Despite the fact that conservative evangelicals are opposed to premarital sex — and, along with it, comprehensive sex education that informs young adults about their reproductive health options — public support for contraception is on the rise in the evangelical community. As growing numbers of evangelicals are facing unplanned pregnancies, evangelical leaders and institutions have begun to consider promoting preventative measures to combat abortion rates.
13 percent of all abortion patients describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians, a statistic fueled by the fact that a full 80 percent of unmarried evangelicals are having sex. Of course, failing to fully educate young adults about their reproductive health has been proven to lead to decreased use of contraception and increased rates of unplanned pregnancies.
The Daily Beast details a few examples of the evangelical community’s evolving attitudes on sex education:
- The largest evangelical organization in the country, The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), sparked controversy when it accepted a grant from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. NAE defended its decision by saying it is concerned about the abortion rate in the evangelical community.
- This year’s Q Ideas Conference, a gathering of evangelicals in Washington, DC, held a panel on reducing abortion that included an employee from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Audience members were asked whether churches should support the use of contraception among single young people, and 64 percent said yes.
- A feature story in the evangelical magazine Relevant last year addressed the issue of young evangelicals having premarital sex, including stark data that points to fact that churches pushing for abstinence are largely failing in their efforts.
- A wider range of evangelical leaders are beginning to concede that contraception is “a valuable tool in the abortion reduction toolkit.”
The divide between evangelical leaders’ and the evangelical community’s attitudes about contraception and premarital sex mirrors a similar divide among Catholics, whose leaders have been vocal opponents of birth control following the Obama administration’s regulation requiring employers and insurers to cover contraceptive services at no additional cost to employees. Despite the fact that over 40 Catholic institutions arefighting against Obama’s birth control provision, citing violations to their religious freedom despite the fact that the policy already includes an exemption for religious organizations, 82 percent of Catholics believe birth control is morally acceptable. Similarly, 88 percent of evangelicals report that they support birth control.