On Low Income Women in Crisis Pregnancies

On Low Income Women in Crisis Pregnancies March 28, 2014

We’re chatting about a curiously common disconnect in the prolife mind over at the Register.

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  • Life is too important for economics and ideology.

  • Shawna Mathieu

    I’ve run into this on some Catholic mom forums and blogs.
    I used to follow one blog, which belongs to a pretty well-known Catholic mom blogger, a middle class, SATM who homeschools her 7 kids. In response to several posts of hers that all boiled down to, “people on any government assistance are useless, selfish leeches that don’t deserve to reproduce”,
    After I politely disagreed with her, mentioning my current situation, she told me outright “Well, if you’re disabled, can’t work, and have to use government assistance, YOU NEVER SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN MARRIED IN THE FIRST PLACE.”
    She then said I shouldn’t have any more kids, and, because using NFP contraceptively is a sin, my husband and I should COMPLETELY ABSTAIN FROM SEX.
    I don’t know what was worse, that she said that outright, or that not a single person who followed that blog said, “That is completely out of line.”

    • chezami

      It’s that sort of Catholic “prolifer” who does so much to persuade people that Cathoic prolifers are full of shit. More like you, please.

    • IRVCath

      Whatever happened to the traditional call to provide a family wage, preferably so that the wife would not have to be forced to work outside the home?

      • I’ve seen Catholics argue that it is foolish for a person to expect to support a family on a minimum-wage job, and he should have gotten a better-paying one. Because good jobs with decent pay and benefits are totally just there for the asking.

        • Elaine S.

          Actually, I wouldn’t dismiss that argument too quickly. If we assume that minimum wage should always equal a family wage or living wage, where does that leave people like teenagers, retired people or others just trying to earn a little extra pocket money or supplement a family income that isn’t stretching far enough? Are you morally obligated to pay the kid who mows your lawn, for example, a living wage or a family wage even though he is not living on his own or supporting a family?

          In my opinion, full-time jobs that require education or specialized training beyond high school should pay living/family wages. Adults with college degrees or professional licenses and plenty of job experience should not have to scrape by on minimum wage simply because their employer is trying to squeeze out the maximum possible profit for shareholders. I spent two years doing just that (working for a newspaper).

          That said, raising the official minimum wage too high (I leave it to others to decide what is “too high”) could mean that a lot of people with marginal skills and those who aren’t completely attractive to prospective employers (teens, disabled persons, homeless or recently homeless people, ex-convicts, people who’ve been out of the workforce a long time) will be priced out of the job market completely. And then where will they gain the experience necessary to better themselves?

          • A big part of the problem is that we’ve lost a lot of the skilled laborer jobs people could rely on in the past to support a family, leaving some people scrambling for low skill/minimum wage jobs. And there is the corporate structure that increasingly maximizes investor profits over employee well-being. And then there are employers who are deliberately hiring only part-time or independent contractors, so that they don’t have to pay a full wage and benefits; it’s something my on-and-off employer does, and in my particular sub-field, it is almost impossible to get a full-time job anywhere.

            Things can’t always stay the same, and with automation and the global economy we are going to lose job fields and industries. But we need to make concerted efforts to address these changes and create new opportunities. And most importantly, we need to remember that profits aren’t the be-all end-all and that we are all obliged to help each other.

      • Historically? Unions used to call for a family wage. That stopped about 75 years ago. Why is an interesting story. Now, the idea that families are what economic activity is supposed to provide for is dead, outside the occasional encyclical. It’s personal fulfillment all the way down.

        • IRVCath

          Well, it’s alive in Ireland by their constitution, at least until Enda Kenny eviscerates it in his “reforms” the better to sell out to the neoliberals.

    • Heather

      Wow, that’s appalling, and yeah, completely out of line.

    • I’m so sorry anybody calling themselves Catholic was so rude to you. Because this does get tossed around a lot, I want to emphasize that if a family is in a situation where they must use NFP for a prolonged period or even permanently that is NOT “using NFP contraceptively.” As Pope Pius XII put it in an address to Italian midwives: “Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical,
      eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband
      and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or
      even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows
      that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful,
      from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions
      mentioned.” In other words, anybody using NFP in a situation involving disability or other serious health issues, precarious finances, etc. is by definition not using it contraceptively, even if those issues persist for the full duration of the marriage.

      Frankly, somebody who can get such a basic point of Catholic teaching wrong shouldn’t be listened to at all on Catholic matters.

  • Rachel K

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I was on my state’s CHIP program when I was pregnant with my youngest. If I hadn’t had that kind of public assistance available, my only life-affirming option would have been crippling debt from medical bills (since my insurance didn’t cover maternity, but did cover contraception–gee, thanks, insurance). It makes me so angry to hear logic that basically says I should either have aborted my precious girl or not have had enough money to take care of her and the rest of my family.

    I volunteered at a CPC for awhile, and the funny thing is, we always, always referred clients to programs like CHIP and WIC. By undercutting those programs, people also undercut the ability of CPCs to do the work they do.

    • IRVCath

      The problem is too many even of the supposed prolifers in politics seem to care more for money and the money interest than actually being prolife.

  • Great essay. I wish I could make everyone read it.

  • Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe people know not to say these sorts of things around me, but the pro-life crowd I hang out with seems to totally get that many of the moms we try to help need a lot more than comforting talk and a layette. We love the stories – and there are plenty of these – of women who refuse to abort, and the baby becomes an occasion of peace being made with their boyfriends and families, of their lives being turned around by new-found love, a sort of ‘lives happily ever after’ ending, even with the usually bumpiness of life. But many more, it seems, and certainly most of the moms we’ve personally tried to help, need more, a lot more.

    And here’s where it gets hard: often, we get called in when to government money dries up, or a glitch in the system creates a hole, such as a month of no housing between the expiration of Program A and availability of Program B. And what I see – just personal experience, here – are women who are in some ways lost, who come from insane family situations, who have the emotional development of a small child, who don’t even know how to love their babies because nobody has ever loved them.

    And the government programs stop those problems – the lack of love, the lack of family, the lack of even the most basic understanding of how the world works outside their little (government-funded) trap of a life – from ever being addressed. As long as we fund an apartment and some food for them, these moms can live indefinitely outside our universe – and we’re happy to leave them there. But when, as I say, a glitch requires our involvement, at that point, we are presented, like the Israelites on the threshold of the Holy Land, with a choice: if we choose Life, we choose to become involved in the lives of people – some of whom are really not very attractive people – who need more than anything, certainly more than money, to be loved, to be cared for like the precious daughters they truly are.

    And it probably won’t work, at least not completely, if by ‘work’ we mean that these young moms suddenly get responsible and mature and take charge of their lives – and go away so we can feel good without having to deal with them anymore. Nope, most likely they will continue the behaviors that got them where they are in the first place. And we have to love them anyway, as much as we can.

    This is not to say that government assistance is wrong per se, but rather that it is at best a stop-gap, and at worst a barrier to real love and change, and a temptation to withdrawal to those of us trying to help. I think this is related to Dorthy Day’s opposition to Social Security – not that she believed the elderly didn’t deserve the help, but that it skewed the nature of the challenge in such a way as to painlessly let us believe we were now off the hook for our most basic human and Christian obligations. We’re not off the hook. Money is not the answer to loneliness and abandonment.

    Finally, how about this: what if, when a single mom showed up at Mass, it was a cause of great rejoicing and even tears of joy? Here, before us, is a woman and child we can love and care for! Here are 2 or more lives into which we can be Christ’s hands and heart! What if our parishes – meaning us, the people in the pews – were to dedicate themselves to making sure that that mom and her kids were loved and cared for to the best we could possibly do? Start there – it’s the low hanging fruit, as we say in business – and work out to the rest of the community in need, most of whom have some direct relationship with a mom in need, as her children, her parents, her boyfriend/ex husband, her siblings. – the web of lives touched by a mom in need is wide indeed.

    Now we just need a new St. Vincent de Paul and Mother Teresa to show us the way.

  • Eve Fisher

    I agree with all of this. I would also like to add that another thing which makes some people distrust the “pro-life” movement is the continuing attempts – currently in Kansas and previously in Mississippi, Virginia, Utah – to make miscarriages something that doctors & hospitals must report to the state. About 15% of women will have miscarriages – I had one once that nearly killed me (for those of you who are wondering, it was RH factor), and to make it a matter of state investigation… That’s not pro-life, that’s being cruel and inhuman.

    • Heather

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      I think perhaps it has to do with where one’s “pro-life-ness” is grounded.

      If it’s not much more than a culture war (how I hate that term!) talking point, there seems a greater danger of falling into the trap of not caring about what happens as long as abortion is vilified at least almost as much as the women who might be in a position to consider it a way out of a seemingly hopeless situation.

      The people I know who are actually involved in pro-life outreach to pregnant women tend to be immensely compassionate.

      • Eve Fisher

        Thank you, Heather.

  • LFM

    Oh dear. It isn’t often that I find myself siding with the bad guys on this website, but this time I’m afraid I must – up to a point, Lord Copper.

    I don’t want pregnant women who are poor to be punished for their pregnancies, whether married or not. I understand that they need help. I do not believe in abortion. But I’m appalled by the way that a) changes in social and sexual mores, and b) government assistance for unmarried mothers, the kind of assistance that makes it possible to raise an entire family of fatherless children, have led, unsurprisingly, to an epidemic of fatherless children.

    In those communities in the US, Canada, Britain and continental Europe where this epidemic has led to to 50% or more of children being born outside of marriage but also outside of any stable relationship altogether, *everyone* suffers. The violent, fatherless young men; the women who have children deliberately – yes, it often is deliberate – to have someone to love them, or to secure an apartment of their own, or to cement their relationships with their boyfriends – the old people afraid to go out on the street – all of that is a consequence of the widespread social acceptance of bearing children without first securing a father for them, a father in more than the merely biological sense.

    Yes, of course it’s the men’s fault, too. But considering the biological differences between the sexes, it is inevitable that even in the most civilized society men will rise to the standard which women – and society as a whole – set for them, and no further. If the price of having sexual relations is no more than sending diaper money from time to time, that’s what young men will contribute. If they are made to think that their only important obligation to their children is as money-bags, then they will take fatherhood less than seriously: the poorer ones will just laugh that they have no money, the richer ones will avoid fatherhood altogether. That is what is happening now.

    Even this is not the worst case possibility. Perhaps some day, in 2 or 3 generations, we will find that men choose their partners the old-fashioned, pre-civilized way, by abduction and/or rape. That is what happens to a society if it does not fight to keep its men within the pale, a goal that cannot be achieved if a majority of families have no fathers. It’s the most vicious of circles.

    • But I think (hope) we can agree that the problem isn’t with government aid per se, it’s the admittedly broken way government aid is currently handled in the US. Sadly we seem to be caught between two extremes in our country of people who simply want to slash aid levels across the board in a pretty much blind and thoughtless manner, and people who are certain that all aid is good aid. There must be some way to at least improve the programs, in terms of ideally incentivizing, or at least taking a neutral fiscal position towards marriage and ongoing paternal involvement in children’s lives.

      • LFM

        I fear that changes to government programs may not make much difference at this stage. Once people have been encouraged to expect what social scientists call ‘perverse incentives’, they tend to continue to do so. In situations like this, what has worked best, historically, is the trumpet call of religious revivalism. In the 19th century, the English working classes were able to pull themselves together and fight for more rights when they were galvanized by evangelical preachers like John Wesley, who discouraged them away from promiscuity, illegitimacy, and above all drink. Once able to think clearly, they were able to strategize and organize.

      • An encouraging sign was Paul Ryan’s recent call for people in the less damaged precincts of our society to pitch in and mentor to help those that are worse off. Of course he was immediately branded a racist in order to kill this development in the crib.

    • Dave G.

      A good comment, except for the whole old fashioned, pre-civilized way, by abduction and/or rape. That sounded too close to the more radical views of men and marraige I remember from my college days. Otherwise, some valid points.

      • LFM

        The radicals of whom you speak had matters the wrong way around. They thought that abduction and rape were the products of ‘patriarchal’ civilisation, and believed that if matriarchal, mother-centred cultures ruled the world, these phenomena would disappear. In fact, it is civilisation, and particularly Christian civilisation and the nuclear family, that diminishes and controls them, though no civilisation I know of has ever made them disappear.

        We must be realistic about the impact of both original sin and our animal natures on human behavior. I did not mention rape and abduction in my earlier comment because I think all men are individually capable of them, but because when civilisation breaks down, the human capacity for rape, theft, murder and every kind of violence increases. In such times, the good men who might prevent such crimes either lack the power to enforce their views, or are themselves broken and either killed or subverted by the evil ones, while the weak men follow nervously behind the strong ones, whoever they may be. That is why the (seemingly – I hope I’m wrong) imminent collapse of the nuclear family is such a social catastrophe: it is the central means of disciplining young men to bring out the best in them.

        If you think I’m exaggerating, look at what happened to black Americans as the father-based family disintegrated. Fifty years ago, they were poorer and surely faced more severe racial prejudice, but their rates of single motherhood for the women, and violent crime and incarceration for the men, were nowhere near as high as they are today. I’m not arguing for the return of segregation and racial prejudice, just in case someone imagines that that is what I meant. I’m pointing out that gestures of intended kindness, like making it possible for never-married women to support themselves and their children without the help of a husband, with little social opprobrium, can have appalling consequences for a community. I have no idea how this is to be fixed; I don’t want single mothers and their children to starve, or their babies to be aborted. But if we stopped being so delusional about the effects of fatherlessness, it might help.

        • Dave G.

          when Civilization breaks down, people are capable of many things. Which is not exactly a view commonly held, FWIW. I remember hearing in college that the illusion of civilization was what caused folks to go underground and become the beasts and savages we read about. That’s back when people used the term civilization, they often put it in quotation marks. When we throw away those illusions, that’s when people will miraculously come together as freed individuals and we’ll have that harmonious paradise we’ve always wanted. But no, men may rape or kill when civilization breaks down, but they’ll only find their match in women who find ways to live out the same results.

          • LFM

            I think I agree with you, except that repeated reading has not enabled me to determine what you mean by that last sentence. Would you care to explain?

  • LFM

    One last story that I’ll tell here to try to persuade people that ‘It’s always better to give than to worry about what the giver might do with the gift’ is not necessarily a benevolent attitude or one that should be adopted without careful consideration of circumstances. After this I promise I’ll shut up and go away.

    Here goes: Some years ago (probably 2004 or thereabouts) the churches, charitable organizations and newspapers in the city I live in simultaneously put out announcements urging all of us with charitable inclinations not to give out money to street people. ‘If you want to help, give us your money, please!’ was their message.

    The inspiration for this plea, so unusual from such quarters, was a newly arrived shipment of some particularly strong, uncut heroin. We were told that drug dealers sometimes allow the sale of very pure product in order to encourage more people to become hooked. That was then happening in my city, and a number of drug users, unaware of the potency of their latest purchases, had already been killed by the stuff when these announcements were put out by frantic social service agencies. The moral is that If you really want to help people, do so thoughtfully, and don’t be too swift to condemn those who are trying to determine what the recipient is likely to do with a gift.