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Rorschach test on abortion

Over at Slate, William Saletan has posted an interesting essay on the reaction of pro-choice and pro-life groups to the Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents Act. Saletans piece mostly criticizes pro-life opponents of the legislation, but the act is a kind of Rorschach test for both sides. Are you a militant or a pragmatist? Read Saletan and decide for yourself.

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Hmm, I guess I'm a prgamatist, because political reality being what it is, I'd take this. And work for more.

What strikes me as interesting is the prominent role of contraception in all of this.

"What strikes me as interesting is the prominent role of contraception in all of this"Yes, I agree.Speaking as a dad - I'm in favor of abstinence on the part of teens. I genuinely think that it's a social virtue that is worthy of some sort, and some amount, of government support.

It's hard to imagine a parent who would not prefer abstinence, at least in our culture. Nevertheless, if a child decides to be sexually active, no amount of abstinence education is going to stop him or her from having sex. In that case, a parent has a moral responsibility to provide education (and access) to contraception. At least that's my view. Thus, I would support abstinence education and education about contraception.

Hi, Paul,Forgive me if this sounds argumentative, but I don't accept your premise (that a child attracted to sexual activity is an unstoppable force) nor your conclusion (that a parent has a moral responsibility to provide access to contraception).Istm one could as easily say, "if a child decides to rob a bank, no amount of moral education is going to stop him or mer. In that case, a parent has a moral responsibility to plan the heist and drive the getaway car."I don't have much of an objection to teens being educated about contraception. But "education" is a somewhat ambiguous word; it can mean "present scientific information in a neutral and objective manner", or it can mean, "promote, with a view to persuading the student of its virtues and benefits". Anyone who has been to school in the US knows that concern about the environment gets the latter treatment in most classrooms (and I'm not saying that's bad). I want abstinence to get the latter treatment, and I want contraception, if it is to be presented, to get the former and only the former treatment. I don't think I'm out of line, as a Catholic or an American citizen, to demand that of my government.

Well, it won't be any surprise that I reject the analogy to bank robbery. And I would think that presenting scientific information about contraception in a neutral and objective manner would make its virtue and benefits obvious, which is not the same thing as promoting or approving of sexual activity among teens.

"Nevertheless, if a child decides to be sexually active, no amount of abstinence education is going to stop him or her from having sex."Paul, that's true, but let me ask, if abstinence education (prevent pregnancy by avoiding sex) does not work, why would contraception education (prevent pregnancy by using contraception) work?I think you've basically posited sex as something teenagers will be naturally attracted to, given hormones, environment, etc. Is that correct? I think we can agree that this is generally true. Abstinence, on this idea, is something unnatural and opposed to these tendencies, and therefore, when it comes to the "heat of the moment," unlikely to work. However, contraception is subject to the same question - why would contraception work, being of an equally unnatural nature, if not moreso? Moreover, why would contraception work for a teen who has never considered having sex and is therefore not taking birth control, etc., in the heat of the moment better than habitual abstinence?

Nevertheless, if a child decides to be sexually active, no amount of abstinence education is going to stop him or her from having sex.Also, I find this somewhat nonsensical. You have essentially said that "if a child decides to have sex, no education he or she has received will stop him or her from having sex."

Istm one could as easily say, if a child decides to rob a bank, no amount of moral education is going to stop him or mer. In that case, a parent has a moral responsibility to plan the heist and drive the getaway car.Jim,Unfortunately, I am not a parent, but if I were, I'd follow your line of reasoning. I would assume my children would never do anything foolish or wrong, and consequently, I would never educate them about "fallback" positions. For example, since no child of mine would drink to the point where their driving would be impaired, I wouldn't teach them about designated drivers or tell them not to drive after drinking too much. Talk about mixed messages! I would not tell them about confession, since telling a person that if they sin they should go to confession is just giving them a license to sin.It would be crystal clear that no daughter of mine, if she became pregnant out of wedlock, would come to me for advice or support, because no daughter of mine would get pregnant out of wedlock. To give my daughter the idea that I would do anything but disown her if such a thing happened -- would be giving her the mixed message that somehow it would really be okay for her to get pregnant. We should not let people know that if they get into legal trouble, they should hire a good lawyer, since people should not get into legal trouble!

This is the perennial hot topic in the deHaas household. Have one very smart, opinionated (altho usually correct), and educated almost 17 yr. old female who attends a catholic co-ed high school where, every year, parents and students get the same "old" abstinence talk.Also, have a very smart but typical 19 yr. old college male who, of course, knows everything but then he did attend a Jesuit high school.In an effort achieve the both/and resolution - every catholic high school student needs to be comprehensively and completely educated from a biological, physical, medical, psychological, sexual, and morality standpoint without pulling any punches in any area - no slanting of information, etc. Just be very clear on total education; where church morality and practical moral/social experience is and begin to trust that your children will make good choices - ultimately, we need to educate about responsibility (I also wish that they would mandate childhood/family/relational classes that force both girl & boy to mimic pregnancy, take care of an actual infant for 24 hours, etc.)A number of years ago went through the frustration of a school board process for the local catholic elementary school about 7th/8th grade abstinence education - we had parents who wanted NO sexual or biological information shared - abstinence only without ever mentioning that there really are males and females in this world and something called sexuality. It was painful to see the fundamentalists and their judgments that they knew best contrary to every social, cultural, and health patterns/trends/study results.Very few high schools take the time to coordinate a comprehensive approach to human sexuality that coordinates basic human biology/sexuality; at the same time discusses the morality/theology during religion class; and at the same time reinforces this education by also sharing the American history of family planning, women's rights, birth control issues, contraceptive history, etc.......you could also have literature classes highlight an excellent book during this same time period. Bring in a nurse or MD; bring in natural family planning experts, etc.My experience is that no one is willing to do the "comprehensive" part - it is either/or and neither gets the focus or time that they deserve.Both of my kids have grown cynical and bored with the catholic high school approach to sexuality - they do want education but not what passes for education today.

Remember that in the United States, the average age for getting married is 27.7 for men, 25.6 for women. When you talk abstinence before marriage, it's not just a prescription for kids of high school age. Its college age and beyond. I don't have time to check out the statistics (if good ones exist) for age and libido, but it certainly must be the case that in our culture, those who expect abstinence before marriage are expecting people to refrain from sex during at least some of the years when sexual urges will be the highest. Don't studies who, by the way, that abstinence-only education is a failure? Don't many European countries have lower abortion rates at least in part because of better use of contraception?

Cathleen is quite correct to point out the prominent role played by contraception in all this. I reject the reduction of options to being either a pragmatist or a militant. I certainly have a pragmatic bent, but one that comes at the cost integrity. Stated clearly, I certainly prefer people to use non-abortifacient contraception than to use abortion as a method of birth control. Given that well over 90% of abortions are healthy mothers choosing, for reasons that range from convenience to really horrifying circumstances, it seems that we have made abortion available as a method of birth control.I see in these choices a reduction of the humanity. It is similar to seeing mass condom distribution THE answer to the spread of HIV in Africa. What we need is a healthier approach to sexuality, even in the secular sphere.

Mr. Nickol,You state the following. I provide my reasoning where I think your reasoning is flawed."no child of mine would drink to the point where their driving would be impaired, I wouldnt teach them about designated drivers or tell them not to drive after drinking too much."This would be to follow a bad (drinking) with a good (avoiding driving drunk and / or using a DD). This is good moral teaching. "If you do drink, do x and do not do y.""I would not tell them about confession, since telling a person that if they sin they should go to confession is just giving them a license to sin."This would be to follow a bad (sinning) with a good (go to confession). "If you do sin, you may obtain forgiveness via the sacrament.""pregnant out of wedlock, would come to me for advice or support, because no daughter of mine would get pregnant out of wedlock."This would be to follow a bad (out of wedlock pregnancy) with a good (parental support). "If you do get pregnant out of wedlock, we will support and help you you as we can and not disown you."However, you posit contraception here as a good(!), which it is not. The reasoning you employ is, "if you have premarital sex (bad), then use contraception (bad)." It is an attempt to avoid consequences of one unvirtuous action by engaging in another unvirtuous action. While education should be given that contraception exists (as suggested by Mr. DeHaas), this should be given as part of a entire system of education that suggest that to engage in premarital sex and use contraception will result in endangering one's soul, and to provide for the proper use and ends of sex and marriage.

Pragmatism? What pragmatism? Before we start admiring the "pragmatists" shouldn't they propose something that actually works?Pragmatic = Dealing or concerned with facts or actual occurrencesFact - spending on social welfare programs for children and mothers increased at the highest rates along side of the highest increase in abortion rates - conversely, abortion rates decreased (albeit slightly) after welfare reform. This is not an argument against these programs, but it is an argument against them as "abortion prevention."Fact - the availability and affordability of contraception has absolutely no relation to the abortion rate - none whatsoever.What we are being treated to is what some people think ought to reduce the incidence of abortions, but with absolutely no real evidence that it does. Most of the people who are promoting this legislation would support it whether it had any impact on abortions or not. They're not pragmatists, they're cynics.This would be like the NRA pushing their concealed carry law as "violence prevention."

"Dont studies who, by the way, that abstinence-only education is a failure? Dont many European countries have lower abortion rates at least in part because of better use of contraception?"The studies in the U.S. only show that abstinence-only education fails at the same rate as contraceptive education. Pragmatically, a comprehensive program may work (pragmatically) the best: see http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/20/of-uganda-ai... , for instance.

However, you posit contraception here as a good(!), which it is not. The reasoning you employ is, if you have premarital sex (bad), then use contraception (bad). It is an attempt to avoid consequences of one unvirtuous action by engaging in another unvirtuous action.I'm not sure about that. I don't think it's obviously true that premarital sex + contraception is worse than "unprotected" premarital sex -- and one could certainly argue the opposite. Church teaching, at least, wouldn't say "Well, it was bad that you had premarital sex, but at least you didn't use artificial birth control!"

You state the following. I provide my reasoning where I think your reasoning is flawed.Jonathan W.,Pretty interesting analysis. I think my reasoning may actually be flawed, at least from a Catholic point of view. Thanks!

Ah, Mollie, you enter into the domain of some of the stranger aspects of Roman Catholic theology. Yes, some versions of a natural law argument would say that it's worse to use contraceptives while fornicating than simply to fornicate--you're engaged in a perverted act.

On the question of the division between pragmatists and absolutists (prophets), I don't think there's much point in arguing. It's never a good idea to argue with a prophet. You need to find a way to work around them--you can't work with them.

Jonathan W,On second thought, it seems to me that a using a designated driver might be thought of as preparing in advance to avoid the consequences of drinking to excess. "We can drink as much as we want, because David is not going to drink, so he can drive us home."

1.We should discourage pre-marital sex.2.The fallback position of contraception increases the likelihood ("bears the fruit") of pre-marital sex.3."By their fruits, ye shall know them."It seems to me that everyone reading this thread can more or less agree with each of the preceding 3 statements. Therefore, wouldn't it logically follow that we should discourage contraception for teen-agers?David, sounds like you're volunteering yourself as designated drive for the group. Thanks!

Mark - I may misunderstand your point, but I don't agree with (2). Let's frame the situation a bit differently. Let's say you know that your teenage child is having sex. You can say: I forbid you to have sex again. Or you can say: I think this is a big mistake, one that you will regret. But if you are going to have sex, you have a responsibility to use contraception. I don't like either/or's, but I suspect most responses to this situation are some variation of this either/or.

There are so many variables to this discussion. Mr. Proska - can agree with our three points but would expand them:- we should educate our teenagers comprehensively (as part of total education, we honestly share our catholic position, honestly talk about sexual relationships and marriage, etc.- we should educate completely on contraception (this includes the side effects; different methods - pros and cons; studies, usage, difficulties, etc. as seen in US NIH data)- put all of the above in the context of responsible love between two peopleSome of you raise another interesting fact of society today - growing up appears to extend to almost the age of thirty. We allow 18 year olds do go off and die overseas in combat; we allow them to vote, to drive per certain requirements. Most of us would admit that our teenagers (could be in their early twenties are not emotionally mature enough for a sexual relationship, marriage, parenthood - each a distinct, responsible step). Psychologists would tell you that sexual experimentation will happen one way or another (very few virgins get married) and, in fact, these relational events are important as part of the maturation process (we know a lot about folks who close off or frustrate their emotional maturity via denial, fear, etc.).Have yet to see a decent catholic education program that addresses these steps or stages of maturity - sexual, marriage, family to put it simply. So, Mr. Proska, yes, I would discourage contraceptive use but would give reasons why; would not condescend to these teenagers, young adults; would not talk down to them. Young adults today can easily detect when someone is not treating them as adults or folks able to use their own conscience, decision making abilities, and responsibility. Yes, we also know that a certain percentage will not make good decisions no matter what we do educationally via school, college, or family.

David, sounds like youre volunteering yourself as designated drive for the group. Thanks!Mark,I can be the designated driver any time, since I don't drink at all. It may be out of rebelliousness, since my father was in the liquor business (although he actually was one of those people who held on to one drink all evening so he wouldn't be pressured to have another). Unfortunately, after the first several years of living in Manhattan (since 1970), driving was so little on my mind that I forgot to renew my driver's license. So I might be a little rusty, but I am sure I could still drive more safely than a drunk person.I am not old enough for this joke to be relevant to me a a driver, but it made me laugh out loud when someone told it to me: "I'd like to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, rather than screaming in terror, like his passengers."

This headline just popped up in my Zenit RSS feed: "Pro-Lifers Urged to Oppose U.S. Health-Care Reform." Seems relevant to Saletan's larger point.

Therefore, wouldnt it logically follow that we should discourage contraception for teen-agers?Mark,As I pointed out above, the average age for getting married is 27.7 for men, and 25.6 for women. So for those who believe there should be no sex outside of marriage, it's not just teenagers that are of concern. And of course Catholics are never supposed to use contraception. I'll offer a compromise here. Catholic parents should teach their children they must not have sex before marriage, but in case they decide to do it anyway, they should be taught NFP.

"Well, it wont be any surprise that I reject the analogy to bank robbery. "Sure, it was exceedingly lame, even by my standards ... sorry about that.I guess the part that seems to be missing from this proposal is the part that says that parents, school authorities, churches and other civic institutions, including the government, have a responsibility to minors, not only to educate them, but to guide them - to tell them what is right and what is wrong. Better the kid get a clear and consistent message of right and wrong than a muddled message that is packaged with enough data points to enable him to write a five-page paper about the variety and effects of contraception.For many years, the government has (also quite lamely, unfortunately) been telling teens not to do drugs. We don't say, "Let us educate our children about drugs, so they can come to a mature and rational decision". We tell them, "Don't do drugs". We do this because we know drugs are bad for children, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.Sexual activity is also bad for children, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is true that contraception (frequently) prevents pregnancy, and some forms of it impede the spread of venereal disease. But the basic truth still holds: sexual activity is bad for children.It is in the best interests of our children, and for the flourishing of our society, that children do not engage in sexual activity. But we can't seem to find our voice. Why are we so tongue-tied?

I challenge the idea that "absolutists" are "prophets."The rigidity of the basolutist poistion underminews their message (see the new Tiller thread above.)I support health care refore if it includes contraception amd wonder about the perspective of those who oppose it.

I wonder what people think about pro-lifers (and particularly Catholic pro-lifers) compromising their views on contraception to support a bill like this? I was asked to giving a supporting statement (in particular because, not surprisingly, they found themselves in need pro-life Catholic moral theologians), but I had about a difficult, three-day-long e-mail conversation with the person who asked me before I gave one. I don't think the contraceptive provisions of the bill will lessen the abortion rate (in fact, they may it worse in promoting as a 'solution' a mentality which continues to perpetuate the moral and actual divide between sex and procreation and thus, to a large extent, the logic of abortion), but because (1) there was so much other good stuff in this bill and (2) it is a major step in building common ground and beginning to find a way out of this horrific mess of a culture war, I decided to offer provisional support while making my making my reservations known. I'd be interested in others' thoughts on this (from my point of view) sticky situation. Here is a link to the press conference for the bill's introduction as well as a full list of the endorsers:http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/commonground/2009/07/23/a-landmark-common-...

"For example, since no child of mine would drink to the point where their driving would be impaired, I wouldnt teach them about designated drivers or tell them not to drive after drinking too much. Talk about mixed messages! ":-).But in fact, the "designated driver" story, delivered to sixteen year olds, really is a mixed message, particularly if it's delivered this way: "I don't care what you do - goodness knows I did it all when I was your age - but make sure you have a designated driver".Designated driver is an apt analogy in one respect: because having a designated driver avoids one specific pitfall, which I suppose is okay as far as it goes. But if a person - minor or not - drinks to excess, having a designated driver won't stop him from making a fool of himself in front of the hottie, or saying something obnoxious that earns him a punch in the nose, or throwing up all over himself, or being non-functional for class or work the next morning, or losing the respect of everyone around him, or, given enough time and persistence, suffering serious health consequences. Drinking to excess is just a really bad idea for a whole bunch of reasons, and having a designated driver doesn't get at most of them - in fact, enables them.

I was making no comment about the truth or falsity of their position--it's about the prophetic rhetorical stance.

Mr. Camosy - support your "qualified" support of this bill (to clarify - the pregnancy, abortion reduction bill vs. the total healthcare bill). This reflects a more balanced approach without making a single issue predominate at the expense of all others.I have been expecting Ms. O'Reilly's Zenit news - it is what I call penny wise; pound foolish. It pits one issue - abortion - against all the common good that a rational approach to healthcare reform can do for millions of Americans. Simply, it pits a single issue against the social justice catholic goal. The American people, economy, and business can not continue the current healthcare patterns. If we do nothing, we will see the middle class payment for healthcare double in ten years - bad for the economy, the deficit, our children, and, at the current rate, we see 14,000 folks per week lose health insurance striking most at immigrants, small business, unemployed, etc. Yes, the devil is in the details but all sides will have to compromise to begin to move national policy. The Zenit news appears to use scare tactics and threats from FOCA to conscience rules being eliminated to the overthrow of the Hyde Amendment.......fact, 90% of all health insurance today comes from employers and covers abortion (no outcry about this from this group)....if the US finally offers some type of health option for those who can not qualify, buy, or meet current private insurance plans....they want these plans to contradict the law of the land and make public policy the same as catholic policy. They need a more nuanced approach and reflect some of the approach echoed by the Alliance for the Common Good.

It was the abortion reduction bill, Bill.

If you're still checking in, Saletan responded to a comment here (and some others elsewhere).