Pat was a great champion of reproductive rights. Fearless, unbowed, eloquent, she was with us, and leading us, every step of the way. It was an honor to work alongside her.
Abortion activist convicted in Poland
mating, Family and kinship
Two recent studies amplify my article below on Men.
The Pew Research Center reported that 60% of young men are single, twice the rate for young women. There is in general a decline in marriage, sexuality and relationships for both genders, but men fare worse than women. For under 30s, 63% of men and 34% of women are single. Women are dating and marrying older men and each other. Men are watching social media, video games and porn. Women continue to be choosy and many men don’t make the cut, emotionally, education-wise and financially. The good news is that 30-49 years olds are the least likely group to be single.
Nic Eberstadt and Ashton Verdure of the American Enterprise Institute issued a report on China’s changing family stricture. The long-range effects of the One-Child Policy and reduced family size and son preference are leading to massive changes in the kinship system. Fewer relatives means increased pressure for state support of the elderly. As the society ages, a huge social welfare state is likely, with a depressing effect on economic growth exacerbated by fewer people of working age. The unknown is the effect of only-child, single males in the military on foreign and military policy.
The news media has been aflutter recently with stories (nightmare scenarios in some cases) of population decline in various countries, mostly Asian, with Europe an afterthought – the Italian birthrate is at 1.3. When I was younger, Asia was thought of in demographic terms as “teeming”. The worm has turned. China reported the first drop in population in over 60 years since the Not-So-Great Leap Forward (the drop probably occurred a few years ago but was unreported). South Korea and Japan have been losing population, and aging, for several years. Other developed countries around the world have less than a replacement birth rate (about 2.0). Many have tried government incentives to increase it, without much lasting success.
All this has coincided with the improvement in the status of women in terms of education, jobs, and social status. The improvements for women yet to be achieved are well known, but no longer seem intractable. In Saudi Arabia, women can finally drive. Abortion is increasingly decriminalized (though not in the USA). Women are more independent than ever, making more money than ever, and as such, have more choice in mating than ever, don’t they?
What of men and their choices? If economy and society are a zero-sum game (they aren’t), men must be relatively worse off than women if women are better off – one gender rises as one falls. Can’t both rise? Men still rule in corporations and government (the Nordics with their female political leadership didn’t get the memo on this). Aren’t both genders rising together in increased prosperity? Can’t we all just get along? One way to start a fierce argument is to try to explain the persistent gender imbalance in wages between men and women.
A digression — I’m thinking about Russia, or what’s left of it. Who is getting slaughtered in Ukraine? Russian men, the ones who haven’t fled their country anyway. Smart guys. Run and survive to reproduce another day. Estimates say that 200,000 Russians have been killed or wounded so far and perhaps an additional 700,000 have fled the country. Out of about 7.5 million 20–29-year-old males. Women and children left behind to cope. The Russia birthrate is now about 1.5. It is clearly going further south. I shudder to think how Putin will try to mandate childbearing to refill his army.
I wrote in Beyond Choice about reproductive strategies of women and men. Each gender collectively has one. Each individual has one. Find the right mate, choose strategically (not always consciously), have children that will survive, raise them, and have them in turn reproduce. Basic biology. This isn’t a haphazard process. It may not be conscious. Quality versus quantity in a mate? Short term relationship or long term? There is competition for mates. Who chooses? Who gets chosen? Are there rules to the game?
Women need and do control the mating process in free societies (arranged marriage is still the rule in many not-so free societies). They have a greater investment in childbearing and need to chose strategically. And contracept strategically, which thanks to our work, they can in most societies. And abort strategically. Potential resources brought by a mate to the partnership may be key – men’s resources. Children are expensive. A mother’s time is expensive in terms of opportunity costs. Are men now less able to provide what is needed – be it time or money – in these expensive times? Do women care? With women’s increased education and earning capacity, need they still “marry up” as the social scientists call it? Can’t they carry on alone? Need they marry at all? Does it still take two to tango?
Clearly not. 70% of births in Latin America are to single women. The OECD average is over 40%. In Japan, South Korea and China the rates are miniscule. These same countries now are experiencing a population drop. Social systems and culture have not evolved to a new economic reality. China is now permitting births to single women and IVF for them too.
The New York Times had a recent article on men and fertility decline (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/15/opinion/fertility-decline.html) reporting on the work of Vegard Skirbekk. He found that women in the most gender-egalitarian countries still “tend to prefer men with relatively high income and education.” They do not prefer men with substance abuse issues or who are prone to violence. Men dropping out of the workforce in the Covid era is an issue in the US. In 1990, 72% of men were employed. In 2022, 65% were. Opioids and prescription med issues among men are more prevalent than among women.
China has to deal with a severe gender imbalance given the years of son preference and the One Child Policy. Rarer women should have the pickings. But women don’t have the pickings in the job market and, seeing men as unreliable providers, want to keep their precarious jobs and forgo childbearing, or limit it or defer it at least. Incentives like baby bonuses and parental leave won’t solve this problem.
Some reports quote women complaining that men don’t help with raising a child and keep working hard to provide. Then there are the men without work, or steady work. Or who are unreliable. It seems men can’t win here—do they work too hard or not hard enough? What do they think about all this? How about a restructuring of the economic system to make earning not an all-consuming task yet rewarding enough for a couple with children? That sounds Sovietistic and totally unworkable in most countries. The realities are that the high cost of education is real, the gig economy unstable.
France recently went into an uproar when, given its low birthrate and increasing seniors, it wanted to increase the pension age to 64. Population and an economy have to be more than a Ponzi scheme to produce children to pay Social Security for their grandparents. A drop in the world population isn’t the end of the world. Didn’t it happen in Europe during the Black Death, which killed perhaps half the population.? Of course, people then thought it was the end of the world.
And what of women’s choices? Are they still constrained because of the status of men? Are women unwillingly forgoing children? If so, that is no better than being forced to have them. Are women’s aspirations victim to the new economic realities? Can’t and won’t new reproductive strategies evolve? Men and women have always reproduced in changing environments. The most adaptable survive. Isn’t that Darwin? Men and women will adapt. It may take a while, but they will.
Governments and commentators will fret in the meantime – their economies will crash, seniors will starve, single people will live lonely lives. Governments will get into the business – they already are – of purchasing their own descendants through childbearing incentives. The results are meagre and the costs high. Less planning and government intervention and more individual innovation are what is needed. Though mandating a 4-day work week (and 7 hours max a day) might be a good start. And maybe with fewer people polluting and consuming we can save what is left of the environment.
Activist faces prison for aiding an abortion in Poland
Dating After Roe
From Time – Nov 16, 2022
Program on Village Radical Social Movements and reproductive rights today – via zoom – Nov 17, 6:00pm
Reproductive and sexual Rights News
Abortions allowed up to 20 weeks from 12 weeks.
A referendum approved gay marriage and adoption.
Unmarried women in India can have an abortion up to 24 weeks on a par with married women.
It is heartening that the world is ignoring the United States!
Times of London Radio Interview with Alexander Sanger
SEPT 14, 2022
ToL – Senator Lindsay Graham proposed new national restrictions on abortion yesterday and of the plan’s abortion after weeks of pregnancy would be banned across America. They’re not likely to get through Congress, but this is the plan that has been announced. Alexander Sanger is the chair of the international planned parenthood council.
ACS – It’s a 50-state battle, as well as a federal battle over the criminality of abortion and whether women should be criminalized and doctors should be criminalized for seeking to terminate a pregnancy. The Lindsay Graham bill seeks to make it a 50-state ban imposed by the federal government. And that would make abortion where it’s legal in New York state and California, for instance, make it criminal.
So it’s a dangerous bill and it’s part of a Republican party posturing, they’re stepping back from their platform where they want a criminalized abortion nationwide. They realize how unpopular this is with the voters. They just lost a referendum in Kansas and, their candidates are trying to back away and avoid the issue.
ToL – So, so why is Lindsay Graham doing that? If, if they’re trying to back away from this? Why introduce legislation?
ACS – Lindsay, Graham’s trying to give the Republicans some talking points, so they don’t appear as radical as they really are. He’s trying to posture and say, well, we’re only going to criminalize abortion after 15 weeks, which on its face to many people would seem reasonable, but it’s not. So, it lets the Republicans avoid their extreme position, which is to criminalize all abortions, so it’s a way of trying to get around the hole they dug for themselves by having Roe v. Wade overturned.
ToL – why do you say it’s not reasonable? Presumably there is a point at which there is a, there is a time limited point at which abortions in, in your view are ethical and practical. What’s, what’s the, what’s the issue of 15 weeks?
ACS – This bill is going to hit the most vulnerable women. It’s going hit young women who often don’t know they’re pregnant until much later. And it hits women who get a bad test on the fetus, which shows some abnormality, some condition that is incompatible with life, and they have to have a termination when they had a perfectly wanted pregnancy, but it’s not viable. So that’s why this 15-week proposed man is totally unconscionable.
ToL – Why has this become a culture war issue in your view? Why is it so heavily politicized? Because from the polling that I can see, there is a majority of Americans who are opposed to severe restrictions on abortion. And yet it seems somehow as a populist move by some Republicans to restrict abortion, doesn’t seem those two, those two propositions don’t seem to add up at all.
ACS – Well, this has been a battle since the 1960s. And when, you know, abortion was, universally criminalized pretty much, even though there were therapeutic abortions available, but New York, California, Washington State, Hawaii, and some others began to decriminalize abortion because they saw the toll of a legal abortion on women. The carnage was immense, and every public hospital had a septic abortion ward.
When the decriminalization movement started, the backlash became immediate. Right to Life Parties were founded in the late 1960s. So, this has been going on a long time. It’s all about who controls pregnancy. Do men control it or do women? It involves racial issues as certain racial groups, are seen to be by the white majority growing too fast and is their power slipping. That that’s been a factor in America since the 19th century where the white Protestants feared being outnumbered by the Catholics immigrating from Ireland. And they created the Know Nothing Party, which sought to criminalize birth control so that white women couldn’t use it. So, this has been two centuries in our country, this culture war.
ToL- But there must be some people, I mean, if it is a populous move by Republicans and even set against this polling, that seems to suggest it’s actually unpopular. What’s the politics of this. Actually, I accept that I can’t quite understand that if it’s, if there is this universal, or generally a majority position that, abortion should be in the hands of women, why make this a political issue? Who, how do the Republicans hope to win through that position?
ACS – The reason it’s a political issue and a cultural issue is because of our primary system. When you run for office in a congressional office, U.S. Senate, or, or even in your state, you have to go through a primary. And the people that show up to vote in primaries are the hardcore hard right wing voters, because they’re motivated to show up. And these are the ones that want to criminalize abortion. So, any candidate who wants to get the Republican nomination in virtually every state has got to cater to these voters, because they’re the ones who show up.
And I’ll say to be fair on the Democratic side, it is those who want abortion decriminalized, who were motivated to show up and vote in democratic primaries. See, so that’s why we have two very strong positions in each party that are diametrically opposed.
ToL -That’s so interesting from Alexander Sanger. So, the primary process you end up to appeal to your base. You have to offer the furthest end of the policies, to get yourself elected. Of course, Liz Truss has had a similar experience that if, if your electoral base is 150,000, you’ve got to appeal to them in the first instance to get elected in the same as true, which is why the Republican position is so hard line on abortion, same with the Democratic one.
And you can read plenty more coverage from around the world by picking up a copy of the Times or going online.