Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is the pro-life movement anti-sex?

The pro-abortion claim that pro-lifers are anti-sex is nothing new. From Canadian abortion advocates' recent attempt to make some kind of point by dressing up as penises and vaginas, to Amanda Marcotte's bizarre assertion that pro-lifers' motive in protesting outside abortion facilities is "to gawk and yell at women whose soon-to-be-terminated pregnancies constitute solid proof they've recently touched a penis" (I guess we'll be protesting outside maternity wards next), nothing really surprises me anymore.

As ridiculous as this claim is, we have to address it, because it's powerful propaganda. Nobody wants to be part of an uncool, prudish, anti-sex movement, especially not young people.

Allow me to propose a simple logical argument.
Major premise: Pro-lifers constitute a little less than half the adult population of the United States.
Minor premise: The vast majority of American adults have sex from time to time.
Conclusion: Most American pro-lifers have sex. And I'll bet they enjoy it, too.

Do pro-lifers want people to have sex irresponsibly? Of course not. People shouldn't have sex until they are ready, and people certainly shouldn't have unprotected sex if they aren't prepared to handle the baby who may be conceived as a result. But that doesn't make the pro-life movement anti-sex. It makes us anti-irresponsible-sex. Most pro-choicers are opposed to irresponsible sex too; given the alarming spread of STDs, you'd have to be stupid to advocate a lifestyle of unprotected, promiscuous sex.

Many pro-lifers believe that the only responsible course of action is to abstain from sex altogether until marriage, and I respect that. But others do have sex before marriage (or engage in premarital sexual activity other than vaginal intercourse), and there's no sense in pretending that the pro-life movement is made up of virgins.

There is a large space between the two extremes, between the slut-shaming, chastity-belt-wearing caricature and the needless-risk-taking sex maniac. The pro-life movement is made up almost entirely of people in the middle. (And so is the pro-choice movement, for that matter.) We aren't going to faint at the sight of a nutjob in a penis costume, or scream in horror at women who've had sex. But we are going to stand up and oppose any attitude toward sex that treats abortion as just a form of birth control, and that is willing to sacrifice the lives of unborn children in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.


Christina Dunigan said...

I think I've figured out the dynamics of why prochoicers think prolifers are opposed to sex, and that opposition to abortion is an outgrowth of that.

Prochoicers start with sex as the ultimate good. In order to facilitate maximum sexual expression with minimum responsibility, abortion is, for them, necessary. They start with sex as a good, and approve of abortion because it facilitates sex. Thus, they work backward. Since their support of abortion stems from their embrace of unfettered sex, they assume that opposition to abortion must come from an opposition to sex.

They also note -- justly -- that prolifers have much more conservative attitudes toward sex, and they take this as a confirmation of their theory. What they're forgetting is that we start with LIFE as the primary good. Abortion is bad because it destroys life. Unfettered sex leads to abortion and thus, aside from any other concerns, is a priori a bad thing.

Their presumption that we hate abortion because it's caused by sex makes about as much sense as if we were to theorize that they like sex so much because it causes more abortions.

LN said...

Christina-- I really enjoyed that analysis, very well put.

Jameson Graber said...

Christina, I really like your last line. However, I think the rest of your argument could be more moderated. I doubt that most (or any) pro-choicers believe that sex is the ultimate good. Rather, I think they just start from a view of freedom and equality which insists that personal choices should never be restrained by traditional social taboos. They then take opposition to abortion as another example of people defending traditional morals, rather than as an opposition built on objective claims about what abortion does to human life.

This is exactly why SecularProLife is so needed. Some pro-life groups want to push back on the general trend to reject traditional ethics, particularly sexual ethics. This may make a difference in some people's personal choices, but I doubt it can make much of a long run difference, especially in terms of law. What we need is to reframe the debate as being a matter of objective fact about abortion, and not a debate about traditional sexual morals.

Marysia said...

Kelsey, maybe it's because I am from an older generation than you. But I have to be a lot more critical of the prolife movement as such than you! For decades it has blocked any serious efforts to promote family planning freedom, comprehensive sex education, LGBT rights, and substantive public policies and resources to support children and families *after* birth. Even though significant numbers of people who identify as prolife support all of these, for their own sake & value in reducing the abortion rate. But maybe now there is a critical mass, especially of younger people, for whom this is an issue of human rights and nonviolence and not a matter of enforcing *certain* religious views about sexual behavior.

Marauder said...

The pro-choice contention that pro-lifers are anti-sex is overblown, but I do have to say that I've run into a lot of pro-lifers who are anti- any sex that's not a man and a woman who are married to each other having vaginal intercourse without contraception. For some of them, being pro-life is an extension of their views on sexual morality as much as it's anything else, so they get on these unproductive tangents about GLBT people or how condoms are against God's plan for sexuality. Probably the worst part is when they assume that every other pro-life person is coming from the same position they are, and they start talking about what "we" as the pro-life movement believe when that's not necessarily what "we" as a movement believe at all.

Unknown said...

I made the decision not to have sex until I was married when I was very young. It had very little to do with the fact that I'm a Catholic, it was just personal, I don't understand sex without love & its worked for me. I'd like people to think like me, but I'm hardly going to judge or dislike people if they don't, especially if you're in love. I think you need to have the mind-set if you're having sex - I'm using X contraception that gives me x% chance of not getting pregnant - but if I do, I know that I'm going to have be responsible & to have the baby. I'm still on the fence on whether of not the use of contraception reduces Abortions or not - but I think mindset would have a lot to do with it (but I definitely don't agree with the use of abortifacients). Agreeing with the above, I hate when Pro-Lifers & societies believe that because you're Pro-Life you think X, Y, Z - what should matter is that you're Pro-Life, nothing else should & I really hate the term "marital act" as frequently used by a certain Pro-Life news site.

Anonymous said...

Great article