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January 5, 2005

A Threat to the Secular Eucharist

The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly is fretting that, as Jeff Miller puts it, more women "during childbearing years are actually at risk of bearing a child." Connolly reaches the heart of the cultural matter in this paragraph:

Although unintended pregnancies can be welcome surprises, the danger from a public health and societal standpoint is that many of the women are financially or psychologically unprepared for parenthood at that point in their lives.

Jeff is correct to note that it bodes ill that a segment of society thinks that "pregnancy is a danger to public health and society." Even accepting the "danger" characterization, however, there's a more basic issue that arises when it becomes front page news that "the number of women who had sex in the previous three months but did not use birth control rose from 5.2 percent in 1995 to 7.4 percent in 2002" — especially when no effort was made to determine how many of those women were hoping for or at least open to pregnancy.

The fundamental issue, here, is the practical dimension of ensuring that even women who are or might be open to childbearing use contraception every time they have sex. The culture would either have to increase the priority given to not having children, or it would have to ensure that contraception and sex are so thoroughly associated with each other that potentially procreative sex seems unnatural.

Come to think of it, that actually sounds like a cultural movement that's been around for quite a while. Self-centered, youth-worshipping people who find it necessary for both spouses to work in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle are easy to categorize as "financially or psychologically unprepared for parenthood"; make birth control absolutely free, as the Post article goes on to promote, and folks will have less reason to even think of ceasing it.

Alternately, we could strive for — oh, I don't know — a culture that promotes emotional maturity and a morality-based value system founded in religious faith and that privileges an economic system that makes parenthood more universal in its financial viability.

Posted by Justin Katz at January 5, 2005 1:46 AM
Culture
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Alternately, we could strive for — oh, I don't know — a culture that promotes emotional maturity and a morality-based value system founded in religious faith and that privileges an economic system that makes parenthood more universal in its financial viability.

Now, that's just crazy talk, Justin. ;)

Posted by: Mike S. at January 5, 2005 12:23 PM

Is there a Nihilist novel that describes their Utopia? I just can't imagine what their vision of the depopulated future is.

Posted by: Ripper at January 5, 2005 12:57 PM

Much good discussion on this taking place over at http://www.familyscholars.org/

From a different topic, but very relevant to your take Justin, i find this quote:

When most of these intellectuals were in their prime, the best social science suggested that the ideal posture of the church to “family change,” as it was euphemistically called, was one of acceptance and support. But contemporary social science on the contentious issues of our time—such as contraception, divorce, and cohabitation—suggests just the opposite conclusion. The shifts in sexual and familial behavior to which these dissenters would like the church to accommodate herself have been revealed in study after study to be social catastrophes.

Let me be perfectly clear: The leading scholars who have tackled these topics are not Christians, and most of them are not political or social conservatives. They are, rather, honest social scientists willing to follow the data wherever it may lead. And the data has, as we shall see, largely vindicated Christian moral teaching on sex and marriage.

Yep, crazy-talk ;)

Posted by: Marty at January 5, 2005 12:57 PM

I'm no fan of arguments from inevitability, probably because communists and liberals have used them to prop up such evil causes. But on American reproduction, it's tempting to say that we should should just out-breed 'em.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at January 5, 2005 3:12 PM

Ben, I think there is a difference between arguments from inevitability and inevitability. The former usually crash and burn against the latter eventually. (viz., Communism)

Posted by: Mike S. at January 5, 2005 4:38 PM

I guess you guys are familiar with James Taranto's idea of the "Rowe Effect" - that we are getting more conservative as a country because children tend to adopt their parent's politics AND liberals tend to have more abortions than conservatives.

I'd say that the prejudices underlying this article are a bigger part of the story than the Rowe effect. It's not just that liberals abort more often, though they do. The bigger part of the picture is that having a family is just a much lower priority for liberals. Even if a liberal woman never has an abortion, she might never get around to chunking the birth control.

We rubes out her in the red states have to take up the slack.

Posted by: Stephen Gordon at January 7, 2005 11:33 AM