New America Foundation, Quiverfull and the Attack on Reproductive Rights

On March 31, an opinion was published on the Yahoo Contributor’s Network concerning a Tennessee mother who had her son baptized without the permission of her estranged husband. in this man’s opinion she should go to jail. [1] In light of the ongoing attacks on women’s rights, this suddenly seems like a real possibility. [2] [3]

The political environment has become decidedly hostile to women, and current legislation only reinforces the trend. Rude remarks about female sexual morality have been a strange part of this entire process. I have already said these pieces of legislation represent the effort to own female reproductive potential. All things considered, it can be argued that the insulting rhetoric is calculated to obscure the real purpose. These things are typically associated with a natalist policy. Apparently, the government of the United States is attempting to increase the birthrate. Therefore, the ‘slut’ remarks are probably a smokescreen. A chaste population is the last thing they want to see.

And the lawmakers continue their assault. Since November’s election in Mississippi, Republicans have been in charge of both chambers of the house and have used their position to target abortion. First, the “Heartbeat Bill” was introduced, which would have required doctors to look for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. The detection of a heartbeat would make it illegal for the doctor to continue. Although this bill never made it out of committee, more recently a measure was proposed that will probably cause Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to shut down. House Bill 1390 would require doctors working at abortion clinics to be Ob-Gyn certified and have admitting privileges to a local hospital. It has passed both houses and Republican Governor Phil Bryant is expected to sign it into law in a matter of days. [4]

The Think Tank, the Church, and Public Policy

New America Foundation

In addition to the obvious concerns about women’s rights, there are at least two important directions for this conversation. First, the decision to increase the birthrate is controversial in itself. Second, the methods reveal much about the country’s current direction and those who lead the way. Apparently, a relatively small group of organizations and churches are at the helm, and for quite some time they have been arguing that a higher birthrate is good for the nation’s economic and political future. The New America Foundation is a key player in this effort and is part of a wider cooperative network. The New America Foundation is a ‘non-partisan, public policy institute’ founded by Ted Halstead in 1999. It is headquartered in Washington D.C. and also has a ‘presence’ in California. Phillip Longman is a demographer and a Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the Foundation. Longman claims to be a political centrist, however he is influenced by Rick and Jan Hess, promoters of the Quiverfull Movement. Longman has also endorsed Allan Carlson’s views as put forth in his pro-Quiverfull treatise, “The Natural Family: a Manifesto”. Quiverfull is not centrist. Its political persuasion is conservative evangelical. Allan Carlson is a paleoconservative.

Quiverfull

The name ‘Quiverfull’ is taken from Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” Quiverfull parents often have more than six children; they are home-schoolers, members of fundamentalist churches, and believers in male headship and female submissiveness. The movement began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess’s 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ. In this book the Hesses argue that God is the “Great Physician” and sole “Birth Controller”. Therefore, a woman’s attempt to control her own body is a seizure of divine power. The movement’s core ideas can be tied to conservative Protestant critiques of contraception. Many conservatives believe that when mainline Protestant churches accepted birth control in the 1950s they opened the way for the sexual revolution. Yet, the feminists don’t escape blame–in this view, feminism is a religion that is incompatible with Christianity.

Population is a big concern for Quiverfull believers; the recent decline in the birthrate of some European countries inspires great fear, and the world’s political turmoil is said to be a consequence of this tendency. Some beliefs will sound familiar to anyone following the current presidential campaigns. They say the pill is an abortifacient and so they support pharmacists who refuse to distribute birth control on moral grounds. Of course, they extend this right of refusal to corporate entities such as insurers.

Phillip Longman

In 2006 Longman’s article “The Return of Patriarchy” was published in the March issue of Foreign Policy, a publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Longman predicted that falling birthrates throughout advanced societies will lead to financial, political, social and demographic decline and argued that the return of patriarchy is essential to the recovery of higher birthrates and reproduction. He claimed that the cause of falling birthrates is often the loss of social cohesion and he held the feminists and members of the counter-cultural movement of the sixties and seventies to blame for the childless segment of the population. People naturally avoid the costs of parenthood, he said, and the only reason the human race has not gone extinct before now is, patriarchy. Longman was quoted in an interview published in the Christian Post:

Patriarchal societies come in many varieties and evolve through different stages, he explains. What they have in common are customs and attitudes that collectively serve to maximize fertility and parental investment in the next generation.

A culture of patriarchy directs men to their responsibilities as husbands and fathers. Men who fail in these responsibilities are seen as inferior to those who are both faithful and effective. Furthermore, a patriarchal structure holds men accountable for the care, protection, discipline, and nurture of children. In such a society, irresponsibility in the tasks of parenthood is seen as a fundamental threat to civilization itself.”

(He) quotes feminist economist Nancy Folbre, who observed: “Patriarchal control over women tends to increase their specialization in reproductive labor, with important consequences for both the quantity and the quality of their investments in the next generation.” As Longman explains, “Those consequences arguably include: more children receiving more attention from their mothers, who, having few other ways of finding meaning in their lives, become more skilled at keeping their children safe and healthy.”[5]

It seems clear that these ideas provide motive for the laws that restrict birth control and ‘encourage’ marriage. The headline on the cover of that issue of Foreign Policy was “Why Men Rule – and Conservatives Will Inherit the Earth”.

The Policy Making Network

As Wikipedia’s ‘Patriarchy’ discussion evolved in 2009, biological determinism was a major argument of the pro-patriarchy editors. At the time I assumed that they represented a minority faction. The individuals and organizations promoting natalism seem to be the missing link.

Allan C. Carlson

Allan C. Carlson is president of the Howard Center, a director of the family in America Studies Center, the International Secretary of the World Congress of Families and editor of the Family in America newsletter. He is also former president of the Rockford Institute, where he was a member since 1981. He believes that the post-World War II baby boom in the United States was a Catholic phenomenon, a “heroic” flowering of Catholic family life in America, and he has criticized the impact of feminism on women’s roles in society as disastrous for the family. [6]

The Rockford Institute was founded by Rockford College president John A. Howard in response to the social changes of the 1960s. Allan Carlson was president until 1997 when he and Howard left to form the Howard Center for Family Religion and Society. In 1989, the Lutheran pastor, Richard John Neuhaus and his Religion and Society center were evicted from the Rockford Institute’s New York office after he complained about what he said were racist and anti-semitic tones in the Institute’s Chronicles magazine. Other leading conservatives supported this charge but it was denied by the Institute. Neuhaus’s eviction was interpreted as a division in the conservative movement between paleoconservatives and neoconservatives.[7]

Richard John Neuhaus

As a pastor in the 1960s Neuhaus addressed civil rights and social justice and spoke against the Vietnam War. He was active in liberal politics until Roe v. Wade was handed down. Then he became part of the neoconservative movement. He became a Roman Catholic priest in 1990 and was an unofficial advisor of President George W. Bush. In later years he likened the pro-life movement to the Civil Rights struggle. [8]

The New Biological Determinism

Allan Carlson, true to his paleoconservative views, uses sociobiology in the development of policy. [9] The argument provided by sociobiology goes something like this: Because women are biologically different from men, they have different roles. A woman’s place is in the home. A woman’s most important role is the bearing of children. We have seen that in Longman’s view, patriarchy provides the necessary assurance for this type of social arrangement.

In Christopher Wolfe’s “The family, civil society, and the state” Carlson argues that while several American political factions uphold family values, they do not have the same definition of family. The type of family structure that Carlson promotes is ‘rooted in human nature: in our genetic inheritance; in our instincts; in our hormones’. He disagrees with those who say the family is changing into new forms better suited to modern life, and claims that the only free cultural choice is between monogamy and polygamy.

“The so-called ‘changes’ we observe in family living are either deterioration from a natural order, or restoration toward that order: decay or renewal. Holy scripture affirms these truths, and so do the modern sciences of sociology and psychology, sociobiology and paleoanthropology.”

Religion, History and Dubious Science: the Politics of Birth Control

Again, this definition of the problem depends on a very selective history. Longman and his fellow pro-natalists insist that everything was fine until the 1960s. This has allowed the pro-natalists to pose as allies of the Libertarians and to blame the feminists and counter-culture movement for any supposed population decline. No one mentions that by the sixties the writings of Thomas Malthus had been widely accepted. Malthus argued for a low birthrate as a response to a limited food supply and a fragile environment. The part played by feminists in this debate differs from the paleoconservatives’ version of it. The people who were fighting for birth control, like Margaret Sanger, were virtually alone in supporting people’s right to have as many children as they wanted.

The Catholic hierarchy’s position in the birth control debate was resistance to the idea of people having sex without becoming pregnant. Church leaders also worried that if women controlled their own bodies they would be less likely to obey their husbands and the Church. Communists opposed Malthusianism for their own reasons, but were willing to change their population policies depending on the needs of the state. The government of the Soviet Union was the first to provide birth control and abortion, but in the face of war with Germany they banned birth control and paid women to have large families.

The definition of the problem provided by Longman, Carlson and Quiverfull is criticized for another reason as well. In an essay by Matthew Connelly, author of “Fatal Misconception: the struggle to control world population”, it is argued that predictions about population are a poor guide for policy making. Although the predictions may not come true, they will probably lead to terrifying reactions.

For most of recorded history population growth has been seen as proof of prosperity and also a measure of sound laws and good government. Based on the birthrate in his time, Teddy Roosevelt was certain America was committing race suicide. As a result, political and religious authorities worked together to deny access to contraception and keep abortion unsafe and illegal. (See link to page 2 below footnotes.)

  1. [1] Poupard, Vincent L. Mother who baptized children without consent needs to go to jail. Yahoo Contributor Network. March 31, 2012. Cited April 6, 2012. Available: http://news.yahoo.com/mother-baptized-children-without-consent-needs-jail-133900187.html
  2. [2] Indiana’s Judge Christopher B. Haile Inflicting Maternal Deprivation abuse. Fathers Winning Custody. March 6, 2009. cited April 6, 2012. Available: http://fatherswinningcustody.com/indianas-judge-christopher-b-haile-inflicting-maternal-deprivation-abuse/
  3. [3] Armstrong, Ken and Maureen O’Hagan. Seattle Times Special Report: Twisted ethics of an expert witness. Indiana Mothers for Custodial Justice. June 26, 2011. Cited April 6, 2012. Available: http://imfcj.blogspot.com/
  4. [4] Schmitt, Barbara A. Controversial Measure Would Essentially Shut Down Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic. ABC News. April 7 2012. Cited April 7, 2012. Available: http://abcnews.go.com/US/controversial-measure-essentially-shut-mississippis-abortion-clinic/story?id=16088001#.T4CKKe0SHzI
  5. [5] Mohler, R. Albert, Jr. Fatherhood and the Future of Civilization. The Christian Post: Opinion. June 13, 2008. cited April 5, 2012. Available: http://www.christianpost.com/news/fatherhood-and-the-future-of-civilization-32799/
  6. [6] Wikipedia: Allan C. Carlson. cited April 5, 2012. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_C._Carlson
  7. [7] Wikipedia: Rockford Institute. Cited April 5, 2012. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockford_Institute
  8. [8] Wikipedia: Richard John Neuhaus. Cited April 5, 2012. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_John_Neuhaus
  9. [9] Wikipedia: Paleoconservatism. cited April 5, 2012. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoconservatism
Loading Facebook Comments ...

One thought on “New America Foundation, Quiverfull and the Attack on Reproductive Rights

  1. Brando

    I DO think it’s meant for a reaction, too. “You canont procreate & do it responsibly when 6+ billion people already exist. ” COMMENT: That’s a non sequitur. Try this variant of the same reasoning: You canont earn money & do it responsibly when when 4+ billion people are poor. Let’s all stop working. That’s nonsense. ” We already have global warming & energy shortages (remember $150/barrel??) ” COMMENT: And obviously, children are the cause of that, is that what you mean? Because that’s another non sequitur: children don’t drive cars, don’t go snowboarding, don’t fly as often as adults. What do you think has to do more with global warming, the patterns of spending of parents bringing up their children, or the patterns of spending of singles with no children and lots of money and time to spend traveling and buying items they don’t need? Singles areknown for having lifestyles not particularly little opulent. Families spend, but singles don’t really seem to save much more, so they spend everything in themselves. Excuse me, but were you talking about the SELFISHNESS of having children? “& wars over resources. ” COMMENT: Those wars already existed in the Middles Ages, no matter how less people there was relative to now. For your argumentto even start to make sense, first you would have to prove that less individuals would not compete over resources, which is obviously false. On the other hand, social life forms such as humans need to breed in significant and proportional numbers. If you don’t want the population to grow too large, which would be the magic number? At what point would you, personally, because you don’t like it, prevent somebody from having children? Who exactly are you to make that decision and judge the right of somebody else to have children? You may buy bikes, some other people grow plants, and some other people have a family. Why is your decision ethically better than any of thealternatives? Still, you choose to pontificate and disapprove of those who have children. “Adding more people is going to make things worse, not better. ” COMMENT: Again, substitute the reasoning: “There’re already a lot of life-forms in the world. Adding more is going to makethings worse, not better, so stop reproduction, no more life-forms on the planet. As evolution shows, adding more individuals to the pool merely results in better individuals (and, in the case of human beings, more evolved ideas and better technology). Stopping that would be a recipe for failure, so, again, I am not looking forward to it. “On top of that, 30,000 children die each day of rather preventable things like dehydration & starvation. ” COMMENT: And I suppose Western parents who have been able to save their own children from that fate are now responsible for the suffering of somebody else’s children, the same suffering they have banned in their own families. Non sequitur. “So, if someone REALLY has to have a kid, why not just pick one up that already exists, instead of adding to the already existing population? ” COMMENT: Pick up one kid that already exists ? And take it away from its parents just like that? You know, parents usually have children because they want to bring them up (and some even turn out to love them, did you know that?). And if they didn’t want to, then the problem wouldn’t be Western parents’ wanting to have children, but some other parents’ having children without wanting or being able to. Why should Western parents pay for somebody else’s mistakes? Let those parents who think condoms are an instrument of evil deal with the consequences of their own acts. It would be just ridiculous that those who really can have children, weren’t allowed to. You should fight the religious birth policy of theocracies, rather than some parents’ individual right to have a family.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> <p>