October 21, 2019

The Secular Side Of Contraception

Recently while browsing the internet, I came across an article by W. Bradford Wilcox, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.  Entitled “The Fact of Life and Marriage: Social Science & the Vindication of Christian Moral Teaching,” the author explains that many sociologists and economists who have no moral qualms about contraception and its fail-safe alternative, abortion, have had to admit that both of these practices have caused irreparable harm to American society.

One such person is Nobel-prize-winning economist George Akerlof of the University of California at Berkeley.  His research concludes that the sexual and divorce revolutions in the last forty to fifty years were caused by contraception, which led to the collapse of marriage among the poor and working class.  This, in turn, led to a catastrophic increase in illegitimacy among blacks, from 24% in 1965 to over 70% today.  For whites during the same time period, illegitimacy soared from 3% to 28%.

Why?  According to Akerlof, “technical innovation creates both winner and losers.”  Wilcox writes, “In this case the introduction of widespread effective contraception–especially the pill–put traditional women with an interest in marriage and children at [a] ‘competitive disadvantage’ in the relationship ‘market’ compared to modern women who took a more hedonistic approach to sex and relationships.”   Akerlof writes, “. . .the norm of premarital sexual abstinence all but vanished in the wave of the technology [contraception] shock.”  Without the threat of possible pregnancy or the promise that a man would marry the woman should she become pregnant, more and more women chose to discard chastity.  Thus, women who became pregnant could either choose to be single mothers or to abort their child.  As might have been predicted, the availability of contraception led inevitably to an increase in illegitimacy and abortion.

As alluded to above, contraception also had a devastating effect on marriage.  Even if a man fathered a child, marriage was no longer an expected outcome.  The time-honored shotgun marriage disappeared.  From 1968 to 1993, the percentage of married men between the ages of 25 and 34 fell from 60% to 40%.  The damaging result of this left the single mothers and their children to fend for themselves.  For the men, there was no need to grow up.  Drinking, drug use, partying, and impregnating several women became the norm.  Substance abuse and incarceration more than doubled between 1968 and 1998.  Akerlof concluded that contraception played a major, but indirect, role in the growth of poverty and crime in the 1970s and 1980s.  He writes: 

Just at the time, about 1970, that the permanent cure to poverty seemed to be on the horizon and just at the time that women had obtained the tools to control the number and the timing of their children, single motherhood and the feminization of poverty began their long and steady rise.

Wilcox points out that the carnage caused by increased illegitimacy and social pathologies has fallen most heavily upon the poor.  In the 1960s, the illegitimacy rate among college-educated women was only about 5% and has remained the same up to the present time.  On the other hand, the illegitimacy rate among women with a high-school education or less was 13% in the 1960s, but today it is 20% and climbing.  So how does this translate into a catastrophe for the poor?  Wilcox explains it this way:

Think of marriage as dependent upon two pillars: socioeconomic status and normative commitment. The poor have less of an economic stake in marriage, so they are more dependent on religious and moral norms regarding marriage.  Middle-class and upper-class Americans remain committed to marriage in practice because they continue to have an economic and social stake in marriage. They recognize that their lifestyle, and the lifestyle of their children, will be markedly better if they combine their economic and social resources with one spouse.

Since the church has become less and less important in the lives of the poor, there is no common moral imperative to be either chaste or to get married.  And without marriage, the children of the poor suffer greatly.  Wilcox refers to Growing Up with a Single Parent, by sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur.  The authors list four benefits provided by the two-parent family: First, children benefit from the economic resources provided by the mother and particularly from the father.  Second, children see their parents living out proper male and female roles with self-sacrifice and fidelity being two key virtues.  Third, parents can share the work load raising their children and monitoring each other’s parenting skills.  Lastly, fathers teach children how to deal with a complex world as both adolescents and then young adults.  But without two parents, the chances of the child having a happy, successful life are almost nil. 

There are, of course, moral reasons why contraception is a great evil.  And the physical complications for women using various forms of contraception are legion.  But taking those aspects aside, a rational society would look at contraception and see it as its greatest threat.  Sadly, in America, we see the apposite.  We see a society that worships at the altar of contraception, and like the followers of Baal, this society slaughters its children on that altar.

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Written by
Thomas Addis

THOMAS ADDIS is a retired high school teacher and published author, most recently authoring a children's book, A Gift of Light, which is available at Amazon. An M.A. graduate of Oakland University, he is Associate Editor of Catholic Journal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and cycling.

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