Conservative Theology

Moral Accounting in the Culture of Life

Many people do not understand the moral accounting of pro-life politics.  By "moral accounting" I mean the way in which people decide whether or not a given policy is an overall good or bad policy.

Let's take the issue of condoms.  Many pro-choice proponents are completely unaware of why pro-life proponents are not in favor of condoms.  Pro-choice proponents see condoms as an easy way of preventing pregnancies among teenagers, and are confounded as to why pro-life proponents don't encourage them as well, since, at least according to pro-choice theory, this would reduce the overall birth rate.

The problem with this view is twofold.  One reason often given is that condoms don't decrease the incidence of pregnancy - the incidence of sex is usually increased with condom promotion so much that it negates any benefit. 

I don't know if that statistic is true or not, but that is not the real, underlying reason.

The real reason is that pro-life is part of a bigger worldview - what I will call the "culture of life".  The "culture of life" generally has the following set of views:

  • Abortion is bad - absolutely or nearly so
  • Babies are good - absolutely or nearly so
  • Sex outside of marriage is bad - absolutely
  • Sex inside of marriage is good - absolutely

Many (but not all) pro-choicers have a nearly-opposite set of views:

  • Abortion is not a moral absolute
  • Babies are good only if the parents want them and are in a social location to take care of them and are not in an overpopulated area
  • Because of the above, babies for teenagers are bad - absolutely or nearly so
  • Sex is always good provided everyone consents

So, let's look at the moral accounting that occurs with condoms and teenagers.

Situation 1: If teenager A has sex with teenager B outside of marriage without condoms, you get a baby.

Situation 2: If teenager A has sex with teenager B outside of marriage with condoms, you are less likely to get a baby.

For the pro-life proponent, situation 1 is clearly better.  They have sex outside of marriage (which is a negative) but they get a baby (which is a positive).  In situation 2, they have sex outside of marriage (which is negative) but it isn't offset by the positive of having a baby.  Therefore, pro-life proponents don't like funding condoms for teenagers, because, by pro-life moral accounting, it actually makes the situation worse - you get only the bad - no good. 

In addition, conservatives tend to view moral choices as independent, not situational.  Therefore, the moral choice of sex is independent of the moral choice of abortion.  Therefore, promoting or restricting condom use is independent of the choices about abortion - you only get into the sex morality. 

Therefore, condoms only promote the moral problems associated with sex outside of marriage, because they (a) encourage more of it, (b) remove the possible redemptive part of it [the baby], and (c) view it as an independent moral choice from abortion.

In addition, many with the "culture of life" worldview take the view that sex itself is a sacred institution.  Therefore condoms promote an additional problem in that, not only do they remove the good side of out-of-wedlock sex, they also cheapen the act of sex itself, and with it the institution of marriage.

Without condoms, and with a baby, even sex outside of marriage is much more likely to lead to marriage, thus redeeming the original act.  Promoting condom usage is likely to remove this redemption, and leave the ones having sex outside of marriage both without the either redeeming part of the equation.

Thus, while most pro-life proponents don't want to outlaw condoms, we aren't in favor of promoting them to unmarried teens, either.