a bird and a bottle

Point/Counterpoint at the Columbia Spectator

The Columbia Spectator’s got what it calls point/counterpoint — an Op-Ed column debate between Feminist For Life head Serrin Foster and reproductive rights activist and author Cristina Page.

Feminists for Life’s new campaign is called “Women Deserve Better.” The end of that sentence is …than abortion. For FFL, what is better for young women (particularly college aged women) than abortion is to become a mother. And not only does FFL think that the government and private universities should provide more support for teenage and college-aged women who do become mothers (with which i can agree), they also think that, once this support is there, abortion should be illegal. And this is supposed to be better? What’s more, Serrin writes that from the lack of pregnant women on college campuses, she can surmise that, just as before Roe, women are still choosing between “their education and their children.” How is this statement ridiculous? Let me count the ways: (1) it calls fetuses children; (2) it assumes away birth control, which is often accessible on elite college campuses and which largely accounts for the dearth of pregnant college students; (3) wasn’t it Roe that enabled women to choose between education and motherhood, at least for that moment?. I could go on. But it’s getting late for this early bird.

Page tears Foster’s arguments apart. She writes:

What Serrin Foster will not be advertising during her campus visit is that Feminists for Life is opposed to contraception. On this point, her organization and the rest of the pro-life movement is unified: most pro-life groups in the United States are anti-contraception.

Instead, anti-abortion groups wage intense and frighteningly successful campaigns to keep Americans from accessing contraception. When pharmacists refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, the pro-life movement moves aggressively, and legislatively, to welcome these as acts of “conscience.” Over the past decade, pro-choice groups have tried to get contraception covered by health insurers. Right to Life chapters throughout the country fought against these bills. Year after year the Pro-Life Caucus of Congress defeats federal legislation to require health insurers to pay for birth control.

Yep. That pretty much sums up what FFL is about – and puts Foster’s “children vs. education” statement and entire column into context. Because if abortion is illegal and birth control too goes the way of the dodo, we’ll really need that childcare on college campuses. But women won’t be able to choose whether or not to take advantage of it.

(via d)

10 Comments so far
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More question than comment: Would there be any benefit in re-framing the debate in economic terms? In other words, the incremental cost of Foster’s agenda on the national health care system? Contraception versus maternity and childcare? Instinct informs me that the public is more responsive to economic impact than religious fervor.

Comment by Swampcracker

Good question. There might be some benefit in terms of public opinion (Americans do love to save a penny or two). But I am not sure that it would be a good idea as related to broader policy goals. The reason is: it shouldn’t be contraception OR childcare. It should be contraception AND childcare; it is only when we have real access to both options that either will really be a choice.

Comment by bean

Understood. Actually my reference to “contraception versus maternity and childcare” was for purposes of incremental cost analysis. To infer a policy option was unintentional. Oppression in human terms exacts a price in economic terms, and I was just wondering if this were a useful thread.

Comment by Swampcracker

Ah, gotcha. I don’t know the numbers, but my intuition reflects yours — that contraception is probably significantly less expensive than childcare.

Comment by bean

Would there be any benefit in re-framing the debate in economic terms?

At the individual level, there is. A Federalist asked me why so many economically conservative/socially liberal women refuse to join the Republican party. I showed him my CBA, and said “My conservative estimates suggest that my reproductive rights to my body are worth 15 million. If I make partner at the V10 firm I’m starting at, my opportunity cost for parenting will be in the 30 million ballpark. How on earth could a few Republican tax cuts come close to that?” His mouth literally fell open and he walked away.

Of course, that only really works if you’re a law student at an elite law school and/or if your parents are successful entrepreneurs.

Comment by M.

I don’t think abortions reduce fertility by that much. What they do is delay it, so that instead of giving birth involuntarily at 17 and then at 20, a woman might give birth voluntarily at 30 and then at 33. That, and unwanted children tend to suffer from all sorts of social maladies that make them likelier to be a net drain on society rather than a net gain.

It’s especially good with people who complain that giving immigrants rights is uneconomic or that welfare is costing too much money. “Abortion gets rid of people who in 20 years will be drawing welfare checks” isn’t the sort of thing you should ever say in public, but when you’re in a rabid libertarian/conservative forum, it’s worth a shot.

Comment by Alon Levy

” “Abortion gets rid of people who in 20 years will be drawing welfare checks” isn’t the sort of thing you should ever say in public, but when you’re in a rabid libertarian/conservative forum, it’s worth a shot.”

Very dangerous argument, Alon. Can easily add fuel to or be used by anyone in the “prejudice-of-the-month” club. Not “worth a shot” at all if this were to become an unintended consequence. The idea is hereby withdrawn.

Comment by Swampcracker

Even some who are not rabid libertarians have used that line — read Freakonomics (the authors are not right wingers as far as I know. They do write for the NY Times after all). It’s work like Freakonomics, which though of dubious academic value (or because of it) was incredibly popular, that make me think the economic arguments hold sway. That said, I agree with Alon that maybe we don’t want to open the door to the types of statements he and Swampcracker both cite.

Comment by bean

It’s work like Freakonomics, which though of dubious academic value (or because of it)

You don’t make tenure in the Econ department at University of Chicago and win the Clark medal because you produce work of “dubious academic value.”

Like it or not, so far his claims have withheld scrutiny.

Comment by M.

I didn’t mean to impugn the research – simply the way it’s presented in the book without any footnotes or demonstration of the parameters of the study.

Comment by bean

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