What with an actual war in Iraq and a bunch of jihadists seeking ways to blow us all up, and Iran declaring they are going for the nuclear option, you might think people would have their hands full of enough war without opening up this new domestic front. But as Times columnist David Brooks recently remarked, the paranoid style in American politics, once the special province of marginalized conservatives, is fast becoming the latest fashion among the formerly highbrow.
On close inspection, "The War on Contraception" dissolves into an acute case of projection of aggressive impulses. The bulk of the article describes a renewed effort not by religious people to stop contraceptives, but by social liberals to shut down abstinence education programs, or to force Catholic hospitals and pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception (which may sometimes function as an abortifacient). Yes, a tiny minority of Americans do have moral objections to contraception. And yes, a few are pharmacists, who want to keep their jobs and refer contraceptive-seeking clients to others. (It is particularly amusing to see the Times report breathlessly the "news" that Pope John Paul II opposed artificial birth control.)
From the sidelines, it is hard to perceive much of a threat here. According to the Guttmacher Institute, itself a rather fierce critic of abstinence education, the federal and state governments spent $1.26 billion on contraceptive services in 2001, and the states spent another $187 million. The Times claims that 98 percent of women worldwide who have had sex have used contraceptives, and that 93 percent of Americans support the use of contraception. Ninety-five percent of parents support abstinence education in schools, but 94 percent also support teaching about birth control in schools.
So why this new declaration of a nonexistent war? The author thoughtfully supplies the real motive here:
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.