The Economics of “Social Policy”

There are economic consequences to most policy choices. That’s just as true of so-called “social” policies as it is of decisions to build roads or wage wars.

When religion is driving policy, economic repercussions tend to get ignored. So it was interesting to read Two Sides, Same Coin–a report by the University of California at San Francisco on the economics of abortion policy. Researchers followed women who were turned away–who wanted to terminate a pregnancy but were unable to do so. As the report noted,

Access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, is essential to women’s economic security. Yet many progressive politicians and advocates often ignore this important connection. This report delineates the many links between these topics—including that family planning increases women’s economic opportunity, lack of supports for pregnant and parenting women interferes with their economic stability, and there is an unfulfilled potential for reproductive health care to help create economic security—and the need to integrate both issues into any proactive policy agenda to achieve equality for women.

The Guardian recently noted the “costly choice” faced by pregnant American women:

For a country where politicians are rather eager to promote family values, America has few policies that make it easy to have children. On top of high health-care costs and limited employer benefits, the country has little in the way of affordable child-care. It is unsurprising, then, that three-quarters of women who choose to have an abortion say it is because they cannot afford to have a child. Some will argue that they can always put their child up for adoption. Others will add that marriage can be a fine antidote to poverty (45% of all women who seek abortion are unmarried). These are fair points. But perhaps instead of closing down abortion clinics, lawmakers might consider more ways to give these women better choices.

Perhaps the most widely-read economic analysis of abortion policy was the argument by the authors of Freakonomics,  

who concluded that legalization of abortion in the 1970s explained a substantial part of the crime decline in the 1990s. (Evidently, children born into households where they are wanted, and where the adults are financially and emotionally capable of raising them, commit fewer crimes.)

None of this is an argument for making moral choices on the basis of economic consequences. But opinions on the morality of abortion are hotly contested.

It’s interesting to note that people who believe that the moral position requires respect for personal autonomy and reproductive choice tend to give generously to organizations like Planned Parenthood. On the other hand, the lawmakers most willing to use government’s power to impose their personal moral/religious beliefs on women who may not share them have shown little interest in ensuring the well-being of children once they are born.

The economic consequences of that disinterest fall on the rest of us.


  1. I’d go so far as to say that we punish “loose women” for not having abortions. The Religious Right doesn’t want abortions, but it wants women–especially single women–to suffer for their sins.

  2. Thank you so much for this information. If reproductive health care and contraception were available to and affordable for all women, there would be fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions. If we had the supports in place to lift poor women into the middle class and to provide care for children whose mothers must work, even more abortions would be avoided. It only requires being pro-life beyond birth.

  3. What amazes me is that there are so many extremely ignorant WOMEN out there that support the “pro-life” stance without a single thought about the future life of children born into circumstances. They don’t care about who will take care of these children or whether their mother will have the financial resources to feed and clothe them.

  4. I listened to a few sound bites of testimony last week from senate Republicans demonizing Planned Parenthood. They were quoting lies from the doctored videos as if it was true. Did they miss the reports that exposed these lies?

    Nancy hit the nail on the head, women need to educate themselves on the conservative agenda these guys have in store. Nothing irks me more than a bunch of men getting together to try to make laws that tell women what they can & cannot do their bodies amd as this study exposes with their life!

  5. The question of abortion has been addressed and answered. Republicans know that. Their focus though is on getting elected using any means possible because it takes every means possible to overcome their dismal track record, over decades, of accomplishing anything at all that contributes to the country’s well being.

    They must appeal to every easy to sell to faction in order to scrape up enough votes to remain relevant.

    You’d think that they’d realize at some point it would be easier to return to being a legitimate political party but they’ve had to let the clowns in and now they can’t control them. Classic deal with the devil.

    So, as an example, why are they threatening to un fund Planned Parenthood? Because it will reduce abortions? Because it will save money? Because it’s beneficial to the country? No, no, no.

    It will get them some votes from people who themselves don’t care about any of those questions. All they care about is imposing their ideology on as many others as possible.

    The lesson to be learned? Americans who care about their country have to take it back from those who care more about proselytizing.

    It’s essential.

    But even more important is that behind the pandering to fringe groups is a greater threat. Money from the 1% trying to employ the GOP to get even wealthier. At our expense. Oligarchy, the rule of wealth. All organized around the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson, Rush Limbaugh, at the like.

    So many reasons now to deny conservative power.

  6. Planned Parenthood is NOT an abortion clinic; it is a medical clinic for women and men covering a broad spectrum of medical testing and medical services. A very small percentage of their medical care – and it is medical care – is abortions. Hospitals also perform abortions; but they are big businesses (who also receive our tax dollars) and work hand-in-hand with medical insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. I have seen no instances where people are picketing and protesting hospitals which perform abortions, nor are any of our elected officials in either party trying to shut down hospitals…there is too much money to be made.

    My daughter is alive because she could have an abortion more than 30 years ago; the fetus died at 2 months but not discovered till past 5 months. By then the tissue and my daughter were seriously infected, including her circulatory system. No one from either political party or any religious group tried to interfere to stop her life-saving abortion. The same could not be said if it had happened in the past 2-3 years. Six years ago my 24 year old granddaughter died having seizures at 5 months pregnant; the seizures were already life-threatening but she opted to try to carry her baby to term. Our hearts are broken and will never completely heal but it was her choice, not the Republicans or any religious group.

    Over 50 years ago my neighbor, a mother with 2 small children, became pregnant. For some reason the baby died at 7 months, and it was a baby by that time. She was forced to carry it to term; that had a profound effect on her physically and mentally. She and the children didn’t leave their home for weeks, then they suddenly moved away. No idea what the result of that was but it was caused due to the fact that abortions were illegal at that time. Her’s would have been a late-term abortion but a necessary one.

    My friend’s life was saved by Planned Parenthood; they diagnosed her breast cancer early and immediately set her up for doctors and treatment along with their counseling services. She has been cancer-free for over 3 years.

    There is much to be considered before cutting services to those in need with no available replacement and no assistance to consider alternatives to birth control, STD testing, cancer testing and treatment and – yes, abortion. No one wants those babies young girls are forced to give birth or for the married women with health or financial problems whose best interest would be to prevent or terminate pregnancy. In 1970, when I was 33 years old with 5 children and “female problems”, I had to have my husband’s permission with his signature on a legal document to have a tubal ligation. We are moving backwards in time regarding women’s health issues; why are they considered “social” issues and not medical treatment?

  7. Let’s speculate for a moment that the right-wing “pro-lifers” got their wish–abortion is murder–at least that is what they say. My question is, what do they do with the woman who has “murdered” her child? Is she to be punished by death? How about life without parole? OK, let’s go easy and just give her 20 to life with a possibility of parole. But that isn’t all. Isn’t the person who drove her and accessory to murder? Wouldn’t the doctor and assisting nurses also be murderers? How about the person who knew her plans and didn’t inform the police? Aren’t they accessories, too. What a lovely blood bath that would be–not to mention the hundreds or thousands of prisons we would have to build and maintain to house these criminals.

    Then I’d ask the pro-lifers this question. And what if it was your wife, or your daughter, or your mother that was guilty. Would you want them charged with murder? (By the way, if you say yes to this you are either lying or the most heartless of human beings.)

    I don’t like abortions, but I’m willing to admit a couple of things. 1. I’m a man. I won’t be pregnant anytime soon. 2. Right or wrong, the choice is between the woman and her God, or conscience. It is not a subject for government to meddle with. 3. And finally, if those who are so against murderous abortions really care, they should be signed up to adopt and love any child born as a result, or, failing that, support proper care for the child. Then I would think them sincere. . . But you and I both know if it was their daughter on trial for murder they would be pleading for mercy–something they are not willing to show others.

  8. We all, rich and poor, live in the country that we jointly create. No lives among us are worth more or less. None of us have more or less privilege. We are equal as Americans with exactly the same rights, areas of life off limits for governance.

    That’s the country we choose to live in.

    Not that most people don’t wish to be advantaged but what they wish for is not how this country is.

    If people believe themselves entitled to more than equal I imagine that they can find it somewhere in the world. Just not here.

  9. Do Pro Lifers even consider they might be doing evil? In 1939 Germany, the aged, handicapped, challenged and infirm were herded into vans and suffocated. They were certainly evil. Pro Lifers wish to do the direct opposite: Life begins with the first tongue wrestle and must come to term even though it has five legs! Evil? I would say so. It is a thin dime don’t have two sides.

    These people know they are causing untold harm to others. They know, because they have indulged themselves and their daughters. Their acts are no more than the gated walls they live behind. They simply want to deny you their privileges.

    And why? What rationality drives this mania?

    The same as those who herded women and children, their neighbors, into cattle cars.


  10. Pete, I’m confused with these statements you posted: “We all, rich and poor, live in the country that we jointly create. No lives among us are worth more or less. None of us have more or less privilege. We are equal as Americans with exactly the same rights, areas of life off limits for governance.”

    Are you really saying that no one in this country has more privilege than others?

  11. Nancy, that’s an interesting question.

    I was addressing the relationship between we the people and our government. We’re all equal (at least theoretically) under the law. But there is more to life than that.

    So depending on definitions we could find lots of areas outside of the law where privilege does exist. I’m a white Christian (sort of) male heterosexual college graduate from a middle class small town family. I have been culturally privileged all of my life. I didn’t ask for any of it nor did I reject any of it.

    Look at the privilege that our culture grants to those exceptionally attractive or athletic.

    That cultural privilege is undeniable but as far as I know pervasive through history. Maybe throughout life. Evolution requires it.

    What do you think?

  12. Here we go,Pete. What do you mean “sort of”? That’s like being a little pregnant isn’t it?

  13. Thanks for the correction Marv. I had just read the comments from our instigator in the previous blog post which had my hackles up and since my spell checker didn’t detect the misspelling, I didn’t see it. I was also extremely tired from not sleeping the night before because I’ve had the flu the past week and couldn’t stop coughing.

    One of the reasons I enjoy this blog and read it daily is that the Professor allows commenters to spew their anti-Semitic rants, even while she attends a wedding for a family member. I believe that makes her quite tolerant and I know for a fact that if I had a blog like this and had someone cross the line, which he has several times recently, I’d ban them. While she continues to allow this person to disrupt the comments, I have to admire her even more. Thank you Professor. You’re a better person than I am and reading your blog shows me how it is done.

  14. AgingLgrl; I think Sheila allows Gooper’s repeated vitriol to continue due to her deep belief in upholding the Constitution and Amendments – freedom of speech being number one. He brings out intelligent replies from others, possibly hoping to educate Gopper to the facts. That hasn’t worked so far; if you read my rant, you know he finally pushed me over the edge. Holocaust Deniers are one of the lowest forms of humanity; they support the ugliness of the world, past and present but he and his ilk will always be with us. Maybe all life is but a test.

  15. Yes, I read your rant…that’s why I was unable to see the typo (burning mad). I am really pleased you are with us JoAnn. I always look forward to hearing your point of view. And several others here which I’ve noted as well.

  16. JoAnn,

    You can’t educate Gopper. That’s not what he’s about. He’s about destroying history, so that democracy can be destroyed. Anti-Semitism destroyed the Weimar Republic before the Allies finally defeated Germany. Its danger is not only to the Jews, its also to DEMOCRACY. The Jews have never been able to contain it. When they do try, they usually only make matters worse.

    The Institute for Historical Research has focused like Gopper on denying the Holocaust. On an individual basis their major focus hasn’t been on a Jew, but on denying the work of a Christian: Herman Rauschning the author of “The Evolution of Nihilism: Warning to the West” and “The Redemption of Democracy.”

    Like Hannah Arendt, the German -Jewish philosopher, he warned in the 30’s of the destructive nature of anti-Semitism not only to the Jews, but as much so to DEMOCRACY. In the long run it eventually kills it.

    This is a short review of “The Revolution of Nihilism” by the publisher in 1939:

    “At last America can learn the inside story of the Nazi movement by a former leader of the National Socialist Party and ex-president of the Danzig Senate.

    Dr. Rauschning, who was driven into exile after his disillusionment with Nazi tactics [He was a member of the Nazi Party and President of the Danzig Senate], has written the first inside story of the aims and methods of the Nazi movement. It is undoubtedly the most important book on German Naziism since the publication of “Mein Kampf.”

    It is Dr. Rauschning’s thesis that the essence of the National Socialist Movement is nihilistic [ ni-hi-lisn n. the general rejection of customary beliefs in morality, religion, etc. ~Webster’s New World Dictionary], that its driving force is destructiveness, a destructiveness that knows no frontiers and is therefore as much the concern of every American or Australian as it is of every Frenchman or Englishman.

    He shows that Germany’s championing of he “have-not” nations and their claims to self-determination is a demogogic device to legitimize its own determination to dominate the world and wipe out self-determination. Dr. Rauchning also gives an account of his conversations with Hitler and Pilsudski in which Hitler outlined his scheme for annexing half of Europe.”

    In “The Redemption of Democracy” published in 1941 by Alliance Book Corporation, p. 56, Rauschning warns us: “Jew-baiting, in which the National Socialists have gradually attained a practiced unscrupulousness by no means fully displayed even in Julius Streicher’s paper, is the means of creating initial propaganda cliques throughout the world. Already now we can realize the part played by the French success by anti-Semitism, combined with the war on Freemasonry. It was so in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and in Austria. Everywhere anti-Semitism was the entering wedge for disintegration, for the splitting up of the body politic, for the satisfying of economic envy and the launching of a revolutionary attack on property.”

    It’s pretty easy to see, isn’t it, why the Institute for Historical Research, Gopper’s alma mater, would want to do a “number” on Professor Hermann Rauschning along with denying the Holocaust.

  17. I apologize: I left out the “t” in he. My post should have read: the “have-not nations.”

    My cataract surgery is now, after a few years, starting to unravel. From what I’ve heard, that’s about “par for the course.”

  18. Holy crap. I haven’t even posted in this thread, and I’m receiving replies to fictive positions.

    As long as we’re citing material irrelevant to the topic, here’s what I see in so much of this blog. Some are bit dated, as they occurred prior to Ronnie winning the Cold War, but others are right on.



    Thursday, January 10, 1963

    At Mrs. Nordman’s request, I include in the RECORD, under unanimous consent, the following “Current Communist Goals,” which she identifies as an excerpt from “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen:


    1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.

    2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic war.

    3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament [by] the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.

    4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.

    5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.

    6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.

    7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.

    8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev’s promise in 1955 to settle the German question by free elections under supervision of the U.N.

    9. Prolong the conferences to ban atomic tests because the United States has agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.

    10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the U.N.

    11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)

    12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.

    13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.

    14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.

    15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.

    16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.

    17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.

    18. Gain control of all student newspapers.

    19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.

    20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policymaking positions.

    21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.

    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”

    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”

    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”

    29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.

    30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”

    31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the “big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.

    32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.

    33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.

    34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

    35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.

    36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.

    37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.

    38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand [or treat].

    39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.

    40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.

    41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.

    42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use [“]united force[“] to solve economic, political or social problems.

    43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.

    44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.

    45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court from seizing jurisdiction [over domestic problems. Give the World Court jurisdiction] over nations and individuals alike.

  19. Who established the “Current Communist Goals” and what qualifies “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen: to speak of/for them?

  20. Don’t confuse people with facts, Pete. It will never work. It never has.

    What is curious is that most things on Goppers list seem to strangely coincide with the ultimate goals of the oligarchy.

    Things that make you go hummmm.

  21. I wonder what Cleon Skousen’s parents were like? Baby Cleon must have spent a lot of time alone locked in the basement.

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