Robert Meyer
Liberal birth control policies stuck on stupid
By Robert Meyer
February 14, 2013

Every time someone writes a piece observing the destruction of the traditional family, you can be assured it will be greeted with the typical chorus of boilerplate ridicule reserved for discussion of family planning issues.

One common innuendo, is that religious zealots are responsible for unwanted children because they refuse to give women access to birth control measures. This assertion comes after we have been told virtually all Roman Catholic women ignore their church policies on contraception. How the two claims comport is pretzel logic.

Another observation expressed is that abstinence doesn't work. This is like claiming that designated drivers don't curtail drunk driving incidents. This is something of a category error. It is true that people may not follow through with noble intensions, but that is a question of character not failed methodology. Do accidents at intersections prove that stop signs are ineffective?

The idea that greater education about birth control will end the single parenthood and abortion culture is a fool's paradise. Every statistical and empirical failure of this philosophy is met by calls for additional resources which they claim will finally solve the problem. It reminds me of the misguided optimism expressed by Hebert Hoover in the early stages of the Great Depression, that prosperity is right around the corner. What people advocating this idea don't understand is that law of unintended consequences is at work.

If people are irresponsible enough to engage in indiscriminate sex in the first place, what makes anyone think they will suddenly get scruples when it comes to using birth control measures? Said another way, birth control measures have simply granted social permission to engage in promiscuous behavior without guilt, whether or not protection is available or used.

In times past, we had an social ethic that dictated sexual expression had a proper context. This notion was supported by the institutions within our culture. Behaviors that rebelled against the norm were met with disapproval and stigmatization, because we prudently understood that unwanted pregnancies were bad for society, bad for the child and bad for the mother.

Generally, these disincentives worked well to counter balance the hormonal impulses, so relatively few unwanted pregnancies resulted before an era of easy access to birth control. In cases where unwanted pregnancies still occurred, the state expected the parties involved to assume responsibility, rather that forcing citizens to own the financial obligation for support.

People frequently paraphrase Einstein by reminding us that the definition of insanity to do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different outcome. Likewise, it is equally absurd to change something that is already working and expect a good outcome. Remember the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

What has changed is that our social ethic resulted in diminished expectations of people, especially our youth. Today we collectively believe that failure to indulge one's appetites without adverse consequences is unreasonable deprivation. The goal is no longer responsible behavior, but developing strategies to eliminate adverse behavioral consequences.

We see these expectations expressed in other areas. One such example is our endemic problems with national obesity. If someone needs to lose weight, they must reduce calorie consumption. This amounts to engaging in physical exercise and a sensible diet that avoids consumption of empty calories. But we would rather believe that we can take a fat magnet pill that allows everything to pass through, as we consume multiple sodas and twin packs of potato chips while we lounge on the sofa.

While opponents will be anxious to cite examples of countries where birth control measures correlate with low unwanted pregnancy rates, it should be remembered that in this country several decades ago we achieved the same thing without youth having access to easy birth control methods. Of course people will want to summarily pooh-pooh what happened in the past as prudish and unrealistic, but it raises the question as to how many common sense approaches are we going to sacrifice to that iconic virtue we call 'changing times'?

Obviously, people aren't going to like what is being said here, because it requires self-control that many of us don't care to exercise these days. And there's the rub. The issue of birth control is really about personal autonomy and not solving problems with unwanted pregnancies. As long as the former is more important that the latter, we will see only minor changes.

© Robert Meyer


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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)


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