I mean, there’s using and appreciating it, and then there’s subsidizing it with taxpayer dollars and legally compelling private entities to provide it. Dare to suggest that people should be able to decide for themselves whether their money goes to supporting someone else’s sex life, and expect to be incomprehensibly painted as a sex-hating theocrat out to control the nation’s bedrooms.
The latest missive from the Cult of Contraception is a TIME Magazine editorial by Erika Christakis, who argues that birth control is essential to finding the American Dream:
Gary King, the eminent political scientist at Harvard, likes to talk about “evil hypotheses,” the vexing hot-button social problems that people find too politically or morally controversial to address systemically. This is a terrible shame because the more we put our heads in the sand about the comprehensive economic impact of unwed motherhood on working-class and middle-class families — including a thorough reckoning of its downstream financial costs to children’s and mothers’ physical, academic, psychological and social health — the more the void is filled by people who don’t have much intention of doing anything about it.
This is not to say that single motherhood takes a uniformly negative toll; its impact varies quite a bit. Some economists have suggested that for the very poorest and least educated young women, having a baby doesn’t significantly alter the already low prospects. In those cases, a baby born to a poor (usually unwed) teenage mother is often the symptom, not the cause, of a larger problem of dashed opportunity. That’s a depressing story in its own right, with its own dire policy implications.
But equally concerning are the women on the bottom rung of the middle class for whom single motherhood does, indeed, derail them. These are the women with a year or two of college headed to decent jobs: without the burden of motherhood, they would have moved up the socioeconomic ladder but now find themselves languishing, along with their children, in near poverty. According to a recent report in the New York Times, the proportion of these unwed mothers who have some college education but didn’t finish a college degree rose from 10% in 1990 to 30% today. This is a stunning finding.
It’s of course true that children impose a substantial financial toll that can keep people from economic and educational advancement, especially when they don’t have a spouse to help share the responsibilities of parenthood. And yes, birth control can reduce the odds of unplanned pregnancy.
But the author fails to mention some other germane truths – namely, that there is no crisis of contraceptive access. Considering how widely available and affordable birth control is, the continued specter of unplanned pregnancy can’t simply be attributed to people not knowing about or being unable to afford it.
The heart of the problem is behavioral, not economic or pharmaceutical. Some choose to have sex without bothering to use birth control, because our hyper-sexualized popular culture places instant gratification so far above consideration of consequences. And many who do use birth control seem to be under the very mistaken impression that it guarantees that they won’t get pregnant, rather than merely lowering the likelihood.
The good news is that the one surefire way to avoid premature parenthood is pretty simple: taking care to think about whether your life can handle a baby before you make the decision to have sex. The bad news is that anyone who dares offer that advice should expect to be met with a torrent of abuse.
To the left, any suggestion that people would be better off deferring sex is tantamount to denying their right to even have a sex life. Christakis admonishes conservatives not to “fall into the morality trap” of “religious convictions” when discussing these matters.
But it’s become increasingly clear that ignoring the moral component of sexuality is what’s really trapped too many young people. Rather than some niche theological hang-up, sexual responsibility is a commonsense principle that ought to transcend all religious backgrounds. We recognize in most other areas that our children must be instilled with a sense of self-control, that they can’t always put their immediate desires first. So why is sex any different?
Contrary to the lies of libertines on the other side of the aisle, numerous studies have affirmed the effectiveness of abstinence-based sex education, and earlier this year even the Obama administration, no fan of abstinence education, finally recognized the effectiveness of at least one such program.
The question isn’t whether people have a right to make their own sexual decisions. It’s not even whether people have a right to use (non-abortive) birth control. It’s whether we care enough about our children to be honest about those decisions’ consequences, and whether we respect adults enough to believe them capable of…well, adulthood. Without a mature, realistic sense of self-interest and responsibility, nothing else can help make the American Dream a reality.