GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum made the extreme — and absurd — assertion yesterday that access to contraception does not prevent the need for abortion services, ignoring years of studies showing that access to contraception decreases the number of abortions and that birth control unequivocally reduces unintended pregnancy. 

Q: “Do you have any concerns that cutbacks to Planned Parenthood would affect the birth control part of its offerings and inadvertently lead to an increase in abortions?”


Rick Santorum: “Well first off, I don’t think there’s any numbers out there that suggest that access to contraception actually reduces the number of abortions. I think there’s pretty good studies out there, pretty compelling studies that show that there is no reall correlation and hasn’t been for quite some time.”

We've got a word to describe politicians like Santorum: Gynotician.

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“We can all breathe a sigh of relief that Rick Santorum isn’t teaching sex education classes, but we should be worried that someone who lacks a basic understanding of science, public policy and women’s bodies is making a play for the White House," said Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens.

Put simply, birth control prevents unintended pregnancies. It’s given women the ability to decide when and whether to have a family, and has been credited with having a transformative effect on women both economically and professionally. Not only that, but 90% of adults believe birth control is a responsible way to prevent pregnancy. 

Let's Check the Facts!

FACT: Birth control helps prevent pregnancy.

Let's say this one more time, shall we? Birth control allows us to prevent pregnancy and plan the timing of pregnancy. Duh.

FACT: Contraception helps prevent unintended pregnancies, and reduces the rate of abortion.

  • New Republic: “Birth control doesn’t simply reduce unwanted pregnancies. It also reduces abortions. In the New England Journal study, the mean abortion rate among participants was less than one-fourth the rate for sexually active 14- to 19-year-old women nationally. That’s a pretty massive difference.”
  • The New York Times: “Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control….The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40% from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42%, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.”
  • Family planning services available through Medicaid and Title X of the U.S. Public Health Service Act help women prevent 2.2 million unintended pregnancies each year. Without these family planning services, the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions would be nearly two-thirds higher than they are now.

FACT: There are numerous studies that show a decline in abortion rates associated with  access to contraception. The rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States has also declined to its lowest level in 40 years. 

  • New England Journal of Medicine, Provision of No-Cost, Long-Acting Contraception and Teenage Pregnancy:  "We found that pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates were low among teenage girls and women enrolled in a project that removed financial and access barriers to contraception and informed them about the particular efficacy of LARC methods.”
  • Guttmacher Institute,What Is Behind the Declines in Teen Pregnancy Rates?: An analysis of data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), the major source of government data on population and reproductive health, found that contraception accounts for 86% of the recent decline in teenage pregnancy.
  • Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Access to Free Birth Control Reduces Abortion Rates: A study by investigators at Washington University reports that providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by a range of 62% to 78% compared to the national rate.

FACT: Contraception is used broadly as a means of preventing unintended pregnancy.

FACT: Rick Santorum has a history of holding extreme positions on birth control.

  • Has Said That He Thinks Birth Control “Doesn’t Work” And is “Harmful”:  In a 2005 interview, when asked about his position on birth control Rick Santorum said, “I don't think it works. I think it's harmful to women. I think it's harmful to our society to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated." [YouTube, 8/27/06]
  • Believes States Have the Right to Ban Birth Control: Asked whether states should be allowed to ban birth control, Santorum responded, “The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statues they have.” [ThinkProgress, 1/3/12]
  • Has Referred to The ‘Dangers of Contraception’: "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many in the Christian faith have said, "Well, that's okay, contraception is okay." It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."  [ThinkProgress, 1/3/12]

Women and men don’t need someone like Santorum telling them how birth control works, especially when he doesn’t understand it himself.

Tags: Rick Santorum, Contraception, Gynotician Alert, Gynotician

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