Monday, March 5, 2012

Proper Birth Control: The Answer to Out-of-Wedlock Births

In Barbados over the 1950s and 60s, the island's population exploded mainly because of the sheer number of out of wedlock births, attributed to poor, working class women. Typically these were 16 to young -20 somethings who on average had 4- 9 partners over 5 years (on average) and as many kids born....all out of wedlock. (In Barbados, what has been called "common law marriage" was established many years earlier).

Not until Clyde Gollop began the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) did the numbers fall under control, and out of wedlock births go down, as well as unwanted births overall. The arrival of the pill and condoms, then, provided a means of choice where the number and quality of births was concerned. Interestingly, as the numbers fell - so did the island's crime rate. (At least until the specter and scourge of drugs arrived in the mid-1980s).

This was shown to be paralleled in the U.S. by the authors of the book, Freakonomics, who traced the decline of crime from the mid-70s onward to the 2000s to the absence of uncared for, unwanted offspring - who had a higher probability of becoming muggers, rapists, burglars and murderers. Thus, the authors estimated our country was spared tens of thousands of otherwise vicious crimes simply by the non-births of tens of thousands of criminals thanks in no small measure to the appearance of 'Roe v. Wade' in 1972.

New evidence coming to the fore shows the U.S. needs to mount at least as efficient a birth control campaign as Barbados did in the 60s. Far from being the morally "degenerate" path as the right wing nuts proclaim, it is clearly the way to a higher moral order - if by that one means lessening unwanted and out of wedlock births.

One thing Clyde Gollop discovered very early in his Barbados mission, was that calls for "abstinence" didn't work. Almost invariably, the raging hormones took their toll and triumphed over the paltry efforts of youths, young adults to hold back. And since the only other feasible option for release- masturbation or mutual masturbation - is looked down upon, that meant birth control had to be available to cover all bases.

The situation is no doubt analogous in the U.S. What ought to then concern us is how the unwanted births are increasing again - after a brief (2004-07) respite. A recent Pew study, for example, has found that the percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased to 41% overall, and 53% for women under 30. A large contribution to this sad stat is that unmarried women in particular tend to be poorer and the 20-somethings are the fastest growing segment.

The sociologist Jennifer Manlove of nonprofit Child Trends notes that studies have disclosed that three fourths of births outside marriage are unwanted. Given the deleterious effects on the kids, this is a national tragedy of epic proportions that rivals the deteriorating state of our civil infrastructure. It's a worse tragedy when one contemplates (as Ms. Manlove points out) that while poor unmarried young American women often rely on "withdrawal" their European counterparts receive free, state-funded care including condoms or pills. It's no wonder Europeans regard us as knuckle draggers - because in this sense, we are.

Obviously, birth control, because 3/4 of births are unwanted, is the very device that would create more stable families. This would be a practical solution as opposed to one in the clouds based on abstinence. Neither is marriage the answer or remedy (as IQ and statistical boffins like Charles Murrary claim) because it makes no difference. According to Princeton professor Sara McLanahan: ""Bush era programs encouraging people to marry really had no effect."

She went on to observe that previously co-habiting American couples had higher average divorce rates. Of course, as I noted in an earlier blog - part of this is also economic. Because of the scarcity of jobs for young working class men more working class women end up having to go it alone. This also means often having to raise an unwanted child by their lonesomes. If even half the manufacturing jobs dispatched overseas to China and Bangalore were returned, the dismal marriage and out of wedlock birth numbers could be improved.

But make no mistake that the cheap moralizers of the GOP want no part of this. They will fight to the end to keep this nation poor, dumb, and overpopulated by the unwanted in order to try to drive them into the GOP "family" using the sticks of morality and "big gubmint". It is a plan that's destined to fail, just as the Catholics' plan to add to their numbers and win a demographic religious battle by seeking to ban artificial contraception.

1 comment:

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