Posted on | February 27, 2011 | 46 Comments
Too many conservatives nowadays are unwilling to take on the cultural issues that underly much of the debate over public policy, so kudos to Kathryn Jean Lopez for directly addressing the accusation that Republicans, by seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, are “waging war on contraception”:
The debate in Congress was given momentum by the Live Action investigatory videos, which raised significant questions about what exactly Planned Parenthood is doing; but the rest of us need to discuss why we’ve let Planned Parenthood step in as a mainstream Band-Aid, throwing contraception and even abortion at problems that have much more fundamental solutions.
As evidence of the reckless and dangerous callousness at institutions supposedly dedicated to women’s health — failure to report the sex trafficking of minors, failure to report child abuse — continues to emerge, we can’t afford to lose sight of another, more fundamental conversation that we’ve got to have, among friends, in our homes and churches — a talk about what it means to be human.
Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families.
Understand the fundamental premise being expressed by this rhetoric: Access to contraception is such a sacred right that access must be subsidized by taxpayers, and any opposition to such a policy is contrued as inherently hostile to women. This worldview makes contraception the essence of womanhood, a belief that is not merely unnatural, but is in fact anti-nature, because from the standpoint of human biology, reproduction is the entire purpose of sex.
When the New York Times writes of contraception as essential to women’s “freedom,” then, they are implicitly arguing that nature itself — the biology of procreation — enslaves women, a slavery from which their liberation is a basic right. This attitude was described as part of a “culture of death” by Pope John Paul II in 1995:
In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another.
A “society excessively concerned with efficiency” obviously can’t tolerate the unpredictable realities of natural, fertile human sexuality. The very name Planned Parenthood expresses the idea that they are offering something somehow superior to unplanned parenthood, that there is something wrong and inferior about letting nature take its course in matters of reproduction or — as Christians would say — recognizing God’s sovereignty as the Author of Life.
If God’s will is involved from the beginning in our lives, if God has known us even in the womb, as the Psalmist says, then at some level we must acknowledge that contraception involves a rejection of God.
We can understand why Republican officials, who must base their public-policy arguments on broadly secular aims, seldom express strictly religious opposition to contraception. Why, however, do most conservative writers shy away from explicitly faith-based arguments on such issues? Pundits don’t have to seek re-election and therefore need not hide their light under a bushel, as it were.
What has happened, in the decades since Griswold vs. Connecticut, is that the regime of “sexual liberation” has so deeply penetrated American life — in law, in academia, in the attitudes fostered by news media and popular entertainment — that critics of the Culture of Death are nowadays regarded as outlaws. To call sin by its proper name is to impugn activity that people have been indoctrinated to believe is their “right.” Unwilling to risk the outlaw stigma, people who know the truth have lapsed into silence, so that liars seldom meet opposition in the public discourse. And thus falsehood triumphs.
Courage is the first virtue, without which all the other virtues are impotent. Therefore we ought to applaud Kathryn Jean Lopez for having the courage to speak the truth on a subject where lies have so long held sway.
- May 8, 2010: The Pill at 50: Unhappy Un-Birthday
- Nov. 25, 2010: Are You Thankful for Sex?
- Feb. 11, 2011: ‘Disgusting’ Childbirth?