Let's be frank about teen sex and abortion.
Last week, Keenan went much further. "In a perfect world, no teenager would be having sex," she declared. "We all know there isn't a 15-year-old alive who is ready emotionally, physically, spiritually, or financially to live with the consequences. We absolutely need to teach our children that they should abstain from having sex too early."
That's the kind of language that makes people wake up and listen. It's not an endorsement of some oafish law. It's a call for social action toward a moral ideal of zero.
Leaders who have graduated from the movement recognize that this kind of candor has to apply to abortion as well. In today's Los Angeles Times, Kate Michelman and Frances Kissling, the former presidents of NARAL and Catholics for a Free Choice, write, "The specter of women forced into back alleys as a result of a one-time 'mistake' has been replaced with hard questions about why women get pregnant when they don't want to have babies." They conclude, "Our vigorous defense of the right to choose needs to be accompanied by greater openness regarding the real conflict between life and choice, between rights and responsibility."
Abortion and sex are different in many ways. But both are private, complex, and poorly suited to restrictive legislation. That doesn't stop pro-choice leaders from speaking the truth about teen sex. It shouldn't stop them from speaking the truth about abortion, either.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Pro-Choice America's president Nancy Keenan by Alex Wong/Getty Images.