Abortion rights advocates often argue that the pro-life movement isn’t really about protecting life itself, given conservative support for war, denial of climate change, refusal to support universal health care, gun ownership, and enthusiasm for the death penalty. Instead, they argue, it gives cover to a broader goal of controlling women’s bodies.
I know and respect many people in the pro-life movement, and I know that many of them consider their work to be pro-woman. Many even understand it as a feminist endeavor.
But they need to look more closely at their co-belligerants in this part of the culture war.
Recently, Obria (formerly called Birth Choice), a faith-based anti-abortion chain of clinics, has agreed to take more than $5 million in Title X funds from the Trump administration in support of its work. Here is its mission:
“Being led by God, we offer medical services pertaining to primary care, pregnancy and reproductive health, including education and support for marriage and family, consistent with the inherent value of every human life.”
This has meant that Obria promotes abstinence and Natural Family Planning, the only kinds of pregnancy prevention acceptable to its largely Catholic donors.
Acceptance of Title X funds, though, means that it must provide contraceptive services.
In response, many in the pro-life movement have been critical of Obria, decrying its acceptance of Title X funds as a deal with the devil. This suggests that the movement isn’t so much (or, more graciously, is at least only partly) about stopping abortion. Access to affordable contraception decreases, not increases, the rate of abortion. So when abortion foes also attack contraception, they are attacking the best means we have of curtailing the abortion rate.
If pro-lifers are willing to sacrifice government funds to support clinics that are primarily about discouraging abortion, then this indicates that the goal isn’t really abortion but an end to all birth control.
If you think that contraception is a mortal sin, I get it. I don’t expect conservative Catholics to accept the “evil” of contraception as the solution to the “evil” of abortion. And many explicitly religious anti-abortion clinics have refused federal funding on this principle.
But, for those in the prolife movement who don’t think that contraception is evil, it’s time to take an honest accounting: there are those among you whose goal is to make both abortion and contraception impossible for women to access. And that doesn’t look like a pro-life position but like an effort to control women.