Heather MacDonald takes to Secular Right to blast pro-lifers for supporting a pregnancy assistance fund for teenage mothers. The fund, of $25 million, would be used to provide maternity clothes, baby supplies and other items for teen mothers. Apparently, pro-lifers believe this would encourage more teen mothers to carry their pregnancy to term. I say kudos to the pro-lifers for this small gesture towards caring for babies and their teen mothers.
MacDonald begins the piece innocuously enough, pointing to the problems with teen mothers and suggesting the promotion of adoption. But she falls back into right wing tropes halfway through making the argument for adoption. Now, MacDonald is a secularist, which is fine. But she has replaced deistic religion with an entirely different mythology- that of the uber rational person.
According to MacDonald, such a pregnancy assistance fund is merely an enticement for teen pregnancy. There are several problems with this, of course. Teenagers are not fully formed adults. As such, they lack some basic cognitive and emotional abilities that adults possess. I do not, for a moment, believe that MacDonald is so blind to the fact that teenagers are not fully rational. Rather, she is using rationality as a means for justifying her anti-woman (especially poor, and non-white) screed.
This becomes obvious not long after, when MacDonald revives the nearly forgotten old trope about how welfare encourages pregnancy. To be quite frank, and not entirely kind, only morons believe that women endure nine months of pregnancy and eighteen years of child rearing in order for a few extra dollars in their TANF or food stamp accounts. Until I read this piece, I thought we had finally put that absurd theory to rest. Apparently not.
But MacDonald doesn’t want to merely cut off the teenage pregnancy fund, she wants to make teenage motherhood more onerous! This is what is commonly referred to on other blogs as the “punish those dirty sluts” strategy. And it is found quite frequently among the theocons. Here, MacDonald makes clear that the Religious Right does not hold a monopoly on such views.
What she expects to gain by making teenage pregnancy more onerous is unclear. Even if we assume that some teenagers will not chose to become mothers (whether through abortion or adoption), we are still left with tens of thousands of children being raised by teen mothers. If MacDonald had her way, those children, along with their mothers, would be punished by being cut off from social safety net programs. One can only imagine the negative consequences for society.
She tries to rescue her point by circling back to adoption in her final paragraph. But she couples it with a gratuitous swipe at the feminist movement, where she attempts to lay the blame for teenage pregnancy at the feet of feminists. Never mind that nearly all feminists are pro-choice and support comprehensive sex education. This is just more of MacDonald’s reliance on prototypical rightwing bogeymen and tropes.
Underneath all the bullshit, there is a valid argument to be had here. Promotion of adoption would be a good thing. There are countless couples who would love to have a child, but can’t. Rather than attacking the pro-life folks for actually caring about an actual child, as opposed to a fetus, MacDonald could have made that case. She could have also pointed to the importance of comprehensive sex education, as opposed to the theocon’s ineffective abstinence-only programs. But her real agenda has nothing to do with making society a better place and all to do with rending the social safety net.