The Domino Effect of Contraception

Shawna Sparrow
Excerpt from the book Tough Crowd:
My Adventures as a Chastity Educator
Reproduced with Permission

If society can agree that chastity is best for teens (and really, shouldn't we be able to agree on that?), then we should seek ways to optimize the feasibility of chastity in our society. Instead of dejectedly assuming that teens are going to be sexually active, we should trace the behavior to its source. We know that chastity used to be the norm and now it is not. How did things change? I'm sure we've all witnessed the domino effect. You push one domino, which then falls onto the next domino, beginning a chain reaction. So when it comes to today's sexually permissive society, what was the first domino? Of course there are many dominoes involved. I would argue the first domino is actually a question, and how we answer that question determines which way the dominoes will fall. That question is: when does life begin? How a society values life in the womb dictates how that society will use sex.

The biological purpose of sex is procreation. Sex is linked to new life. No matter how many other important issues are related to chastity, it always comes back to that connection. I can talk to students endlessly about how they need to value themselves and each other, and how they need to respect their bodies through chastity. Yet I have seen valuing others starts with valuing life within the womb.

This was really brought home to me after an exchange with a Grade 8 male student. I had been talking to a group of boys about how chastity actually gives them more power over their future. I explained that chastity ensures they will become parents at the right time. I also described that chastity will allow them to decide who they want to be the mother of their children. I explained that as they date into adulthood, they can think about what kind of woman would make a good wife and mother. On the other hand, I expounded, if they go to a party when they're 16 and have too much to drink and then have sex with some girl they barely know, then that girl could become the mother of their children, whether she's a responsible person or not. One of the boys cut me off and said, "Well, she could just have an abortion". The first time I ever had that response in a Catholic elementary school I was a little taken aback, but by the time this incident occurred I was sadly used to that response.

"Is that fair to the baby?" I asked.

Without missing a beat, the boy replied, "It's not a baby. It's nothing".

"Have you ever seen pictures of a baby in the womb? Did you know you can see its heart beating?" I asked.

He ignored those questions and went on, "Like, from what you're saying, the girl not going to the party would be the same as having an abortion because then she wouldn't get pregnant. So it's the same thing".

I did a double take at his logic. "No it's not." I countered, "If she doesn't go to the party there's nothing there but if she goes to the party and gets pregnant there is a baby there". This all seemed rather straightforward to me.

"No, it's nothing in both cases" he said, "It's nothing if she stays home. It's nothing if she gets pregnant".

"Then what would she need an abortion for?" I demanded. "If it's nothing then she wouldn't need to do anything. It's not nothing, it's a baby".

By this time my heart was beating a little fast and I needed to take a deep breath and compose myself before launching into the next part of my presentation. That Grade 8 boy's attitude is the first domino. If an unborn baby is nothing then sex carries no personal responsibility and can be used indiscriminately. It means nothing; it produces nothing.

The Contraceptive Mentality

Janet Smith is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas and has written extensively about what she terms "the contraceptive mentality". She describes the contraceptive mentality as the attitude that "treats sexual intercourse as though it had little connection with babies".[i] Contraception has dramatically changed the way society views sex.

Before contraception was widely available, pregnancy was understood to be a natural outcome of sex. People associated sex with pregnancy, so when they would think of sex, they would also think about the possibility of a baby. Remember when children would use the phrase "making babies" as a euphemism for sex? In that context, sex had a much different meaning. The act of sex carried with it the willingness to have a child with someone. Having sex assumed the risk of becoming entangled with someone indefinitely. As the possibility of pregnancy loomed large, sex reflected a willingness for a deep and lasting commitment.

The advent of contraception has changed everything. Many sexually active people don't give pregnancy a second thought. For them, sex has nothing to do with babies. It is about desire, pleasure, relational security and a million other things. Without the possibility of pregnancy, people don't have to ask themselves if they are ready to care for a child before having sex. They don't have to consider the future of the relationship. Not only does contraception remove the concept of personal responsibility, but it also changes the way people feel about babies. Before contraception, people understood that they would have to be prepared to care for a child before having sex. Even if they hoped to avoid a pregnancy, the act of sex reflected an openness to a new life. People were mentally prepared to love and care for any child that may result from their sexual behaviour. Today, contraception enables people to engage in sexual intercourse without considering whether or not they are fit to be parents. When they do become pregnant they see the unborn child as a hindrance. They resent the baby for intruding upon their sexual freedom.

The Link Between Contraception and Abortion

Although many contraception advocates argue that contraceptive use will decrease abortion, numerous studies reveal that wherever contraception is readily available the number of abortions actually increase. In 2011, a study about contraceptive use was published in the Journal of Contraception. According to the abstract, researchers hoped to acquire information about the use of contraceptive methods in Spain in order to reduce the number of elective abortions. Instead they found that as contraceptive use increased between 1997 and 2007, the country's abortion rate doubled.[ii] Even the Supreme Court, in its Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision, affirmed the link between contraception and abortion, stating, "in some critical aspects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception…for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their view of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail".[iii]

Contraception facilitates both the types of relationships and attitudes that are likely to lead to abortion. The boy I encountered in Grade 8 already had that attitude by the age of 12. His response of, "she could always have an abortion" shows a determination to separate sex from parental responsibility. Nothing will stand in the way of sexual freedom. In the Nick Hornby book High Fidelity, the protagonist Rob Gordon laughs when the character Marie DeSalle describes sex as a fundamental right. He laughs because the assertion seems so ridiculous. And yet Planned Parenthood echoes this idea in their mission statement. According to their website, their whole reason for being is to protect "the fundamental right [iv] of each individual…to manage his or her fertility".[v] Abortion is seen as a fallback in case contraception should fail. Nothing is going to stop us from having sex the way we want it, even if it costs an innocent human life. According to Janet Smith, some abortion clinics report that up to 50% of all abortions take place because of contraceptive failure.[vi] The contraceptive mentality elevates the right to sexual freedom above the right to life. How shameful.

According to Janet Smith, 80% of women who have abortions are experienced contraceptive users, but they display carelessness and indifference in their use of contraception for a variety of reasons.[vii] Statistics like that cause pro-abortion groups to panic. They would much rather explain rising abortion rates on a lack of contraceptive education. Yet it turns out that most women are well aware of birth control; they simply choose to use abortion as a contraceptive instead. As much as pro-choice groups support "a woman's right to choose", even they usually promote abortion as a last resort. I find it interesting that so many pro-choice organizations try to distance themselves from the word abortion. Even visiting Planned Parenthood's website, it takes some digging until you actually see the word "abortion". Even though abortion is really how they make their money, the word is not prominent in their promotional materials. Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion referral agency in the world, but they cloak the reality of abortion in phrases like "reproductive rights" and "managing fertility". Strange that they would fight so hard for something they are hesitant to even mention. If abortion is as morally neutral as they claim, why do they distance themselves from the word? Because abortion is ugly. No one wants to think about the reality of abortion. Pro-abortion agencies inadvertently acknowledge the unpleasantness of abortion when they claim the goal of reducing abortion by increasing contraceptive use. But it doesn't.

Chastity, on the other hand, links sexual intercourse with life. The resulting baby isn't seen as a nuisance but as a glorious result of the union of two bodies and souls. So often, sex outside of marriage results in the man denying fatherhood. If you doubt this often happens, try watching Maury some time. "It's not mine!" the man insists. Yet in marriage, you see the husband and wife huddling over their child, delighting in this reflection of themselves. "Look, he's got my ears" the proud father declares. Chastity binds sex to love, commitment and shared responsibility. Chastity is a celebration of life.

I am honored to share the life-saving message of chastity with young people. However sometimes I think the most powerful thing I share are the pre-natal photos and videos. Nothing proves the humanity of the unborn like seeing that beating heart. Prenatal development shows the intricacy, fragility and beauty of human life in its earliest stages. Witnessing the baby's growth imbues thankfulness for the gift of life. The images demonstrate that life is precious. Current technology gives us a window to the womb, allowing us to see what David wrote about centuries before in the Psalms:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
 and knit me together in my mother's womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
 as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
 Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
 Every moment was laid out
 before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139: 13-16 NLT).

Abortion is one of the consequences of the misuse of sexuality. I am very thankful for organizations and ministries like Rachel's Vineyard that offer mercy, healing and recovery to women who know the pain of abortion. We need many people to help bind the wounds that result from abortion. However, when I see the pain caused by abortion, I am grateful to be involved with the preventative arm of the pro-life movement. Chastity puts sex in its rightful place, so that everything that results from sexual activity is a blessing. Rather than the domino effect of abortion, pain and regret, chastity sparks a chain reaction of love, commitment and the celebration of new life.

Tough Crowd: My Adventures as a Chastity Educator is published by Creation House and is currently available for order through