The Myth of Contraception
Why do so many women get pregnant if they do not want to be?
Every year in Britain, around 750,000 live births take place, and around 200,000 conceptions are terminated by an abortion.* The truly astonishing fact about these conceptions is that around 50% of all live births are unintended pregnancies.
Half of ALL live births in the United Kingdom are unintended.**
Why do so many of our population experience an unintended pregnancy followed by an abortion? Is it ignorance, bad luck or something else?
When it comes to abortion, studies show that a substantial majority (one authoritative study showed 62%***, another 86%****) of people presenting themselves for an abortion believed that they were using effective contraception. Other findings show that nearly 100% of people having an abortion knew about contraception at the time of conception and probably had access to it. Furthermore, they had almost certainly used some form of contraceptive method in the past.*****
It is therefore important to understand that, contrary to popular assumption, it is not generally a lack of knowledge about contraception that causes an unintended pregnancy resulting in an abortion.
The claim “Safe Sex Prevents Pregnancy” is often made. However, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. For example, according to the latest research from the US, if twelve women take oral contraceptives over the course of one year, one will fall pregnant. For condoms the odds are closer to one in six.******
Today, most people in a sexual relationship believe that with a good knowledge of (and access to) contraception, they will not experience pregnancy nor ‘need’ an abortion. In fact, anyone intending to control their fertility using contraception could be at risk of unintended pregnancy due to a complex mix of factors. If contraception were to be used in a controlled setting, or in a laboratory experiment, some methods would be nearly 100% effective.******* Of course, the inconvenient truth is that we do not live in a laboratory, and we do not live in controlled conditions – life gets in the way.
We would suggest that it is the unrealistic expectation that we can control our own fertility that drives the high abortion rate. Contraception may give us partial control over our fertility, but it does not always give us absolute control over it in practice. For nearly half the population, contraception will not prevent pregnancy********, and one third of our female population will experience at least one abortion. These are the real facts of life.
*Office for National Statistics, 2011. Conceptions in England and Wales 2009. London: Office for National Statistics.
**Bury, L. and Ngo, T., 2009. “The Condom Broke!” Why do Women in the UK Have Unintended Pregnancies? London: Marie Stopes International.
***Bury, L. and Ngo, T., 2009. “The Condom Broke!” Why do Women in the UK Have Unintended Pregnancies? London: Marie Stopes International, p.20. [At the time of the unintended pregnancy, 62% of women reported using a contraceptive method].
****Schünmann, C. and Glasier, A., 2006. Measuring Pregnancy Intention and its Relationship with Contraception Use Among Women Undergoing Therapeutic Abortion. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: Contraception Journal, volume 73, issue 5, pp.520–524. [In a study of 316 women in Scotland, 16% were not using contraception, while 44% were using it inconsistently or incorrectly.]
*****Bury, L. and Ngo, T., 2009. “The Condom Broke!” Why do Women in the UK Have Unintended Pregnancies? London: Marie Stopes International, p.8. [Most women who report for abortion counselling say they had no desire to get pregnant, and almost all have information about and access to a variety of contraceptive methods.]
******Porter, M., 2009. It’s Time to Think Again About Your Choice of Contraception.
The Times, 26 January. See also: Trussell, J., 2007. Contraceptive Efficacy. In: Hatcher, R.A. et al eds., 2007. Contraceptive Technology: Nineteenth Revised Edition. New York, NY: Ardent Media. See also NHS Clinical Knowledge Summaries, 2012. Contraception – Background information How effective are the various contraceptive methods? [online] Available at: http://www.cks.nhs.uk/contraception_background_information/effectiveness_of_contraception [Accessed 13 April 2012].
*******NHS Choices, 2010. How effective is contraception at preventing pregnancy? [online] Available at: <http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/825.aspx?CategoryID=117&SubCategoryID=114> [Accessed 04 November 2011]. [Success rate for the combined pill is in excess of 99% “if taken correctly” and 98% for condom use “if used correctly”.
********Bury, L. and Ngo, T., 2009. “The Condom Broke!” Why do Women in the UK Have Unintended Pregnancies? London: Marie Stopes International.