Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Let Them Eat Birth Control Pills

"Could we just have some birth control down here?" sniffed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's enormously wealthy and enormously tone-deaf schools chancellor in 2011 after touring an overcrowded building in one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods. Cathie Black was also so enormously unqualified for her job that Bloomberg was forced to assign another person to do her actual job for her. Unlike the oligarchs and family members in Trump's administration, however, she only lasted a couple of months before her mayoral pal reluctantly threw her under the proverbial limousine.

Especially with Donald Trump and the Republicans in power, it's getting increasingly hard out there for the good rich to get America's increasing numbers of poor women to stop breeding poor children - for whom both the good rich and the bad rich have been slashing food assistance, housing aid, subsidized child care, cash grants,  and other safety net programs over the past four decades.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof gives it another concern-trolling try anyway in his latest column about how "Americans" are letting mothers die at a greater rate than in all other civilized countries.  To find out why "we" are letting this happen, he parachuted down to Houston to hang out with the president-elect of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists..
My day with Dr. Hollier underscored that there’s one very simple and inexpensive starting point: Help women and girls avoid pregnancies they don’t want. “You can’t die from a pregnancy when you’re not pregnant,” Dr. Hollier noted.
Almost half of pregnancies in America are unintended. And almost one-third of American girls will become pregnant as teenagers. (Meanwhile, President Trump slashed $213 million in funding for teenage pregnancy prevention programs.)
The underlying message of Kristof's piece is that if you are poor and pregnant, you have done something wrong. You either got pregnant out of your own carelessness or laziness, or you got pregnant because Donald Trump cut off your birth control. Nowhere in his piece does he highlight an underpaid mother who gives birth to a planned, loved and much-wanted child.

 He does describe one Latina woman who went off the pill for just a few months as now "bulging" with a full-term pregnancy.

Because he chose Texas, maternal death capital of the nation, he naturally highlights his column with another high-risk mother with a Spanish surname who has already undergone three C-sections. Cue the xenophobic outrage, cue the Kristoffian scolding. We've got to keep those culture wars alive!
 Some of you readers are thinking this is outrageous irresponsibility. But we should also look at society’s irresponsibility in failing to help all women and girls get access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs.
Kristof has just given cover to the actual policy-makers of our de facto oligarchy. Aside from the eminently detestable Trump and his cabal of dour misogynists, the names have been changed to protect the guilty. From "we" and "America" he shields all the other power players behind the anodyne "society." Kristof just cannot or will not admit that the rich political donor class running the place are loath to part with even a small part of their wealth to help take care of the less fortunate. And those less fortunate include every man, woman and child whose well-being plummeted even as the top One Percent scraped up 94% of all the wealth recovered since the 2008 economic collapse.

Kristof is pulling another Cathie Black. In essence, he writes that policy-makers should address the shameful maternal mortality rates in this country, not by protecting mothers and children throughout their lives, but by actually reducing the motherhood rate itself.

Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell  (Phillips-Andover Prep/Princeton Legacy) puts it even more bluntly. Notice all the neoliberal buzzwords in just this one little paragraph:
But giving low-income women more control over their own fertility also promotes economic security, educational attainment, income mobility and more stable environments for American children. Not to mention deficit reduction (two-thirds of unplanned births are paid for by public insurance programs, which is why government spending on family planning has a high return on investment ); and abortion reduction (40 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion).
  There's a name for this: Eugenics-Lite. True, it's a lot more nuanced and politically correct now than it was in the original movement's heyday in the 20s and 30s, when the poor, minorities and the "feeble-minded" were often sterilized against their will. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, herself had a love-hate relationship with the eugenics movement. To its credit, Planned Parenthood does not sugarcoat her history, even going so far as to condemn a speech she once gave to the Ku Klux Klan.

Although women are rarely sterilized against their will, it does still happen to incarcerated women, and was an especially widespread egregious practice in California prisons until quite recently.

Women lucky enough not to be in jail for the crime of being poor or addicted or indebted are urged instead to get with the program of "investing" in long-term contraceptives, the better for our betters to "empower" us. They proudly point to their own special selves as inspirations, for having had the good sense to make financial sacrifices, to control themselves and delay having their own children until they were very firmly established in their careers. Best of all, they carefully chose partners who are as intelligent and as well educated as they are. (For more on this philosophy, see my post, Pity the Poor Upper Middle Class).

In other words, if you're working your butt off at $9 an hour in front of a Walmart cash register, don't count on ever getting financially secure enough to become a mother. Even the "controversial" bill proffered by the most liberal Democrats for a $15 dollar minimum wage is not nearly enough for one person to live on, let alone a mom and child.

Today's liberal class is telling underemployed and underpaid women that they can feel safe and prosperous simply by getting an IUD inserted into their wombs. This is as insulting in its own smarmy way as sadistic Republicans telling us that we have no choices and no right to any medical care at all.

Here is my published response to Nicholas Kristof's column:

Nobody is more hateful or dangerous to women than a man worried about his own virility. Thus does Donald Trump anxiously monitor his testosterone levels at the same time he goes about demeaning women in a hundred different ways.

There's a big fat Texas redneck just beneath that Rogaine-enhanced New York comb-over. Why else pick a doofus like Rick Perry as energy secretary? Low-T anxiety, that's why. Don't mess with Trump and his ilk, ladies, or they'll find more ways to mess with you than cutting off your birth control.

The only part of the human life-span they care about is the nine months we spend in the womb. After that, it's hasta la vista to the Have-Nots.

Meanwhile, Kristof's antidote is unnecessarily weak. Rather than increased "access" to contraception and prenatal care, what we really need is Medicare for All, or single-payer health care. Sadistic states like Texas would then be helpless to turn back the clock, given that fully 100% of the population would be contributing beneficiaries.

Despite having some of the highest maternal (and infant) mortality rates in the "civilized" world, the US also has the highest per capita medical costs. The mortality rate is also rising for middle-aged women, while general life expectancy for Have-Nots who reach the age of 60 is less than it used to be.

Being pro-life must also include improved housing policy, living wage /guaranteed income, subsidized child care, enhanced food assistance, strong public education, and an end to our destructive wars.


Jay–Ottawa said...

As is often said, unwanted pregnancies––and so many other, larger problems, like the unfair treatment of women generally, placing doctors beyond reach and increasing incarceration rates––are a byproduct of poverty and ignorance. Most of the lucky people with money and know-how flee from the unlucky when simple justice and a sense of compassion ought to make them allies.

It is in society's interests to redistribute the available wealth now being channeled to the superrich in their luxury and to the Pentagon with its fiendish tools of destruction. Unfortunately, good work with steady pay, schools that educate to maximum potential and the rescue of the Commons all work against what seems to be the elite's grand plan, which is to drag humanity into feudalism while backing into the Sixth Extinction.

Elizabeth -- Marysville said...

Lifting (and altering) Catherine Rampell's words from your post...

"But giving high-income men more control over women's bodies also promotes economic instability for women, educational hurdles, downward income mobility, and more stable environments for American oligarchy to pillage the planet.

How many births do we have to prevent to pay for one bomb? How dare the hoi polloi take money out of our starving slush funds!"

David Andersn said...

The planet can only support two billion !