MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota State University has begun a program — called, rather cheekily, "Junk Mail" — which mails students condoms.
Also things like lubricant and dental dams and information about sexually transmitted diseases.
The program is being funded by a federal grant, and not everyone is happy about it.
"Why is NDSU promoting promiscuity and irresponsibility?" asks the author of one letter to the editor to The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which published a story about the program.
"How can this junk mail program and condom distribution be called anything by morally irresponsible?" he continues.
A better question might be why social conservatives, who are against abortion, can justify opposing programs like this one?
Here's some good news: The abortion rate in the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court opinion declared state laws prohibiting abortion unconstitutional.
In our region, North Dakota saw a 16.8% decline in abortions from 2011 to 2017. Minnesota saw a nearly 6% decline, while South Dakota saw a nearly 20% drop and Montana's decline was over 32%.
How did that happen?
Some might want to credit increasingly restrictive state-level regulations on abortion, of which there has admittedly been a lot. Between 2011 and 2017, "States passed an unprecedented wave of 400 bills imposing restrictions on the procedure, and medical abortions, which involve taking pills rather than undergoing a surgical procedure, became widely available," the Washington Post reported earlier this year.
Yet restrictions on abortion face the same real-world policy problems things like alcohol and illicit drugs and even tobacco face. Which is to say, they're things people want or need, and so if access to them is restricted by the government, there will be a black market.
Abortion bans didn't stop abortion in the days before Roe vs. Wade. Why would we believe that abortion restrictions skirting Roe's proscription on outright bans perform any better?
Much more believable as the primary driver of lower abortion rates is the proliferation of prophylactics.
Which is to say, easier access to birth control options like "the pill" or condoms, not to mention more rigorous sex education and the evaporation of much (though certainly not all) of the social taboos around those things.
Which brings me back to the opposition, from social conservatives, to this program at NDSU.
Giving students better access to things like condoms and information about sex will probably prevent more abortions than any regulation passed by lawmakers, or any conservative judge appointed by President Donald Trump.
My socially conservative friends talk to me all the time about how important the abortion issue is for them. They use words like "murder" and "Holocaust" to describe the practice, and tell me they cannot countenance supporting any candidate or cause which promotes it.
If they truly mean that, why can't they bring themselves to support the promotion of safe sex information and practices which will prevent unwanted pregnancies?
Social conservatives should get behind initiatives promoting better sex education and easier access to the various types of birth control.
By doing so they'll be promoting the most effective tool we have when it comes to prevent abortions.
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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.