Creating Real "Choice" as a Coalition tactic (Re: ANSWER: Name this socialist

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Mon Aug 16 22:57:35 PDT 1999

>In the case of abortion, it is reasonable to understand those in the
>progressive wing of the anti-abortion movement who argue that the rhetoric
>of "pro-choice" is hollow for poor women who might want to keep their child,
>but find abortion the only economic alternative. Mere state funding for
>abortion does not assure "choice" but only makes one of two impossible
>choices imposed by capitalist society a bit more viable. Such "choice"
>merely means that the poor are forced into abortion because they have no
>other option-- a conscious goal by some family planner advocates over the
>years. There is a traditional class conscious attack on abortion advocacy
>that sees plenty of method to a system that seems to assure freedom for
>professional women while creating tremendous economic pressure on poor women
>to not have children.

Um. Nathan, I am not sure what you are driving at here. That some women would carry to term if their life conditions were different seems no reason not to ensure full access to abortion in case they do not want to birth a child: free access does not coerce abortion; poverty might but then the solution is abolition of poverty, not restrictions on reproductive freedom (plus poverty seems correlated with higher birth rates). Your implication here is insidious: that poor women cannot be trusted to exercise their choice 'wisely' if they are allowed a real choice; full access would encourage them to--what?--abdicate their responsibility to breed the race numerous and strong? Poor women therefore cannot be trusted with freedom. I can't imagine that you think this, but it is surely possible that what you have written could be interpreted that way by for example one of the WBAI listeners who was talking up an Ice Age storm before Doug's last show. Sent the person I was in the car into a deep, deep funk. He was almost as bad as the Indian dj on a local NJ radio station who when asked about the low ratio of women to men in India mused that the scarcity of women would relieve him of a dowry for his daughters.

Now to change topics slightly. That Chicago study about how abortion has reduced the number of criminals raises several deep methodological questions about what is wrong with regression analysis as practiced in the social sciences today (in the case it's interesting that one counterfactual can be entertained--that these children, if born, would have turned out to be criminals--but the other more obvious one seems unbroachable--if involuntary unemployment had been eliminated, these children, if born, would have prospered: what makes the one thought experiment worth statistically investigating but the other one less interesting?)

We have not yet probed the question of what exactly is methdologically wrong with this study.

By not underlining the historically contigent conditions, e.g., the collapse of keynesian full employment macro economic policy or the institutional structure of capitalism itself, which make for some statistical liklihood of criminal behavior by those disproportionately poor children if they had not been aborted--Habermas would call these contigent conditions 'ideologically frozen relations of dependence that can in principle be transformed'--the researchers seem to give the impression that it is something about the kids themselves that would have brought about criminal activity. The historical mediations between them and crime are absented; a genetic determinism is necessarily implied to make the finding interesting. The study proves nothing--it does not specify how and why these children, if born, would have been more likely to be criminals; it works on the implicit assumption of a crude genetic determinism (doubtless racialized) to be interesting: if these children are not necessarily as a result of what they inherited to be more likely to be criminals, then the task becomes the specification of the conditions under which the correlation between these kids and crime holds. At any rate, those conditions have been ideologically frozen, and here their explanation relies on a resurgence of the most vulgar naturalism--that the market is a natural process the outcomes of which thus cannot be changed and that complex behaviors are determined by one's genes.

I am sure that there are much deeper things that can be said about what has gone wrong in this study. Looking forward to any further comment.

yours, rakesh

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