This year marks an auspicious anniversary—forty years of nation-wide abortion on demand since Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. These cases declared a right to abortion that was more permissive than the law of any state. A woman could take the life of her unborn child for virtually any reason at any time. The disastrous effect on society, marriage, families, women, and of course, the unborn, cannot be minimized.
But Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton did not appear out of the blue. Rather, they were preceded by cultural shifts that would clear the road for abortion on demand. It is necessary to come to terms with the enabling cultural trend that gained strength in the 1960s and continues to this day—the contraceptive mentality.
Prior to 1930 contraception was universally condemned by all Christian denominations, and Christians, by and large, followed their Church’s teaching. But during the twentieth century one denomination after another changed its teaching. American Christians rapidly embraced oral contraception upon its approval by the FDA and a new cultural mentality became ingrained in the American psyche.
Through the 60s and 70s contraception became accepted by many as an essential element of married life. By the time Humanae vitae was promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1968, the horse was well out of the barn and the outright dissent directed at the Church’s consistent teaching would all but burn the barn down. Catholics were immersed in the secular cultural trend and sexual intercourse had become inwardly focused on pleasure—children had little, if anything, to do with it. Sex was about freedom and fun! As a result, when a woman found herself pregnant in spite of her best efforts to prevent conception, children were viewed as an “accident”, the failure of contraception. Something went wrong. This mentality would “prime the pump” and even necessitate access to abortion on demand.
Blessed John Paul II observed in Evangelium vitae, “[t]he life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.” A solution had to be found; abortion access was necessary to “clean up the mess.” Ironically, it is often claimed that contraception reduces the need for abortion, but the sordid history and abortion numbers that climb with contraception access tell a very different story. The expansion or legalization of abortion in a country is almost always preceded by introduction or acceptance of contraception. Contraception is the proverbial Trojan Horse.
The contraceptive mentality—a de facto tendency against life—has led to a wider acceptance of and reliance upon abortion. Blessed John Paul II recognized this: “the negative values inherent in the ‘contraceptive mentality’…are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church’s teaching on contraception is rejected.” Contraception is no solution to abortion, but is instead, intimately connected, “fruits of the same tree.”
Skeptical? Consider the telling words from 1992s Planned Parenthood v Casey: “Abortion is customarily chosen as an unplanned response to the consequence of…the failure of conventional birth control….For two decades of economic and social development, people 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.”
In short, the court maintains that abortion was a necessary fixture of American society because the intimate relationships of Americans are wholly dependent upon contraception, which often fails them. Hopefully John Paul II was right when he wrote in 1995 that “[t]he close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious.” Greater awareness of the obvious is necessary if we are to successfully reverse the contraceptive mentality and the continuing scourge of abortion.
Editor’s note: The image above of the empty playground is taken from Shutterstock.