Brux column: Consistent pro-life election issues
This opinion column will address the economics of current policy issues. Writer Dr. Jackie Brux is an emeritus professor of economics and founder/director of the Center for International Development at UW-River Falls; and author of the college textbook, “Economic Issues and Policy.”
This column is specifically addressed to my dear Catholic sisters and brothers and all others who grapple with the issues of abortion, social programs and yes, economics.
First, Catholics may be interested in knowing that I used natural family planning throughout my 45 years of marriage. I was successful in avoiding pregnancies when I needed to, and in achieving four pregnancies within 1-3 months of trying. Two of my tiny baby boys were born dead during my second trimester, so I know what it feels like to hold a small, not fully-formed, but precious dead baby.
I like to think that I've been consistently pro-life on many issues that include the well-being of living children, both in the U.S. and the many poor countries where I've worked. I'd like to raise some questions:
• Despite my use of natural family planning, I would never judge others who use artificial non-abortifacient contraceptives. My question: despite being ostensibly pro-life, will our current White House and Congress increase abortion rates by denying contraceptives to women and girls? They want to defund programs providing contraceptives (in the U.S. and abroad), eliminate the mandate to provide contraceptives under the ACA and Medicaid, and teach abstinence-only sexual education in schools. I'll be watching the data to see if the long-term trend of falling abortion rates reverses.
• Is it enough to assist pregnant women and their newborns with pregnancy support groups and hotlines for a few short years? Don't we also need to assist families throughout their lifetimes, especially those headed by single mothers, with vital social services?
• Won't women and girls who are traumatized by unplanned pregnancies become desperate, and regardless of law, won't desperate women find desperate ways to end their pregnancies (as women have done for millennia)?
• Doesn't all this mean that we can't focus only on electing "pro-life" politicians? Don't we need to elect those who would provide social services to those who need them, enabling women to care for their children as their children mature?
I have other questions:
• There has always been a philosophical disconnect on the question of whether "the ends" justify "the means." In other words, are we willing to lie, cheat and steal to achieve an objective? Or more specifically, are we willing to elect someone who will lie, cheat and steal so we can achieve our objective of reducing abortions? In the case of today's politicians, might we not say that it is only the means that justify the end? In other words, is it only through compassionate and humane policies that we are ethically able to pursue our goal of fewer abortions?
• Finally, how do we compare one life with another? Don't we have a responsibility to provide aid to poor countries to prevent child deaths from poverty? Don't we have a responsibility to end the violent deaths of children in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and other countries where the U.S. plays a pivotal role in the violence? Don't we have a responsibility to take in carefully vetted refugees to prevent child rapes, slavery and deaths from human traffickers? Does one unborn child equal one living child? Does one unborn child equal 500 living children? What is the ratio? Wouldn't we be "playing God" if we seriously tried to assess this?
Let's also consider the economics of all of this. Yes, social services, anti-poverty programs, foreign aid and refugee assistance all cost money, but it's a far smaller amount of money than the tax benefits to the very rich from our recent tax bill. These are small expenses that reap large benefits in terms of human need and improved global stability.
Current strategies attack women from the back end of policy. Wouldn't it be far more honorable to address their issues from the front end, by assuring mothers the housing assistance, health care, nutrition programs, child care and income-support that will enable them to bear and care for their children over the long-term?
I don't pretend to have the answers, and I don't judge Trump-voters who voted on the abortion issue.
Ultimately, we all must vote where our hearts lead us. But let's just apply a bit of critical thinking on the issue as well.