Pro-lifers Should Question Contraception

January 16, 2014 | 9 comments

Have you ever heard something like this before?

If pro-lifers really cared about ending abortion, they’d give out contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies. But they don't really want to do anything practical to help end abortion—they just want to punish women who have sex!

Of course, even if pro-lifers were hypocrites, their argument that abortion kills an innocent human being would still be correct. But are pro-life advocates hypocrites if they don’t promote contraception? No, and here’s why.

The Pro-life Endgame

The goal of the pro-life movement is to restore the right-to-life of unborn human beings. Does promoting contraception help or hinder that goal?

I think it’s safe to say contraception doesn’t help that goal. Birth control pills and condoms don’t teach people that unborn children are biological human beings who are entitled to the same basic rights you and I possess. To many people, contraception just prevents “pregnancy,” or it prevents a “potential person” (that will one day become a baby) from being created inside of a woman. There’s nothing hypocritical about pro-life advocates' not promoting contraception, because it doesn’t do anything to help our ultimate goal of changing both public opinion and public policy to protect unborn children from harm.

But critics might respond by saying that using contraception could prevent some abortions from happening, and don’t pro-lifers still care about accomplishing that goal? Yes, but that doesn’t mean every way to accomplish that goal should be used. Contraception teaches couples that unborn children are objects who are only valuable if the couple "wants" a child. Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae that:

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 (emphasis added). Indeed, the pro- abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected. (EV 13)

Unintended Consequences

Unborn children not only have a right to life but a right to be created by parents who love them and are willing to make sacrifices for the child’s good. However, contraception use creates a mentality that views children as a “negative side effect” of sex, or even a disease, whose interests are superceded by their parent's desire for sexual union just for it's own sake. This attitude is especially common among the 85% of unmarried couples who seek abortions.[i]

It shouldn't be surprising, then, that the Supreme Court even affirmed that one reason abortion must stay legal is because women rely on it when contraception fails. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court said that Roe v. Wade

[C]ould not be repudiated without serious inequity to people who, for two decades of economic and social developments, have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.[iii]

I’m all in favor of teaching people how to responsibly plan their families, but if contraception fosters an attitude that unborn children are disposable (and in some forms could be abortifacient), then it shouldn’t be promoted as the way to achieve the goals of the pro-life movement.  

Don’t Get Suckered

Promoting contraception may also reinforce attitudes towards sex and pregnancy that conflict with the goal of creating a culture of life. On one university campus, a group of students chastised me for not passing out condoms. I told them I didn’t have to, because the campus health center gave condoms away for free. One man responded, “But the center is all the way on the other side of campus. I don’t want to have to walk all the way over there just for condoms. You guys should be passing them out here.” If this man were too lazy to walk a few hundred yards for condoms, why in the world would we expect him to work hard to provide for a child should the condom fail and his partner becomes pregnant?

Pro-life advocates should not be suckered into thinking that abortion is a public health problem that we have to help alleviate by dispensing contraceptives as “the cure.” We must continue to teach our culture that abortion is a moral problem and that the unborn deserve cultural recognition and legal protection as a remedy to this problem.

Granted, it will be easier to pass laws against abortion when fewer people seek abortion services, so there is value in developing strategies to reduce unintended pregnancies. But pro-life advocates should not have to compromise their belief that the unborn are human beings just so that everyone can “play nice together.” Instead, we must re-focus our strategy and find better ways to achieve the goal of restoring legal protection for unborn human beings.

The Next Step

If you are serious about this, then I recommend picking up a copy of my new DVD, Making the Case for Life, which teaches pro-lifers how to persuasively defend the lives of unborn children. The DVD also contains over thirty minutes of bonus features including “real-life” examples where I use pro-life apologetics to answer tough critics on university campuses and Catholic Answers Live.

For a limited time you can enter the promo code LIFE at checkout and get a 20% discount.

Click here to get your copy today!

[i] Jones RK, Finer LB and Singh S, “Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients 2008”, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2010. Page 5. Available online at:

[ii] Robert P. Jones, Daniel Cox, and Rachel Laser, “Committed to Availability, Conflicted About Morality: What the Millenial Generation Tells us About the Future of the Abortion Debate and the Culture Wars” Public Religion Research Institute June 6, 2011 Available online at:

[iii] Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (91-744), 505 U.S. 833 (1992)


After his conversion to the Catholic Faith, Trent Horn earned a master's degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy from Holy Apostles College. 

He serves as a staff apologist for Catholic Answers and...

Making The Case For Life
No matter how hard you try, talking with your friends and family about abortion too often winds up at one extreme or the other—either tempers and emotions get out of hand or to keep the peace you agree to disagree and move on to another subject. Neither approach serves the pro-life cause, says Trent Horn. In his new DVD, Making the Case for Life, he shows you how to avoid those extremes, presenting a roadmap for talking about abortion that really gets people engaged on the gravest moral question of our age.

Comments by Members

#1  Terence Stanton - Orchard Park, New York


"The Right Kind of NFP" by John F. Kippley

January 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm PST
#2  dezmond oyanadel - kaneohe, Hawaii

When it comes to contraceptives there is a lack of true understanding of what it actually facilitates as a function. It facilitates child like neglagence. For example. Locks are for safe keeping, keys are for entry by the authority who holds them. So why are there locksmiths? Answer: forgetten keys ie neglect to remember. Marrige is for unity, children is for bonding that authority. Contraceptives are the way around the so called key.

January 17, 2014 at 1:03 pm PST
#3  Catherine Walton - Madison, Alabama

I'm not sure I understand some of this article. The article states, "Unborn children not only have a right to life but a right to be created by parents who love them and are willing to make sacrifices for the child’s good."

Is the author saying that, in addition to babies who have been born and babies who have not been born, babies that haven't even been conceived yet have rights that should be protected? I gotta go on record as not buying that one.

Let's say that's the way it is, though; people not yet conceived have rights. Then NFP is very unacceptable. NFP simply uses natural means to avoid a pregnancy (and it's supposedly about 98% effective). Actually, rights of the pre-conceived would actually dictate that a couple do the opposite of NFP -- have sex only during the most fertile times.

What am I missing?

January 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm PST
#4  Jim Anderson - Council Grove, Kansas

Dear Catherine,

If you get onto the website, you can find a talk
by Jason Evert titled: Understanding Chastity in Marriage.

I strongly recommend this talk, as Jason goes into great detail on contraception.

Also, Dr. Janet Smith has a great talk entitled: Contraception:Why Not?

I will pray for you!

God Bless!

January 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm PST
#5  Trent Horn - San Diego, California - Catholic Answers Blogger

Hi Catherine,

"Is the author saying that, in addition to babies who have been born and babies who have not been born, babies that haven't even been conceived yet have rights that should be protected? I gotta go on record as not buying that one."

It's quite coherent to say that non-existent person's have rights or at least moral claims upon us. Future generations don't exist yet but they have right to an unpolluted planet which creates a moral claim on us to not pollute now for their sake. Much the same, the unborn can have the right to be created by parents who want them and have are willing to undertake sacrifices for them.

"NFP simply uses natural means to avoid a pregnancy (and it's supposedly about 98% effective). Actually, rights of the pre-conceived would actually dictate that a couple do the opposite of NFP -- have sex only during the most fertile times."

Not at all. While NFP can be abused and couples can still have the "contraceptive mindset" that mindset is far more prevalent among unmarried couples who use contraception, that's why pro-lifers should not support it.

Hope this helps!

January 17, 2014 at 11:00 pm PST
#6  Victoria Hoyt - Lake Arrowhead, California

The criticism of Pope Francis from within the American Catholic church has brought to light just how far we have gone from the simple message of Christ. While we squabble about birth control huge opportunities for the church and social justice are going by.

It is so easy to blame the evil ”media”, and I have to say I was caught up, mesmerized actually by a US archbishop on FOX news while at the gym the other day. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but the captions and the look on his face explained well enough that he was slamming the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) due to lack of control of the birth control mandate. I couldn’t believe it, since it is the first legislative act that really stands to help the poor and working class poor. According to the caption, he said he was refusing to pay $30K ACA fines he will be billed for not “participating”, and wrote a letter to the president stating that because the bill includes birth control he is taking a stand against it.

If the Bishop really understood the law he would see the opportunity that the church has under the new law to create a catholic health insurance plan. The politically minded bishop seem to be so intent in helping people like FOX News to sling mud on the president and his objectives that he was blind to the opportunities before us. Why don’t the Bishops get off their high horses, quit acting like victims, roll up their sleeves and get to work for the greater good? Its time to help create a medical plan for Catholics that includes NFP and promotes health the catholic way! This law allows for that! Seeing the bishop wasting church effort, spitting against the wind, and spinning the facts was concerning especially since the reality is the bill was created with pure intent to help disadvantaged people and save the general public money and people who currently are predicted to end up diseased and disabled due to lack of early treatment.

We believe in Natural Family Planning don’t we? and it’s supposed to be 98% effective, I know a lot of Catholics don’t like to face this but…its technically birth control! it has the same effectiveness as birth control pills IUD etc… and In spite of the effectiveness, I can give you plenty of stories where all of the aforementioned control methods failed because God found a way past the barriers! But this is what the right wingers want to sensationalize? Come on...separate education and medical care!This is a crime against ourselves that I’m having a hard time forgiving my brothers and sisters! Pray for me.

The American church has gotten so full of passion for right wing conservatism that they have forgot their mission. Although my faith in our church has not waivered through all the scandals and media attacks, after reading some of the miss informed posts on this site, watching an archbishop laugh and giggle with tabloid leaders and bullies of the country (probably thrilled to be the attacker instead of the attacked for a change), coupled with the resistance of the US bishops to heed the Popes warnings to refocus their zeal, has for the first time got me concerned for the churches direction in the future.

January 18, 2014 at 9:03 am PST
#7  Teresa Lambert - Aurora, Colorado

Trent, you used the example I was thinking of regarding environmental stewardship. I understand it as needing to respect the process through which life comes about, and that it's better to cooperate with a natural process instead of trying to dominate it. I personally think contraception just adds fuel to the fire of abortion. And I truly do sympathize with how counter-intuitive that sounds; but now it seems so clear!

May I also humbly recommend that those who equate NFP and contraception, use NFP, if you haven't already? I'm sorry for the coarse analogy, but this helped me. I used to think they were the same thing, until I was walking to the library to study for a test. It struck me that there's a difference between cheating, and studying, to ace a test. Anyway, that's what made it click into place for me (rather loudly).

January 18, 2014 at 8:19 pm PST
#8  adam hand - Palmer, Alaska

The Root Cause of sin with both abortion and contraception - is that the child is not wanted.

There is no trust in God, no true love, no self discipline & responsibility, and not making every action for the Glory of God and the salvation of our own souls.

Selfishness and self gratification drive people to sin. NFP used to avoid a pregnancy for other than a GRAVE reason is a sin - not trusting in God and not wanting a child. Avoiding a child for selfish reasons will buy you a one-way trip to the hot box.

January 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm PST
#9  ray schledwitz - escondido, California

I often wonder what an unborn baby might say if he or she could speak.
Maybe it would be like this:
I can hear moms heart beat its soothing
I hear her voice I love her
What is happening I'm in pain
I guess mom didn't love me ...

I think we should give women a choice that is easy and convenient for adoption maybe a pregnant women's birth center open to anyone looking for a better choice. The center could offer a no questions asked drop of your baby, or an planned adoption. Maybe have the adopting parents offer to provide a college trust fund for women who chose life for there baby.

January 20, 2014 at 12:22 am PST

You are not logged in. Login or register to leave a comment.