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Saturday, December 4, 2010

A secular review of HLI America birth control survey

HLI America is a part of Human Life International, a Catholic group opposed to birth control. So when I saw that they had released a survey of 800 women regarding hormonal contraceptive use, I took it with a grain of salt. Their interpretation emphasizes the negative; the HLI America website gives it the title "The Pill and America: What Women Don't Know May be Hurting Them."

Looking at the data from a different perspective, I see it as a mix of good news and bad news. Here are the findings that I think are most important:

Informed consent is lacking. This is HLI's main point, and I agree that it's disconcerting. For instance, only 40% of women reported that their doctors discussed the widely acknowledged risk of blood clots and stroke. Worse, 10% of young women age 15 to 17 reported getting their pills from a friend instead of seeing a doctor.

On the plus side, the vast majority of respondents were aware that hormonal contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Women view contraception as a social good. A majority of American women believe that contraception has had a positive impact on society (64%, versus 19% neutral and 9% negative), marriages (56%-29%-6%), and the quality of relationships between men and women (57%-26%-8%). Breaking down the results by religious affiliation, a plurality of Catholics and a majority of evangelical and mainline Protestants view the pill as positive for society. To put it bluntly, when religious groups blame contraception for abortion, divorce, and other social ills, they aren't only alienating the non-religious-- they're also alienating their supposed constituents!

The pill is pervasive. Only 12% of respondents over the age of 25 had never taken hormonal contraception. The majority of respondents in every religious subgroup, including Catholics, are on the pill or have been at some point in their lives. Roughly half of pill users began taking the pill at or before the age of 18, many at the suggestion of a parent. It's common for women in their 30s and 40s to report having taken oral contraceptives for ten years or more.

But it isn't just about contraception. While a majority of oral contraceptive users are on the pill to prevent pregnancy (61%), I expected the percentage to be much higher. Other reasons for being on the pill include regulating periods (21%), alleviating cramps (8%), and treating acne (4%). Catholic pharmacists who have qualms about distributing oral contraceptives should bear this in mind.

For most, sexual activity precedes going on the pill. This is true for every age group except the youngest, the 15- to 17-year-olds. The survey doesn't indicate whether women are using other forms of contraception in the interim.

20 comments:

Yonmei said...

But what you're missing is:

Pro-lifers oppose hormonal contraception because they're misogynistic (as neatly demonstrated in the previous thread where every pro-lifer came out in favor of coerced abortions for serving soldiers).

To put it bluntly, when religious groups blame contraception for abortion, divorce, and other social ills, they aren't only alienating the non-religious-- they're also alienating their supposed constituents!

You'd think. But the point is: Access to safe easy-to-use contraception puts women in control of their own fertility. That's unacceptable to a movement founded on misogyny, but it's also been illegal in the US for decades to prevent women from doing so, and impossible (if she chooses to conceal it) to tell without a blood test if she's on the Pill.

So the solution is:

1. Lie. That's the preferred choice for pro-lifers. Claim that the Pill is dangerous against the evidence or exaggerating evidence. Claim that taking the Pill is the same as having an abortion. Etc.

2. Make taking the Pill so shameful by public fulminations that women in the audience feel they need to conceal they're on the Pill not only from the men who might try to stop them, but from each other - prevent solidarity.

3. Directly deny women the Pill, if as a doctor or a pharmacist you have the power to do so, and claim that this is an essential part of practicing your religion, not to have to do your job.


For most, sexual activity precedes going on the pill. This is true for every age group except the youngest, the 15- to 17-year-olds. The survey doesn't indicate whether women are using other forms of contraception in the interim.


Depends whether they were given "abstinence" education such as pro-lifers recommend, or whether they got real sex education. Obviously another solid reason is that under-18s who parents think they own and control their daughter's uteruses may find it hard to get on the Pill without their parents knowledge/consent.

secularprolife.org said...

No matter what I do-- even when I'm picking apart the claims of an anti-contraception group-- you're going to call me misogynistic! You've effectively deprived the insult of all meaning.

"as neatly demonstrated in the previous thread where every pro-lifer came out in favor of coerced abortions for serving soldiers"
All are welcome to go and visit the previous thread and see for themselves that this is not true.

Nulono said...

http://www.GrowYourKnowledge.com/

Yonmei said...

you're going to call me misogynistic!

You're part of a misogynistic movement, SP. In this post you make a number of statements about the pro-life movement agains contraception that can be clarified by pointing out the misogyny that underpins them.

If you don't want to be part of a misogynistic movement, don't be: become pro-choice. Value women as human beings. Oppose the pro-life movement instead of supporting its dehumanization of women.

Yonmei said...

Clarifying: "About the pro-life movement's opposition to contraception" I meant.

Nulono said...

Women are humans, and we acknowledge this. Women, like all humans, do not have a right to kill other humans.

secularprolife.org said...

become pro-choice. Value women as human beings.
As long as those women have grown to adulthood, you mean. You're presenting a false choice between sexism and ageism.
I'll pass.

Yonmei said...

Nulono, Women, like all humans, have a right not to have their bodies used against their will, not to be forced through labour that will permanently change their bodies, and can threaten their health or their life.

SP: As long as those women have grown to adulthood, you mean.

No, unlike pro-lifers who support forced pregnancy for children, I'm definitely for the right of children to have abortions too - indeed, especially so: unlike pro-lifers, I regard a raped child as worthy of being protected from a pregnancy and childbirth she is far too young to endure.

Pro-lifers may be indifferent to the welfare of children: pro-lifers support "Parental notification laws" so that parents who regard their daughters' bodies as their property to be used at their will, and who have lost the trust of their children, can have the power of the state on their side against their children's welfare.

But it's false to claim that pro-choicers are so indifferent to child welfare.

Nulono said...

1. You're all for the rights of child as soon as the magical personhood-bestowing act of childbirth occurs, and not a second earlier.
2. Parental notification laws are so that parents, who are in charge of caring for their offspring, can be informed in case complications arise.

secularprolife.org said...

Exactly, Nulono.

A Duck said...

I like how Yonmei can turn increasingly neutral posts into misogynistic stances. You should gradually steer the blog posts to talking about what you had for breakfast to see how far she'll go.

"Pro-lifers eat eggs to keep female chickens in captivity. They wake each morning and laugh maniacally imagining the torment hens are caused to make their breakfast."

Pantheroom said...

Yonmei has become dismally predictable. I agree with Duck-- it doesn't matter what you say. You could come right out and say, "Yonmei, you're right, and I'm pro-choice now" and she'd probably attack you for being so misogynistic as to act as a spy, infiltrating her side, attempting to capture innocent, vastly-more-intelligent-than-you young pro-choicers. Oh and you still hate and want women to die. That too.

I think it's time to stop feeding the troll.

A Duck said...

I think it's time to stop feeding the troll.

Now you've come out and said it and I feel like the magic is ruined.

Yonmei said...

Nulono: You're all for the rights of child as soon as the magical personhood-bestowing act of childbirth occurs, and not a second earlier.

Whereas you and other pro-lifers claim "special" rights for a fetus which no other human being has - which rights vanish as soon as the fetus is born.

Parental notification laws are so that parents, ... can be informed in case complications arise.

Parental notification laws exist as a means of making it more difficult for a minor child to get an abortion. There's no other reason for them, as you will understand when you're older.

who are in charge of caring for their offspring,

Actually, parental notification laws are often written so that even non-custodial parents who have long since abandoned their offspring are legally supposed to be located and told the daughter they haven't seen in years is having an abortion. There is no particular point to this, aside from pro-life gloating about how difficult to make it for children who have fathers who have run to avoid paying child support.

There is often no formal exemption for those instances where the father of the girl getting an abortion is also the father of her baby - he is still legally required to be notified. Pro-lifers are of course indifferent to the further agony of mind this would put a raped girl through, to know she was legally bound to let her rapist know - because he, not she, in the pro-life view, owns her body.

The other instances where a child knows one or both of her parents will be unsupportive of her need to get an abortion: a parent who would force their child through pregnancy against her will is plainly not even trying to care for their child.

Parents need to make themselves trustworthy and supportive: if they've failed to do this, demanding the state interfere on their behalf is a public admission of failure.

Duck: You should gradually steer the blog posts to talking about what you had for breakfast to see how far she'll go.

Cool. Do a post on what you had for breakfast, SP, and see...

Yonmei said...

Pantheroom, all you do is prove that you fear pro-life beliefs can't stand up to challenge.

Which they can't, of course...

Jen R said...

Great post. I'm glad to see more pro-lifers taking a reasoned approach to contraception.

A Duck said...

Pro-lifers are of course indifferent to the further agony of mind this would put a raped girl through, to know she was legally bound to let her rapist know - because he, not she, in the pro-life view, owns her body.

Come on! Serioulsy. This is just boring now.

Marauder said...

I have absolutely no urge to ever go on oral contraceptives...I already have enough pills that I have to take to be healthy without adding ones I don't strictly need.

Regarding the women who have taken birth control pills for ten years or more, that doesn't sound like a particularly good idea to me. That's a long, long time to be putting additional hormones in your body, and it seems to me as though doing it for that long would run a high risk of significantly altering something internal.

I wonder how many women decide to go on birth control pills after looking into the pros and cons all possible contraceptives. In my personal experience, it seems like a lot of women equate starting birth control with starting oral contraceptives just as a matter of course.

Tron4JC said...

"Whereas you and other pro-lifers claim "special" rights for a fetus which no other human being has - which rights vanish as soon as the fetus is born."


Where do you get that grand idea? We are pro-lifers because we believe in right to life from conception to death of human being should not be infringed on by another human being.

Paul Rimmer said...

The pro-life group is not as a whole mysogynist. I would think the pro-choice group is far more sexist toward women (and have apparently tricked some women to come along for the ride!).

After all, half the aborted children are women. Only women are targeted for a procedure with potential serious psychological consequences.

It turns out that killing people is always hateful. And hate isn't content to point at just one thing. Hate spreads. It's no surprise that the pro-choice goals are actually not liberal or feminist at all: they are misogynist, corporatist, conservative and often racist.

Not to mention, as evidenced by many comments here, totally irrational.