Bait & Switch

Offering Harmful Contraceptives Does Not Help Women

In a surprising move, a small but growing number of pregnancy care centers across the U.S. have added contraceptives to the list of services they offer.

As World reports, these centers view offering contraceptives “as a strategic move to attract clients, build relationships, and prevent future abortions.”[1] This development, the story further reports, “is not without costs—and some longtime supporters see a dangerous mission drift.”

So why the shift? For decades now, most pregnancy care centers have stuck to the message that contraception is not for single people, because single people should be abstinent. The married should seek the advice of their pastor. But this old wisdom is now seen as insufficient. One pregnancy care executive told WORLD that contraceptives are a “proactive approach” to woo more women and “compete directly with Planned Parenthood and abortion businesses.” The women coming to this executive’s clinics had already been sexually active with a number of men, and “either pregnant, post-abortive, at high risk for an abortion, or seeking STD testing or treatment.” Ultimately, he says, the hope is to bring women back to a “Biblical view of sex.”

Other churches and pro-life leaders and activists, however, are very concerned about the new direction. They fear that offering contraception could be “a stumbling block” to women, serving as a “bait and switch”—get women in the door with free birth control, only to then tell them they shouldn’t be sexually active, anyway. Still others worry about the potential for both IUDs and oral contraceptives to act as abortifacients, by thinning the endometrium so as to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Such arguments for offering contraceptives sound oddly familiar. “They’re going to do it anyway,” parents nationwide have told themselves for decades. “Wouldn’t it be better if they got the right resources from us? Wouldn’t it be better if our daughters didn’t get pregnant?” There are multiple problems with this logic. First, such pregnancy care centers are diluting the clear biblical message of sexual abstinence for the unmarried. Offering a woman a pill to get her in the door, so she can eventually be told that sexual abstinence is God’s will, is a bit like inviting an alcoholic in for a beer so you can get him to go to his first AA meeting. It’s deceptive.

Furthermore, offering hormonal contraceptives does not uphold women’s best. The pill, just one type of HC, carries with it a number of nasty side effects—cramping, fogginess, decreased libido, breast tenderness, but also elevated risks for blood clots, heart problems, and stroke.[2] Compare this to natural family planning—which has no side effects whatsoever.

But finally, and perhaps most pertinent to the mission of pregnancy care centers, at least one study now has documented that the rate of unintended births in the U.S. has risen dramatically since the introduction of the pill, and that this rise is causal—i.e., the birth control pill, which was meant to allow for sex without babies, has actually accomplished the opposite of what it intended for many.[3] The pill gives the illusion of safety from the hazards of unmarried sex, but even perfect use has a failure rate, and most “typical use” hovers at a bit over 90%.[4] The authors of this study also found that “the effects of contraceptive access on nonmarital childbearing were also concentrated among women from less-educated households and minority women.” Unmarried pregnancies have hit poor women the hardest. And whereas in past generations, an unmarried pregnancy meant a “shotgun marriage,” no such certainty now awaits any woman accidentally pregnant. (The authors also find that increased access to the pill was associated with women’s dropout from high school, consistent with the rate of unintended pregnancy.)

What such pregnancy care centers are offering is demeaning to the clients they serve. Instead of advocating the best—what God intended for sexuality—they assume such women won’t rise to be better. Such centers offer instead what they believe will get women in the door, and they serve them a concoction of hormones that have been proven to carry some serious side effects.

This is not the way to uphold life. 


[1] Mary Jackson, “Pro-Lifers Swallow the Pill,” WORLD Magazine (July 29, 2020), available at https://world.wng.org/2020/07/pro_lifers_swallow_the_pill.

[2] Lori Smith, “10 Most Common Birth Control Pill Side Effects,” Medical News Today (January 29, 2018), available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290196.

[3] Andrew Beauchamp and Catherine R. Pakaluk, “The Paradox of the Pill: Heterogeneous Effects of Oral Contraceptive Access,” Economic Inquiry 57.2 [2019]: 813-31.

[4] “How effective is contraception at preventing pregnancy?” available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/how-effective-contraception/, accessed August 6, 2020.

is the managing editor of The Natural Family, the quarterly publication of the International Organization for the Family.

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