Barack Obama promised us “change we can believe in.” He promised to move beyond all the tired ideologies and culture wars of the past. How strange then, that on his watch, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should propose the implementation of one of the most outdated and laughable ideologies of all. I call that ideology “condom-ism.”
Condomists believe we could put an end to all the world’s problems, poverty, global warming and human misery — if only we had enough condoms. If only the condomists had enough money and power, if only its Neanderthal opponents would surrender their squeamishness, condom-ism could usher in a new heaven on earth.
Nancy Pelosi added a new link to this chain of human salvation: Condoms will stimulate the economy, increase consumer spending, solve the subprime mortgage crisis, and Get Americans Working Again. I’m not sure exactly which parts of the economy will be stimulated by a fresh supply of Trojans, but she assured us in all seriousness that new spending for “family planning” belongs in the economic stimulus package.
When questioned on this point, she could barely articulate her answer. So we have to fill in the blanks for her. Her argument must be something like this: Unplanned pregnancies cost money, both to individuals and to the taxpayer. Therefore, if we can prevent unplanned pregnancies, we can save everyone money.
Just a couple of problems with this “analysis.” First, many, many unplanned pregnancies occur, even with contraception. If we break down contraceptive failure rates by demographic group, we find that “unplanned” pregnancy is particularly likely to occur among the young, the unmarried and the poor. That is, for every form of “reversible” contraception, young women, unmarried women and poor women are more likely to experience contraceptive failure. Yet these are the demographic groups to whom contraception is the most heavily marketed by private sector groups such as Planned Parenthood and public sector spending programs.
Second, let’s suppose that I’m wrong and more government spending on contraception did decrease unplanned pregnancies. That means some babies don’t get born that would otherwise have been born. Failing to have a baby does not stimulate the economy. People are producers as well as consumers. Babies are the future of society, including its economic future.
The only way not having a baby could stimulate the economy is if you have some reason to believe that the babies you avoid having would be a net economic drain over the course of their lifetimes. But we have no reason to believe that the government’s family-planning programs are so finely targeted that only “unproductive” future babies are prevented. And honestly, the government has no business targeting people for nonexistence.
The unstated premise behind Speaker Pelosi’s argument must have been that government family-planning programs target poor people. Poor people have poor children who are a net drain on the economy — or at least on the Treasury. Eliminate poor people through prevention, and voilà: no more poverty problem. We stimulate the economy by reducing government expenditures on poverty by selectively preventing the birth of poor people.
There is just one small problem: These “benefits” to the economy, dubious though they are, could not possibly kick in for a generation. That is not anybody’s idea of “stimulating the economy,” even if you accepted the claim that the government would eventually save money on poverty programs. Stimulating the economy requires that we have the government spend more money on immediate consumption. That means Right Now, not a generation from now.
The reality is that government expenditure on contraception is not an economic stimulus, and Nancy Pelosi could not seriously maintain that it was. These proposed expenditures were ideological and political payoffs to one of the Democratic Party’s most faithful constituencies: Planned Parenthood and its allies. They supported the Democrats for election, so the Democrats deliver various goods to them.
I want to emphasize the ideological payoff. Just giving people choices has never been sufficient for the radical advocates of condom-ism. Actively promoting contraception has always been part of an ideological package deal. Here are some of its major tenets:
1. Every person capable of giving meaningful consent is entitled to unlimited sexual activity.
2. All negative consequences of sexual activity can be controlled or eliminated through the use of contraception. Sexually transmitted diseases can be controlled through the use of condoms. Contraception completely eliminates the probability of pregnancy, or, at least, people are entitled to act as if their contraception works perfectly.
3. In the entirely unlikely event that a woman does get pregnant, she is not required to give birth to a live baby. Abortion, for any reason or no reason, at any time during pregnancy, is an absolute entitlement.
4. Any negative consequences of sexual activity that cannot be handled by contraception or abortion are not worth talking about. No one ever gets attached to a loser of a sex partner. No one ever regrets a consensual sexual experience. The evidence linking teen sex to depression must be dismissed or discredited. Adultery and the disruption of an established family? Not to worry: Follow your bliss.
And don’t forget, we could save the earth, end world hunger and, now, end the recession, if only we had enough condoms.
Thank goodness, even the speaker of the House could not keep those family-planning expenditures in the economic stimulus package. But, be on the lookout. She and her allies will be looking for another opportunity to allocate federal money for contraception. For them, this is more than a practical proposal to achieve a specific end. For them, government funding of contraception is an end in itself, regardless of the consequences.
Roback Morse is the founder
and president of the Ruth Institute,
an educational project of the
National Organization for Marriage.