Monday, April 19, 2010

Planned Parenthood is Unnatural - and a Good Thing

In the family life class this week we are discussing Promises I Can Keep, a fine study of poor single mothers. It is so hard for my class of bourgeois people who plan their entire lives to comprehend having a baby at 15. What is harder to comprehend is that most of the mothers said that their babies were neither planned nor unplanned. Living a life without planning is through-the-looking-glass for people like my students (and me) for whom deferred gratification is one of the top seven habits of our fairly effective lives.

Which led to an interesting discussion about which way of viewing the world - planning or not planning parenthood - was the odder. From the social world of the college-going class, not planning is odd. But we realized that from the perspective of most people in the world, and most people who have ever lived, the idea of tightly controlled and limited fertility is supremely odd.

Planning parenthood is very unnatural. Planning parenthood is a great achievement of civilization. Civilization, though, has developed one crucial brake and help that the poor single mothers we are studying skipped: get married first.

16 comments:

Thomas said...

I'm not sure that I see why planning parenthood is a great achievement for civilization.

Gruntled said...

I, for one, am glad that my wife got to finish law school before we had kids. I am glad that my children can plan their futures, at least somewhat, to have school, career, and family in some sensible order. Likewise for my students.

Thomas said...

That's not an argument that planning parenthood is good, it's simply an argument that it's expedient in some circumstances.

It may be that planning parenthood is a necessary evil that arises from an economy and an educational system (at the graduate level) that is largely hostile to giving parents time to care for their families.

In that case, planning parenthood is not an achievement of civilization, but a form of oppression.

Katie said...

"Deferred gratification." Not so sure about that one. Because I don't think that college kids would be likely to label children to as "gratifying" and because most college kids aren't deferring sex. They're just smarter about using various forms of birth control because they know that a child would derail they're plans.

I'm guessing that a study of the sex habits of planners vs non-planners would show equal frequency by the time both groups were college-age but a later starting age (maybe 18 vs 16), fewer partners, and more birth control for the planners.

Katie said...

Just a quick apology for all the spelling errors...too hard to type while distracted by the little one.

Black Sea said...

It is interesting to consider whether a population anywhere on earth would sustain replacement-rate fertility if all of the pregancies were planned and chosen. In other words, accidental pregnancy may be a necessary element for population stability, or for that matter, growth.

BTW, I meant pregancy chosen by women, not decided for them -- or forced upon them -- by their families or their husbands.

Gruntled said...

Katie, most college students do want kids - just not now. So using contraceptives consistently is deferred gratification.

Gruntled said...

Black Sea, I have been wondering if there would be a significant number of children at all without irrational sexual desire.

Anonymous said...

You should read the article "Bitter Pill" by Tim Reichert in "First Things." You'll see how contraception and planning are not in the best interest of society and women and that it is not a great achievement for civilization.

Gruntled said...

Thanks, Anon., I will have a look at "Bitter Pill."

marc said...

For more info on replacement rate fertility see Mark Styne's book America Alone.

It seems that only the most conservative groups, religions and countries are replacing themselves.

If demographics is destiny as he states we are in for a radically different America and world in our not too distant future. Can you say Sharia?

randy said...

in the bourgeoie world of the upper middle class, things generally 'make sense'; up is up and down is down, choices have observable cosequences, action produces results, rewards and punishments are-more or less-in line w/expectations and receivd wisdom.

in the Underclass, none of the above applies. children are 'raised
', so to speak, amid chaos and ddisorder. nothing is stable. the wicked go unnpunished and the good suffer despite being good. there's a lot of randomness to life; people appear and disappear in the child's life w/seemingly no rhyme or reason.

why in the wworld would you expect a 15 y/o raised under such conditions to have any policy in place for contraception. hell, THEY were probably an 'accident' themselves.

Katie said...

Maybe my experience is vastly different from others, but my husband and I waited 6 years after getting married to have our first child not because we were waiting for the right moment to have a child but because we were making up our minds whether we wanted a child at all. My brother felt the same way and just had his first child at 34. We were all raised in very loving families, our parents are all still married, and our moms were exemplary.

I felt this way even in college. And, some of my friends felt the same way. We weren't waiting to establish our careers, we were waiting to see if we grew into a desire to have children. Of course, if a prof had asked us in college whether we wanted to have children, we likely would have said yes because having children is still the socially accepted norm.

Thomas said...

The "Bitter Pill" article is located here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/04/bitter-pill

It's definitely worth a read. It's a socio-economic argument that contraception discourages marriage, hurts the interests of women in marriages (by reducing their relative bargaining power), encourages divorce in several ways, creates greater opportunities and lowers the cost for infidelity, and so on.

Especially interesting is the discussion of how contraception works as a prisoners dilemma, creating powerful incentives to force women out of the "marriage market" and into the "sex market".

Anonymous said...

As for the bitter pill article, I prefer to listen to economists who aren't biased as all get out, and people who actually believe in women's rights when talking about what is good for women's rights.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....economists who aren't biased as all get out - does that mean just those who agree with you? Because THEY wouldn't be biased. Hmmm.... who actually believe in women's rights - does that mean only those who think contraception and abortion are ok? Because THEY wouldn't be biased.

Reichert takes data gleaned from several reliable sources and objectively interprets how it negatively affects women and children but apparently you will only be happy if someone can take this data and say that everything's peachy. I gotta tell ya - the family structure today in American - not too peachy. Explain to me how he missed the mark. How is it that all of these wonderful advancements have benefited women, families and society? Sky high divorce rates, illegitimate children, single parent families, children raised in day care, absent fathers, loss of manners and morals - I don't see how this is better.

-PG