Survey finds majority of young adults find contraception morally acceptable
Is the use of birth control morally acceptable? This was one of several questions asked of 2,315 young adults between the ages of 18 to 35 in a recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.
The study showed 71 percent of young adults felt the use of contraception was morally acceptable, while only nine percent felt it was morally unacceptable.
About 78 percent of the young adults were in favor of making legal contraception available on college campuses, and 81 percent wanted all women to have access to contraception.
Survey participants are not the only ones who believe access to contraception is an important issue that affects more than just women.
Jeffrey Levine, the director of the Women’s Health Program at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said he is passionate about reducing unintended pregnancies and is an advocate for improving access to contraceptive care for all women.
Contraception provides women the opportunity to have a child when they are ready, and for every child to be wanted, Levine said.
“If you look at major public health problems in this country, one of the biggest and most persistent is unintended pregnancies,” Levine said. “About half the pregnancies in this country are unintended.”
The survey results came as no surprise to Levine, who said he believes that not all young adults, specifically students, are ready for parenthood.
“Women in college, women who are going to graduate school and women who are trying to start new careers are often the women who want to delay parenthood the longest,” Levine said. “For them, having an unintended pregnancy would probably have the most negative consequence.”
After having reviewed many available forms of contraception, Levine said he recommended Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARCs), including intrauterine devices (IUDs) for sexually active women because they are highly effective and reversible.
Some concerns and arguments against accessible contraceptive care include the potential increase of teenage sexual activity, but Levine said research proves otherwise.
“Neither providing contraception, nor emergency contraception, has any effect on increasing the likelihood of a teenager initiating sex or having more sex,” Levine said. “They’re going to have sex regardless. The issue is, can we protect them from unintended pregnancy?”
This misconception was also debunked by Deborah Johnson, a staff physician with Rutgers Health Services and a pro-choice women’s health enthusiast who believes that providing additional safe sex education to young adults would help them to make responsible choices.
“People who are opposed to sex education programs often use the same argument,” Johnson said in an email. “Research shows the opposite is true. The more education and knowledge that young people have, the more likely they are to wait to become sexually active.”
Johnson, a believer in contraception, said having or not having contraception does not promote sexual activity nor prevent it, but allowing easy access to it would help deter unwanted pregnancies.
“Contraception is vitally important because it allows women to plan and have control over their own lives,” Johnson said in an email.
Regardless of when people choose to become sexually active, Johnson said they should only have children when they are emotionally, physically and financially ready.
Weighing in on the outcomes of unplanned pregnancies, Johnson said she believes having children is a personal decision that should be made in a thoughtful and deliberate way to avoid impeding a woman’s personal growth.
“Even if a woman wants to have children, a pregnancy that occurs at the wrong time can derail a woman’s plans and dreams and prevent her from reaching her full potential,” Johnson said. “That is especially true of the intelligent and ambitious female students at Rutgers.”
Johnson also recommended birth control pills, vaginal rings and injections as effective alternatives for women interested in contraception, and urged students to also use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
While many may believe that contraception is strictly a women’s issue, Lauren Mateo, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she felt men should fight for readily available contraception as they are mutually affected by unplanned parenthood.
“I think contraception is something that men should really be fighting for as well,” Mateo said. “It’s their children who are being born that they can’t support. I think it’s definitely a family issue, not only a women’s issue.”
Agreeing with the survey’s findings, Mateo said she felt free and readily available contraception would act as a way of empowering women.
“I think it would make a statement to woman that they have autonomy over their own bodies,” Mateo said. “It gives a humility that, men really don’t have the experience to mandate what women can do with their bodies.”
For some students, unplanned parenthood is not something they may consider until after the deed is done, but Levine encourages students to consider contraception and visit on-campus health centers sooner rather than later.
“We see, unfortunately, so many students every year in our office for unintended pregnancies. I can’t tell you how common that is,” Levine said. “We would much rather be seeing them (preventing) pregnancy."