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David Quinn: Commitment, not pill, is the answer


Where Boots leads, others will follow. The chain of chemists announced this week that it will sell the morning-after pill over the counter without the need for a doctor's prescription.

There are two ways of looking at this development. The first sees it as one more step on the road to becoming a more liberal society where people can access whatever they want without the State looking over their shoulder.

The second wonders how we ever got to a point where there is such demand for a product like this.

The two views aren't necessarily incompatible. For example, you could take the view that drugs should be legalised while at the same time deploring demand for them.

Likewise, you could favour a law permitting abortion while hoping there is as little demand for it as possible.

Unfortunately, it is increasingly impossible to have a rational debate about this issue. For reasons of sado-masochism I have a Twitter account (@DavQuinn). Politically-speaking, Twitter in Ireland is a secular/left sea and therefore a lot of people who follow me on it hate everything I stand for.

The other day I tweeted that the Boots' decision could be seen as an indictment of the sex revolution. I received some charming responses.

I was condemned as a "c**t" and a "f***ker". I was told I clearly wasn't getting enough sex and that I need to, how shall we put this, pleasure myself more. More mildly, I was condemned for my "medieval" views.

But truly the 1980s has been reversed. Back then the ranters were mainly on the pro-life side. Today, they're mostly on the pro-choice side, but with a hell of a lot more bad language.

The merest suggestion that there might be something wrong with the sexual revolution seems to hit a nerve with a lot of people causing them to lose all connection with their rational faculties.

Let's try and consider the issue rationally anyway. Let's start by leaving to one side arguments for and against legalising the morning-after pill.

Let's also leave aside the fact that it can be an abortifacient, which is a complicating factor as it means the pill is no ordinary contraceptive.

Let's consider merely the factors that create and drive up demand for the morning-after pill. Superficially, the demand for the pill is created by unprotected sex. Therefore: promote more condom use.

But if this was the answer we'd be home and dry because we've been promoting condom use for years.

The category most likely to show up at a family planning clinic on a Monday morning looking for their morning-after pill are young, single women who were out on the tear over the weekend.

Family planning agencies confirm that demand goes up after bank holiday weekends. Does anyone imagine for an instant that it is mainly married women or women in other types of committed relationships who are driving up the demand?

It is overwhelmingly young, single women who have abortions. In the US, unmarried women account for around 85pc of terminations. What goes for abortion certainly goes for the morning-after pill as well.

So if you want to reduce demand both for abortion and the morning-after pill -- encourage committed relationships.

Are we doing that? Not on your life. We think the peak and summit of sexual responsibility is condom use and so that is all we encourage. The reason we don't encourage commitment before sex (let alone marriage) is because we don't want to appear judgmental.

This is probably what was really driving my pals on Twitter bananas, the suspicion that behind any concern or worries about demand for the morning-after pill is moralism.

Therefore, rather than run the risk of appearing to be 'moralistic' we do nothing other than promote condoms to reduce demand. This doesn't cut to the heart of the problem at all.

The dogma of anti-moralism is actually harming women because no woman can really believe it is an ideal thing to have to resort either to the morning-after pill or worse, to an abortion.

Think about this for a moment. Would you rather live in a society, or have your daughter live in a society, where there was little or no demand for the morning-after pill, or one where demand was high?

Any sane person would opt for a society in which there is little or no demand. Demand can only be high where there is a high level of self-defeating, self-destructive behaviour.

So please, can we put aside our moralistic anti-moralism for a moment and realise that reducing demand for this pill can only be a good thing, and that the best way to do this, is to encourage commitment.

Finally, I hope you've noted that no actual moral judgment was made in the writing of this article, only practical ones. So the anti-moralisers can relax.

Irish Independent