Yes and no to Jonah Goldberg’s point about prying abortion and same-sex marriage from each other in politics, where they’re sometimes lumped together “as if they are almost the same issue.” The “gonadal issues,” Ralph Nader called them dismissively, back when the campaign for same-sex marriage hadn’t yet materialized but the more general notion of gay-friendliness could hardly have been more fashionable.
For decades, pragmatic pro-life advocates have been frustrated by some of the issues that friend and foe alike will attach to abortion. Pro-choice advocates who try to conflate abortion with contraception are joined by pro-lifers who have deep thoughts about the contraceptive mentality. A pro-lifer, I used to shake my head at my teammates for walking into that trap, as I saw it. Narrow and focus the debate, I thought, and we win. Science and the sonogram are on our side. Save your speech about the theology of the body for the church basement.
Lately, though, I’m moving in a direction opposite from the one Jonah is moving in. The sexual revolution is now a tall tree with far-flung branches. The fruit over here, abortion, may be a long walk from the fruit over there, same-sex marriage, but the clearly toxic nature of the former affirms for me my wariness of the latter.
An obvious characteristic that the two issues share is renunciation of the idea that sex is teleological and that the goal is the generation of new life. In much of popular culture, particularly pornography, we celebrate sexual activity that falls short of that goal, and in abortion we have a method for canceling the point after it’s been inadvertently scored. Proponents of conserving the traditional definition of marriage tend to circle around its relation to the rearing of children, and I think they’re correct to do so.
Another thing same-sex marriage has in common with abortion: It’s hard to be against it in certain company. People dear to me have had abortions or facilitated them. We try to avoid the subject, but it’s always in the news and in the air, so eventually we have to face the music. At such times how I wish I were pro-choice. Usually, though not always, the bonds of esteem between my friends and me withstand the stress of our philosophical and political disagreements. On Facebook, a friend who is far to the left on just about every issue you can name has taken to calling me Nino, an allusion to the friendship between Supreme Court justices Ginsburg and Scalia. I call her Ruth.