Stu­dents pre­sented pro-life case for con­tra­cep­tives on Tuesday. | Wiki­media Commons

Con­tra­ception can be a con­tro­versial topic, but freshman Katherine Wilkins and senior Elyse Hutcheson sought to foster dis­cussion in their talk, “A con­ver­sation about con­tra­ception: Why the pro-life movement should promote con­tra­ceptive use and edu­cation,” held Tuesday evening by Hillsdale College Democrats.

Wilkins cited the Nether­lands as an example of a country with a sex edu­cation program that helped to lower the country’s abortion rates and to foster healthy atti­tudes toward rela­tion­ships. The Dutch system, which begins in preschool and con­tinues through high school, con­sists of a week of age-appro­priate lessons each year.

“The Dutch credit this low abortion rate to their sex edu­cation pro­grams,” Wilkins said. “It’s called com­pre­hensive sex­u­ality edu­cation. The Dutch system includes lessons in dating, how to break up with someone, what to do when you have a crush, how to tell someone you’re uncom­fortable, bound­aries, and things like what to do if you’re ques­tioning your sex­u­ality.”

She con­trasted the Dutch system to absti­nence-only-until-mar­riage systems of sex edu­cation, which she said have been linked to higher abortion rates in states with sex-ed pro­grams where dis­cussion of absti­nence is mandatory but dis­cussion of con­tra­cep­tives is not.

“Absti­nence is 100 percent effective, but not everyone is doing that,” Wilkins said. “We need to teach the people who are doing some­thing dif­ferent than absti­nence. Absti­nence is still taught, but it’s not the only form of con­tra­ceptive that kids should learn about.”

She said the Nether­lands average around 7.5 – 8.5 abor­tions per 1,000 preg­nancies, a rate much lower than the US average of 14 – 16 and the world average of 34. Wilkins said studies have shown that Dutch teenagers are more likely to use con­tra­ception than American teens.

Wilkins acknowl­edged that abortion is a mul­ti­faceted issue, but said improving sex edu­cation in America will help reduce the country’s rate of abor­tions.

“It’s not a perfect answer, but better edu­cation has been shown to reduce the number of abor­tions,” Wilkins said. “Pro-life or pro-choice, we can agree that abortion should be unwanted and unnec­essary rather than unsafe and unaf­fordable.”

Junior Kathryn Duhadway said it was inter­esting to learn about the Dutch system of com­pre­hensive edu­cation and con­sider other per­spec­tives on con­tra­ception.

“It was nice to hear some details about the way their system works,” she said. “I think pro-life people don’t really talk about con­tra­ception a whole lot, and there are reasons for that, but some of the things Elyse said I gen­uinely had never thought about before, so it was good to hear those as well.”

Hutcheson focused on addressing objec­tions to dif­ferent forms of con­tra­ception she has encoun­tered in the pro-life movement and how the pro­motion of con­tra­cep­tives can help reduce abortion rates.

“There are so many won­derful pro-life indi­viduals here who care a lot about that cause, but I’ve never once encoun­tered someone who has said, ‘Maybe we should make condoms more available or educate children about how to have safe sex,’” Hutcheson said. “You see people sending baby socks to con­gress, but no one’s sending the message that maybe using con­tra­ceptive methods may reduce the number of preg­nancies that end in abor­tions.”

She argued that orga­ni­za­tions should take a more proactive, inten­tional approach to pro­moting con­tra­ception as a means to reduce abor­tions.

“Between 2011 – 2014 abor­tions declined pretty dras­ti­cally,” Hutcheson said. “That’s some­thing that should really be cel­e­brated if you’re trying to end abortion, and from what I’ve seen, part of that is from people uti­lizing more available and less expensive con­tra­cep­tives.”

She said even if indi­viduals oppose hor­monal birth control because it pre­vents a fer­tilized egg from further devel­opment or because of cancer risks, orga­ni­za­tions can still promote other means of con­tra­ception such as condoms.

Ulti­mately, Hutcheson said con­tra­cep­tives ought to be acknowl­edged for their role in low­ering the abortion rate.

“One way to do that is con­tra­cep­tives,” Hutcheson said. “Edu­cating people on how to use con­tra­cep­tives cor­rectly might lead to a decrease in unplanned preg­nancies, and more sex edu­cation might lead to better respon­si­bility in people who do find them­selves with an unplanned preg­nancy who believe they are capable of taking care of the child they have.”