Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Sex

As the United States enters another presidential election cycle many of the nation’s hot button issues are surfacing.  Abortion has been one of those hot button issues for the last forty years and this year seems to be continuing the trend.  Abortion has been getting lots of press recently.  In Chicago the media has been reporting that in 2010 Illinois reached a 37 year low in abortions.  According to the reports, only 42,000 abortions were performed in Illinois in 2010, which is roughly the size of the population of Elmhurst, Illinois.  In addition, the Christian Post published a blog entry entitled, Why won’t abortion go away as an issue? The entry is well worth reading and does a nice job discussing the history of the abortion debates, but it fails to address what I believe is really behind the abortion debate, SEX.  Often times the abortion debates focus on who defines when life begins, but no one talks about how the abortion debate is influenced by the way Americans view sex.

I recently read a thought provoking book entitled, Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship beyond an Age of Individualism, where the author, Dale S. Kuehne, (Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH) argues that since the sexual revolution in the 1960s the west’s relationship with sex has radically changed.  According to Kuehne, over the last fifty years sex has gone from an activity to a right that should be protected like the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While reading Keuhne’s book I could not help but wonder, if Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence in our current age, would he have began with, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of sex.  But Keuhne went even further, he contends that since the 1960s Americans have not only elevated sex to a right but they have made sex a means of self-identification.   Further, he argues that from debates over distributing condoms in the schools to debates over LGBT issues the idea that sex is a right and a means of self-identity, has governed the conversations.

I think Kuehne makes a strong case for this thesis and his insights are helpful in understanding the abortion debates.   Based on conversations I have had with many of my pro-choice friends they do see sex as their right and they want laws to protect them from the consequences of sex that might impinge on their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. No one is forcing men and women to have sex and then “Have” to deal with the consequences of an unexpected pregnancy.  But because some people believe sex is a “Constitutional Right” or better a right given by our creator, they want laws that protect every aspect of that right.  For some people, abortion is a safety net so that they can have their sex without having to deal with the ramifications of an unexpected pregnancy.  I do not subscribe to the Rick Santorum School of anti- abortion, but I am troubled by a nation of people who have so elevated their right to have sex that  there are 42,000 destroyed fetuses in Illinois during 2010 and  that is the lowest total in 37 years. Now granted not every abortion is done because the parents want to shirk their responsibility.  But it is about time that we get the real issue on the table, how do we view sex?

Therefore, we will never make progress in the abortion debate until we get to the root issue and discuss how we understand sex.   If we have some people in the nation who believe it is their right to have sex while there are others who believe sex is something given by the creator to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage between a man and woman, it is possible that there will never be a resolution that satisfies everyone. But the issue is never going to leave our political debates until we finally discuss why some people want the right to have an abortion.

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