Blog Post

Helen Alvare Busts the Myths About Women & Contraception

In a powerful presentation at the Catholic University of America, law professor Helen Alvare destroyed all of the prevailing myths about contraception - that it empowers women, controls population and decreases unintended pregnancies.

CNA/EWTN News is reporting on the presentation, entitled "Hitched: Are Contraception and Feminism Inextricably Tied?" which took place on March 5.

"We really have been primed for quite a bit of time to think of contraception in the context of the question about feminism, about it empowering women," Alvare began.

But decades later it has become obvious that the availability of contraception has not delivered on its promises and made the world a better place for women, she continued.  As a result, its reputation as the source of women's empowerment needs to be called into question.

Alvare goes on to explain how policies promoting contraceptives to developing nations were originally linked to "national security" policies which were based on the presumptions that we could reduce populations "that we didn't want more of" and that large populations were the cause of poverty. However, research has not proven either of these assumptions to be correct.

She quotes Harvard economist Lant Pritchett who showed that "some of the most crowded countries in the world have perfectly fine standards of living for the vast majority of people," while "some of the most sparsely populated countries have some of the worst poverty."

Pritchett's research also found that people throughout history have been more than capable of regulating the number of children they produced without the use of artificial contraceptives. How did they do this?

Very simply, by valuing other things "more than they value absolute spontaneity in sexual encounters at all times," Alvare explained. "All of this talk about 'unmet need' has the presumption that there's an extraordinarily high cost to having to in any way avoid spontaneity.”

Pritchett's research found no such thing.

Another study by Amartya Sen, a development expert at New York University, found that prosperity in developing countries "did not have to do with trying to affect the size of the population directly," Alvare continued.

Instead, Sen's research found that a country's development relies upon "its extending credit to women, its equality for women in all arenas, education, business, etc., and its policies that tamp down on corruption.”

Alvare also mentioned the many class-action lawsuits and several large-scale experiments that showed the negative health benefits of hormonal contraceptives, which is why we need to challenge the labeling of contraceptives as "women's health."

Contraceptives also have a poor track record when it comes to decreasing unintended pregnancies. Studies have found that increases in unintended pregnancies are found among poor women - the very people who are getting it for free.

"The people who get it for free have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy," she said.

Why is that? Because these women don't have what they need to motivate them to avoid this circumstance.

“What they don't have is better school, better jobs, a means of getting to a better life -- but they do have free contraception.”

In spite of its failures, free contraception is still being pushed by the government and organizations such as pharmaceutical companies who have a "vested interest" in these products. It's not about women's health or women's reproductive freedom - it's about increasing contraceptive sales.

Calling the government a "cheerleader for contraception," Alvare said it also celebrates contraceptives "as an entree into sex without relationship and sex without children" by promoting various campaigns that encourage premarital sex among young adults.

She also cited the HHS mandate which would force employers to provide contraceptives to women at no cost which places these drugs in "a uniquely privileged class among medical products."

Alvare said this approach is "promoting sexual expression as freedom, and particularly as freedom for women" - an ideology she calls "sexualityism."

This idea holds that "sexual expression when you want it, of any kind, without consequences, is the good to be pursued."

But this isn't the case at all. Contraception changes the way people think about relationships by "reducing the seriousness of sex" and making them forget that sex is supposed to mean something, that it's not just another kind of physical activity.

As a result, "it changes the marketplace" of sexual encounters, which creates what she calls "an opportunity cost" to women who want authentic family relationships.

Studies show that what people want are mutual relationships, not one-night stands.

In "long studies on what was the stuff of life … the stuff of life was relationships," she concluded, and contraception "severs" the understanding of relationships.

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