Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sex Über Alles

Is there an absolute right to have sex? Planned Parenthood (PP) evidently thinks so. In fact, according to PP the right to sex trumps everything else, including a partner's right to know that she or he is about to be exposed to HIV. Kimberly Elis provides some details about PP's position at The Federalist:
It’s all laid out in International Planned Parenthood Federation’s booklet for HIV-positive youth entitled “Healthy, Happy and Hot.” It says, “Young people living with HIV have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose their HIV status.” It continues: “Sharing your HIV status is called disclosure. Your decision about whether to disclose may change with different people and situations. You have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose your HIV status.”

In other words, Planned Parenthood thinks it’s your human right to risk exposing other people to a potentially deadly disease without telling them.

“Some countries have laws that say people living with HIV must tell their sexual partner(s) about their status before having sex, even if they use condoms or only engage in sexual activity with a low risk of giving HIV to someone else. These laws violate the rights of people living with HIV by forcing them to disclose or face the possibility of criminal charges.”

The pamphlet then gives tips to protect oneself from criminalization, and does say that the best way to protect yourself (which is apparently more important than protecting your partner) is to tell your partner that you are infected before you have sex. This section ends with the statement, “Get involved in advocacy to change laws that violate your rights.” It appears that, according to Planned Parenthood, [the] right to have sex trumps [a] partners’ right to live.
This, I should think, raises an interesting question for secularists: Is PP right or are they wrong? Not just "reckless" or "tasteless" or "inappropriate", but morally wrong in the sense that someone who knowingly exposes a sex partner to AIDS has in fact violated an objective moral duty and justly deserves punishment.

Of course, if there is no divine moral law to which we're accountable then there's no reason why we should not put our own desires ahead of the well-being of others, there's no reason why it would be wrong in any morally meaningful sense to use people as a means to the end of our pleasure, which is essentially what PP is endorsing. They're advocating an egoistic hedonism that really is the ethical default position in a secular world.

If a secularist or atheist thinks it is wrong, though, to withhold what may be life or death information from one's partner, then at least two things follow. First, the secularist is tacitly admitting that there exists a moral authority to whom we are accountable who has proscribed this sort of behavior. Second, the person is admitting that ethical relativism is unworkable and that the notion that in a tolerant society we cannot condemn the behavior of others is arrant nonsense.

So we must decide. Either PP is right that no one should be obligated to disclose to a partner that they're HIV positive, or they're wrong and there is a moral duty to put the welfare of others ahead of one's own gratification. If there is no transcendent moral authority then, of course, PP is right and no one is doing anything immoral, no one is doing anything for which he incurs any sort of moral guilt, by putting one's own interests ahead of the interests of others.

If, however, we conclude that PP is wrong and that a person is morally culpable if he endangers someone's well-being simply for his own selfish purposes, then we are tacitly acknowledging an objective moral code that egoistic behavior violates. But an objective moral code can only exist if there is a transcendent moral authority to promulgate it. In other words, saying that PP is wrong and that people do not have the right to expose a partner to HIV without the partner's knowledge is very close to saying that God, or something very much like God, must exist.