Note to readers: If you are a hard-over anti-abortionist, this article is not for you. I am looking for comments and constructive criticism from people who understand the need to explore alternative actions to limit population growth and help people trapped in the vicious circle of poverty, welfare and unsupportable children. If you are coming here just to dump your religious dogma, I will probably ignore you…and I hope everyone else participating in the comment thread will do likewise.
I have been observing the relentless attacks on Planned Parenthood, and have noticed that many of them are blatantly false and misleading…like the statement by Senator John Kyl, Republican Minority Whip, who said on the floor of the Senate that “90 percent of their activities are abortion related.” This piece of fiction came back to bite the Senator, though. One of his staffers, when questioned about his comment replied that “it was not intended to be a factual statement.”
Which leads one to ask the Senator how many other statements he has made that people should not believe because he did not intend them to be factual. Maybe it would be helpful if he would preface his “nonfactual” statements with a disclaimer, like: “OK, I am gonna say this, but it’s not really a factual statement.” That would help us sort out truth from fiction in his speeches.
That was just a little rant I needed to get off my chest. On to business.
The Religious Right…and that includes most Republicans…is hard over on denying any kind of family planning assistance to the poor, especially welfare recipients. This, of course, exacerbates the welfare problem, bringing children into households that are ill equipped in many cases to feed, clothe and nurture them. Many will end up joining their parents on the welfare rolls when they reach adulthood…or worse yet engaging in criminal activities and adding to our burgeoning prison population, the highest per capita of all the developed nations.
We need to break this vicious circle, but to do that, we must find a way to make the funding of necessary programs palatable to at least the more moderate folks who call themselves Republicans…and some Democrats too. I believe there are quite a few of them who realize the need for such programs, and might support them if…
I was thinking about this on a long walk recently. Long walks are a great time to sort out and organize your thoughts on almost any subject. I came up with a few ideas, but I haven’t “dragged them through a keyhole” to make sure they don’t have unintended consequences. I thought maybe I could enlist the help of you readers, and maybe we can improve the list as a result.
Let’s start with a couple things that I think almost everyone will agree with:
- The primary goal of any government-funded welfare program should be to help the recipients get off welfare and become self-sufficient.
- Having more children when you are on welfare is almost certainly going to make it more difficult to get off welfare.
Here are my suggestions:
- Anyone on welfare should be eligible for free contraception materials (condoms and/or pills). Consider this an investment in reducing future welfare rolls.
- Anyone on welfare is eligible for a free voluntary sterilization procedure. A further investment in reducing welfare rolls.
- Women who conceive while receiving welfare payments will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a free abortion. Welfare payments will not be increased for the parent(s) of any children conceived while they are on welfare.
I realize that the last item punishes the child, who is an innocent victim of his/her parents’ carelessness or bad luck. But there should not be any incentive to have more children just to increase welfare payments. I hope such cases are few and far between.
There are other problems that I haven’t addressed…like victims of rape or incest. A woman may endanger herself by attempting to refuse unprotected sex with her partner or spouse. These special cases would have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but contraception or sterilization should always be an option to prevent conception. Dealing with the criminal acts is a matter for law enforcement.
Another problem: Contraceptive methods are not 100% effective. What happens if a couple follows all the rules and they still conceive? Of course, it would be impossible to verify that they actually weren’t just careless. Here is one suggestion: Offer an abortion, combined with sterilization. That might be seen as coercion, though. I am not sure what to do in this case. Suggestions?
The underlying rationale for these ideas is straightforward. We need to limit births of unwanted or unsupportable children. Therefore, children who are born should, as much as possible, be born into households that want them and have the resources to provide for them. But please be clear: I am not trying to limit the right of any woman to have children. In the end, it should be the woman’s choice…with input from her spouse, family or anybody else, if she invites it. It is, after all, her body, and she will almost certainly have primary responsibility for the child after birth.
I think government’s role in this should be to encourage responsible behavior, but not to mandate it. I believe these ideas or something similar, if implemented, would do that.
Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan engineering school, and then pursued a career in software design. He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement, has produced short essays on many subjects. His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion, and the intersection of the two. Many of his writings are posted on his web site, bigelowbert.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.