Progressive Revival

William Saletan writes a great article in the New York Times which will either inspire or provoke everyone involved in the current culture wars.  His argument is for basic practicality to prevail in approaches to both gay marriage and abortion.  Saletan is anti-abortion, and he uses the power of that conviction as his springboard for a stronger advocacy of contraceptives as a means of stopping them.  He writes:

For liberals, that means taking abortion seriously as an argument for contraception. We should make the abortion rate an index of national health, like poverty or infant mortality. The president should report progress, or lack thereof, in the State of the Union. Reproductive-health counselors must speak bluntly to women who are having unprotected sex. And as Mr. Obama observed last year, men must learn that “responsibility does not end at conception.”

Conservatives, in turn, need to face the corollary truth: A culture of life requires an ethic of contraception. Birth control isn’t a sin or an offense against life, as so many girls and Catholic couples have been taught. It’s a loving, conscientious way to prevent the conception of a child you can’t bear to raise and don’t want to abort. It’s an act of responsibility and respect for life.

It is refreshing to hear from a pro-lifer who is so committed to stopping abortions that they are willing to be pro-contraception. Contraception as “an act of respect for life” makes perfect sense to me if we are serious about reducing the number of abortions.   I have heard Saletan’s approach argued against by moralistic and religiously dogmatic pro-lifers who dismiss this approach as consequentialist (the principle that argues whether an act is morally right depends only on the consequences of that act). 

But if the effort is to reduce abortions then consequence is the name of the game.  I hope more pro-life advocates will take this position and join in the effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they happen by making contraceptives available and promoting their use among people who are having sex but are not hoping for a child.   

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