Via Kevin Drum comes an observation by Mort Kondracke, about . . . well, I’ll let Kevin explain:
Mort Kondracke, writing today about abortion and contraception, says that
there’s ground for suspicion that some religious conservatives are as much about punishing illicit sexual activity as they are about saving "life."
Indeed there is. But Ramesh Ponnuru says Kondracke is nuts:
It’s the bit about sex where he makes no sense at all. If punishing illicit sexual activity were the point, why would these religious conservatives care about embryonic stem-cell research at all? We’re not talking about embryos created the old-fashioned way.
Exactly. And guess what? It turns out that embryos created in vitro and then discarded — as most of them are — cause no heartburn for religious conservatives. But if those embryos are genuine human lives, shouldn’t the Christian right be picketing outside IVF clinics the same way they picket outside abortion clinics?
In fact, even stem cells themselves help make Mondracke’s case. Religious conservatives are universally opposed to abortion, but stem cells are divisive even within the pro-life ranks, a division that’s only growing with time. This is why George Bush had to fudge his original stem cell decision in 2001 and it’s why Bill Frist decided to come out in favor of expanded stem cell research last week. If the embryo debate were really only about "life," opposition to stem cells among religious conservatives would be as monolithic as opposition to abortion.
So yes: illicit sexual activity is at the core of the abortion debate, and it’s at the core of a lot of other conservative hot buttons too.
I think Kevin/Mort are exactly right. The abortion issue seems to upset more social conservatives — and upset them more — than the death penalty (which, contrarily, many social conservatives favor). And you never hear a social conservative complaining about the routine destruction of stem cells as medical waste (why is that, I ask, less tragic than an abortion?).
If the issue is "pro-life", then they would speak just as loudly against these other supposedly life-death issues (not to mention, things like, oh . . war). I am increasingly of the opinion that the real bee in the bonnet for social conservatives is NOT the destruction of life, but the perception (false, in my view) that society is too promiscuous and "dirty".