Rethinking the Pro-Life Goal

In honor of the March for Life in Washington DC yesterday, I posted the following on Twitter:

No matter how you feel about the morality or legality of it, we can all agree: we NEED less abortions in our country.  #MarchforLife.

@Falsum, a Canadian grad student in Scotland, responded:

Glad to have common ground with a pro-lifer. Does this mean you support expanded access to contraception and comprehensive sex ed?

I knew there was no way I could answer his question in 140 characters because it’s so much more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”   We danced around each other quoting competing scientific studies, but not really getting anywhere – in part, I think because of the limitations of Twitter.  My thoughts on his question and this issue are way too complicated for Twitter.

It’s complicated because I think that when it comes to the issues of abortion, contraception, sexual morality, etc most pro-life advocates are missing the boat in a very fundamental way:  We’ve got the wrong goal.

Don’t get me wrong, I very much want abortion to end.  I think it is a grave injustice to both the pre born babies, their mothers & fathers, and our whole society.  However, abortion is not the disease that needs curing.  Abortion is just one symptom of a much more systemic disease.  The HHS mandate that everyone should have access to free contraception? Another symptom.  Sex education that teaches kids to have oral sex rather than intercourse?  Another symptom.

I think the real problem, the real disease that we need to be fighting is our culture’s messed up understanding of sex.  Somehow, we have become a people who believe that everyone has the fundamental right to have sex without getting pregnant.  We believe that our right to have sex whenever we want and with whoever we want is so fundamental, it’s even more important than religious liberty (HHS mandate) or protecting those who can’t protect themselves (abortion).  That’s just messed up.

I’d like to think that if we stopped thinking with our libidos (or worse, our politics) and started using logic and rational thought, we’d see this as kind of ridiculous.  Clearly, there is a direct cause and effect relationship between sex and pregnancy.  It’s the most natural and most basic function of our bodies.

To believe that we have the right to have sex without getting pregnant is like believing that I have the right to eat food without using the toilet. There are even medical interventions (colostomy bags, for example) that could ensure that I never have to sit on a toilet again.  But that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

I was watching the movie Jurassic Park with my dinosaur-crazed 7 year old last night.  As the dinosaurs begin wrecking havoc and killing everyone, Dr. Ian Malcolm criticizes the scientific advancements that led to the dinosaur cloning saying, “You were so busy trying to figure out whether or not you could, that you stopped to consider whether or not you should.”  Medical technology can prevent pregnancies.  Medical technology can also prevent me from every having to use the toilet again.  That doesn’t mean it should.

All right, so whose fault is it?  Who do I need to write letters to or not vote for to fix it? When the USCCB came out with their statement in strong opposition to the HHS mandate I asked them (on Facebook), “Okay Bishops, so tell us what we can do to help the fight?”  I think this is common in the pro-life mindset; we want to identify the enemy (the Obama Administration, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc) and fight them.

Here’s what my conversation on Twitter helped me realize: the only way we’re going to cure this disease is by looking in the mirror.  We are all guilty of buying into this confused and unnatural understanding of sex.  In a way, we can’t help it because it has so pervaded our culture that we’ve become blinded to it.

I believe each and every one of us can start to end abortion, fight back for our religious liberty, and support teaching abstinence in schools by first changing our own attitudes.  We can choose to stop treating sex as if it is a right and start treating it as a gift.  If we’re married, we can choose to remember that we cooperate with the incredible creative power of the Divine each and every time we engage in that act (wow!).  If we’re not married, we can choose to save that gift until we are ready to accept the natural and beautiful consequences.

Most importantly, all of us – no matter our faith or sexual moral compass – can choose to remember that sex and pregnancy have a natural cause and effect relationship, and if we don’t want to get pregnant, we can choose not to have sex.

To quote pro-life writer Michael J. New, “Pro-lifers may discover that advocating for sexual restraint is more difficult than advocating for the unborn. However, this is a battle that pro-lifers must continue to engage in if we are to succeed in our goal of providing legal protection to all unborn children.”

So, @Falsum, I want to thank you for helping me figure out what I think the real problem is.  I’m certain there are many good people out there who will disagree with me.  And I’m totally okay with that – in fact, I’d love to chat with you about it.  Think I’m wrong?  Tell me why.  Concerned I missed something?  Please share it.  Let’s keep working together to battle the disease that’s tearing our country apart and killing 1.2 million babies each year.


  1. Frank · January 24, 2012

    Wow, that was awesome.?Had the same discussion over lunch yesterday with a friend. I posted that I was praying for the March of life people I know and got hammered on FB. Abortion, teenage pregnancy, single moms are all symptoms brought on by the glorification of sex in our culture. To be pro-choice or against the catholic church without understanding fully what the catholic church teaches is ignorant and irresponsible. But you know what. Its my fault.

    • ymkbird · January 24, 2012

      That’s okay Frank…it’s my fault too 🙂 I think that’s what I realized – that we are all to blame because in some way or another we all fall into this confused understanding of sex.

  2. Tina · January 24, 2012

    Very well written and thought out. Couldn’t agree more. 😉

  3. Frank · January 24, 2012

    I think a good reply would be that you can teach comprehensive sex education if and only if it is accompanied by a full Theology of the Body course. It is irresponsible of us to teach sex education without a full understanding of God gift.

    • Falsum · January 24, 2012

      Would you advocate such an approach for public schools?

  4. Sabrina · January 24, 2012

    I really appreciate your thoughtfulness on this. The only point you miss, I think, is that culturally, we separated sex from babies long, long before modern birth control. People have always had sex outside of marriage, the only difference is that in recent history, women had a choice whether or not to raise children, when in the past it was only men who could exercise that agency, and indeed they did. It’s only in recent years that sexual fidelity in marriage was a cultural expectation for men, as it had always been for women. I think what we’re seeing in a very nascent era for marriage and sex is the very-recent development for women of “getting what men get” and that, in this case, is sex without consequence (sort of). Of course, equal rights for men and women are essential for the dignity of all of us, but we have some correcting to do in addressing a “right” that men have always had, women recently adopted, and that is unhealthy for all of us.

    My hope and prayer is like yours, that all of us can together re-calibrate our understanding of sex, what it is for, and how we celebrate it in our culture.

    • ymkbird · January 24, 2012

      Great point Sabrina. It’s interesting that some of the worst results have been in the more recent years since we’ve accepted this mindset for women as well. Certain cultures have accepted sex without consequences for men for a very long time, and yet we didn’t see the same levels of atrocities that we do today.

      Of course, by their nature, men are more easily and logically able to remove themselves from the consequences of the act. They can leave once it’s over. A woman’s body, on the other hand, has a constant natural reminder. For them to deny the connection is much harder to accept – on a purely logical and natural level, anyway.

  5. Pingback: Sex, Skydiving, and Puppies. « Earnest and Jest
  6. Falsum · January 24, 2012

    Thanks for the discussion. I’ve just finished writing a reply, in case you’re interested. You can find it here:

  7. Ball of String · August 22, 2012

    Extremely valid points. I have just started visiting this blog, but so far the posts I’ve read have been very insightful. Thank you and looking forward to reading more.

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