From Abortion to Gay Marriage: The Right to Life and Human Sexuality (Part I)
Abortion, stem cell research, birth control, abstinence and the legal definition of marriage: viewed separately all are equally polarizing and divisive issues, but they are not separate issues. A single strand connects them all, and when examined in this light a potentially sinister picture emerges.
The 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, drove a wedge through the very heart of this country, and from this decision many grassroots organizations were birthed. Originally, these organizations focused only on the issue of abortion and the definition of when human life begins. However, in the last 30 years as these “Right to Life” organizations have grown, so too has their agenda. Today, the Right to Life Movement (RLM) is well organized, well funded, and very influential, specifically in the world of politics. With the mapping of the human genome and the subsequent research into stem cells, the RLM once again finds itself engaged in a bitter ideological debate that rivals abortion. The impact of this debate is far reaching; potentially into our every day lives and relationships.
Today, many of the same arguments used against abortion are now being applied to the field of stem cell research. Opponents of stem cell research consider the destruction of human embryos, no matter the reasoning, to be murder just as they consider abortion to be murder. This stance represents not only an expansion of focus, but also the unification of the RLM’s philosophy. Where the abortion issue is often associated with the image of a human fetus and slogans such as, “Abortion stops a beating heart”, which created some ambivalence as to when life begins, the RLM is now able to confront an issue from the onset with their belief life begins at conception. We are no longer talking about a fetus, but one or two cells. And with the FDA’s decision last year allowing Plan B to be sold over the counter the conversation is expanding.
In 2006, the FDA ruled that Plan B, an emergency birth control pill, would be sold over the counter to anyone at least 18 years of age. Controversy soon followed. Pharmacists around the country are refusing to sell Plan B to women even when they have a prescription. Their strongest objection is that Plan B alters the walls of the Uterus and may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. (Implantation). To them, using Plan B is no different than having an abortion, and in fact many in the RLM refer to it as the “abortion pill” although it is not the same as RU-486 (The actual abortion pill). But some pharmacists did not stop with Plan B; they are also refusing to give out prescriptions for the daily birth control pill as well, objecting on the same “moral” grounds. In many respects, this is a watershed moment in the history of the Right to Life Movement.
For years, a debate has raged over hormonal birth control. Many within the RLM consider hormonal birth controls to be “abortifacients”(A substance that may prevent Implantation), and want these forms of birth control banned. The controversy surrounding Plan B and the fact it contains the same synthetic hormone as other forms of birth control (Levonorgestrel) makes it a lightning rod, allowing the RLM to more easily address all hormone based birth control. However, this once again brings the RLM into direct confrontation with the Federal government. (Under U.S. law, pregnancy does not begin at conception but at implantation). Their only hope, as is the case with abortion and stem cell research, is to get the Federal government to change existing law. Many tough battles lie ahead, but their agenda is coming full circle.
In the “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2002, a provision was included that prohibits the use of funds for sex education unless the curriculum emphasizes abstinence. It also prohibits schools from distributing birth control and/or information on how to obtain it. This provision addresses long-standing concerns within the RLM that sex education encourages young people to have sex. Abstinence before marriage is viewed by many in the RLM as the final solution to the problem of abortion. If society, specifically young people, embraced abstinence then logically the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions would decrease. It was seen as a victory, albeit a small one, and further galvanized President Bush’s support from the RLM emboldening him to take on gay marriage in 2004.
After a great deal of pressure from the RLM, President Bush publicly called for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. His speech reflected the sentiment of his constituency; gay marriage presented a threat to the very core of civilization, the family. He called on all Americans to rally together in defense of our most “sacred institution” At long last the RLM had one of their own in the White House, and this “coming out” by Bush was widely celebrated as an opportunity to finally deal with the “gay agenda” once and for all.
In the Bible, homosexuality is considered “abomination”. Homosexuals cannot procreate, and are perceived as hedonistic and deviant. (Lust is one of the Seven Deadly sins). The growing acceptance of homosexuality, especially in popular culture, presents a threat not only to the family, but also to the RLM’s message. By legally defining what is or what is not a “legitimate” relationship, the RLM hopes to marginalize homosexuals, therefore at least minimizing the “temptation” of the gay lifestyle. How is this issue relevant? It is relevant because, as we are seeing, there is more to this debate than simply the protection of “innocent” life.