What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.
Hey bud, can you spare some change for a bite to eat and a birth control pill? No? OK, have a nice day.
The March for Life in Washington once again attracted more than a quarter of a million participants. And the Washington Post, once again, estimated the crowd at a paltry “few thousand”. One wonders how, year after year, the mainstream media get away with such deliberate distortions–remembering, that is, that journalists are, above all, disinterested reporters of the facts, and that the purported liberal bias in the media is a paranoiac specter conjured up by the vast right-wing conspiracy…, blah, blah, blah.
Perhaps the liberal press has been enumerating the pro-life battalions as fetuses, who do not, of course, count as full, non-fractionated human “persons”.
A modest proposal for the Marchers: Next year in Washington, find a public park, truck in port-o-potties, pitch a half-dozen tents, abominate the wealthy, and humbly congratulate yourselves on belonging to the “99%”. The estimates will then certainly run into the millions.
Coincident with the March, President Obama issued a press release, intoning solemnly that abortion is “a sensitive and divisive issue”, and assuring us at the same time that “all Americans” are determined “to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, prevent the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption”. Nonetheless, he concluded, “I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.”
A woman’s right to choose? Several decades after Roe v. Wade, you would think that the pro-abortion movement might have come up with a new euphemism, just for variety’s sake. Would someone please lend them a thesaurus? And “encourage healthy relationships”? What does that signify, other than that our modern Demosthenes couldn’t quite bring himself to pronounce the outmoded word “marriage”?
As A-Uniter-And–Not-A-Divider, President Obama must be gratified that all Americans are in agreement on the desiderata he enumerated, while all the more chagrined that pro-lifers remain so recalcitrantly “divisive” on just how to achieve them. (Author’s Note: A Uniter is one who agrees with liberal ideology, e.g., a Democrat. Anyone who doesn’t is “divisive”, e.g., a conservative Republican.)
President Obama did not say exactly how he would “prevent unintended pregnancies”. But he gave us a not so subtle hint a couple of weeks after the Washington March, when it was revealed that as part of his new health care bill (hidden agenda, anyone?) employers–including Catholic churches, hospitals, schools, and charitable organizations–would be compelled to provide “free” contraceptives and abortifacients for their employees. And wouldn’t you just know it, the jumpy forces of division were on the march once again.
When the Church objected to the President’s edict, on the retrograde principle that it violated every American citizen’s fundamental right to religious liberty, Obama, in a subsequent “compromise” (he’s a Uniter, after all), offered no longer to compel Catholic employers but only their health insurance companies to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients. (Author’s Note. Free: Something the Government gives some citizens by coercing others to pay for it.) Temporarily transcending its perennial divisiveness, the Church was apparently appeased, even though Obama’s compromise would continue to coerce Catholics–only this time through the deniable intermediary of their health insurance providers–to confer a benefit upon their employees that fundamentally violates their religious consciences.
But then, immediately, the divisive defenders of capitalism and constitutional liberty objected in turn on the principle that the State has no right to compel any legal business enterprise to give away its products or services for “free”. Some were even so intemperate as to compare Obama’s generous enslavement of the insurance companies to the purported needs of ordinary Americans, to Hugo Chavez-style nationalization.
What’s a Uniter to do? To quote one of Obama’s forerunners in the politics of mutual respect and compromise, “Can’t we all just get along?”
One is grateful to the President if only for the bracing clarity with which his new initiative epitomizes the culture of economic entitlement and sexual insouciance that has been the Left’s ongoing bequest to America for almost fifty years now. Since the Sixties, liberalism has thriven by disinterring ever more arcane “needs”, and compassionately offering to satisfy them at taxpayers’ expense. (Author’s Note: As the late Joseph Sobran has enucleated three of the essential terms of contemporary liberal political discourse, greed is when someone wants to keep more of his own money; need is when someone wants more of what the former wants to keep; and compassion is when Government arranges the transfer.) Time was when politicians bribed their electorate with promises of taxpayer-subsidized shelter and alimentation–the proverbial chicken in every pot; now it is a prophylactic in every pocket and a morning-after pill on every bedside table. That’s progress, at least as statists define it.
Does Obama really believe that the current and protracted epidemic of “unintended pregnancies” (and thence, the need for abortions to “cure” mothers of them) is all the result of condoms and birth control pills being too expensive for the huddled masses of teens and undergraduates to afford? One doubts it; but that has never stopped a compassionate politician or community organizer from asking us to believe such things. It has been forty years now since contraceptives have been widely available (ubiquitous, in fact), during which the rates of teen and out-of-wedlock pregnancy, leading to the present abortion holocaust, have risen into the stratosphere. The research data have unanimously confirmed the correlation for decades now, but the devout of Planned Parenthood continue to profess it on faith that if only we distributed enough condoms and birth control pills, abortion would disappear, and we would enter upon a new Golden Age of peace, prosperity, and social justice. Today in the United States, when every teenage girl is presented with a prescription for the Pill as a kind of gift upon her first issue of blood, and condoms are pressed into the hands of stupefied pre-pubescents in primary schools, four out of every ten births occur out of wedlock, and a million plus abortions are performed annually. That’s some contraceptive failure rate.
That more widely available contraception begets more abortions is a veritable law of human behavior, of course: it is as certain as that fire insurance leads to more fires: an unintended but hardly unforeseen consequence predicted by actuaries in the nineteenth century even before fire insurance became mandatory and universal. The sexual liberators of the Sixties, concomitantly, could hardly have failed to foresee the results of their campaign to issue universal contraceptive insurance to an endangered population, against the benighted resistance of an antediluvian Church doctrine. Merchandise casual fornication as seemingly riskless, sever the moral nexus between present mirth and future pain (inasmuch as marriage, childbirth, and parenthood are now defined as penal), and inevitably more and more children will play with matches and occasionally get burnt. (What does one imagine will happen when society’s message to a sexually pyromaniacal teenager is that, since he’s going to “do it anyway”, he might as well do it outfitted in a community-approved and issued fire-retardant suit, and that, in any case, the blaze can be surgically extinguished at any point later on? That’s what the word “safe” in “safe sex” really signifies in our sex-fueled youth culture: not immunity from sexually transmitted diseases–a secondary selling-point, to be sure–, but immunity to make the beast with two backs without having to reckon with the annoying by-products of pregnancy or child-rearing, or the miserly restriction of sexual bliss to the superannuated ecclesiastical institution of marriage. )
In the case of contraception, sexual insouciance along with all of its attendant social pathologies have been “unintended consequences” that seem suspiciously to have been intended all along. In the propaganda of the Sixties, contraception and what the evangelists of the Sexual Revolution called “free love” went together like a horse and carriage: “free love”, we were told, was love in its most authentic mood, finally emancipated from the artificial social constructs of marriage and the encumbrance of parenthood, both of which the technological wonder of modern contraception had so happily rendered redundant. Unfortunately, free love has turned out to be rather less free of the pullulant spawn of social pathologies it has engendered: teen pregnancy, single mothers generationally dependent upon the State, children growing up without fathers, and thus disproportionately prone to drug addiction, gang violence, and incarceration. Free love has been free only in that its proponents and practitioners have gotten away with it, imposing upon everyone else the burden of paying its enormous social costs. But that’s how social democracy works. The progressive sexual politics of free love—present mirth for which the bill is paid by others—and the progressive fiscal politics of the debt-ridden Welfare State—present mirth for which the bill is passed off to future generations–are not analogical by mere coincidence.
For nearly two thousand years, the Church’s proscription of contraception and its unapologetic stigmatization of abortion—though Christianity has hardly been unique throughout history in abominating a mother’s killing of her own offspring as a self-evidently unnatural act—have served at least to forestall the present sociological calamities. As it turns out, the Church has been right all along. Progressives never fail to remind us that illegitimacy and abortion have always been with us. But they have been with us only in the sense that failures of virtue have always been with us–as aberrations and deviations from an otherwise intact moral norm. Though exceptions have always proven the rule, we have recently become hysterical about them. The present open-ended abortion regime has itself been erected upon a rickety moral scaffolding of rare exceptions, “hard cases” such as rape and the life of the mother. As Chesterton has observed, it is the morbid habit of modernity to everywhere and always sacrifice the normal to the abnormal. Our modern solution to the problem of exceptions has been to rescind the rule.
The “pro-choice” mantra is that abortion should be “legal, safe, accessible, and rare”. (Obama’s press release after the March in Washington was a stale reformulation of it.) But even those who intone it know that to reduce an unwanted social habit requires that it be made at least nominally illegal, socially unsafe (disreputable), and less than completely accessible, as every civilized culture and nation throughout history has done with abortion until a few decades ago. Even today, abortion must be the only practice the incidence of which the U.S. Government has ever hoped to make “rare” by making it universally accessible. Try to imagine a liberal politician urging us to make teenage smoking “accessible and rare.” God forbid! Cigarettes must be hidden under the counter, immured in little cardboard coffins defaced with scenes from horror films, and available only to those with valid ID. When teenagers are in need of condoms, contraceptives, or abortions, on the other hand, the current policy is that they must never be forced to walk too far, ask permission, or face embarrassing questions. That in itself tells you all you need to know about what progressives want to make rare, and what they want to normalize.
What there has never been in history is a society in which fully forty percent of children have been born out of wedlock and raised by single mothers (who are often now themselves barely more than children); nor in which one abortion is performed for every three live births. These are breathtaking statistical enormities: moral and social affronts that no culture, however primitive or barbarous, would have tolerated—neither the ancient Greeks, nor the worshipers of Moloch. Along with rampant welfare dependency, AIDs, pedophilia, and pornography, they are the unique and signal accomplishments of our sexually enlightened age.