Australia is hypersexed, ageing and sterile. Australians are having more sex than ever before, at an earlier age, with more partners, no strings attached. But they are not having children. We have a copulation explosion and a population implosion.
Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that our birthrate has plummeted to 1.73 babies per woman, the lowest on record. That's half the rate it was four decades ago and far below replacement level of 2.1. Principally for this reason our median age - currently 36 years - will rise to 50 in the next few decades. This worries governments and economists, and there are lots of proposals about stemming the tide. Yet there are powerful forces operating for our demographic demise.
"Morning after pill"
To take just one example also in the news in recent months: the "morning after pill" Postinor-2. Oddly, if you want a milder dose of this potent drug (to take as a contraceptive), you still need a prescription: but if you multiply the dose several times, to levels thought risky for some women and deadly for any already-conceived children, you can get it over-the-counter in a pharmacy.
The Health Minister supports a return to requiring medical advice before giving out such potent drugs. He is concerned that girls as young as 13 may get the drug with little or no information or supervision. Doubtless he has seen the Sydney Sun Herald reports that pharmacies cannot or do not provide the expected counselling and that, in at least one case, a cosmetician was dispensing it.
Mr Abbott is not alone in his concerns. In the professional judgment of the Australian Medical Association, the US Federal Drugs Administration and some pharmacists, this drug is unsafe for over-the-counter distribution. Add to this its potential to cause early abortions and there is little wonder many in the community are worried.
Yet as soon as Mr Abbott raised his concerns, various "sexperts" cried foul. At least two cultural factors seem to be involved here.
First, there is the tendency in our society to pharmacologise the whole of human reality, looking to drugs to address quickly and cleanly every human need from grief to obesity, unruly children to ageing. But drugs are no answer to sexual irresponsibility and may only add to a false sense of security about "recreational sex" by promising the backstop of emergency contraception.
Secondly, talk of "emergency" here means new children are being portrayed as intruders, the enemy, something nasty to be warded off at all costs, even with hazardous drugs. For two generations now we have experimented in mass sex education, condom and pill supply, abortion on demand - you name it - and still some babies escape the net. So we'll add one more filter, the morning after pill, as readily available as vitamins.
Instead of being socialised to love our lives, our marriages and our children, we are increasingly being taught by our culture to fear our fertility, to withhold it even from our spouses, to drug-bomb it out of existence. Instead of being encouraged to be generous toward the future, we are rewarded for living only for today. Australia is dying in the process.
Most Rev Dr Anthony Fisher OP is an Auxiliary Catholic Bishop of Sydney