Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Facts and figures: On the proportion of women terminating their pregnancies who were on contraception

Thanks to Arabella at CathPews for bringing this to our attention:

A Flinders University study of 965 women over 30 who used Adelaide's largest abortion clinic found 62 per cent were using contraception when they became pregnant.

[...] Ms [Wendy] Abigail [Nursing and Midwifery researcher] said the finding, which was published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health, added to earlier research that showed 70 per cent of women under 30 were also on contraception when they became pregnant and then sought a termination.


There are a few other things to say about the article, beginning with its headline: "Abortion not used as birth control" As a couple of readers pointed out in the combox,

... If you get [an abortion] because you don't want the baby, whether you used protection or not or it didn't work, is another form of birth control. It's stopping the baby from being born. ...
[J. G Posted at 12:39 PM June 03, 2010, Comment 8 of 12]

A pro-abortion commenter there proposed a more precise headline, in a comment dripping with sarcasm:

Durh of Duh Posted at 12:57 PM June 03, 2010

Anyone who ever thought otherwise must be seriously dense. And yes John and ITS A FORM... playing semantics is great fun, and we can all do it all day. In this case though, to do so in the way you have shows that you've completely misunderstood both the argument and the article, whether deliberately or out of ignorance. The headline should, of course, be "abortion not used in place of preventative contraception, but as a fallback when said contraception fails". Is that better? Can we all stop being idiots and go home for the day?

Comment 9 of 12

But the (obviously sarcastically-)proposed headline inadvertently reveals another problem: If abortion is "a fallback when said contraception fails", then its procurers would seem to be thinking of it as 'retrospective contraception', so to speak. If abortion is indeed, for these women, "not used as birth control", as the headline would have us believe, then wouldn't they think something like 'Oh well, I tried to avoid falling pregnant, it failed, so I suppose now I'll have to accept the consequences and see it through to full term'? So I would suggest that, if anything, these findings only show that the abortive mentality and the contraceptive mentality are mutually reinforcing. To prove or disprove this hypothesis, we would of course need figures on how many women who use contraception and fall pregnant end up terminating the pregnancy.

Also, one commenter pointed out the bias of Ms Abigail (or perhaps of the journalist):

Andrew of Adelaide Posted at 12:58 PM June 03, 2010

STORY:"There are many reasons why women don't use contraception, for instance domestic violence situations where the man controls what contraception is used," Ms Abigail said. So Ms Abigail blames male politicians for the myth and then blames male partners for many of the unwanted pregnancies - this is very anti-male; she is a masandrist. This is a classic strategy - portray women as victims of men and demand total choice over reproduction (ie no responsibility) When are women going to tell other women to act like grown ups? STORY: She said further research was needed to find out how many of the women who were not using contraception also did not want to become pregnant. Ummm - yes, i would think further research was required, if you actaully want to address the issue in the lead paragraph of this story about "abortion as birth control"

Comment 10 of 12

Finally, the findings might lend weight to the argument that abortion isn't widely used as a substitute for contraception, but those findings don't tell us why those contraceiving women who fell pregnant opted for abortion; in particular, it doesn't tell us whether the motives for abortion are the same as the motives for contraception. We read that

Ms Abigail blamed primarily male politicians for perpetuating the myth that women used termination as a convenience rather than for emotional and medical reasons.

But implicit in Ms Abigail's apparent conclusion is the assumption that when a woman on contraception accidentally falls pregnant she will necessarily terminate the pregnancy. Ms Abigail seems to assume that the abortion motivation 'because my contraception failed' is synonymous with emotional and medical motivations and incompatible with a motive of convenience, when, on the contrary, I would expect that 'because my contraception failed' indicates a desire to avoid the inconveniences of having a baby. Without asking the women what motivated them to terminate their pregnancies, I don't see why my opinion is any less valid than Ms Abigail's.

Reginaldvs Cantvar