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I am asking this in the context of the Republican Party in the US being against contraception. That seems odd to me since even the anti-abortion Christian party in the country I live are for handing out free contraception to young people.

I understand the conservative argument against abortion; It hinges on the question of the personhood of the embryo and the fetus. However, I am having a hard time understanding why Republicans are against contraceptives that fall outside of "natural family planning".

I reckon religion may be the main reason, but in that case the question becomes why religious groups like the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Jews are against contraception.

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    Demonstrate how the Republican Party is "against contraception"? Have they made or proposed laws forbidding contraception? Do their members regularly make speeches denouncing contraception? Is anti-contraception part of their platform?
    – RWW
    Jul 1 at 15:20
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – CDJB
    Jul 1 at 20:05
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    I don't think a question that has a false premise is worthy of closing, that is why people ask questions to get impressions more in line with reality. Decerning the wheat from the chaff in regards to political rhetoric should be right up this SE's alley.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jul 8 at 8:39
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    @NeilMeyer I agree - when OP has accepted an answer saying more or less "your premise is wrong, and here's why" it's hard to see it as a bad faith question.
    – richardb
    Jul 9 at 8:12
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very few people – just 4% of all U.S. adults – think contraception is immoral. 5% Democrats and 4% of Republicans

- Pew poll, September 2016.

In other words,

There is no conservative argument against contraception...

... because an overwhelming majority of conservatives and conservative movement as a whole ...

... are NOT against contraception in the first place.

So asking what it is, is a fallacy.

While there may be some individual politicians who happen to be conservative, who are against contraception on a personal level, the official position of the Republican party or its conservative wing is neither pro nor against contraception (I'm excluding "Plan B" since many people - rightly or wrongly - group that in "abortion" and not "contraception" in their thinking).

Unlike the other answers here that make up politically popular facts, I can easily prove my point, with an actual poll.

From September 2016 Pew poll titled "Where the Public Stands on Religious Liberty vs. Nondiscrimination"

very few people – just 4% of all U.S. adults – think contraception is immoral.

Even when it comes to Catholics who attend Mass weekly, just 13% say contraception is morally wrong, while 45% say it is morally acceptable and 42% say it is not a moral issue. (The Roman Catholic Church teaches that use of artificial contraception is sinful.)

Specific party breakdown was 5% Democrats and only 4% Republicans view contraception as morally wrong:

enter image description here

Another proof is that there are precisely:

  • Zero laws on the books, in even the most conservatives states/locales, banning sales of contraceptives, or use of contraceptives.

  • To the best of my knowledge, zero serious proposals (laws put to a vote, or referendums, or planks in political party) to introduce such laws.

The actual truth, if you look at the raw facts and not anti-Republican slogans, is that what Republicans and conservatives are against is forcing people to pay for other people's contraception.

This takes two different forms:

  1. Opposition to using tax money to pay for contraception[2].

  2. Opposition to forcing private organizations to pay for contraception - more specifically, to pay for medical "insurance"[1] coverage that covers contraception. Again, the opposition isn't to the insurance itself - it's to forcing an organization to choose the insurance plan which pays for contraception (which means that the organization itself, in effect, pays for it).

To understand this in less politically controversial terms, consider a hypothetical situation. There is a pro-cat political party, and an anti-cat political party.

What the anti-cat party is against is:

  1. Laws that use tax money - including those collected from anti-cat voters - to pay for pro-cat policies.

  2. Laws forcing private companies to keep cats for employees to play with (and pay for that).

Now that we took off the emotional veil, I think anyone who's not deeply invested in pro/anti-cat sentiment can see that those two laws are extremely unfair towards anti-cat people.

Now, if you ask what the conservative argument is against forcing people to pay for other people's modern contraception,

  • the ideological answer is "because it violates the freedom of people".

  • there is also an additional set of purely political arguments for why it's a noisy issue (it is an issue that arouses a lot of sentiment in voters, and thus gets voter enthusiasm and money and volunteering)


A separate angle that was brought out by someone in comments highlights one of the bigger divides between conservatives and libertarians on one side and progressives on another: positive vs. negative rights (of which contraceptives is but one small example illustration).

This division concerns positive and negative rights - the right to have something, vs. the right to be free from some sort of interference from others.

In general, conservatives and libertarians subscribe to negative rights as being more important in general, and progressives, view positive rights as more important.

In that context, contraceptive political positions make perfect sense:

  • Those on the left, often view entire medicine, and including contraceptives, as a positive human right - meaning they think that being given (and paid for by others if you can't afford it) is a right.

  • Those on the right, view at the very least contraceptives (and sometimes, other non-essential medicine) as NOT a fundamental human right which everyone must be given access to, but as an optional luxury. If you want it, you are free to pay for it. If you can't, go without. However, to them, negative right (specifically in case of contraception, religious liberty to NOT be forced to pay for someone else's contraceptive) is important as a concept regardless of whether they personally consider contraceptives OK (an overwhelming majority) or are among the rare 4% of people who do not.


[1] I use quotations here on purpose. For those not too familiar with US healthcare system, most US medical "insurance" is not really a "real" catastrophic insurance which is designed to pay for medical emergencies and other unanticipated medical expenses, the way normal insurance works. Instead, it pays for routine medical expenses, e.g. wellness doctor visits, medicine, and in case of some insurances, contraception is included in the routine expenses the insurance covers.

[2] - I didn't want to include this point into the main answer, as it's already overly long. But the controvercial rule from Trump administration which may have been one impetus for this question, was actually NOT about contraception at all, despite the opposition trying to paint it this way. It was against funding Planned Parenthood's abortion services using taxes. It very specifically allowed funding for birth control - the problem was that Planned Parenthood can't easily separate the two as the same branch does both. But, the way the rule was worded, it was very explicitly NOT directly affecting contraception.

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    I think this is a good answer to the question asked. That said, I don't think the truffle analogy works. It may be a human right to have access to food, but not necessarily to any specific food. The analogy to contraception would be that it's a right to have access to some form of it, but not to any specific form. A one-visit long-term form like an IUD might be reasonable to cover as part of that "basic access" whereas an ongoing daily prescription pill might not be. I don't know how I feel about that argument, but I think it's closer to an accurate analogy.
    – Bobson
    Jul 1 at 18:54
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    The Pew poll does not demonstrate your headline "there is no conservative argument against contraception", but rather "arguments against contraception are espoused by only a small minority of X" Jul 1 at 22:01
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    "Another proof is that there are precisely: Zero laws on the books...zero serious proposals (laws put to a vote, or referendums, or planks in political party) to introduce such laws." This is no proof as the Warren Court invalidated all such laws in the 1960s, no more than you can say the lack of proposals to ban gay marriage today is proof conservatives don't oppose it. I do think this otherwise nice answer is being a little coy about the very recent history of conservative arguments against contraception.
    – Hasse1987
    Jul 2 at 0:02
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    While this is a good answer, I think it downplays the religious aspect. The ACA only allows employers to opt out of paying for contraception if they're religious organizations. So there isn't a general idea that this is an optional service we shouldn't subsidize each other for, but an objection based on religious doctrine.
    – Barmar
    Jul 2 at 1:03
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    I think it's worth pointing out that the difference between Republican and Democratic voters (4 versus 5 percent) is likely well within the error margin and thus meaningless.
    – Jan
    Jul 2 at 15:12
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Part of the religious dogma of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam...) is that sex outside of marriage is sinful and the only reason why one should ever have sex is to have children with their spouse. The moral justification for this position is that this is what the scriptures say. In the world view of religious fundamentalism, there is no requirement to justify a moral judgment beyond that. If you want to know more about the theological arguments against extramarital sex, then I recommend looking for answers on the Stack Exchange sites for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The fear of an unwanted pregnancy acts as a deterrent against extramarital sex. Especially if abortion is also unavailable. So giving access to contraceptives, especially to unmarried people, would remove that deterrent. Abrahamic fundamentalists consider enabling people to act in a sinful manner as immoral in itself, so it is not desirable in their world view.

The result is that politicians who are influenced by Abrahamic fundamentalism are often also against making contraceptives available. The influence of Abrahamic fundamentalism on conservatives in the United States (mostly of the Christian flavor) is a lot stronger than it is in other comparable countries of the "Western World". Including those who have "Christian" in their party name. The reasons why this is the case would be a subject for another question.

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    Please either include proof that this "logic" is the official position of Republican party, or at the least meaningful set of notable politicians in it, OR, edit your question to indicate this is your personal theory not backed by fact.
    – user4012
    Jul 1 at 18:00
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    "the only reason why one should ever have sex is to have children with their spouse" - [citation needed]. This is 100% false for Judaism, and as far as I'm aware for vast majority of Christian denominations. I wouldn't be surprised if it's equally false for Islam.
    – user4012
    Jul 1 at 18:25
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    Here are some other questions on the SE network about what user4012 has said: Post on Mi Yodeya generally backs up what user4012 said, as does this post on Islam SE (so far at least). Jul 2 at 0:54
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    "The moral justification for this position is that this is what the scriptures say." Even this extraneous non-politics part of the answer is wrong. The Catholic opposition to contraception is not based on the Bible (which never even mentions contraception), but on "natural law" philosophical arguments that they argue can be derived from reason alone. Even if these arguments are ridiculous, they're more rationalist than fundamentalist. Jul 2 at 1:46
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    IIRC Islam does not have any objection to contraception inside marriage.
    – gerrit
    Jul 2 at 8:09
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I don't think conservatives have a problem with contraception specifically, but the lifestyles it's associated with. What they've traditionally been against is promiscuity, and there's also sexism that downplays women's control over their bodies and reproductive rights.

Anything that makes sex "safer" is seen as promoting casual sex. You can also find this in conservative attitudes about sex education in schools: the conservative party line has long been that we should teach abstinence, not ways to have sex without consequences.

Conservative values also emphasize "traditional" women's roles. while contraception and abortion are both ways to give women more autonomy over their bodies and lives. Gloria Steinem has said “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” The pill was probably one of the most important enabling developments for the women's liberation movement.

The conservative movement is also closely associated with the religious right. According to the BBC

The Roman Catholic Church believes that using contraception is "intrinsically evil" in itself, regardless of the consequences. Catholics are only permitted to use natural methods of birth control.

But the Church does not condemn things like the pill or condoms in themselves. What is morally wrong is using such things with the intention of preventing conception. Using them for other purposes is fine - for example, using the pill to regulate the periods of a woman who is not in a sexual relationship is not wrong.

Pope Francis has relaxed this somewhat, saying that couples should let their individual consciences guide them. But he was talking about married couples; the Church doesn't condone extramarital sex, and obviously contraception to support that is inappropriate.

Other Christian denominations are more progressive, but this is a relatively recent (the past 100 years or so) development. The conservative movement is still rooted in the past (e.g. "Make America Great Again", which is nostalgic for the days of Ozzie and Harriet).

Another example of how conservatives have linked contraception to objectionable behavior is the Comstock laws that were passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These laws were ostensibly intended to prohibit sending obscenity through the mail, but they also often prohibited contraception and writing about contraception. Although many of these laws were eventually declared unconstitutional, and the restrictions on birth control were rendered null and void by Supreme Court decisions in 1965 and 1972, they're indicative of the attitudes of conservatives: contraceptives are considered to be in the same category as sex toys, and educational material about them is treated like pornography.

Comments pointing out rational arguments related to contraception and other issues surrounding sex miss the point. These policies are not based on medical or sociological research. They're based on traditional beliefs and religious ideology. You won't generally find them admitting this in policy papers, politician generally have to spin it to avoid "church and state" problems. But the relationships are often obvious when you see who the bedfellows are.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Jul 8 at 17:48
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If you define "contraception" as a means of preventing fertilization, most conservatives are not opposed, as other answers have pointed out, especially given other uses for hormonal birth control such as irregularity. If you define "contraception" to also include intentional means of preventing an already fertilized egg from coming to term, most conservatives have a moral problem with that. That includes abortifacient drugs. Polls do not always make a distinction.

It's also important to recognize subtleties in what "opposition" looks like. In general, conservatives are opposed to any "right" coming at the expense of another. If a right cannot be achieved without another individual's sacrifice of time, money, labor, life, etc., conservatives don't consider it a right. I have the right to bear arms. I don't have the right to force you to buy me a gun so I can exercise my right.

This is the principle behind why there is no right to slavery, for example, but conservatives also believe the same principle applies to an unborn child wanting to be born, or to a group of devout nuns with religious objections to any form of contraceptive, or a corporation with moral or religious objections to abortifacients.

In other words, almost no conservative would support outlawing the "prevent fertilization" kind of contraception, even those who are against using it personally. Most conservatives would support outlawing abortion and abortifacients. Most conservatives would oppose a law requiring people to pay for other people's contraception.

However, most conservatives would also oppose a law making it illegal for health insurance companies to cover preventative contraception, not that anyone has proposed such a law. Interestingly, a large number of conservatives are also in favor of making contraception available over the counter and therefore taking the whole question of making other people pay for it off the table.

Hopefully you see the position is a lot more nuanced than being "against modern contraception."

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Most of this rhetoric was born out of Obama era policy that tried to force all hospitals to carry contraceptives. Obama wanted this to be considered a basic human right. This was mainly an issue for hospitals managed by the Catholic church, which still do exist in the US.

The Republican party had no real issue with contraceptives perse but took Obama to task for his underhanded tactics to force certain religious medical practitioners to act against their conscience. They were not so much against contraception, but more against medical practitioners being forced to work with.

Just as a side note, the religious people who are against contraception are against it because they believe it to be on par with abortion. To them, the contraception issue is the abortion issue. Now I don't want to get into the validity of such a belief, but let's not strawman the beliefs even if a decent case could be made for its ridiculousness.

Such questions of morality/ethics should be made at the Philosophy SE or if you desire a Christian perspective the Christianity SE.

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  • A major point not brought up elsewhere on this page, but certainly that is not the whole story. This point is more about freedom of association, a largely conservative ideal. The gay wedding cakes is the same issue.
    – frеdsbend
    Jul 5 at 17:04
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The problem with this question is that all "conservatives" are not created equal. There are many varieties: the Goldwater "as long as you don't do it in the street and scare the horses" sort that verges on libertarianism, the economic "free enterprise and lower taxes" kind; the Trumpian populist "anti-establishment, anti-immigration and anti-free trade rhetoric" variety (as quoted from Wikipedia); and the Religious right.

It's really only that last sort (and only some of them) that have problems with contraception, and (as has been pointed out in another answer) that's because they consider sex, and especially sex outside of marriage, to be sinful*, and contraception enables sex without the consequence of pregnancy.

So conservatives in general are NOT against contraception. They may well be against the government paying for it, or forcing private entities to pay for it, but that's an entirely different matter. They'd almost certainly oppose say government mandated/financed fertility treatments, for the same reason.

*If anyone doubts this, read up on the concept of "original sin", the Biblical story of Onan, many statements in the New Testament, or much else that can be found with a simple search.

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    “It's really only that last sort (and only some of them) that have problems with contraception, and (as has been pointed out in another answer) that's because they consider sex, and especially sex outside of marriage, to be sinful*” While they do believe sex outside of marriage is sinful, nobody believes that all sex is sinful. Jul 4 at 21:43
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    @Ekadh Singh: I have to disagree. Even leaving out fringe groups like the Shakers, a lot of the more fundamentalist sort of Christians seem to think that it's always sinful, but within marriage it's a necessary sin. Thus the idea that all people are inherently sinful, and need to have their sins forgiven. Again, read up on "original sin": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin (Something similar might be true of some other religions, but I lack sufficient personal experience to say.)
    – jamesqf
    Jul 5 at 3:17
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There are a number of different reasons:

  • they consider them equal to abortions (eg because they prevent implantation of a fertilized egg; and/or because they are widely misinformed on how various contraceptives work).
  • they see them as violating the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. While one might see that as a personal preference, Christians tend to impose their morality onto others.
  • historically, the pill was seen as giving women sexual agency which clashes with conservative ideas of what a womans place in the world is (in the kitchen, subservient to her husband).
  • they consider them immoral as they lead to 'sinful lifestyles' (premarital sex, changing sexual partners, etc). In the end, control of contraceptives is most often about control of what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home (with women being disproportionately targeted).
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    This answer is contradicted by reality. Polls say "just 4% of all U.S. adults – think contraception is immoral.". Prove your point with facts.
    – user4012
    Jul 1 at 18:19

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