MINOT, N.D. — Earlier this month, I wrote a column urging social conservatives to drop opposition to initiatives such as NDSU's "Junk Mail" program.

That program will send condoms to students, along with other useful sexual accouterments such as lube and dental dams.

My argument is that better information about sex, and better access to birth control, can drive down the rate of unwanted pregnancies (not to mention help prevent the communication of sexually-transmitted diseases).

Fewer unwanted pregnancies mean fewer abortions.

An outcome social conservatives should want.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

They do want that, it seems, but some only want it on their terms.

That column has received a lot of feedback since it was published, including this recent piece by my fellow columnist Roxane Salonen, who argues that sex should happen only in marriage and only for procreation.

"What if, instead of throwing condoms and pills at young people, we reaffirmed the primary reason for sexual intimacy – to bear children?" she asks.

That position on sex is a significant part of many religious doctrines. Still, in practice, it is far from a majority point of view in America today, and I'm not sure you could argue that it's been a majority point of view at any point in at least the last century.

Most people, indeed most Americans, do not choose to live their life that way. Some might attribute it to modern cultural decadence, what with all the internet porn and stuff, but premarital sex has been the norm for a long time.

A study published by the National Institutes of Health found that in 2002, nearly two decades ago now, some 77 percent of Americans had sex by age 20, with 75 percent saying it was premarital sex.

By age 40, about 95 percent of participants in the study said they had premarital sex.

Even among those who abstained from sex until age 20, about 81% had premarital sex by age 44.

The story is about the same with older generations, too. "Among those turning 15 between 1954 and 1963, 82% had had premarital sex by age 30, and 88% had done so by age 44," the study found.

That's our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents talking.

"Almost all Americans have sex before marrying," the researchers wrote, unambiguously, in their conclusion.

Moralists often like to harken back to some golden age of purer public behavior, contrasting this era they've conjured unfavorably with modern mores.

The reality is those golden ages are usually more wishful thinking than reality. That's certainly the case with premarital sex.

Because that's true, why not promote safe and responsible sex practices to help stop the spread of disease and prevent unplanned pregnancies, which often end in abortion?

Maybe one day Salonen and others who believe as she does will be successful in persuading more Americans to live in line with their spiritual doctrines - no sex except for procreation during a marriage - but until that happens, why not encourage people to live the sexual lifestyles they do want responsibly?

Just about everybody in our society, whatever their position on the legality of it, opposes abortion. This is to say that even if you think abortion should be a legal option, you likely prefer it not be necessary because the unwanted pregnancy didn't happen in the first place.

The various, and always-improving, methods of birth control available to us can help us reach a future where abortions are unnecessary.

What's troubling is that some of the most ardent opponents of abortion in our society, people like Salonen, are opposing public health initiatives, which are almost certainly our most potent tool when it comes to lowering the number of abortions.

If they could set aside their dogmas, they might get more of an outcome they want.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.