Over at Religion Dispatches, Eric Miller revisits the claim made by “Catholics for Obama” co-chair Nicholas Cafardi in August that Barack Obama is the one true pro-life candidate. As I noted at the time, the only way Cafardi could make such an argument was by jam-packing his piece with lies about both Obama and Mitt Romney, but that doesn’t stop Miller from proclaiming Obama a “pro-life hero. Yes, really”:
A few weeks later, just thirty-four days before the election, that argument became even stronger.
On October 3rd researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine published a study with profound implications for policymaking in the United States. According to Dr. Jeffery Peipert, the study’s lead author, abortion rates can be expected to decline significantly—perhaps up to 75 percent—when contraceptives are made available to women free of charge. Declaring himself “very surprised” at the results, Peipert requested expedient publication of the study, noting its relevance to the upcoming election.
As most observers surely know, the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) requires insurance coverage for birth control, a provision staunchly opposed by most of the same religious conservatives who oppose legalized abortion. If Peipert is correct, however, the ACA may prove the single most effective piece of “pro-life” legislation in the past forty years.
For the rest of the article, Miller assumes as a given that the study is correct, and he makes the rest of his argument contingent upon the premise that mandating birth control coverage reduces abortion rates – namely, his assertion that pro-lifers are foolish and/or disingenuous to say we oppose abortion while also opposing something that (allegedly) is effective in preventing what we claim to be against.
But as Rich Poupard at Life Training Institute explains, Miller’s omitting several very important caveats:
It was not an attempt to study whether increased access to traditional contraceptives would increase their use and effectiveness, but an attempt to convince women to change the type of contraception that was used. This is very important, and almost never mentioned in the news reports.
Second, the study group itself is very interesting. Dr. Michael New has mentioned that there was no control group to compare the study group to. However, even more important is the characteristics of the group itself. Women who volunteered for the project were recruited mainly from Washington University and various abortion and family planning clinics. In order to be involved in the program, the women had to be desiring contraception and be willing to change the type of contraception that they were presently using (if any). 66% of the women in the program had previously experienced an unintended pregnancy, and 40% of them had a previous abortion. 39% of the women had a history of an STD, and 6% presently had an STD.
Is it possible that this group, who were already seeking contraception and most have experienced an unintended pregnancy, may be more willing and motivated to change their contraceptive method for this study? Data extrapolated from this group of women cannot be accurately applied to the public at large, yet that is exactly what the news media would have us believe.
Lastly, the goal of the study was to convince women to forgo traditional methods of contraception (mainly OCs) in favor of more effective, long-term methods. These LARC methods were IUDs or implantable hormonal contraceptives. Over 75% of the women in the study were convinced to change from traditional methods to longer acting methods, and this accounts for the majority of the success in preventing unplanned pregnancies. The challenge that the researchers had, and one that they were highly successful in this group, was to convince women to change from a non-invasive method of contraception to an invasive one. There is no reason to believe that women in the general public, and especially teens, would be willing to choose these more invasive methods over regular OCs.
Miller also fails to consider the Center for Disease Control’s finding that lack of “access” to contraception is an almost nonexistent reason for non-use, or that pro-choice, pro-contraception states don’t actually reduce abortion rates.
More importantly, one (bogus) “pro-life” position cannot outweigh a multitude of anti-life ones. Simply ask yourself: is keeping abortion legal at any point and for any reason likely to mean more abortions or fewer? What about subsidizing abortion at home and abroad?
And of course, all of this is before we even get into the little matter of justice. Abortion isn’t just bad for society; every time one is performed, somebody is grievously wronged. His or her unalienable rights are irreversibly violated. Miller is talking as if the question is how to create jobs, when the real issue is closer to how to prevent lynching. We all instinctively recognize why the former approach can’t be applied to the latter.
Lastly, Miller mocks the religious liberty and conscience rights concerns of ObamaCare critics with the same moral and factual unseriousness he brings to the table on abortion. He suggests that Obama’s bogus “accommodation” should be good enough for us and alleges that our opposition is insincere:
Such efforts by social conservatives to oppose the ACA betray both an unseemly partisanship and a nervous insecurity. It seems entirely plausible that, in the contraception mandate, leaders of these groups see not a violation of their own freedom so much as a weakening of their ability to dictate the terms by which their members live.
It’s also worth noting that, as a premise for political arguments, religious freedom has become strikingly promiscuous in recent years. Now cited as a justification for opposition to same-sex marriage, anti-discrimination law, and—stunningly—anti-bullying initiatives, conservative activists are finding they may apply religious freedom to any number of disparate issues. Apart from trivializing what ought to be a sacred liberal right, the widespread deployment of religious freedom arguments indicates a weak rhetorical posture. In each of the cases mentioned above, opponents of a particular piece of legislation embraced religious freedom only after other strategies failed to persuade. Such arguments thus served as a sort of fallback position, allowing their advocates to re-frame the debate on terms entirely separate from the practical merits of the policy at issue.
Interestingly, nowhere in those two paragraphs does Miller try to explain why the decision to insure or not insure contraception isn’t a right falling under the umbrella of religious liberty. Nowhere does he explain why it’s just or lawful for the federal government to assert such power over private entities. To him, the mere act of not surrendering one’s liberties at government’s behest is evidence of sinister motives.
That and Miller’s desire for debate to eschew pesky moral considerations in favor of discussing only “practical merits” are classic indicators of the pathology of Progressivism: arbitrarily define “common good” as “whatever Progressives want,” thereby automatically defining all dissent as “special interest,” and declare closed any serious debate about first principles, leaving only the fine print to be decided, preferably by unelected, unaccountable “experts” rather than we the people.
All that effort to deceive pro-life voters makes one wonder: if pro-lifers are so bad and abortion is so important, then why do pro-choicers try so hard to co-opt our name and convince people that they’re working toward our goals?