I have no beef with people who think contraceptives are morally wrong and/or that natural family planning is the best way to go. I think there are many people helpful to the pro-life movement that are also against contraceptives. However, I do worry about people who align their reasons for being against abortion with their reasons for being against birth control.
In my mind, there are two approaches to the pro-life issue. One of these I call the “conservative” argument, which may be a misnomer as many conservatives use what I call the “libertarian” argument, which I will touch on next. The “conservative” argument says that abortion should be outlawed simply because it is bad. Abortion should be outlawed for the same reason that many people think tattoos are outlawed, or any other thing that is morally wrong. And many people using this “conservative” argument truly believe abortion is equal to murder, but I don’t think they frame their argument effectively.
The other argument is what I call the “libertarian” argument, and it is one that I frequently like to use. They try to tackle the women’s rights, or the “my body, my choice” approach by addressing the “rights” arguments head on. Many libertarians state that a woman does in fact have the right to do what she wants with her body, but that she does not have the same right over another body, the fetus. But many conservatives can use this argument also, even if they don’t necessarily believe in libertarian politics. They can use the argument that libertarian policies don’t even apply, as another body is involved. Those employing this argument look at the abortion issue not as an issue of enforcing morality upon others, but a prevention of women enforcing their morality on the fetus. In fact, Neil Simpson’s blog and the Christian site Stand To Reason are not exactly libertarian sites, but they are sites that add fuel to the “libertarian” argument in that they address the rights of the fetus.
In my view, the “conservative” argument simply takes the loss when it comes to the argument of women’s rights. They may focus on abortion as a grave evil that should not be allowed, rights be damned. The “libertarian” argument recognizes the issue of rights, but simply believes that the fetus’s right to exist negates or overcomes the right of the woman to expel the fetus. The “conservative” argument simply states that abortion is wrong, but the “libertarian” argument focuses on why.
Back to the anti-contraceptive movement (I am not trying to use a negative term, if someone has a more positive term, like pro-NFP (natural family planning) I can use that term). I feel that the NFP argument represents the least effective aspects of the pro-life movement, such as outlawing abortion simply because we are not supposed to do it and/or because the Bible says so. The NFP movement has nothing to do with the life of the fetus, but has much to do with someone’s opinion of what is right and wrong and whether or not someone is “playing God” with science. In my view, the least effective side of the pro-life movement doesn’t deal very much with whether the fetus is human or not, simply that abortion is evil, and that someone should not “play God” with science. The NFP argument states that children are a blessing and that one should not use science to plan families, as many pro-lifers argue.
However, I think the “libertarian” arguments are more effective when it comes to pro-life persuasion. These arguments do not rely on the Bible to convince people that abortion is wrong, and they don’t throw in things such as how children are a blessing and how someone shouldn’t use science to plan a family. They don’t use notions of morality primarily owned by conservatives to make a point. What they rely on is scientific and philosophical reasons that are more common to everyone. They tackle the “rights” issue head on and address how the abortion issue is simply not one affecting the person choosing to have it, but one affecting another being of equal worth. In short, these arguments address the personhood of the fetus.
The most powerful arguments in favor of the pro-life movement focus on this personhood and that abortion ends a life. NFP doesn’t have those same arguments. When pro-life and pro-NFP arguments are coupled, in the view of pro-choicers it looks as though (not saying this is true) pro-lifers aren’t so focused on the life of the fetus but that they are simply moral busybodies telling others what to do.
I think if someone believe contraceptives are evil they should say so, and to my knowledge there is not a big drive by NFP people to outlaw contraceptives, like pro-lifers try to do with abortion. Nevertheless, the alliance of the arguments can undermine the effective of the pro-life one. The focus of the pro-life movement needs to be the personhood of the fetus and any additional arguments that keep this from being the forefront need to be kept separate.
Update: I’m not sure I liked the way I categorized the pro-life arguments. Probably a better way would be arguments focusing on the personhood of the fetus and arguments focusing on everything else. I tend to think of the former in a libertarian context because I first found the argument on Libertarians for Life.