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May 5, 2010

Column #1,497

“The Pill” and Cohabitation

By Mike McManus

                Fifty years ago FDA approved the “Pill” to give women a nearly fool-proof way to avoid pregnancy.  

                A TIME cover story said the Pill was “the means by which women untied their aprons, scooped up their ambitions and marched eagerly into the new age.”  Indeed, in 1960 the average woman had 3.6 children; by 1980 the number dropped to 2.  Seventy percent of women with children under 6 cared for them at home in 1970, and 30 percent worked. Those numbers have since reversed.

                 Margaret Sanger’s mother died at age 50 after 18 pregnancies, which inspired her to create what became Planned Parenthood to help women plan their families. She also found the Harvard researchers and secured the funding that led to the development of Enovid, the Pill.

                It is hard to believe now, but through the 1960s, oral contraceptives were sold only to married women. When Estelle Griswold, head of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut, and a Yale professor opened a clinic to dispense contraceptive information to women, they were promptly arrested.  Birth control was a crime!

                That led to a famous case, Griswold v. Connecticut, that went to the Supreme Court in which the Justices voted 7-2 that the Bill of Rights implicitly included a right to privacy, which overturned bans on contraceptive use by married couples. That case was cited in 1973 by the Court in its more famous ruling, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion.        

TIME concluded, “By the 1970s the true impact of the Pill could begin to be measured, and it was not on the sexual behavior of American women; it was on how they envisioned their lives, their choices and their obligations…The fashion for large families went the way of the girdle.”  

That’s only partly correct.  When women could control whether they’d get pregnant, their vision did change, but so did their sexual behavior. 

In 1970, college grads were marrying at age 23, but by 1975, as use of the Pill by single women became more common, that age jumped 2.5 years. In 1963, four of five Protestant college women wanted 3+ children. That plunged to 29 percent by 1973. 

However, the Pill also unleashed the Sexual Revolution. While many assumed that the Pill would reduce abortions and unwed births, the absolute opposite occurred.

1.      In 1960 there were 224,000 births to unmarried women, 5 percent of births.  By 2008 that jumped 8-fold to 1.73 million births, 40.6% of all births.

2.      In 1972, a year before Roe V. Wade, there were 587,000 abortions. That rose to 1.6 million in 1990, but has dropped to 1.2 million.

3.      Cohabitation has soared 16-fold from 439,000 in 1960 to 6.8 million in 2008.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Flee fornication,” in KJV version. What is cohabitation

but fornication raised to the 100th power?  The Pill spawned irresponsibility. By separating the sexual act from birth, millions regarded sex as fun, not the glue of marriage. Sadly, more than half of unwed births are to cohabiting couples.                

                Yet have you ever heard a sermon on cohabitation?  Likely not. 

                Why?  The answer is that two-thirds of those getting married are cohabiting.   And churches are marrying four out of five couples.  Many clergy are quietly complicit in this moral deterioration of our culture.  Pastors are flummoxed by this widespread immorality.  They don’t know what to say to a cohabiting couple. Here are some answers.

                First, tell them facts about their risky behavior.  Nine out of ten cohabiting couples will break up, either before the wedding or afterward.  Of the 6.8 million cohabiting in 2008, only 1.4 million married, i.e. 80% broke up before the wedding. This is such a traumatic experience that the number of never-married Americans tripled from 21 million in 1970 to 63 million.

 And those who married after living together are 61% more likely to divorce than those who remain apart. 

                Second, tell them you won’t marry a cohabiting couple unless they move apart.

                If they say, “We can’t afford to live separately,” give the answer of Rev. Jeff Meyers of Christ Lutheran Church in Overland Park, KS: “Susan, we have widows in this church who would love to have you move in until the wedding.  They probably wouldn’t even charge rent.”

                Meyers says four of five move apart.  And not one woman asked for a widow’s name!

                Third, train couples in healthy marriages to mentor premarital couples by having them take a premarital inventory of 150+ issues for a relationship assessment, and discuss their answers. Teach couple communication skills.

                Finally, preach.

Paul wrote: “Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”  

                Cohabitation is evil.  Mentoring is good.

 The Pill’s 50th anniversary is opportune time to reflect on how our culture has strayed so far from Scripture and what’s in the best interest of couples.

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