Question 58


How do you connect the dots from contraception to abortion?

“All through the history of Christianity, contraception was considered, along with abortion, as an intrinsically evil undertaking, and if done with free will and sufficient reflection, always a mortal sin, placing one's salvation in eternal jeopardy. This was the consistent teaching of all the fathers and doctors of the Church, even in the doctrines and moral teachings of those Christians who, in the course of history, were separated from Rome and the See of Peter, as the Eastern Orthodox, and later, the various Protestant groups were. The teaching about the evil of contraception was maintained.” Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz Speech on Humanae Vitae, 2003 

  • 1930: The Lambeth Conference. Anglican bishops approve use of contraception by married couples under certain circumstance. Other protestant denominations one by one gradually followed. 
  • 1936: The United States Circuit Court of Appeals in the “United State v One Package” made it possible for Doctors to distribute condoms across State lines. Up until that time the “Comstock Act” in 1873 had made all forms of contraception illegal and it was a Federal offense to disseminate birth control through the mail or across State Lines. Soon after, 24 States enacted their own version of Comstock Laws to restrict contraceptive trade on the State level. 
  • 1957: The Pill becomes approved by the FDA for the control of menstrual disorders and many women obtained prescriptions for it on that basis. Research to develop the pill had been started by Gregory Pincus in the early 50’s supported by donations from Katharine Dexter McCormick and Margaret Sanger. 
  • 1960: The Pill is approved for Contraceptive use by the FDA. But, thirty six states still had the Comstock statutes on the books prohibiting or restricting the sale and advertisement of contraception. A new wave of Feminism was growing that seemed to be further sparked in 1963 by Betty Freidan’s book The Feminine Mystique. 
  • 1965: Based on the Right to Privacy found in the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the States Comstock Laws in the Griswold v Connecticut decision and the Pill as well as all contraception became easily accessible to married couples. Some states retained ineffective laws against distribution of contraceptives to unmarried persons. By 1965, 53% of Catholic wives aged 18 to 39 had used contraception of some form whereas that number had been 30% in 1955. - Catholics and contraception: An American History 
  • 1968: Groups of theologians publicly refused to accept Pope Paul VI’s teaching of the immorality of contraception in Humanae Vitae. These theologians laid claim to a person’s “Conscience” as being the supreme subjective norm of morality and thus justified use of the Pill; even though the Church teaches that “Conscience” as a moral compass has to be educated to the level of understanding Divine Law and Natural Law and could otherwise be erroneous (Bishop Bruskewitz). Also, in the interim period between 1960 and 1968, many Catholics had assumed the Church’s position on the Pill eventually would be favorable based on the opinions of prominent outspoken Catholics. 
  • 1972: In the Eisenstadt vs. Baird the U.S. Supreme Court extended its holding in the Griswold decision to unmarried couples, whereas the "right of privacy" in Griswold only applied to marital relationships. The argument for Eisenstadt was built on the claim that it was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to deny unmarried couples the right to use contraception when married couples did have that right. 
  • 1973: In the Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions, using the framework of the personal right to privacy of the 1965 Griswold decision, the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout all nine months of Pregnancy. 
  • 1992: In the Casey decision the Supreme Court reaffirms its support for abortion citing Stare Decisis (precedent of the Roe v Wade decision) and also citing the need to maintain the right to abortion, justified by the reliance of society on abortion as a backup to failed contraception. 

“Growing use of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s helped usher in an era of what proponents called “free love,” more accurately called “sex without regard for consequences.” The idea took hold that sexual activity could be separated from responsibility for children and pursued simply for pleasure. The result was an increase in premarital and extramarital sex, divorce, sexually transmitted disease, and (ironically) out-of-wedlock childbearing. The family that provides a fitting context for welcoming new life was weakened, and abortions increased.” The Prevention Deception: How not to Reduce Abortions: Richard Doerflinger, USCCB 2007 

An estimate for 1966 is that there were 125,000 illegal abortions in the U.S. that year ( But now we have over one million Legal surgical abortions yearly as well as a much larger number of chemical abortions. 

Walt Hill: Placentia, CA, November, 2007