Salvo 11.07.2022 5 minutes

The Home Economics of Abortion

Sex and Gender_5

Having children and raising families requires a healthy, productive society.

With a 27-point swing towards the Republicans among suburban white women over the last month, the GOP seems poised for a win in the 2022 election. The shift is shocking considering that two years ago the “soccer mom” segment went solidly for Biden. The Democrat strategy this time was to pander to women on abortion.

When the Supreme Court’s April Dobbs decision sent abortion legislature back to the states, Democrats opted to run on codifying Roe nationwide. Republicans, on the other hand, made the economy the central issue of the campaign. Right now, it looks like the economy will trump abortion.

Regardless of how American women verbalize their thoughts on the termination of pregnancy, deep down they understand that abortion is not a right, the same way healthcare or housing is not a right. Feticide does not exist independently of the socio-economic circumstances of the woman who “chooses” it. Vacuuming a baby of the womb requires funding, the labor of trained professionals and, in an absolute majority of countries in the world, permission from the state.

When pro-abortion women say that they want to keep the procedure “safe and legal,” they mean that they want the continued allocation of resources towards the artificial termination of pregnancies. This is in contrast to natural rights, like freedom of speech and religion, that simply exist.

Because it relies so heavily on modern amenities, the larger feminist agenda of taking charge of one’s reproductive life is best accomplished in a healthy economy. I can offer the Soviet Union as a counterpoint. There, the economy was stagnant, birth control was rare, abortion was common, and women were unhappy.

At its peak in 1965, there were 8.5 million abortions in the Soviet Union, or almost double the number of live births. Twelve percent of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49 had an abortion that year. Causes of the calamity are many, and chief among them was the failure of the socialist economy. Central planners simply weren’t up to the task of supplying the country with consumer goods like contraceptives—much less the housing, food, and clothing that are necessary for forming a family.

The USSR lagged in the development of hormonal birth control. The Pill didn’t appear on the market until the eighties and even then it wasn’t promoted, so women weren’t aware of the option. Vaginal creams proved to be only marginally effective. Soviet condoms were—and still are—the butt of jokes.

Through most of the postwar period, the Bakovka Factory of Rubber Goods was a single outfit charged with the production of condoms for the Russian Soviet Republic. The condoms were thick, smelled strongly of rubber, and tore often. For some reason they were packed two in a single paper packet. That in itself was a curiosity of central planning: What to do with the spare one?

The packets were stamped Product Number Two and, according to popular belief, product number one was the gas mask. But, it turns out, the number referred to the size, which was “medium.” It’s unclear if sizes one and three were ever made available to the consumer.

In 1981, the Soviet Union finally figured out how to make better quality individually wrapped condoms. But by the mid-eighties it produced just 200 million of them a year (in a country with population of 290 million) and distribution was limited to big cities. In other words, birth control products were no different from shoes or oranges—offered at central locations, in short supply, and often of subpar quality.

That left Soviet couples with withdrawal, the rhythm method, and extended breastfeeding, all unreliable in the Soviet setting. Though natural birth control methods are known to work just fine, these, too, exist within historical circumstances and are subject to negotiation between the partners. At the end, it’s the women and their babies who bore the weight of socialist family planning.

A mother in a U.S. suburb probably doesn’t know about the trials and tribulations of Soviet couples trying to obtain quality condoms. And yet, even if she is a hardcore abortion advocate, she knows that “safe and legal” abortions, along with family planning in general, are merely goods and services.

Supply chain disruptions that have become a norm over the last couple of years made this fact ever more obvious. We’ve seen shortages of toilet paper, tampons, and baby formula. After shutting down a large domestic formula manufacturer, the federal government had to fly breastmilk substitute out of Europe, like a reverse Marshall Plan, in effect taking over the supply chain.

The condom aisle in the local CVS is today about as well-stocked as all other sections, which is to say not very—though that could just be a function of shoplifting, which is endemic in San Francisco. For women accustomed to great variety of easily accessible, cheap, and reliable birth control, the new normal of shortages must feel deeply alienating.

Getting women to worry about on-demand abortion until parturition is a misdirection. The real question facing American women today is access to family planning and family formation under an economic regime that can’t guarantee the supply of much needed goods and which is working to eliminate the kind of suburban development that tomorrow’s families will need to grow in. Deep down inside, women know what matters.

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