Steven Waldman proposes the following hypothetical situation: more premarital sex and fewer abortions. Would pro-lifers accept this trade-off?
Jill Stanek wouldn’t, as she explains to Waldman. First, she makes it clear that she thinks that contraception and sex education lead to more unintended pregnancies. This argument will go on (not forever, let’s hope), and Waldman ignores it for now and so will I. What both Waldman and I find more interesting is Stanek’s unconditional opposition to sex ed, even if she believed that it did help reduce abortions.
First, it’s hard to evaluate such a hypothetical (“if Stanek believed that sex ed prevented abortions”), because Stanek clearly doesn’t believe that and doesn’t believe that she will ever believe it. But Waldman’s post helps illuminate the way belief travels in people who oppose abortion and contraception and sex ed.
She says she would never support sex ed because:
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a) “The logic behind them is hypocritical. Assuming you’re married, would your wife send you out of town on a business trip after slipping a condom in your suitcase and saying, “Honey, I want you to be faithful, but here’s protection just in case you slip up…”?
b) Contraceptives are the root of abortion. “Contraceptive” means anti-conception. Contraceptives establish a mindset of hostility toward the blessing of children.
c) Sex outside of marriage is a sin…. We do not say, don’t murder but here’s how in case you can’t resist…. We do not say, don’t commit adultery but here’s how in case you can’t resist. We have to resist the culture and think the same way about premarital sex.”
Stanek assumes that pre-marital sex is just as morally unacceptable as adultery within marriage. This is what’s most difficult to understand about the anti-contraception movement: it assumes that other Americans, besides themselves, are waiting until marriage to have sex. How can they take themselves seriously when their philosophy on sex ed and contraception relies on behavior that, for the most part, doesn’t exist in this country—that is, abstinence until marriage?
Stanek, who doesn’t see a way around pre-marital sex (it’s a sin, period), has to reconcile this with the assertion that educating people about sex and providing them with tools to avoid unplanned pregnancy and STIs is good for our society (and reduces the need for abortion). So she has no choice but to defer to the claim that sex ed and contraception lead to more STIs and more unplanned pregnancies. Otherwise, as an anti-abortion crusader, she’d be in a real pickle.
To Waldman’s surprise, Stanek doesn’t acknowledge degrees of sins—she doesn’t allow that contraception might be a lesser sin than abortion. I, for one, am not surprised. Stanek calls upon theology to defend her point:
“The idea of authorizing ‘lesser sins’ to decrease ‘greater sins’ is not Scriptural. In fact, Scripture teaches the opposite phenomenon occurs: Little sins lead to bigger sins. They don’t sate. You should know satan works in quite the opposite direction, enticing us in small, seemingly innocuous ways.”
But there’s something much more immediate and practical in her refusal to consider contraception a “lesser evil.” If she did, she would be admitting that she, and all religious fundamentalists, are wrong. She would be ceding ground to safe sex, to free condoms in bars, to Planned Parenthood!
Let’s not forget that even Jill Stanek, with her superior knowledge of Satan’s works, is human. She has her pride to think of.
Would pro-lifers accept more premarital sex if it meant fewer abortions? Waldman asks. A significant contingent of pro-lifers have always done their part to ensure that more abortions happen by resisting sex ed, resisting funding for contraception, and by teaching their children (and other people’s children) that condoms don’t work. So, no. We’re going to have to look elsewhere to reduce unplanned pregnancies. Jill Stanek is not interested.