Fertility is not always within women’s control. The idea that all women can control their fertility wrongly assumes that:
- Contraception is always 100% available and foolproof.
- Women are always in a position to say no to sex.
- Women should just abstain from sex if they don’t want to get pregnant.
Studies have shown that between half and two-thirds of all women who have an abortion were using contraception at the time they became pregnant. No contraception is guaranteed to be 100% effective all the time, not even sterilization. Also, people may make mistakes and not always use birth control correctly. Sex and contraception are two areas where human beings and their relationships can be unpredictable and disorganized. To illustrate, a woman is fertile for 35 years, so trying to avoid pregnancy for most of that time is a major challenge. Similarly, if a person drives a car for 35 years, sooner or later they will most likely have at least one accident. It is also unreasonable and moralizing to judge women for having sex for pleasure, since sex is such an important, basic urge.
Furthermore, sex (or unsafe sex) is not always voluntary. Many women seeking abortion have not been in a position to freely agree to sex, or they may be pressured or forced to have unprotected sex. Men can also use condoms incorrectly.
Often, the best methods of contraception are unavailable or unaffordable. 214 million women in the world have an unmet need for contraception, mostly in developing countries. This myth is especially ironic in light of the fact that the anti-choice movement works to deny contraception to women, including trying to ban it or defund it.
Women may not not always wish to use contraception for a variety of reasons. The circumstances of women’s lives and their health – irregular periods, menopause, drug use, medical conditions, stress – will also affect fertility and contraceptive use. Further, people may get caught up in a moment of spontaneous passion and are not prepared to use birth control, or don’t want to interrupt or end the encounter. Birth control can be a hassle to use and can reduce sexual pleasure, so people should be forgiven for not using it consistently.
Guttmacher Institute: Adding It Up: Investing in Contraception and Maternal and Newborn Health, 2017
Royal Women’s Hospital, Victoria Australia: Abortion: the Myths
Population Reference Bureau, Unmet Need for Contraception: Fact Sheet