Friday, March 23, 2007

Going rate for babies in Texas: $500!

You don't see too many — well, I can't think of any so far — posts about the ongoing abortion/choice wars here. Mainly, I see that as more of a political issue than an atheist issue, though it's true that most anti-abortion agitators are right-wing Christians, and many atheists tend to be liberals who come down on the side of choice. (Though certainly not all; there is an organization called the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League.)

I myself am no great fan of abortion; I think it's a sad and tragic decision for any woman to have to make, and it cannot come easily. And I think that's actually a view held by almost all pro-choicers, too. No one supports abortion rights because they think it's way cool to vacuum a fetus out of a woman's womb. The issue is that the choice to have any medical procedure performed ought not to be taken out of the hands of private citizens and put into the oh-so-reliable hands of the government. Especially when that government is overrun by religious demagogues who think the "right to life" of a blastocyst takes precedence over that of an actual living breathing woman.

Texas, being the kind of big Bible Belt stronghold where you can actually drive down highways and see "pro-life" billboards as well as those trying to make virginity look like the most bitchen thing ever, has come up with a new weird twist in the ongoing wars over who gets to say what happens with women's bodies. State senator Dan Patrick has just introduced a bill that would pay women $500 for choosing adoption over abortion.

There are so many things weird and wrong with this it's hard to know where to begin. First off, it's rooted on the assumption that only broke, unmarried women get abortions. It assumes that women are so shallow that they can be bought off making a difficult and morally troubling decision simply with a little money. In the case of abortions undertaken following rape, it instantly transforms the woman from unwitting mother-to-be to unwitting state-sponsored prostitute. (What's next, I wonder? Offer underage rape victims an iPod?) And, as some people have already pointed out, it comes creepily close to the illegal act of baby-selling.

I can think of other reasons to object to the bill. If one were a conservative, you'd think this bill would look remarkably like, you know, welfare. After all, aren't conservatives the ones who complain about a welfare system that tosses loads of taxpayers' money at low-income families who keep having kids they can't afford? So how is Senator Patrick's bill any different? After all, it's not his $500 he's offering to ambivalent moms-to-be, it's ours. It looks like you're just giving women a nine-month headstart on the whole welfare process. So why would a conservative be anti-welfare yet pro-let's-give-a-bounty-to-pregnant-women?

As an adopted child myself, I'm all for adoption. But the way to reduce unwanted pregnancies is not simply to buy women off. It's to provide fact-based, comprehensive sex education in the schools, in a program that provides students with all available information about the consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior — including not only abstinence, but info about STD's and the proper use of contraceptives. Never underestimate the power of education. I attribute the fact I'm a non-smoker today largely to the ghastly photos of diseased lungs I was shown in health class in my impressionable youth.

Alas, with religious demagogues, irony is never too far away. And as we all know, the same people who oppose a woman's right to control her own reproductive organs are the same people who want to inhibit the kind of proper sex education that young people need, replacing it with an abstinence-only mantra that has already been shown, time and again, not to work. It'll take a lot more than 500 bucks a head to undo the damage done by ignorance.


  1. Like you said, Martin, there are so many things wrong with this bill. Even when you set aside the obvious differences between the pro-choice/anti-choice crowds, there are still some really basic problems:

    1. How is $500 going to convince a woman to stay pregnant? A pregnant woman will necessarily need more food, vitamins, health care, maternity leave, etc... I am pretty sure having a baby costs a bit more that $500 in this country.

    2. Who is to say who was going to keep a baby and who wasn't? What would keep any pregnant woman from applying for the money when they were already going to keep the baby? Are we just supposed to take their word for it?

    This bill is absurd. Sen. Patrick needs to get a real job.

  2. It cost my wife and me over $500 out-of-pocket just to give birth to our baby--and that was under a pretty good health insurance plan. The unwed would-be mothers this bill presumably targets would probably need far more than we did, especially if the birth ran into unexpected complications.

    Yep, if Sen. Patrick wants to put a government bounty on the live capture of fresh babies, he'll have to pony up quite a bit more of the taxpayers' money.

    Republicans these days. It's all tax and spend.

  3. $500 / ( 9 months * 31 days * 24 hours) = 0.074671445639187574671445639187575 = 7c/hr.

    Fuck pro-lifers.

  4. I can't even imagine a pregnant woman considering this option. $500 doesn't go far today, even if you are poor.

  5. Much of the "pro-life" policy coming from the religious right actually has the effect of increasing abortion and poverty both. One irony in this bill is that someone who might be swayed by the $500 would probably be on welfare after she gave birth. The $500 "investment" would then end up costing the taxpayer much more down the road.

    Another irony is that the Christians insist that God has given us all free will. They seek to deny that free will especially for abortion, presumably because they think that a woman considering abortion is incapable of making a sound moral decision. It is exactly the same person that they want to force into being the (often sole) moral guide for an infant. What sense does that make.

    If Christians want to set up a fund to spend their own money to pay other people to raise their children through college, then they would have no problem creating a "culture of life". Instead, they want to make the decision but foist the responsibility on to someone else. I'd like to see some laws that force such Christian groups to pay for the complete raising of the children with whose mothers they've interfered. This would include anyone who emerged from high school without a proper sex education because of that abstinence only crap they're purveying.

    I'm sure that when these folks are made to take responsibility for their actions, they'll be singing a different tune.


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