It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism. No doubt it might have been Communism, if Communism had ever had a chance, outside that semi-Mongolian wilderness where it actually flourishes. But so far as we are concerned, what has broken up households and encouraged divorces, and treated the old domestic virtues with more and more open contempt, is the epoch and power of Capitalism. It is Capitalism that has forced a moral feud and a commercial competition between the sexes; that has destroyed the influence of the parent in favor of the influence of the employer; that has driven men from their homes to look for jobs; that has forced them to live near their factories or their firms instead of near their families; and, above all, that has encouraged for commercial reasons, a parade of publicity and garish novelty, which is in its nature the death of all that was called dignity and modesty by our mothers and fathers. It is not the Bolshevist but the Boss, the publicity man, the salesman and the commercial advertiser who have, like a rush and riot of barbarians, thrown down and trampled under foot the ancient Roman statue of Verecundia.
Three Foes of the family
Since Obama won his second term, conservatives, religious conservatives in particular have had to lick their wounds. Some reactions go to the extreme, such as the pregnant woman who ran over her husband for not voting, as if his vote really mattered and he is the reason why Obama won when he lives in a state that went for Romney any way. Others blame Catholics who voted for Obama, while others bemoan those who voted for a 3rd party or could not bring themselves to vote for “Mittens”. All of these and the countless string or reactions and “if only we had gotten out the vote” etc. indicate amongst religious conservatives and pro-lifers an underlying problem, why aren’t we winning? The answer is that the movement has failed.
Is the pro-life movement really successful?
In one sense certainly. No other organization has consistently brought several hundred thousand people to the capital every year for over 40 years, not that I’ve ever heard of anyway. Moreover, the Pro-life movement in particular offers real solutions for women, through crisis pregnancy centers, post-abortive counseling, gifts, donations, adoption etc. In my estimation these are the real successes. I should also add before I criticize the movement that I am 100% pro-life, but I am dismayed by where the movement comes up short.
The successes, alas, sadly don’t overshadow the striking failures of the movement politically, and these are due to two factors: 1) A faulty grasp on the real nature of the problem and 2) absolute dependence on the Republican party which does not care. Thus we can say that the pro-life movement is successful socially with all of the good it is able to do for women in need, but not politically.
In the first place, we must correctly realize why abortion in this country (let alone in Europe) came into being. It did not come in with the legalization of contraception 6 years earlier, nor did it come in because of Margaret Sanger, who was a socialist and a Nazi supporter. It did not even come from Eugenics. These are all secondary causes; they are all involved, however, they flow from a primary cause.
Abortion came from Capitalism’s betrayal of the family. The assault of liberalism always realizes itself as economic before it does as political. Until the pro-life movement comes to the realization that abortion is wedded to our economic system, it will fail each and every time. Moreover, as long as it is beholden to the Republican party, which by and large is a party wedded to free market capitalism (the source for abortion) then the movement to end abortion will never be realized.
How Capitalism Causes Abortion
Why is this? Firstly, let us consider the assault on the family resulting from Capitalism. Most are aware of the 18th and 19th century realities, families forced into a small room which is all they can afford, children working and losing limbs in factories, etc. Since the 20th century most of the horrid conditions had been extirpated, at least for the time being. Thus many say we’ve cleaned up our act economically, so how does Capitalism cause the break-up of the family?
In the first place, we operate from a novel notion of “family”. In the past, the family is not only the husband, wife and children, but the extended family as well as those close friends and servants who are considered like “family”. We are all familiar with Hillary Clinton touting: “It takes a village to raise a child”, and Rick Santorum’s response with: “It takes a family to raise a child.” The truth however is both, but in their proper sense. When Clinton uses that African proverb, she means by “village”, something the Africans do not mean with the saying. She means it takes the government to assist parents financially and materially. In the case of the latter, Santorum means to defend the western, particularly American status quo of the nuclear family which should be able to work and provide for all of its needs on its own. This is of course the family created by American Capitalism. The problem lies in that it is not enough.
The term “familia” is an ancient Roman legal derived from the word “famulus” which means, well a slave or a servant. In Roman legal terms, the familia is the unit of the Erus, or Dominus, his wife, his children who are denoted as liberi, (the same word as the adjective “free”) namely the free offspring, and the famuli who vary from slaves who work in the fields, the house, their children, or scholarly foreigners in his retinue. Its name in Latin implies a group of people who are not the blood relation of the father, mother and their offspring. This composition of the family was similar in the Greek world, and in the Germanic cultures which ultimately took over the Roman Empire in the west. This particular conception of family only changed with the outlawing of slavery from slaves to servants, domestic servants attached to the family either by duty or for pay, and until the advent of capitalism this changed very little. Jane Austen for example, refers in one of her works to a family so poor they could only afford one servant. (Today due to taxes and bureaucracy, even a well to do family could scarcely afford to pay one, even well). Why did people have servants? As fathers of large families can affirm, having children, tending to a house and the normal course of female biology take their toll on women. A woman who works in the home often works much harder than a woman in the workplace. In short, women needed (and still need) help that the husband cannot provide while he is earning a living, irrespective of whether this was on the land or at his own business, or working elsewhere for a wage. All of these occupations in the past were sufficient to provide an income to employ a servant or two, until work in the city, the factory, the shop became paramount and because of the centralization of ownership, wages could no longer support a servant.
Who were the types of people employed as servants? They were not all like Jeeves of Wodehouse’s famous novels. Rather, they were widows, poor women, poor landless men, etc. Namely, people who today are on welfare. What could they receive for that? Some pay, no doubt, but also room and board which is no small cost either. They wouldn’t have lived like kings, but they also didn’t suffer a hand to mouth existence dependent upon the government handouts of Hilary Clinton’s “village”. With the ruin of the middle class culturally and economically in the 18th and 19th century, servants became the domain of the rich (enter Jeeves!). Today there is a finishing school in England where women spend a lot of money to be trained to be domestic servants and are thereupon hired by the wealthy. The old virtues had specific etiquette for how to treat servants, how long they might be expected to work, etc. Today these have been lost, so one frequently reads about foreigners recruited to be servants in Europe then treated like slaves. None of this is thought of when speaking of the older virtues of servants. They were not employees, they were family from nannies to those helping with dishes. The point is all these factors added to peace in the home, for the most part, by helping mothers during difficult periods. As I myself have experienced, while women have maternity leave men often do not have paternity leave. Who is going to cook and clean while the mother is recovering? It is a necessary thing for women to be able to relax after having a baby. Birth is a difficult thing, it is a wonderful thing but very painful and trying on a woman’s body. Older children still need to be cared for, fed, etc. Houses still need to be cleaned, as any parent of a large family knows, dirt builds up! True, older children can do quite a bit of work, but what if you are a mother of toddlers? There are people who do hire nannies and domestic servants, but to afford it both parents must work unless the husband is in a high paying job, which today is not most people.
Yet this is only one facet of the problem. The other is the fierce individualistic spirit of capitalism which yields so many bad effects in society. Since capitalism focuses on individual material happiness, grandparents become a drain on modern notions of privacy, not only for children who don’t want irritating elders around, but even for grandparents who want to maintain independence themselves! Thus nursing homes came into being, a place for people to stick their unwanted elderly, and on the other side elderly who don’t want to give up their independence and prefer to go to a nursing home. There is a good bit of both. Another factor is that elderly must work later into life. This is not just because of corporate CEOs raiding their retirement accounts, or social security not paying until later, but the obscene cost of health care and the inability of retirement or social security to pay the rising bills thanks to the effects of inflation. In 2010, the biggest single cause of bankruptcy was individuals with health insurance who could not pay medical bills. Thus grandparents are increasingly unable to help young families manage. Other relatives must make ends meet themselves and the assistance which in the past was there is not now.
The Political Failure of the Pro-life movement
The Pro-life movement politically speaking is similar in its nature and its conduct to the Populist movement of William Jennings Bryan. The Populist movement brought together many people of different backgrounds and opinions, who had one basic premise: take the power from big banks by freeing us from dependence on gold for currency. In this they were right of course and many Americans at the time agreed, but in the end they failed politically. The reason for this is that they were not able to get an effective grass roots movement going and their third party presidential candidates failed. Why did they fail to get an effective grass roots movement? There are several reasons for this, but primarily they didn’t have enough grasp on the plurality of issues effecting government. The left for instance always talks about a one issue voter and how this is bad. There is a sense however in which the charge is correct, they are simply applying it wrong. The left uses the “one issue voter” slogan to say abortion is not a big issue. That is false, it is. Yet they are right in that it is not the only issue and to have a coherent platform one needs to be able to address a plurality of issues. The populists had no grasp of this locally or statewide, and they got eaten up between loyalty to the established parties.
The exact same thing is true for the pro-life movement. The movement itself has almost nothing to say about economic policy, the environment (in its proper sense), healthcare, the war on terror etc. As a whole the movement is shortsighted politically, and it is generally owned and run by the Republican party. Abortion is the biggest gift to the Republicans, because never could a more incompetent party manage to stay alive in modern politics without a major issue to keep people voting for them. For this reason, among many others, the Republicans will never end abortion, nay more, they have, continue to and will in the future continue to run pro-abortion candidates. We even saw the specter of pro-life Rick Santorum defending a pro-abort candidate from a pro-life candidate to maintain the “party interest”.
They will talk, they will stir people up, or offer their token resistance and there are even sincere Republican politicians who want to end abortion, however, in the end the party will never end it. We should not forget that an allegedly “good, christian, pro-life” conservative Republican, George H.W. Bush, while Nixon’s ambassador to the UN helped the Chinese craft the One Child Policy. As a congressman in 1968, George H.W. Bush used every opportunity to praise Planned Parenthood, and offered amendments with fellow Republican Herman Schneebeli to give “Family Planning Services” priority. During the hearings for these amendments, Allen Guttmacher, the successor to Margaret Sanger and equally a protegee in her support of NAZI eugenics and racism appeared as a witness in favor of the amendments. After discussing the problems that Planned Parenthood faces due to its inherent goal of wiping out blacks through contraception and abortion, George H.W. Bush said: “I appreciate that. For the record, I would like to say I am 1,000 percent in accord with the goals of your organization. I think perhaps more than any other type of organization you can do more in the field of poverty and mental health and everything else than any other group that I can think of. I commend you.” In the 70’s, Republican President Richard Nixon’s state department, with the aid of Henry Kissinger, drafted National Security Memorandum 200, a document which decried the rise of African birth rates, because as Africans developed their resources, America would be less able to steal them. (!) In the 90s, as a senator for Pennsylvania Rick Santorum supported Title X funding which went to Planned Parenthood in order to bolster other legislation. John McCain, who so many told us we should support in 2008, has met with Al Qaeda leaders in Syria who have kidnapped and killed little children on youtube to bolster support for his Syria policy. Pro-life over here, not in the middle east apparently, if we could even say he is pro-life at all. No Republican leader has been any different. They will talk but they will not do. The democrats of course have no interest in ending it either, and religious conservatives who make up the pro-life movement are just a political group to be wooed for votes by parties who do not share their interests. The pro-life movement makes no attempt to address the economic and social antecedents of abortion except in the area of personal morality. No one stops to ask the question, why was birth control attractive to modern women?
In the 19th century early feminists like Susan B. Anthony advocated laws against birth control and abortion because these were seen as being used by men to control and use women, thus the laws came on the books which became an issue in the 20th century. Why was Margaret Sanger able to appeal to modern women to use birth control and have recourse to abortion? It wasn’t her NAZI sympathies, it wasn’t her stated goal to get rid of the “morons” and “black babies” that inspired them, no it was the exigencies of modern life. Birth and raising children is difficult, oh here is a way to keep me from being pregnant, why is that illegal? Providing said services is also big business. If you convince the population it needs little rubber sheaths and it needs pills, or doctors trained to murder babies in the womb, there are a lot of people who will buy them, and given our modern culture, quite repeatedly. Capitalism is on the side of abortion. Entrepreneurs want to convince people to buy their products, why should government interfere? Is there force? no. Is there fraud? no. Therefore what’s the problem? Arguing against it on the basis of morality, or even psychologically and sociologically is to import a foreign philosophy to the individualistic spirit of capitalism. As we have seen, pornography, in spite of study after study showing its bad effects, is still legal (See my article of several years ago the Market and the Moral Man). The failure of the pro-life movement to effectively deal with the moral problems of capitalism and how it has transformed the family will always leave it handicapped when dealing with abortion.
Furthermore, let us look to two significant failures of the Pro-Life movement politically, the Partial Birth Abortion ban and Obamacare.
With respect to the Partial Birth Abortion ban, many in the Pro-life movement hailed it as a great victory, or the first chip at Roe vs. Wade. This however, apart from being shortsighted politically, this view is also incorrect legally. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated that the ban was constitutional, because it upheld the principles in Planned Parenthood v Casey. That is to say, because the 2007 partial birth abortion ban upheld abortion law in general (adding further precedent to its constitutionality) it was fine. This is not a victory, it is a defeat. The high court essentially said this law is good because it continues the support of abortion on demand. It is not a victory either because it got rid of partial birth abortion, since if you kill a baby by sucking is brain’s out with a vacuum, or do so by dismembering it or boiling it in saline, what is the difference? An innocent child is still dead. Then there is Obamacare. Conservative democrats hailed the Stupak amendment and Bart Stupak’s party of eight resisting Obamacare, and many said this was a victory. Yet in the end when Nancy Pelosi demanded, Stupak accepted the promise that the president would not force abortion to be funded by taxpayers, which is completely ludicrous not only because Obama is not trustworthy, but how can he simply say this bill funds healthcare, and deny funding to something the Supreme Court calls healthcare? Then comes the HHS mandate, the complete support of the Obama regime for Planned Parenthood, and the fact the US Catholic Bishops were compromised while trying to argue against it. Pro-lifers, and Catholics in particular, had virtually no counter health care plan. They only came up with a free market argument in the face of Obama trying to provide a corporatist plan that in reality is nothing more than a bail-out for insurance companies. Where were they all this time prior on health care? It doesn’t matter if now we say abortion is not healthcare, the upholding of the partial birth abortion ban was done under the understanding that it is, it is law. Was everyone blind to this?
Hope for the future?
There are only three ways in which the Pro-life movement could be successful. Firstly, the issue of Capitalism and abortion needs to be addressed. Leaving it out is nothing more than ignoring the elephant in the room. The fact is, abortion clinics are simply made of of entrepreneurial individuals responding to a market demand, and a value free, market based economics such as that of the Austrian School has no means of stopping this, since the claim is that the government exists only to stop theft or fraud. Abortion clinics offer a service, people want to pay for said service, what more is there? (Or at least, someone wants to pay for it, since many times women are pressured or even forced to undergo the procedure). Once the positive law outlawing abortion was struck down, there were plenty of entrepreneur’s responding to market demand. Moreover, it expanded with universities and medical companies paying for the finished product (i.e. a dead baby) to pursue research. How can the Austrian school stop that? It can’t. Furthermore, capitalism in general supports the whole mindset which goes into abortion, from using sex to sell products, to increasingly cheapen human life itself and the destruction of the family which results.
Second, start a 3rd party that does not run for president for a period of at least 5 years. This party would necessarily have to be holistic, though while abortion would be the chief of all issues on the platform, there would also be a well thought out policy addressing a range of issues. It is necessary to participate in government in meaningful ways, that means at the local and state level. Running presidential candidates is a waste of time. It does not engender serious attention to issues no one talks about, it does not advance a message, it just wastes money and gets ignored by the media. I would turn the phrase attributed to Nathan Rothschild on its head, namely “give me control of the currency and I care not who makes the laws.” I would say instead: Give the people control of local and state government, and I care not what Wall Street goon runs a regime in the White house. But this is a longshot, since, if the voting system is not positively rigged, then at least most people do not care. There are higher voter turnouts in under-developed countries in Africa than there is in the “beacon of freedom”. My general opinion is that voting actually doesn’t solve anything anyway.
The other matter is to to attack the root causes of the abortion culture socially and domestically, not only contraception, for that too has antecedents, but the pornography culture and the “me” generation. The pro-life movement would be more politically effective if we worked on the restoration of the family; this is not achieved by merely working for abstinence education and educating about marriage, but to work for families owning sufficient material wealth to survive, support for mothers both from family and community, which is to say it needs to adopt authentic Catholic social principles. This requires, in our current situation, the de-funding of public schools and the strengthening of local communities, businesses and family life at a communal level. Failing a third party this is the only option to tackle abortion. Neither political party wants it to end, nor is committed to it ending. Thus the voter is placed between the Scylla and Charybdis of democrats who want National Socialism, and republicans who want Corporatism, and alternatives from libertarians like Ron Paul who would give us Plutocracy and genocidal austerity. On the one hand the former says abortion is not as important as healthcare, while the other says the market will take care of abortion, when in reality neither is true. In the case of the latter it is actually the opposite, abortion is a market driven demand requiring a market solution, namely the service [of murder]. Working within the framework of the Republican party will never end abortion because at the end of the day it is the same world that creates the demand for abortion. Only by returning to the basic concept of what government, law, society and culture are for, preeminently what the family is, and what the end of it is can we possibly broach an end to abortion. Thus it is not enough to oppose capitalism, or to found a third party, we must work to make Catholic Social teaching happen, restore the family, restore people working and owning capital (not stocks), restore the concept of procreation and education of children, and then, not later, those pro-life goals have a chance of being realized. Until the pro-life movement figures these things out, it will continue to fail politically, in spite of its social achievements.