Ross Douthat, one of the more thoughtful conservatives out there (weak praise, I know posted today about the relationship between abortion and single parenthood. In an effort to rebut the conclusion that abortion restrictions lead to more single parents, he wrote:
in a post-Roe world, social conservatives often find themselves accepting single parenthood as the lesser (by far) of two potential evils. But there’s good reason to think Roe itself was instrumental in creating the kind of sexual culture that makes the Bristol Palin dilemma as commonplace as it’s become. While the frequent use of abortion can limit out-of-wedlock births, that is, the sudden mass availability of abortion almost certainly had the opposite effect — mostly by changing the obligations associated with pregnancy, and by legitimating male irresponsibility where sex and its consequences are concerned.
For all I know, this may be accurate. However, its efficacy as an argument in favor of abortion restrictions rests on some terrible premises. Namely, it relies on the standard conservative “sex is bad” attitude. How horrible it is that access to abortion has allowed people to have recreational sex! If only people were more terrified of pregnancy, then everything would be fine!
And this continues a familiar pattern, where every single person I’ve ever heard argue for abortion restrictions also takes an extremely sex-negative attitude toward recreational sex, some going so far as to argue that an unwanted pregnancy is some kind of divine justice for being irresponsible, where of course “being irresponsible” means “having recreational sex.”
The sad fact is that Douthat’s claim that “since the 1970s, social conservatives have had more success encouraging doubts about the moral acceptability of abortion than they have had on almost any other cultural front” is true. Douthat would have us believe that people are supporting abortion restrictions due to respect for the sanctity of life. I have my doubts. It seems much more likely to me that support for abortion restrictions stems from the fundamental sexnegativity of our culture.