You’ve all heard the argument. I’ve heard it so many times from “pro-life” folks I lost count. Someone gets into a debate with a “pro-choice” person about abortion, then the discussion turns to the old, “If only birth control were more easily available, then abortion wouldn’t be so common” argument.

Really? Let’s examine that statement and use a few pertinent analogies for starters.

Let’s say you have an uncle who is an alcoholic and can’t hold a job, so he steals to get money to support his habit. Would you say, “Well, if only alcohol were more readily available, this wouldn’t be such a problem?”

Or what if your early-20s daughter frequently goes on wild spending sprees, convinced that the latest fashions, make-up, or electronics will make her happy for a fleeting moment but runs up massive credit card debt in the process? Would you say, “We just need to make sure clothes, make-up, cell phones, and video games are really cheap (or even free from the government), so that there won’t be such dire consequences.”

Or what about that sister who has an eating disorder? She binges and then forces herself to vomit so she won’t have to deal with the consequences of eating too much. Do we say to ourselves, “Well, at least she’s not overweight!”

Is this how a reasonable person would react to observing any of these behaviors? Would these responses indicate someone who genuinely cares about the well-being of the uncle or daughter or sister?

Of course not. Why? Because people aren’t animals. We have free will and we are to be held accountable for our behavior. When we fall, we should be expected to get up and get the help we need to lead a healthier life. (And the rest of us should be ready and willing to offer that help.) By the grace of God, we are all capable of developing self-mastery. Our dignity demands that we know that and aspire to that.

So, if we all agree that stealing, drinking, drugs, reckless spending and eating disorders are all things that are damaging to a person (and to others), then why do we take a different attitude toward sex? Why aren’t we addressing the real issue – the harmful behavior that leads to someone even having to consider abortion?

God created sex as a gift. Sex was designed by the Creator with a two-fold purpose – for babies and bonding – within marriage. And, he designed it with an exceptional secondary benefit – pleasure. He actually wants you to enjoy it. But just like the White Witch in the early days of Narnia who ate from a forbidden tree, indulging in sex outside of God’s parameters within marriage will lead to unwelcome consequences.

So, if we say birth control is the answer to avoiding the consequence of abortion, we’re saying people aren’t capable of self-mastery. We’re saying they are simply animals who cannot control their urges. We’re saying they really don’t have dignity and should not be expected to avoid any temptations that come their way. None. “Choices” are actually just an illusion.

Not only does encouraging the use of birth control say to the other person that you don’t believe in their inherent dignity and ability to think for themselves, but you’re also encouraging reckless and harmful behavior. Men and (especially) women deal with significant emotional consequences from premarital sex. Their ability to have a stable marriage in the future is significantly compromised. Is that something you’d wish for someone you say care about?

But, according to OB/GYN Kathleen Raviele and many other studies, hormonal birth control also leads to the following medical consequences (and this is very small sampling of the side effects):

  • 70 percent increased risk of depression
  • 2-3 times more likely to attempt or commit suicide (even higher with DepoProvera or Norplant)
  • 3.5x timesmore likely to get blood clots; much higher with DepoProvera or Norplant
  • Higher rates of breast, liver, and cervical cancer (even 5 years after stopping); higher still among African-American women
  • A 2009 study further found that women on oral contraceptives are at 4 times greater risk of triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly difficult cancer to treat
  • Hormonal contraception places the woman in a state of pseudopregnancy, resulting in weight gain. As hormone levels stay constant on the pill (lacking high levels of estrogen normally seen during the fertile period), many women experience decreased libido.
  • Research has shown that the hormones also affect a woman’s sense of smell, causing her to be attracted to a man similar to her rather than one who is dissimilar. This can lead to reduced attraction and thus higher divorce rates when she comes off the pill.
  • Women who take oral contraceptives for five years or more are 80 percent more likely to contract an STI (even after adjusting for all lifestyle factors), and those who use DepoProvera or Norplant are 350 percent more likely. Why? These drugs/hormones kill your immune system. This is what they inject into lab rats when scientists want them to contract a virus.

And perhaps the biggest reason birth control is not a good alternative to abortion is because it causes abortions. Even pro-birth-control groups admit that women on the Pill still have at least a 5 percent “breakthrough ovulation” rate. This means that while the pill is designed to stop ovulation, women still ovulate every 20th cycle or so. (Some studies show more like every 10th cycle.)

In those cases, the pill uses its secondary effect. It keeps the endometrium from sustaining the life of the new baby, causing it to die 8-10 days after conception. So, sexually active women who may never have even considered abortion are likely allowing themselves to have many abortions while using hormonal contraceptives.

It’s time our society had an honest conversation about birth control.