When House Speaker Paul Ryan urged U.S. women to have more children, and Ross Douthat requested “More babies, please,” in a New York Times column, they openly expressed what U.S. policymakers have been discussing for decades with greater discretion. Using technical language like “age structure,” “dependency ratio,” and “entitlement crisis,” establishment think tanks are raising the alarm: if U.S. women don’t get busy having more children, we’ll face an aging workforce, slack consumer demand, and a stagnant economy.
Feminists generally believe that a prudish religious bloc is responsible for the protracted fight over reproductive freedom in the U.S., and that politicians only attack abortion and birth control to appeal to those “values voters.” But hidden behind this conventional explanation is a dramatic fight over women’s reproductive labor. Continue reading “Welcome to the Baby Bust”
Abortion isn’t a “cultural” issue. The production of children, and who will pay for it, is a key economic battlefront.
For decades, we’ve been told that abortion is merely a wedge issue used by Republicans to split working-class Catholics from the Democratic Party and excite a Protestant evangelical base. “Starting in the 1970s,” feminist law professor Joan C. Williams writes, “Republicans have offered support for working-class anti-abortion views in exchange for working-class support for pro-business positions.”
According to this view, politicians and the one percent really don’t care one way or the other about abortion — they’re just using the issue to get votes. This reading of US politics is so common that if you ask a group of feminists today why abortion is under attack, someone will explain that it is a political ploy to capture the support of conservative “values” voters. Thomas Frank even argues that banning abortion would be against the interests of these political forces because they would lose an issue to mobilize around.
But this explanation has frayed as abortion restrictions have proliferated, with several states now down to one abortion clinic and repressive regulations making abortion difficult to obtain for many and impossible for some. Even “blue” states like Minnesota throw up obstacles to those who want abortions. Several states have banned abortion outright, racing to be the one whose law overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized most abortions. Birth control, too, has come under attack, revealing that the stated goal of reducing abortions is a ruse.
While other “cultural issues,” such as same-sex marriage and cannabis legalization have been making progress, we have gone backward on abortion. This is because abortion is wrongly classified as a cultural issue. In fact, the production of children — and who will pay for it — is a key economic battlefront.
Birth Strike author Jenny Brown talks to KPFA’s UpFront host Cat Brooks about abortion, reproductive justice, and the birth strike. https://kpfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Jenny-Brown-Birth-Strike-8.08.mp3
The birth rate in this country is plummeting for a very obvious reason: Women don’t want babies. But the reason women don’t want babies is something conservative Republicans hate to admit: Having children is expensive and burdensome, and the US government provides mothers with very, very little help. There’s no paid leave, many women lack healthcare, there’s no financial assistance for nurseries or childcare facilities. All the while, the work of maintaining a household and raising kids is just plain hard, especially when you consider that most mothers are working full time.
Faced with these obstacles, even women who desperately want children are saying no, or are only having one child. They’re discouraged, and it doesn’t help when they learn that the governments of approximately fifty countries around the world require that mothers receive six or more months of paid leave. The enlightened leaders in these countries realize that a healthy economy needs plenty of workers. That, and stable governments need a solid tax base, which is only possible with an adequate number of citizens paying taxes.
This week’s interview is with Jenny Brown, the author of Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work, one of the most thought provoking titles we’ve seen in years. In a nutshell, Jenny believes women have finally had enough: They’re refusing to have more babies until this country’s leadership recognizes the work they do is vitally important and worthy of government support.
Full article here: https://www.forewordreviews.com/articles/article/reviewer-matt-sutherland-talks-womens-work-with-jenny-brown-author-of-birth-strike/
Happy May Day! Judith Ancel of Heartland Labor Forum on KKFI 90.1 FM in Kansas City interviewed Jenny Brown about Birth Strike (broadcast May 2). Listen here.
In a special segment of “By Any Means Necessary” Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon are joined by author Jenny Brown to talk about her new book “Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work” now available from PM Press, the perverse motives behind anti-abortion and anti-birth control legislation and campaigns, the exploitation of motherhood by capitalism, what an organized birth strike could look like, and the intersection of white supremacy, male supremacy and birth policy.
Women’s March, NYC, January 2019. Photo: Jenny Brown
“In 2017, the birth rate in the United States reached an all-time low. In her new book Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work (PM Press), activist and author Jenny Brown argues that declining birth rates represent a work slowdown, or strike, in the face of the poor conditions for those who do the labor of bearing and raising children.
“Like many of the classic texts of the Second Wave feminist movement, Brown’s book is her own, yet also a collective, intellectual endeavor, growing out of her organizing work with Redstockings and National Women’s Liberation, including those groups’ discussions and consciousness raising sessions.
“Jacobin’s Liza Featherstone spoke with Jenny Brown about the book at New York City’s Strand bookstore earlier this month.
Full article here: https://jacobinmag.com/2019/04/birth-strike-jenny-brown-interview
Mitch Jeserich of KPFA’s Letters and Politics show interviewed me about Birth Strike for this April 3 broadcast, now available for download and on iTunes at this link.