Sunday, November 30, 2008

Abortion Centrism Meets the Birth Dearth

Pro-life centrists see that with the strong Democratic wave in the recent election, there will be no federal ban on abortion. Instead, they are seeking common ground with pro-choice groups to reduce the number of abortions.

The focus of religious groups on both sides is to get more social services to poor pregnant women to help them raise their children. Jacqueline Salmon's Washington Post article notes that poor women are four times more likely to have abortions than middle-class women are. She quotes Alexia Kelly of the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good as concluding that "Clearly, poverty impacts the abortion rate."

I think this gets the causation mostly backwards. Poor women are actually less likely to abort any particular pregnancy than middle-class women are. However, poor women are much more likely to get pregnant than middle-class women are. Pregnancy is part of poor women's lifestyle -- that is a big reason why they stay poor.

Middle-class women are more likely to plan their parenthood -- that is a big reason why they stay middle class. For the past few decades, middle-class women have generally believed that they should have few to no children for their own careers and for the good of the planet. These two facts contribute significantly to the middle-class abortion rate. Yet middle-class women are also the best informed about trends in family life, as they affect their own families and, in a general way, as they affect society.

As middle-class women become more aware that we face a shortage of children in the rich countries, they have started to change their fertility patterns. As middle-class women become educated about the great benefits to their marriages and their family's long-term health, wealth, and happiness of having children, and of how many childless career women regret not having children, they become more comfortable with having another person at the table. Even when that person wasn't exactly planned.

The fastest approach to reducing the abortion rate is through the best informed, most organized, most churched mothers. A centrist religious coalition to reduce the abortion rate should start in their own backyard with positive arguments about the personal and social benefits of children. That would reduce abortion rates in the middle class. And when the leading classes walk the talk, the other classes are more likely to follow.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, are there any studies showing that middle-class women are having children specifically because there is a baby dearth in this country? Obviously my experience is not statistically applicable, but I have yet to meet anyone having a baby out of a sense of duty.

Gruntled said...

No, I think very few people have a baby from a sense of duty. I have heard of people who wanted more than two but had been told that was socially irresponsible due to the population explosion. When told that, instead, we face a birth dearth, they feel freer to do what they wanted to do. My students, who come from families of two or three kids, wish to have three or four.