Abortion and the Progressive Agenda - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Abortion and the Progressive Agenda
by
Janet Yellen before the Senate Banking Committee on May 10 (PBS/YouTube)

With Roe v. Wade likely to be overturned, progressive leaders in the Democratic Party have doubled down on their efforts to insert abortion rights into the Constitution. Such efforts seem odd in light of issues like the war in Ukraine and historically high prices on food, gas, and other vital necessities. Why would Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer call for a vote that would almost certainly fail, especially when most Americans do not support abortions that occur in late pregnancy? Abortion rights galvanize the progressive base, and perhaps Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others hope it could mitigate their losses in the midterm elections. Or is it because abortion provides so crucial a role in the long-term plans of the progressive agenda that it must not only be protected but even expanded, whatever the cost?

So how does abortion figure into those long-term plans? Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen gave much of the game away in her recent interchange with Sen. Tim Scott and the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. There, Yellen spoke of abortion’s presumed economic benefits. Women who become pregnant early in life become so burdened with childcare they cannot meaningfully participate in the labor force. Her words merit being quoted in full:

I believe that eliminating the rights of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades…In many cases, abortions are of teenage women, particularly low-income and often Black, who aren’t in a position to be able to care for children, have unexpected pregnancies, and it deprives them of the ability often to continue their education to later participate in the workforce…So there is a spillover into labor force participation, but it means the children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves…This is not harsh. This is the truth.

Yellen’s arguments sound less like birth control and more like population control, the efforts of the state to limit the size of a country’s population to maximize the enjoyment of its resources.

Imagine the woman of Yellen’s hypothetical scenario: low-income, unwed, teenaged. If she carries her child full-term, and if she and her child are more likely to remain in poverty due to the burdens of childcare, then someone or something has to step in and assume some financial responsibility for the child. Since the birth of the welfare state, that entity has been a host of government programs providing assistance to low-income single mothers struggling to raise those children. An abortion not only silences a beating heart but also removes a potential mouth the state must feed. So that abortion surreptitiously becomes a means not of a woman’s right to choose but of the ability of government bureaucrats to plan. As Yellen retorted to Scott, “This is not harsh. This is the truth.”

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, recognized the same connection. But before Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, she took part in strikes for better working conditions amongst factory workers in New York. During one such strike, Sanger had a revelation: the workers’ strikes continually failed because of all the kids the strikers had depending on them at home. The goals of union organizers were thwarted not only by big business and the capitalists but also by their own children, children who needed their parents to work and provide an income. In her autobiography Sanger writes,

This was the only time I came in contact with men and women on strike together. I could see the men had two things in their minds: one economic — the two-dollar extra wage and the shorter hours they might win; the other political — the coming of the social revolution. The women really cared for neither of these. Dominating each was the relationship between her husband, her children, and herself. She might complain of being tired and not having enough money, but always she connected both with too many offspring.… The primary reason for the failure of all labor rebellions was the hunger cries of the babies; if they were only fed the strikers could usually last out.

In other words, the social revolution would always be thwarted by the number of mouths the revolutionaries would have to care for. The strikes could succeed and the workers’ revolution achieved if only the workers had smaller families.

So, too, would the task of government bureaucrats administering the cradle-to-the-grave welfare state be lightened by the practice of abortion. Hence, countries that embrace socialism offer abortion on demand as part of the package of central planning. Some countries, like the Soviet Union, merely legalized abortion while others, like communist China, embraced abortion as a means to curb overpopulation. From 1979 onwards, China mandated that families could have only one child; if local Communist Party officials discovered local families expecting a second, the mother would be abducted and the child terminated. The cruel, cold calculus of socialism, whose government bureaucrats have to plan literally everything, is that the fewer people the state has to care for, the more likely the state will succeed in any of its plans.

Here in America, we might sterilize people against their will, as an earlier generation of progressives did to thousands of people throughout the 20th century. But as a society, I hope that we would never abort a baby against the choice of its mother in the same way China has carried out forced abortions for decades. And yet, a pregnant, unwed expectant mother might make the same calculation as did Yellen that a child would hurt that mother’s ability to participate in the labor force. She might wish to terminate the pregnancy and then by all means, it must be as easy as possible to carry out that choice. Abortion must be legalized up to the date of the child’s birth, and access to surgical and medical forms of abortion such as morning after pills must be available, too. Per Bernie Sanders, whose support for socialism and abortion could not be more solid, the Senate must not only enshrine abortion rights but dismantle the filibuster to ensure they pass as soon as possible.

The alternative is that there may be too many people for the government to care for. Otherwise, the mother might give birth to a child who could drain the economy of precious resources or, as Yellen explained, they are likely to “grow up in poverty and do worse themselves.” Such arguments arise not from birth control but population control, not from the “right of a woman to choose” but the ease of government planners to control the economy, society, and everything that moves within it. These undercurrents have brought together socialism and abortion ever since the founding of Planned Parenthood, but the arguments are so callous that few politicians or government planners describe abortion in the same terms Yellen used in her exchange with Scott. To quote that exchange one last time, “This is the truth.”

Winston Brady is the Dean of Academics and the Director of Thales Press at Thales Academy, a network of classical schools in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.
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