Hardcore opponents of contraception just love incendiary language. They repeatedly equate artificial family planning methods with killing babies or the extermination of millions of unborn children, toying around with the conscience of contraceptive users. Babies are cute and cuddly. Who would support treating them like vermin? Well, current medical evidence say that not practicing proper birth spacing leads to more infant deaths. So in the spirit of tit for tat, tell this to the moral crusaders: your obstruction of contraceptive choices kills real babies.
Thirty seven international experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) reviewed several studies in 2005 and, in the usual objective and non-fiery style of scientists, made the following recommendation:
Individuals and couples should consider health risks and benefits along with other circumstances such as their age, fecundity, fertility aspirations, access to health services, child-rearing support, social and economic circumstances, and personal preferences in making choices for the timing of the next pregnancy. … After a live birth, the recommended interval before attempting the next pregnancy is at least 24 months in order to reduce the risk of adverse maternal, perinatal and infant outcomes.
What are the adverse outcomes associated with birth spacing of less than two years? Infants 0–12 months old face increased risk of death. If women and couples are assisted in having the most effective method of contraception that suits them—a core content of reproductive health bills in Congress—infant deaths will be reduced. Simply put: family planning saves babies.
One of the Millennium Development Goal targets is to lower the Philippines’ infant mortality rate (IMR) to 19 deaths per one thousand live births by 2015. The National Demographic and Health Survey of 2008 showed that those with previous birth intervals of three years have already met this target with a measured IMR of 18, while those with intervals of less than two years have almost twice the death rate at 35.
Poor access to contraception kills infants. And these are deaths among real babies with bodies you can caress and faces you can touch, not the conjectured unimplanted fertilized eggs that anti-contraception advocates scream about. The WHO has firmly stated in 2006 that hormonal contraceptives and IUDs “cannot be labelled as abortifacients,” that doing so “contradict both WHO’s evidence-based international standards on the mechanisms of action and the drug and device labelling in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.”
Around 52,000 babies were estimated to have died in the Philippines in 2008. If Humanae Vitae was made into law, and if the Catholic Church fails to shift millions of couples to its approved natural family planning methods, how many more babies would die? I think anti-contraception advocates should appraise the evidence and do the math. Then perhaps they would reexamine their conscience and their moral compass, and at the very least drop the incendiary language.