortion from any kind of control or social responsibility.”
Notice how the morality of using contracept rarely gets questioned anymore in the public square? And now the late Holy Father addresses the specific topic at hand:
“It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion.
“The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception.
“When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded.”
Okay, you might expect the pope to assert such a thing. But don’t dismiss him or the Church’s position. Read what he writes next to defend the truth of what he is teaching.
“It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the ‘contraceptive mentality’—which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act—are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived” .
That’s walk back through that, so you understand what the Polish Pontiff has just stated. He is stating that, rather than remove the temptation to abort, contraceptive use increases it. This defies the mantra you hear all the time from popular culture, I realize.
Nonetheless, what Pope Saint John Paul II teaches remains true. Once you accept the premise that sex can be separated from babies, the jump from trying to prevent their conception to, instead, preventing their birth is not a large jump to make. This ‘contraceptive mentality’ has taken over our society.
The Pope follows up with a true statement as any ever: “Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected.”
The Pope then makes an important distinction. “Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being. The former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment ‘You shall not kill.’”
The Pope follows up with a famous line from this encyclical: “But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree” . Rotten fruit, at that. Bore from the same root of selfishness and pride.
The Holy Father does realize those who contracept or abort do so reluctantly. But as he makes clear, such people are not necessarily exempt from moral culpability.
“It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real-life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God’s law fully.”
He goes on to shine light on the sin of pride at the heart of so many who make use of contraception. “Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality. And they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment.”
Pope Saint John Paul II follows up by summing up the ‘contraceptive mentality’ that leads to more abortions, instead of fewer of them: “The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”
The Polish saint doubles down. “The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious.”
He concludes this section of his great encyclical by circling back to the problem of abortifacient contraceptives. “It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.”
THE TRUTH RINGS OUT
Think back through American history and you can see what the pope has described played out. First, America defied the Natural Law in legalizing contraception use (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). Then just eight years later it legalized the dismemberment of the unborn through abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973). Our country went from having very few abortions before 1965 to having over a million a year these days.
First, Americans bought the lie that sex and babies need not go together. People were now free to engage in sex ‘wreck’-reationally. Entire generations of people, thus, were taught they had a right to the conjugal act free of any lifelong responsibilities toward children.
Once they realized contraceptives were not fool-proof and pregnancies still could occur, pop culture needed a backup plan. Enter the legalization of abortion.
If a society accepts the notion that children ought to be avoided from being conceived, it is no wonder it also concludes those who are conceived can be prevented from being birthed.
It’s not rocket science.
No, it’s only the downfall of our entire society.
Brought to you by the explosion in use of contraception.
After reading Pope Saint John Paul II’s description in his encyclical on this ‘contraceptive mentality,’ what do you think of it?
Please weigh in with your thoughts on anything on this topic below!