Rebecca adds: The insistence that if one opposes abortion, one must support birth control is a fine example of question begging. (For the record, while I reject the notion that abortion is a consequence-free private decision that is the prerogative only of the woman involved, I believe birth control to be none of anyone’s business but the couple’s, informed by medical, theological and other considerations that matter to them. Although I do have some serious qualms about the medical basis for a number of birth control methods.) But the argument takes as a given that a) sex can be severed from reproduction and b) perfect birth control, or close enough to perfect, is achievable. Neither of these is true.
The world would be a happier, better, saner place if fewer teenagers (and, dare I say it, unmarried adults) had sex. This is partly the case because of the inevitability of unplanned pregnancies. No birth control method is 100% effective; sterilization comes pretty close, but even then, whether through a faulty procedure or natural regeneration, sterilizations sometimes don’t work. And the numbers typically given for the effectiveness of the pill, diaphragm, condom and so on are usually “perfect use” statistics; in reality, very few users reproduce these circumstances, and the “”real world” reliability of most birth control methods is much lower. This may tie in well with certain political or religious views, but it is not a political issue or a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact.
So we create a culture in which sex is separated first from reproduction, then from marriage, and finally, in the age of the hook-up, from commitment or even affection. We raise a generation with the mantra of safe sex (omitting the fact that some diseases can be transmitted even while using a condom) and provide them with flawed tools to prevent conception. And inevitably, we end up with unplanned pregnancies, men leaving smoke behind them in the manner of the Road Runner as they head for the hills, and women convinced that their lives are ruined, who try to flee by terminating their pregnancies.
The fact that only abstinence is guaranteed to prevent pregnancy is also a matter of fact, not opinion. Young women (and men) who think their lives will be ruined, or (less melodramatically) recognize that premature and single parenthood will radically alter their plans, should keep this in mind. As a society, we can have “consequence-free” sex or we can value all life. We can’t do both, and no matter how hard we try (and many people have tried very hard indeed) we can’t sever sexuality from reproduction. Which is, I believe, part of the teaching of the Church on this matter.