Skip to comments.Ross Douthat: The 'safe, legal, rare' illusion
Posted on 02/22/2012 7:55:01 AM PST by rhema
Amid the sound and fury of the latest culture-war battles - first over breast cancer dollars and Planned Parenthood, and then over the White House's attempt to require that religious employers cover contraception and potential abortifacients - it's easy to forget that there is at least some common ground in U.S. politics on sex, pregnancy, marriage and abortion.
Even the most pro-choice politicians, for instance, usually emphasize that they want to reduce the need for abortion, and make the practice rare as well as safe and legal. Even the fiercest conservative critics of the White House's contraception mandate - yes, Rick Santorum included - agree that artificial birth control should be legal and available. And both Democrats and Republicans generally agree that the country would be better off with fewer pregnant teenagers, fewer unwanted children, fewer absent fathers, fewer out-of-wedlock births.
Where cultural liberals and social conservatives differ is on the means that will achieve these ends. The liberal vision tends to emphasize access to contraception as the surest path to stable families, wanted children and low abortion rates. The more direct control that women have over when and whether sex makes babies, liberals argue, the less likely they'll be to get pregnant at the wrong time and with the wrong partner - and the less likely they'll be to even consider having an abortion. (Slate's Will Saletan has memorably termed this "the pro-life case for Planned Parenthood.")
The conservative narrative, by contrast, argues that it's more important to promote chastity, monogamy and fidelity than to worry about whether there's a prophylactic in every bedroom drawer or bathroom cabinet. To the extent that contraceptive use has a significant role in the conservative vision (and obviously there's some Catholic-Protestant disagreement), it's in the context of already stable, already committed relationships. Monogamy, not chemicals or latex, is the main line of defense against unwanted pregnancies.
The problem with the conservative story is that it doesn't map particularly well onto contemporary mores and life patterns. A successful chastity-centric culture seems to depend on a level of social cohesion, religious intensity and shared values that exists only in small pockets of the country. Mormon Utah, for instance, largely lives up to the conservative ideal, with some of America's lowest rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and abortions. But many other socially conservative regions (particularly in the South) feature higher rates of unwed and teenage parenthood than in the country as a whole.
Liberals love to cite these numbers as proof that social conservatism is a flop. But the liberal narrative has glaring problems as well. To begin with, a lack of contraceptive access simply doesn't seem to be a significant factor in unplanned pregnancy in the United States. When the Alan Guttmacher Institute surveyed more than 10,000 women who had procured abortions in 2000 and 2001, it found that only 12 percent cited problems obtaining birth control as a reason for their pregnancies. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of teenage mothers found similar results: Only 13 percent of the teens reported having had trouble getting contraception.
At the same time, if liberal social policies really led inexorably to fewer unplanned pregnancies and thus fewer abortions, you would expect "blue" regions of the country to have lower teen pregnancy rates and fewer abortions per capita than demographically similar "red" regions.
But that isn't what the data show. Instead, abortion rates are frequently higher in more liberal states, where access is often largely unrestricted, than in more conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws, waiting periods, and so on. "Safe, legal and rare" is a nice slogan, but liberal policies don't always seem to deliver the "rare" part.
What's more, another Guttmacher Institute study suggests that liberal states don't necessarily do better than conservative ones at preventing teenagers from getting pregnant in the first place. Instead, the lower teenage birth rates in many blue states are mostly just a consequence of (again) their higher abortion rates. Liberal California, for instance, has a higher teen pregnancy rate than socially conservative Alabama; the Californian teenage birth rate is only lower because the Californian abortion rate is more than twice as high.
These are realities liberals should keep in mind when tempted to rail against conservatives for rejecting the intuitive-seeming promise of "more condoms, fewer abortions." What's intuitive isn't always true, and if social conservatives haven't figured out how to make all good things go together in post-sexual-revolution America, neither have social liberals.
At the very least, American conservatives are hardly crazy to reject a model for sex, marriage and family that seems to depend heavily on higher-than-average abortion rates. They've seen that future in places like liberal, cosmopolitan New York, where two in five pregnancies end in abortion. And it isn't a pretty sight.
I think what conservatives find most problematic is the government’s attempt to coerce people to violate their religious principles. Secondly, they question whether government should be meddling in the contraception business.
Liberals have made “sexual freedom” or “sexual expression” into some sort of constitutional right, or holy grail of liberalism.
When it comes to issues of abortion, unplanned pregnancy, etc. it all starts with people’s sex behavior and sex attitudes.
Liberals say that conservatives are intrusive into people’s bedrooms. The unspoken liberal ideology there is that people in their bedrooms, married or not, are having sex with any number of partners, any gender of partners, and we’re all supposed to be non-judgemental about everything.
I don’t want to go in someone’s bedroom, but I do think that society has paid a huge cost because of critical masses of other people’s irresonsible sexual misbehavior.
Then liberals twist this around, that you are fixated on what happens in the bedroom, and are you some kind of pervert? Why do you care what people are doing? And then any productive dialogue ends there.
February 22, 2012
Danica Patrick NASCAR race driver (who is sponsored by “Go Daddy”) on contraception mandate: I leave it up to the government to make good decisions
“[S]ociety has paid a huge cost because of critical masses of other peoples irresonsible sexual misbehavior.”
Bingo. This author discusses most of the so-called freedoms the left espouses, but he never gets around to the overall numbers. Since the introduction of such “freedoms” as no-fault divorce, contraception, “free love,” and the “necessary but safe and rare” practice of abortion, the rates of divorce, unwed mothers, unwanted births, and poverty have skyrocketed. Is 10,000% too high a measurement? I don’t think so. Yet this is never discussed rationally. THEIR WAY results only in universally undesired (but perhaps not altogether unintended) consequences.
Yet no one blames the government for its fixation on bedroom issues.
Safe, legal, rare is what they are working towards making child birth.
There is a round about defacto 0-1 child family program being pushed by our Federal Government.
Those opposed to abortion are only slowly capitalizing on what is a glaring key element of abortion, that can effectively be turned against Planned Parenthood.
Abortion is in effect, a “slow ethnic cleansing” of America of black people.
Importantly, efforts to let black people know this fact cause pro-abortionists to utterly panic, and do everything in their power to keep black Americans ignorant. This means that tremendous pressure can be brought to bear on the pro-abortionists with fairly simple and effective techniques to get the word out.
Abortion is never safe...when performed properly it always leaves one dead and one wounded for life.
Abortion may be legal...but is it moral? It was once legal to own slaves. Ending the life of an innocent human being is never moral.
If liberals were serious about making abortion rare they would support ultrasounds and would get rid of jokers like Obama & Sebelious who are pushing “free” abortions.
If we wanted abortions to be rare we could simply place a $1000 tax on every abortion performed.
If abortion is intended as ethnic cleaning, it isn’t working - the proportion of blacks to whites in the country has increased since 1973 and the black population is younger than the white population and will continue to grow relative to the white.
What abortion has done is contribute to family destruction and dysfunction, increasing the size of the underclass, both white and black.
If the intention was “eugenic” I believe the reality has been dysgenic.
Someone needs to read the opinion in the Griswold case. It wasnt about the womans right but the right of the married couple to privacy. By Roe all this was out the window. It was decided pretty much as Brown was decided, By disregarding precedent.
Thats because the whites, at least the upper class whites are into birth control. The program for eugenics has it that the superiorclasses should have lots of children.