The Conservatives’ War on Birth Control
ALL
The New Atheists
by The Editors | December 05, 2014
Religion in America
by The Editors | December 05, 2014
Religion vs. Freedom
by Onkar Ghate | December 03, 2014
Bernie Madoff, Steve Jobs, and Wall Street Greed
by Don Watkins | September 26, 2013
Abortion Rights Are Pro-life
by Leonard Peikoff | January 23, 2013
Capitalism without Guilt
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2013
Does America Need Ayn Rand or Jesus?
by Onkar Ghate | June 29, 2011
The Guilt Pledge
by Don Watkins | September 22, 2010
Our Moral Code Is Out of Date
by Yaron Brook | September 16, 2010
Atlas Shrugged’s Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice
by Yaron Brook | July 20, 2010
Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays
by Onkar Ghate | December 18, 2009
No More Green Guilt
by Keith Lockitch | May 01, 2009
No “Footprint,” No Life
by Keith Lockitch | January 09, 2009
The Easter Masquerade
by Keith Lockitch | March 22, 2008
After Ten Years, States Still Resist Assisted Suicide
by Tom Bowden | November 02, 2007
It Isn’t Easy Being Green
by Keith Lockitch | October 16, 2007
The Road to 9/11: How America's Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2007
The Real Disgrace: Washington’s Battlefield “Ethics”
by Elan Journo | July 28, 2007
Atlas Shrugged — America's Second Declaration of Independence
by Onkar Ghate | March 01, 2007
Religion and Morality
by Onkar Ghate | October 18, 2006
The Jihad on America
by Elan Journo | Fall 2006
The Conservatives’ War on Birth Control
by Keith Lockitch | September 18, 2006
“Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense
by Yaron Brook | Spring 2006
The Twilight of Freedom of Speech
by Onkar Ghate | February 21, 2006
“Intelligent Design” Is about Religion versus Reason
by Keith Lockitch | December 11, 2005
Creationism in Camouflage: The “Intelligent Design” Deception
by Keith Lockitch | November 17, 2005
The Foreign Policy of Guilt
by Onkar Ghate | September 29, 2005
The Bait and Switch of “Intelligent Design”
by Keith Lockitch | August 04, 2005
The Faith-Based Attack on Rational Government
by Tom Bowden | June 27, 2005
The “Sin” of Pride
by Edwin Locke | May 18, 2005
Morality of War
by Yaron Brook | September 09, 2004
Council on Bioethics Antagonistic to Man’s Well-Being
by Elan Journo | April 08, 2004
A Passion Against Man
by Onkar Ghate | March 15, 2004
America vs. Americans
by Leonard Peikoff | April 21, 2003
“End States Who Sponsor Terrorism”
by Leonard Peikoff | October 02, 2001
Fact and Value
by Leonard Peikoff | May 18, 1989
On Moral Sanctions
by Peter Schwartz | May 18, 1989
Religious Terrorism vs. Free Speech
by Leonard Peikoff | 1989
Lexicon excerpts on Religion
by Ayn Rand | 1988
POV: Ayn Rand excerpts on Religion
by Ayn Rand | 1988
Religion vs. America
by Leonard Peikoff | 1986
The Sanction of the Victims
by Ayn Rand | November 21, 1981
The Age of Mediocrity
by Ayn Rand | April 26, 1981
The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age
by Ayn Rand | 1961

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Culture And Society in Voice for Reason
Culture & SocietyReligion & Morality

The Conservatives’ War on Birth Control

by Keith Lockitch | September 18, 2006

Religious conservatives are increasingly opposing birth control. The Bush administration has shifted funding from sex education endorsing condoms to programs preaching “abstinence only.” And Bush F.D.A. appointees spent three years blocking nonprescription use of the “morning after” pill, despite overwhelming evidence of its safety. Shockingly, there has been an increasing number of Christian pharmacists refusing to fill contraceptive prescriptions — in some cases even for ordinary birth control pills for married women. What is behind this disturbing hostility to reproductive freedom?

Religious conservatives insist that their growing opposition to contraception is not the product of some sort of puritan, anti-sex agenda. What they are concerned about, they claim, is irresponsible sexual indulgence. They decry what they see as a culture of mindless promiscuity spawned by the advent of effective and easily available birth control.

But blaming birth control for the irresponsible actions of those who misuse it is like blaming Sudafed for crystal meth addiction. Like any other technology, contraception is a tool that can be used rationally or abused — and used properly it enables people to be more responsible about sex. It is bizarre to crusade against irresponsible sexuality by crusading for the renunciation of responsibility: the conscious, deliberate rejection of rational family planning in favor of reproductive roulette. Clearly, there is something deeper underlying the growing antagonism to birth control.

It is significant that in opposing contraception, conservatives declare that sex must be inextricably tied to reproduction — that it is morally wrong to pursue sexual pleasure while deliberately preventing pregnancy. “To demand sexual pleasure without openness to children is to violate a sacred trust,” writes Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. But this implies a certain hostility to sexual pleasure, as such: not its irrational, promiscuous pursuit, but the very act of enjoying sex as something separate from reproduction. What explains such hostility?

Consider that sexual desire is a response to personal values. For a rational person, it is not a desire for mindless, indiscriminate indulgence, but a feeling that results from the embodiment in one’s lover of one’s highest, most important values. For a couple in a serious, committed, romantic relationship, sex is a celebration of their love — an expression, in the form of intense physical pleasure, of the joy that each partner derives from the other.

But such joy is a selfish pleasure — a rationally selfish pleasure. It is a pleasure that people pursue for the sake of their own enjoyment and happiness, whether they choose to have children or not. And this, fundamentally, is what religious conservatives have against it.

Virtue, according to Christianity, consists of sacrificing one’s desires and goals in the name of fulfilling one’s duties to God. Sex, on this premise, is at best a necessary evil — a sinful act, justifiable only by the duty to procreate. To deliberately prevent pregnancy by using birth control is to assert one’s right to enjoy sex purely for its own sake — not as a means to procreation, but purely as an end in itself. And this is what conservatives find unacceptable. What they object to is that a couple using birth control is placing their own, personal happiness above obedience to religion. They object to contraception not despite the fact that it removes the fear of unwanted pregnancy, but precisely because it removes that fear.

To proclaim categorically, as Mohler does, that “every marriage must be open to the gift of children” is to demand that a couple sacrifice their own dreams and long-range goals to an alleged duty to “be fruitful and multiply.” Even a couple who wants to have children must, on this premise, do so out of submission to divine will — not because they value children as a source of personal joy. The rejection of birth control is the demand that couples surrender the power — crucial to their own happiness in life — of choosing when, or whether, to have children, and instead allow themselves to be reduced, by means of their healthy sexual desires, to the role of stock farm animals, breeding uncontrollably.

Though they claim their intention is not to condemn sexuality as such, but merely its indiscriminate pursuit, religious conservatives are in fact opposed to sexual happiness. They are opposed to the fact that sex is an exalted pleasure that people pursue as an end in itself. Their war on contraception is not a war against the alleged excesses of the “birth control revolution” — it is a declaration of war against the pursuit of happiness.

About The Author

Keith Lockitch

Vice President of Content and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute