Variable World of Personal Responsibility

Rev. Tom Davis

The mere act of giving people contraception does not automatically solve the unintended pregnancy problem. What matters more is that they have realistic prospects for their life and career. Then people are far more likely to take responsibility and avoid unintended pregnancies.

OnCommonGround was given the exclusive right to excerpt this essay from the anthology, Rethinking Responsibility: Reflection on Sex and Accountability, published by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. For more OnCommonGround excerpts in this series click here.

 

With the possible exception of parents, no group issues more
exhortations to personal responsibility than we clergy. An estimate of
the effectiveness of those appeals was given by the social ethicist
Reinhold Niebuhr. While he loved to preach, he did not think that
people are changed by sermons. He believed that we are more influenced
by the moral atmosphere of the society around us.

When
considering the issue of personal responsibility, it seems wise to
recognize that much depends on the moral and social matrix in which
each individual tries to live. For example, if young people are raised
in families that are basically functional and caring, go on to higher
education, have fi nancial resources backing them, and have a real
future, then it is reasonable to expect them to take a great deal of
personal responsibility. If they do not wish to have children before
they are further along in their careers, they should be responsible by
using birth control. If, however, other young men and women have few if
any of these supports, are living lives with few opportunities and
little hope, then it is understandable, if sad, that they may not care
enough about themselves to exercise similar care. In such a situation,
demanding personal responsibility without the provision of social
supports may not be realistic. Even though such personal responsibility
would be in their own self-interest, young men and women may have
simply given up on themselves. These are the young people to whom life
just “happens.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

With this in mind, it seems clear that social policies can make
personal situations such as unintended pregnancies either better or
worse. Things might be somewhat improved if federal and state
governments spent more money on programs to make contraception more
affordable and available. While that and similar measures could be
helpful, they are only a part of what is needed. Research done by The
National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and other
groups has shown that the mere act of giving people contraception does
not automatically solve the problem. What matters more than that is
that they have realistic prospects for their life and career. When
those are present, people are far more likely to take responsibility
and avoid unintended pregnancies.

Providing such “realistic
prospects” is a tall order for any complex society, but these kinds of
programs have been successful before. The GI Bill of Rights put
millions of World War II veterans through college at a time when many,
if not most, of them would never have gone to college. Personal
responsibility alone could not have put those men and women in college.

The more our society is able to break the cycle of poor
schools, weakened families, and limited prospects, the more it will
strengthen their sense of personal responsibility and reduce unintended
pregnancy.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.