Tuesday, May 25, 2010


THE BITTEREST PILL (THEY EVER HAD TO SWALLOW). A week ago at National Review, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Pill, Kathryn Jean Lopez came waving a celebrity news hook:
If you need a quick primer on the birds and the bees, on how a culture has been misled, and on why Carrie and her friends from yet another Sex and the City movie have had miserable, not-so-pretty lives...
(Yeah, that "conservative cause celebre" thing is really gonna happen.)
...the woman once declared “Most Desired Woman” by Playboy can help you out.
Surprise, it's Raquel Welch! Bless her, Rocky has a book out and says she's seen how contraception "has altered American society for better or worse" -- while it "made it easier for a woman to choose to delay having children until after she established herself in a career," it also made people less likely to get married, presumably by obviating the time-honored tradition of the shotgun wedding.

Though Welch is four times married and obviously didn't let child-rearing slow down her own career, K-Lo swooned. "What she writes knocks the glimmer off the rose of so-called 'sexual freedom,'" wrote Lopez. Also, "Raquel Welch echoes another pope when she talks about sexual explicitness in the culture." The crime of the Pill, in K-Lo's view, was that it turned women away from something they really wanted: "Motherhood is at the heart of what it means to be a woman, and, for decades now, the pill has been trying to deny that reality."

Later Lopez claimed her column "seemed to strike a nerve." But she only cited in evidence a couple of Catholic blogs, and there is no sign that in the wide world women started burning their Ortho Tri-Cyclen in response.

So Maggie Gallagher dropped by to both raise the stakes and change the subject: The Pill wasn't bad because it worked, but because it sometimes didn't:
If we had truly separated sex from reproduction, why would we need abortion?

It was the failure of the Pill to reliably separate sex and reproduction that led quickly to Roe v. Wade.
"The problem is not the Pill," Gallagher added later. "The problem is the idea, which promoters of the pill introduced and promoted with great fanfare, that we have separated sex from reproduction." Because we haven't -- "If you spend ten years being unmarried and sexually active, the odds you will get pregnant, or get someone pregnant, are quite substantial."

Apparently Lopez had been too idealistic: The kids weren't going to stop using birth control because it was morally wrong -- they could only be scared out of it. Pregnancy was not to be used to lure them to virtue, but to terrorize them out of having sex.

K-Lo agreed as much as pride would allow: "That pill alone was not the poison that made a mess between men and women, but it sure was a contributing factor."

And so it goes: Tactical debates among cultural warriors whose cause is long, long lost. They might as well be arguing about why the invention of washing machines turned the innocent women of their great-grandmothers' time into flappers, and what can be done about it today.

But keep pitching guys! Maybe the environmental angle will "strike a nerve" somewhere.

UPDATE: In comments, good point, PGE: "Wait a minute... It doesn't work, plus women don't REALLY want it. How has it survived the miracle of the free market?"

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