Wednesday, May 10

Culture Wars

I know it's been a long time since I really put any thought into a post, but I've been driven to it by Shae. Her inspiration was an NYT article (which has since expired; I'm slow, sorry), the crux of which was: "A growing number of conservatives see birth control as part of an ailing culture that overemphasizes sex and devalues human life. Is this the beginning of the next culture war?"

I know many of you are familiar with the theory in Freakonomics that the drop in crime at the end of the 1980s was a direct result of Roe v Wade. If you aren't, basically it posited that since women who were least able to care for children were able to terminate their pregnancies (before Roe it was pretty much only wealthy families who had the access and means to [relatively safe] abortion---remember Dirty Dancing?). My personal theory is that, combined with efforts by 2nd wave feminism and a post-Roe, post-Vietnam cultural environment, sex education and contraception became a part of the program. So, if we put more restrictions on all of these things, what do we get?

Shae also links to this WaPost story: Unwanted Pregnancies Rise for Poor Women; Rate Drops for Those Well Above Poverty Level, Report Indicates. Is this the secret to the culture wars above? Well-to-do women have fewer children later in life, while lower class women are forced to abstain if they want to better themselves? Because the chances you're going to start life out economically disadvantaged, get pregnant and have a child at 16, then pull yourself out of it before you're 30 are slim to none. Not only are you going to be beneath the upper middle-class women even when your first child is basically self-sufficient (I'm assuming her/his wages are going into the family expenses)---you're probably going to have more babies by then, cause you still don't have adequate birth control, sex & reproductive health education.

Asked what was driving the trends, the authors noted that some state and federal reproductive health programs have been cut or made more restrictive in recent years. State and federal programs have increasingly focused on abstinence rather than contraception, and some analysts have argued that the shift is leading to less use of contraceptives and more unintended pregnancies.

This article also points out that abortion rates are rising for poor women while dropping in wealthier women. Just goes to show that if you don't tell people their options about birth control, they're still going to have sex---and then are forced to choose between a lifetime of responsibility for a child they didn't plan, or maybe even want, and abortion---which personally sounds horrifying. Your local clinic probably won't be allowed to discuss abortion with you in a few years if we keep going in the same direction we've been headed, the class divide will only increase exponentially as wealthy women can control if, when, and how many kids to have---while the have-nots have more and more children.

Incidentally, the Atlantic has a great article on "Life After Roe" this month, and the feature story is a great peek into what social changes may be precipitated by the USSC overturning the landmark womens' reproductive rights case, just in case that happens. I personally would take a Malcom-X type stance to ensure that it didn't. (Did you hear that, South Dakota? Don't make me fly out there!)


Shae said...

I'll be right there with ya, sistah. Thanks for the shout out. :)

I used to roll my eyes at my Mom's occassional radicalism when it came to women's bodies and their rights. And now now we're fighting the same old fights.

Guess the '70s really have come back into fashion.

Memphis Word Nerd said...

Seventies? This feels more like the Fifties. Scary.

SB, I love this post.