Wednesday, October 27, 2010

40 Days, and some ideas

40 Days for Life is almost at an end for this year--it has been amazing to read the official blog and learn about all the good that has been done and that continues to be done by these dedicated volunteers.

I've never been one of those people who thinks that changing people's hearts on abortion is somehow at odds with changing the laws; I think that both should be changed. But I also recognize that changing the laws is a long way away.

With that in mind, what are some things that could be done right now, both legislatively and otherwise, that would cause more women to choose life? I want to get the conversational ball rolling by throwing out a few suggestions, which may or may not be practicable or even possible (and I apologize for not delving deeper, here; I've been battling a migraine all day, and the migraine is winning, so I'm not able to do any heavy-duty blogging tonight).

So, bearing in mind the above, here are a few suggestions. Please add more if you like, or tell me which ones you think would/would not work and why in the combox:
  • Offer an income tax credit of five thousand dollars (or more, etc.) to any woman (married or single) who has had a baby in the previous year; this would be above and beyond any child tax credit(s).
  • Offer an income tax credit of (about) a thousand dollars per year for eighteen years to any woman who has placed a child for adoption.
  • Offer a three-year (again, approximately) student loan deferment to any woman who has a baby while attending college.
  • Establish a college scholarship fund for single women who have placed a child for adoption.
Any more ideas? Let's hear 'em!


The Sicilian said...

Erin, I like your ideas, but I'm thinking there could be some negative aspect to idea #1. I am finding it difficult to pinpoint in words, but I will try.

I do not want to see anything give women incentive to become pregnant out of wedlock. I work for a university. We have an enormous amount of single women who have at least one child out of wedlock before they're 20, often more than one. It's almost a cultural thing here, not so much that the pregnancies are a surprise. It's part of a cycle that repeats itself; you have more at-risk children with each cycle. These women are already on government assistance in one form or another - welfare and/or free (or mostly free) tuition in financial aid. I can imagine that at least idea #1 could encourage this phenomena more so.

John said...

I like all four of the proposals you have made, Erin, and I would suggest a few more. I cannot claim expertise in child welfare policies, so these will be fairly vague proposals, but here goes:

1) Regulations that require employers to provide some kind of generous maternity leave policy; provisions for working from home/telecommuting would also be good.

2) In cases where maternity leave or telecommuting are inadequate, I think some kind of expanded, high-quality daycare system is needed. I realize that having strangers, rather than parents, care for children is far from ideal. Nevertheless, if both parents are not involved in a child's life or the parents cannot support a child on only one income, something like a safe, reliable daycare system is necessary.

3) The adoption/foster care system ought to be reformed to cut down dramatically on abuse or neglect of children in it. This will make adoption a far more appealing alternative to abortion than it is currently.

Perhaps these are pipe-dreams, but I think they are probably necessary in order to support both women and their children, born and unborn. These kinds of measures would also have the advantage that many pro-choicers would be willing to join with pro-lifers in pursuing them.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I support Erin's point 3 and 4, and all of John's proposals. I share Sicilian's doubts about 1 and 2.

I wish you all the best on winning hearts and minds, and will always oppose you on changing the constitutional protection that it is ultimately a choice for the woman concerned to make, not The State.

(As previously stated, I support the recent proposal in Nebraska to shift the boundary as to when the state may intervene).

Deirdre Mundy said...

I know anecdotes aren't data, BUT in my experience the women who have had or seriously considered abortions didn't do it because they were a couple thousand short or thinking about student loans.

Instead, it was usually that they didn't want to lose their boyfriend/fiance/husband. And the guy pulled the whole "It's your choice.... but it's either me or the baby" thing.

All the tax credits in the world won't make up for the fact that some guys are evil jerks.

So... what then? Well, we need to start earlier... LONG BEFORE the girls are at the "abortion or Boyfriend?" stage.

Which rules out government intervention-- the government can't mandate good relationships with their dads, realistic approaches to dating and marriage, or a sacramental understanding of family life.

We need to work towards a world where babies are no longer "just a woman's problem" but a COUPLE'S RESPONSIBILITY.

Tax credits alone won't do that...we need to change the culture--reconvert it...

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Wise words Deirdre.

I could say that any man who would treat a pregnant woman like that (especially when he played a critical part in the pregnancy) is a jerk she would be well off without. But then, I've never been a woman, and experience suggests women DO listen to such jerks.

I don't want to go back to throwing people in prison for adultery, or even fornication, but I would like to see a culture which could say, and inspire people to, the understanding that just because you won't go to jail doesn't relieve one of exercising sound judgement. The fewer pregnancies by narcissistic jerks who won't take responsibility for the pregnancy the better.

Edward said...

If I understand number 2 correctly, I'm rather afraid it would end up with women effectively "selling" their children -- probably in many cases because their boyfriends or husbands would pressure them into doing so.

Red Cardigan said...

Ed, you're probably right. Of course, right now those same women are being pressured into killing their while I agree we have to stay far, far away from child trafficking, I wonder whether from the child's perspective the results of the second idea would really be worse than death.

John said...

First of all, let me say: Hi, Deirdre! This is John Whitehead posting; good to talk to you (and I hope to speak to you in person in the next few days).

Regarding the reasons women opt to have abortion or consider having abortions, I do not doubt that pressure from their boyfriends or husbands does indeed play a role in some cases--perhaps many cases. Government intervention might well not be terribly useful in countering these kinds of situations.

However, I very much doubt that pressure from partners is the whole story. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's research arm, 75 percent of women identify their reasons for having abortions as i) not being able to afford a child or ii) interference with their work, schooling, or ability to care for other dependents. These figures, together with the statistic that some 69% of women who have abortions live at 199% or below of the federal poverty line, strongly suggest that economic constraints are a major factor.

Now, the Guttmacher Institute also states that 75% of women also cite as reasons for having abortions "concern for or responsibility to other individuals," which might refer, in some cases, to concern over what their partners think. Also, some identified percentage (apparently under 50%) of women explicitly identify problems with their husband or partner as the reason for abortion. [See
html for all this info.]

What this suggests to me is that both factors, economic pressures and pressure from partners, play a role. Both government action and transforming the culture have a role to play in this situation. That is my guess, at any rate.

Siarlys -- Glad to hear you like my proposed policies--now if I could only flesh them out into something more than vague ideas, they might be practically useful!

Deirdre Mundy said...

Hey John! Funny meeting you around here! :) Yes, give us a call sometime! We need to catch up!

Hmm... I think your #3 proposal (reform of adoption/foster) may actually be the biggest help. So that people in the 'can't afford another child' camp won't have to fear a 'fate worse than death'

As for reliable childcare, I think a BIG problem is that the childcare credits can only be used for a very limited range of day cares. They should be expanded so that "Grandma care" or "neighbor watching kids" is also acceptable.

I'm still skeptical that one-time tax credits would push people from 'can't afford this child' to 'can afford this child!' After all, children aren't really a one-time expense, and they seem to get MORE expensive as they grow.

Also, I wonder if we may be on the downward slope of abortion demand anyway-- Most children alive today have, in their family album, a picture of their first ultrasound at 10 or 12 weeks.

So, any ultrasound is going to be a reminder that THEY were once that small....

By the time my kids are of child-bearing age, prenatal surgery will be the norm, and preemies may survive at even younger ages.

In the end, I don't think economics are the issue--after all, people have been 'unable to afford a baby' throughout human history. Heck, when you get down to the numbers, NOONE can afford a baby!

What our society has lost is the idea that 'inconvenience' is an unacceptable justification for the elimination of another human being.

And I'll continue this train of thought later, after I discipline an inconvenient 3 year old for attacking a sleeping baby!

eulogos said...

I wouldn't listen to what the Guttmacher Institute says about much of anything. And the relationship of what women say about the reasons they have abortions bears a very tenuous relationship to the actual reasons. In my opinion and experience, including of myself.

It seems sort of cruel to me to offer so much to women to give up their babies. It is like asking poor people to sell their babies to rich people. I am sure it would feel that way to women who don't really want to give up their babies.

However I would support increasing the tax benefits of marriage. I would support day care in the college setting. I would support something like Mom's House, which is free day care for single parents who are full time students and which includes a service requirement for the parent, required educational programs, requires that grades and attendance be submitted to the program, and offers tutoring.

I suppose we have to offer good day care insofar as that is possible, to single parents who need to work to support themselves and their other children.

Anything we do to help single women who have children is something which decreases the cost of having a child as a single mother, and thus decreases the barriers to single motherhood. When a woman was shamed for this, when she and her child might starve if the father did not support them, this was a great incentive not to get oneself in this position. Many fewer women wound up in this position, but some did. Some of them had illegal abortions, some managed to get by, especially if they had a mother at home to watch the baby while they worked.

I don't know what the answer is, if there is any way to disincentivize single motherhood without being punitive to single mothers.

If you support single mothers too well in order to disincentivize abortion, you are also disincentivizing marriage.

I don't really know the answer to this.
Susan Peterson

Deirdre Mundy said...

Susan-- So, if we can't trust Guttmacher, and we can't trust what women say their reasons are at the time, what, in your opinion, ARE the reasons?

Or is the problem that each abortion is an individual act, and that there ARE no sweeping solutions to the 'choice,' that both sides can agree on? (Since, obviously, banning abortion would be a solution, BUT the political will seems...lacking.)

Anyway, I guess my question is, what DOES motivate a woman to choose abortion? Can we know, if Guttmacher and self-reporting are both unreliable?

Or is the problem that the women themselves don't know, because, unless you're coming from a Christian background, people don't recognize things like original sin and demonic temptation.

And in that case, isn't it mildly insane to try to come up with public policy solutions to what are essentially problems of sin and temptation?

Which just brings us back again to the prayer/fasting/40 days for life thing.....

Charlotte said...

I don't think any woman is going to go through with an unwanted pregnancy for a mere $1000 tax credit. The cost of the pregnancy alone, in terms of medical care, proper nutrition, maternity clothing and other needed items, and then the birth itself, far exceeds $1000.

To those of us who are pro-adoption, the $1000 tax credit sounds great. However, many of single women in these situations of an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy don't pay taxes anyway, given their (usually) younger ages and station in life (high school/college student, part-time employment, on welfare anyway or already, etc.)

Also, I'm not so sure that adoption is the panacea that pro-lifers make it out to be anymore. Yeah, an adopted child is better than a dead one, and obviously, basic morality and Christian teaching will always (must) tip the scales in favor of adoption. (For the record, I am adopted.)

However, there is mounting, growing evidence that children who have been adopted have all kinds of problems we never thought before. I used to shun this kind of talk as total nonsense (I have been VERY pro-adoption all of my life) until I started reading more and more about it and recognized for myself that so much of it rings very, very true.

Well, anyway, the point is that $1000 looks like alot on paper, but to a single pregnant woman, she needs that money in her hands, not on a tax return form. And if she did have that money in her hands, she might decide to keep the child, rather than put it up for adoption.

John said...

A few random thoughts:

Scanning through the comments above, the proposals that seem to elicit the most agreement are

a) a reformed adoption system (this is not in any way to ignore Charlotte's comments on how adoption is far from ideal, but it is, at the very least, preferable to abortion); and

b) some kind of improved daycare system (with perhaps the kind of flexibility Deirdre mentions that allows "Grandma care" or "neighbor watching kids" to be credited).

Maybe these offer some first steps toward improving life for pregnant women and their children in this country?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

John, one point where I think we need to go deeper is arranging economic and social life to make room for parents to spend time with children. My first cousin, a librarian most of her life, the daughter of an Irish Roman Catholic and a Presbyterian who has become comfortably Episcopalian, comments often that our society simply doesn't value children.

Ideally (ideal situations always take excessive social engineering to achieve rapidly, which has its own problems), young men and women should be able to marry during their healthiest child-bearing years, while working 20-30 hours per week each, and/or pursuing higher education, entering the peak years of career responsibilities about the time their children are entering their early 20s.

How close can we come? It worries me when economists talk about how "underutilized" the female population is in the economies of developing nations. I don't advocate that women should be shut up at home with the kids, but economic productivity is not the ultimate purpose of women OR men.