I’m still not sure who I’ll vote for in the Republican primary, and with Super Tuesday less than a week away, I don’t have much time to make my decision. However, it’s been very instructive to see how scared of Santorum the Left and media are. How else to explain their gross distortion of what he has been saying? (Well, I’m trying not to insult their intelligence, but that’s always a possibility, too.)
Santorum has said that contraception has been harmful to women, and to society in general, because of the changes it made to our society. James Taranto cites the facts and figures, and scholarly support, for Santorum’s claims.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the pill for contraceptive use in 1960. Over the next half-century, the marriage rate declined and the illegitimacy rate skyrocketed, Charles Murray notes in a recent Wall Street Journal essay adapted from his new book:
In 1960, extremely high proportions of whites in both Belmont [Murray’s metaphor for the upper middle class] and Fishtown [the working class] were married—94% in Belmont and 84% in Fishtown. In the 1970s, those percentages declined about equally in both places. Then came the great divergence. In Belmont, marriage stabilized during the mid-1980s, standing at 83% in 2010. In Fishtown, however, marriage continued to slide; as of 2010, a minority (just 48%) were married. The gap in marriage between Belmont and Fishtown grew to 35 percentage points, from just 10. . . .
In 1960, just 2% of all white births were nonmarital. When we first started recording the education level of mothers in 1970, 6% of births to white women with no more than a high-school education—women, that is, with a Fishtown education–were out of wedlock. By 2008, 44% were nonmarital. Among the college-educated women of Belmont, less than 6% of all births were out of wedlock as of 2008, up from 1% in 1970.
The same trends have been noted among blacks, although they started earlier and are more severe. Of course it would be a fallacy (post hoc ergo propter hoc, for those keeping score at home) to declare Santorum’s argument proven on the basis of these facts. But they do demonstrate that the argument is not inconsistent with the facts.
The usual criticism we’ve heard is that it is absurd to suggest a causal link between birth-control advances and illegitimacy because, after all, birth control prevents pregnancy, and giving birth out of wedlock entails pregnancy. By that logic, though, illegitimacy rates should have remained low, or even declined further, after the inception of the pill. The Santorum argument may be counterintuitive, but the counterargument flies in the face of the facts.
But Santorum’s argument is not really all that counterintuitive. It posits that the availability of birth control changed the culture in ways that encouraged illegitimacy. There is scholarly support for this hypothesis, in the form of a 1996 study in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, which served as the basis for a brief written by George Akerlof and Janet Yellen and published by the centrist-liberal Brookings Institution:
Santorum has come under particular attack for saying that contraception is "harmful to women." It may reasonably be said that this is an overgeneralization: There are many women for whom birth control has not been harmful–those who don’t want children, who prioritize career over family, or who have been able to find husbands in the post-sexual-revolution mate market. Still, Akerlof and Yellin make a compelling case that birth control has been harmful to many other women, and it is not implausible to think, as Santorum does, that it has been harmful to women on balance.
Instead of discussing whether or not Santorum’s conclusion follows from the advent of the pill, mostly what we get is feminist sloganeering about government wanting to take away womens’ right to their bodies or similar tirades that just don’t address what he said and miss the point entirely. They scream about their rights but won’t address the other issues that Santorum is trying to focus on; illegitimacy, children having babies, and the explosion of the welfare state because of it. Even the huge increase in abortions, which, you would have thought, would have gone down with the pill. This hurts, not just women, but society in general.
No, instead, his detractors try to make it all about themselves. The narcissism of the Left is truly breathtaking.