This diary is not another attempt to discuss the ways in which the Republic party uses emotionally charged social issues to co-opt the low-income religious voting block. That topic is too broad for any one diary, and it's most assuredly above my pay grade. Instead, this diary discusses a more specific way in which the pro-greed Republicans are using pro-lifers under false premises.
I do not doubt that many good-hearted pro-life Christians exist. These individuals believe that life starts at conception, and they are as bothered by a 16-week fetus dying as they are a three-year old baby dying. Agree or disagree with these individuals, you must admit that many of them have not-nefarious motives. Unfortunately those people have been hoodwinked into believing that their elected officials believe the same thing. In reality, a huge contingent of the Republican cadre is far more pro-birth than they are anti-abortion.
These corporate drones parade under the auspices of pro-life rhetoric. But when provided with a real opportunity to do something about the number of abortions in the United States, these people fight tooth and nail against common sense legislation. I'm left to ponder whether these politicians are really most interested in providing a captive low-income population base for a host of key constituencies.
What if I told you there was a party that staked the bulk of its political capital on a single issue over the course of three decades? Then what if I told you the opposing party proposed legislation that would serve the primary stated goal of the first party? Now imagine that our first party rejected - and many of its businesses sued over - that legislation, fighting tooth and nail to see it fail.
That's what's happened over the last year, as Republicans fight tooth and nail to limit access to birth control for low income women. For those who have been paying attention, this is really nothing new. For more than a decade, Republicans have been fighting against responsible sex education and condoms in school. But when they created a public fight over the availability of medically sanctioned birth control, their party gave away the game.
You see - no one wants to see abortions. A woman being put in a position where she has to choose an abortion is traumatic and potentially life-altering, and it is something that we should avoid if possible. Even we Democrats agree that this is a less than optimal situation though we differ with Republicans on whether women should have that choice at all. But responsible governance requires individuals to develop policy proposals that find the common ground to make progress on the few issues where parties agree. Greater access to birth control in an effort to limit unwanted pregnancies seems like a no-brainer. One study found that free access to birth control decreased abortion rates by as much as 80%.
Yet Republicans have fought with fervor to prevent the passage of the birth control provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Evangelical colleges have sued to prevent free birth control access for their employees. In an especially high-profile case, Hobby Lobby has sued over the same. In February, a group of GOP leaders, empowered by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, expressed opposition to the free provision of birth control.
One potential explanation is that members of the far-right religious movement are interested in controlling the sex lives of all people. Others explain that Republicans are really anti-women, and people who support this position have much evidence to sight on other Republican misogynistic efforts. But these things are just cover for what really powers the Republican pro-birth mindset. And to figure it all out, you just need to follow the money.
Studies increasingly find that poor women are more likely to have an abortion. A Guttmacher study found:
“The proportion of abortion patients who were poor increased by almost 60%—from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008.”
Comparing abortion among the poor and well-off, it found:
Poor women's “relative abortion rate was more than twice that of all women in 2008... and more than five times that of women at 200% or more of the poverty level.”
Many of the fetuses lost to abortion might have eventually been born into poverty, and many would-be births for impoverished mothers are stopped when access to birth control is ramped up. This is a problem for the corporately fueled Republican leaders. That is because a number of their key special interest partners demand a large, captive, low-income population base. Without a pool of young people to pull from, how would we fill out our employment rolls and our for-profit prisons?
A Princeton University study found substantial links between prolonged childhood poverty and a host of important life qualities. For instance, the study found:
children living below the poverty threshold are 1.3 times as likely as nonpoor children to experience learning disabilities and developmental delays...
The poorer children scored between 6 and 13 points lower on various standardized tests of IQ, verbal ability, and achievement.
The study went on to find that family income is mostly closely related to achievement outcomes of kids, with impoverished kids performing much worse in school than their well-off peers.
The logical extension here is simple. Kids who develop cognitive deficiencies and struggle in school are highly likely to lack the skills to command high wages. These are children who will eventually be funneled into low-wage, low-leverage jobs if they are lucky. From a macro perspective, the business owners benefit from having a large pool of these captive workers. This exerts significant downward pressure on wages, as employers can easily replace workers with other pawns from the unskilled pool.
In addition to serving the corporate class, these pro-birth Republicans need more babies born into poverty to feed the growing private prison monster. While many people were looking the other direction, private companies starting running and buying prisons across the United States. In many states, private companies have been contracted to run prisons. In some places, these prison companies have purchased prisons, dangling "good" deals in front of cash-strapped state governments in exchange for occupancy rate guarantees. Take Ohio, for instance, where one prison company paid more than $72 million for a prison in exchange for a state guarantee of 90% occupancy. You don't have to be a policy expert to know that placing strict financial incentives on prison occupancy may have a negative effect on fair policy and enforcement.
The prison monster does not just sit on the sideline bribing state legislatures, either. They get actively involved in lobbying. Three major prison companies spent $45 million in lobbying dollars to bring home the bacon last year. These companies were rewarded with $5.1 billion in state contracts for their efforts. In California last year, the private prison lobby spent more money than the education lobby. Perverse incentives, indeed.
These prison companies make a tremendous amount of money when offenders fill their halls. They cash in both with state payments and with some profit made by utilizing prisoners in cheap labor schemes. You can imagine the type of offender that a for-profit prison wants in its midst. They crave pot possessors and other non-violent drug offenders, since these people are less likely to cause trouble and more likely to go about the business of good behavior. It's not a stretch to say that this has a perverse effect on crime policy in many states.
Pro-birth Republicans want kids born into poverty because those kids are more likely to end up in prisons. For a child born into poverty, there are a few different potential life results. The first result - unskilled existence - leads to a highly supply of cheap labor. Though some will escape that result and live the cliched American Dream, others will fall into a third category - the poverty to prison cycle. Poverty begets prison, and prison begets poverty. In 2008, roughly 35% of black male high school dropouts were in prison. Almost 15% of white male high school dropouts found themselves in prison. The racial issues certainly persist, but there is no denying a link between poverty and risk of imprisonment.
It is well established that pro-birth Republicans care about the sanctity of life for about nine months, after which every baby should fend for herself. But more troubling is the way the pro-birth movement co-opts the abortion issue to fuel impoverished populations that they are unwilling to provide for. When you look at where these children usually end up and who benefits from these outcomes, it's not hard to draw a straight line that follows the money. The few well-meaning people on the far right have been manipulated by a group of insidious politicians who, when presented with a real, tangible way to decrease abortions, fought it tooth and nail. The pro-birth movement is here, and its effects are crushing society.