Of all the euphemisms and half-truths used by abortion advocates, one of the most current is the call to “safe sex”—alternatively, the warning against “unprotected sex.” Of course people using this language are not suggesting abstinence. Rather, they mean that sex must be safe—protected—from the possibility of pregnancy (and, secondarily, the transmission of disease).
“Safe sex” is a powerful euphemism, subtly packing a whole world of meaning into two words. First, there is the implicit assumption that sex is naturally something from which we need protection, rather than a good to be embraced. There are good aspects of sex and not-so-good aspects of sex, so the thinking goes, and the responsible person finds a way to separate the good from the not-so-good. Of course, the means of separation are ready at hand—not only the wide variety of available contraceptives, but also increasingly easy access to them through taxpayer monies.
Apparently, sex divorced from pregnancy is not just good practice, it is also a right. Even the Supreme Court supported abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey because, the majority opinion held, “people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” Our highest court could not have been clearer: Consensual sex, whether in or apart from marriage, is a good that must be defended, preserved, and even promoted.
Secondly, the same-sex euphemism obscures the very real way we do need to be protected in sex. Sex is powerful, because it unites a man and a woman in ways that reach beyond the physical. Which is why sexual relationships that do not endure are so painful, or, as experienced increasingly in our “hook up” culture, deadening. The Scriptures suggest this very thing—sexual sin is sin “against the body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). This does not mean that sexual sin is worse than other sins, but suggests that sex affects us personally and deeply in ways that other sins (e.g., stealing) do not. As it turns out, we do need to be protected from sex. The protection we need, however, is not a condom, but a bright line warning us that sex belongs in marriage—where we can be protected in sex.
The sanctity of sex, by the way, explains why many in the pro-life movement do not see contraception as the answer to abortion, a position nonsensical to supporters of abortion-on-demand. The reasoning is simple, and it goes beyond the fact that contraceptives often fail. Contraception does not just separate sex from its natural end of pregnancy, but also creates a mentality that encourages sex apart from its intended place in marriage. On one level, the solution to abortion cannot be to encourage the act that creates the demand for abortion. But on another level, the solution to abortion cannot be to promote an act that inevitably leads to the harm of those who engage in it—as extramarital sex always does. Even if those engaged in what has been called “the sexual marketplace” choose to deny it, sociological studies have demonstrated the devastating effects of sexual license in individual lives, and in the culture. Millions can bear personal witness to such.
The word “sanctity” comes from the biblical word “holy,” which has to do with God, and with things closely associated with God. One attribute of the holy in the Bible is danger. In the Old Testament, there are holy places that only certain people could enter, and holy objects that only they could handle; holy days were required to be observed under the threat of punishment. These practices were good in and of themselves, but they must be approached in a given way—the Lord’s way—lest the holy be the undoing of the people. In other words, there was a danger associated with holiness. The people needed to be protected.
So it is with sex, for in the end sex has everything to do with God. Hear the words of St. Paul, quoting and then commenting upon Genesis concerning the sexual relationship of man and woman: “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32). Whether or not we realize it, the sexual union of a man and woman is an allusion to the relationship between Christ and the church. In other words, sex is holy. We need to be protected—again, not by the barrier of a condom, but by the boundary of marriage that surrounds a man and a woman and allows them to be naked and unashamed.