Lord Saletan’s House O’ Compromise (With New Salad Bar!)
Will Saletan is going to end this culture war – DEAD. With savage rationality and terrifying correctitude, Saletan will sprint onto the minefield of social discord that mars the American body politic and fuck that shit up until it cries. How, dear readers, will he do this? By being sensible, duh.
PRESIDENT OBAMA wants to end the culture wars. He recently called for “common ground” on abortion reduction and an end to the “stale and fruitless debate” over family planning. His joint address to Congress this week could be an opportunity to change that debate. But to make a real difference, he’ll have to tell two truths that the left and the right don’t want to hear: that morality has to be practical, and that practicality requires morals.
I don’t know which one of those two things I don’t want to hear, but for the sake of moving this along to the payoff, I’ll presume it’s the second one. Boo, morals! Morals eat poop!
Start with abortion. Pro-lifers tend to show up after a woman is pregnant, imagining that laws and preaching will make her bear a child she doesn’t want. They’re mistaken. Worse, they’re too late. To prevent abortions, we have to prevent unintended pregnancies.
I’m a liberal – when do I not start with abortion? Why, just yesterday, one of my friends called me up and asked me to coffee, and I said, “No, I’m going to have to abort that plan.” A slight pause later, my friend’s voice came through the phone, “You scamp! You aborted before I even knew what you were-” I aborted the phone call mid-sentence, building up one of my Planned Parenthood-sponsored Abortion Surpluses. Soon, I’m going to trade it in for an Abortion Wall Clock when I get enough points.
Skipping over Saletan’s thorough investigation of the liberal and conservative answers to unintended pregnancies (both of which are wrong, obviously), we get this:
This isn’t a shortage of pills or condoms. It’s a shortage of cultural and personal responsibility. It’s a failure to teach, understand, admit or care that unprotected sex can lead to the creation — and the subsequent killing, through abortion — of a developing human being.
Well, could it have anything to do with a federally financed system of sexual education, coupled with a rather fervent religious movement all designed to convince people that contraceptives don’t work? Of course the fuck not. Instead, liberals should concede that they believe in state-sponsored murder and conservatives should concede that they were right all along. It’s a hard and difficult path for those on the right, being held up by the continued insistence of liberals that physical barriers to conception help prevent unwanted pregnancies. The gall of us.
Thankfully, though, Saletan has a solution. A grand solution. A compromise solution. Because we want the extra page clicks and you want to know how we can end the fight over abortion forever, the solution’s after the cut.
Our challenge is to put these two issues together. 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.” [Emphasis added.]
Suppose that you could end poverty as a social ill just by outlawing it. Would you do it?
Suppose that I directly equated abortion to poverty as a social ill. Do you see the problem? With your liberal abortion eyes?
This isn’t a solution to the culture wars. It’s walking out of the trenches with a giant funnel on your chest to make sure all the bullets hit you directly in the heart. It’s entirely possible to do everything else Saletan proposes (and, in fact, those are things that are being done as we speak by real live people with brains and voices and shit) without falsely equating abortion to poverty or infant mortality or murder. But why do something intelligent when you could not?
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.
There’s nothing in this sentence I disagree with, but “loosen up and let people use a dollar’s worth of contraception to prevent an abortion” is not equivalent to “admit you’re murderers and then change federal policy to measure your now-admitted genocide”, unless every single one of those words means something different and is hopefully about donuts, because I haven’t had a good donut in a very long time.
What Saletan is proposing is a continuation of his thesis from his 2004 book, Bearing Right: by adopting “conservative” rhetoric (i.e., privacy and limited government, which I always believed in as a liberal), conservatives “won” the abortion war – which they’ve somehow unwon, because they’re terrible at wars and babies. (Ha, ha!)
To make his theory correct again, liberals need to go even further in adopting conservative rhetoric, much like they need to go even further in actually adopting all the babies they’ll no longer be murdering once the culture wars are over. The problem that Saletan is seeking to solve (making contraception more readily available as the surest and most reliable way to reduce the abortion rate) isn’t solved by destroying abortion as a viable and legal option any more than you get people to eat more healthily by calling bypass surgery Heart Hitlerization. Abortion is a right, and it is a social necessity so long as there is possibility that someone may have sex without contraception, or without proper use of contraception, whatever the backstory. It makes no sense whatsoever to concede all moral ground on abortion in order to promote better contraception policy, especially when you can justify both abortion and contraception as social necessities.
You can read more in my upcoming book, Swinging Left: How Everything Republicans Say And Do Is Actually Good For Democrats: Give Up, Losers.