Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Moral Decline in Ameica Society
Yestderday afternoon I had too much free time on my hands (yes, my Spring semester officially ended Monday at 3:10pm), so I watched some MSNBC. First, Pat Buchanan & Bill Press were hosting a discussion about over the counter "morning after" pills, then Chris Matthews made a stop on his Hardball college tour to talk about whether American society is in moral decline.

On the first program, the conservative panelists argued that the availability of morning after pills is (a) promoting teen promiscuity, and (b) bona fide murder. The conservatives gabbing with Chris saw repeated clips of Brittney Sears as an indication that this nation is indeed riding a bicycle with no brakes downhill into a busy intersection between disaster and damnation. It seems that the prevailing conservative voice believes that sex is curropting our modern society, and harkens back to the days of Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed when television was wholesome. Our culture, they say, is constantly declining in a sea of commercialized sex, and would like us to revert to the culture of 40, 50 years ago.

Here are a few statistics:
-In 1950, there were 40.7 live births per 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 17. In 2000, that number was 27.4.
-Between 1992 and 1996, the number of abortions per 1000 women decreased 12%.
-From 1985 to 2001, cigarette smoking dropped from 38.7% to 24.9%.
-Alcohol drinking has been steadily decreasing amond high school students since the class of '75. Their percentage of use was 73.6, while in 2001 that number was 61.0.
What I'm trying to indicate is that our society isn't any "worse" than that of one, two, five decades ago. Even when you take into account the Baby Boom of the 1950s, teen birth rates have been decreasing for decades.

My other beef with the "standard" conservative view is that for them sex is the most popular yardstick by which to measure the decline of moral society. It seems that preventing the implantation of a non-breathing, non-thinking zygote is morally aprehensable, yet dropping bombs is standard business. Why not gauge how well our society is dong by how many of us are killing each other? The nations we think of as the most violent - the ones with whom we're often at war - are the ones that demand the most sexual consevatism from their women. I'm by no means celebrating teen sex, but I'd sooner see (well, not really SEE, unless they invited me to) two consenting teenagers have intercourse than see another Iraqi civillian (or soldier, for that matter) with an arm missing.

On the matter of emergency contraception, I am mystified as to why even a pro-life advocate would oppose these. First, they are not the same as the "abortion pill" RU-486. The latter actually terminates an existing pregnancy, while OTC emergency contraceptives like Preven (aptly named) "can stop or delay ovulation (the release of an egg), can stop sperm from fertilizing an egg if it was already released, and can stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus." In other words, no "human" is being destroyed, unless your definition of human is not contingent upon having more than a handful of cells. The argument that a human is created the moment sperm meets egg is the same argument that is preventing stem-cell research from receiving federal funding. (C'mon, even Ronnie wants that one to happen.) In both cases, no fetuses are being harmed because there's no fetus to begin with. No brain, no lungs, no blood, no nervous system. What emergency contraception does is prevent unwanted pregnancy without damaging any humans. That's right, one less person to go on government assistance, if that's how you count people.


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