Social & Domestic Issues

‘Contracepting’ a campaign

Iran is showing new signs of belligerence, home foreclosures are rising again and the president has just released a budget that adds to the country’s already stifling debt. So what are Democrats and the liberal media focused on months ahead of a crucial election?
Contraceptives, of course.

The Democrats intend to make birth control a major theme of the 2012 election, especially if Rick Santorum is the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. They no doubt believe Santorum’s views on birth control will crush his chances with female voters.

But Santorum’s stance on birth control strikes the correct balance between his strongly-held private, personal views and policymaking in a pluralistic society.

As Santorum’s campaign has surged, so have attacks on his views on birth control. He’s been hounded by liberal debate moderators and lambasted by political commentators of every stripe.

“Rick Santorum’s War on Contraception,” ran a headline on a liberal website last week. A conservative commentator suggested Santorum needs to deliver a JFK-style contraception speech to reassure voters that he won’t take away their birth control.

So which of Santorum’s views seem to have offended so many? Santorum says he is “not a believer in birth control” and thinks that it is harmful to women and society. He believes sex should be reserved for marriage, and for the purpose of creating children.

Most controversially, Santorum once said that issues surrounding contraception and the meaning of sex “are important public policy issues [that] have profound impact on the health of our society.” This is the comment that some have interpreted as proof that a President Santorum would ban contraceptives.

But he was merely stating what is obvious to everyone. Our contraceptive society, in which pre-marital sex is the norm, has resulted in soaring rates of out of wedlock birth and other problems. The cost to our society of millions of children being raised in father-less homes is beyond calculation.

Of course, when speaking about birth control, Santorum usually adds that he believes it “should be legal in the United States,” “that the states should not ban it,” and that “I would oppose any effort to ban it.” Santorum has voted for laws that subsidize contraception for poor Americans, including Title X, which is a government program that provides family planning to poor people at taxpayer expense.

There is no “war” on contraception. Such accusations are meant to distract voters from the real debate: over whether Catholic and other religious institutions should be forced to provide and pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, and whether taxpayers should be forced to foot the bill.

Santorum’s views on contraception aren’t extreme; they are perfectly in line with the tenets of the Catholic Church, the church to which one quarter of Americans belong. It’s true that most Catholics do not practice the church’s teachings on contraception. But it is unlikely that many will hold it against Santorum for doing so. Many even respect him for it.

Santorum’s belief that contraceptives have been harmful to society also comes directly from Catholic teaching on the dignity of human life. In the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, (“Of Human Life”), Pope Paul VI warned against the use of artificial birth control and predicted a general lowering of morality should contraception become widely available.

It’s impossible to deny that that prediction has come true. The last 45 years have been defined by skyrocketing rates of unintended pregnancy, abortion, out of wedlock birth, STDs and sexual addiction. And today, evolving drug-resistant strains of sexually-transmitted diseases create great concern in the medical community that soon may not have the medicines they need to combat them.

It’s hard to imagine that contraceptives could be any more available than they already are. As the left has been constantly telling us over the last few weeks, 98% of American women use contraceptives at some point in their lives. Access is not the issue.

According to a Guttmacher Institute study of 10,000 women who had abortions and were not using contraceptives when they conceived, less than one in ten said they could not afford birth control or did not know where to get it.

And in the places where contraceptives are most available, we see highest rates of the above maladies. Consider New York City, where more than 40% of pregnancies are aborted, nearly twice the national average.

The Big Apple is also the contraception capital of America. Free or low cost birth control is available to anyone in the city, whose officials hand out millions of free condoms every month and distribute pocket-sized guides directing residents to where they can pick up free birth control.  The city has its own brand of condoms, NYC Condoms.

Free birth control has not helped lower America’s sky-high abortion rate, and the reverse is probably true. 

It is a sign of the sickness of our political culture that Santorum’s private life and personal views on the use of contraceptives have become a campaign issue. Santorum has made a private choice not to use contraceptives and, when asked, he explains why with refreshing candor, while also publicly supporting the right of others to choose differently.

The Left has always claimed to support the right of citizens to make private reproductive choices. But suddenly what Rick Santorum believes and does behind closed doors has become not only the business of liberals but also an issue of vital importance to voters.  Once again, the left demonizes all choices that are not their own.

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