NASA faced a startling reality after the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman was a physicist and member of the Challenger Commission. He’s the guy who reported the O-ring failure as the cause of the disaster. Feynman and others looked at catastrophic risk of a shuttle disaster based upon probabilistic risk assessment (PRA): working engineers estimated the probability to be 1 in 100, not the 1 in 100,000 management cited.
In a republished article on the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, Stanford University associate professor Elisabeth Paté-Cornell reflected on the organizational bias and risk assessment: “The character of an organization influences the reliability and failure of the systems it builds because its structure, policy, and culture determine the priorities, incentives, and communication paths for the engineers and managers doing the work.”
Now, substitute the words “family planning programs” for “systems,” “pro-abortion lobbyists” for “engineers,” and “pro-abortion NGOs” for “managers,” and this assessment reflects the problem with some of the “reproductive health” positions leading women’s health organizations such as the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women promotes.
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw more than $75 million from the UN Population Fund has caused quite a stir. But the “sexual and reproductive health” agenda CWS promoted at its recent meeting exposes the divide among women and the “disparity of priorities.”
While NASA’s “resistance” was determined to be a case of “subjective engineering,” perhaps the CSW could be challenged to examine its subjective birth control and abortion advocacy. In an age of data and management by empirical evidence, the modern pro-life movement has a new opportunity to confront clichés and false narratives. Pro-life advocates are better equipped to draw attention to research and examine the pro-abortion advocacy hype, and must challenge the character of these institutions with data.
The 1970s Called and Wants Its Abortion Advocacy Back
If the CSW truly represents all women in a global forum, then its structure, policy, and culture could benefit from restructuring to ensure its priorities and incentives are objectively considered and inclusive of all women. It could begin by reconsidering the United Nations Population Fund and its imprecise definition of reproductive health, “that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.”
Such sentiment grew out of a 1970s population control agenda and sexual liberation platform, but c’mon, in 2017? It sounds like something “Anchorman” character Ron Burgundy would say to a woman in a husky whisper with lowbrow glee while swirling the ice in his cocktail with his finger. (Math geeks, is there exponential notation to express the yuck factor?)
In 2017, women are “leaning in” and leading companies, men are stay-at-home dads, some of us suffer from paleo-lifestyle guilt, and some women want to be stay-at-home moms (even the well-educated). Women have made great strides attaining educational and professional goals, as well as choosing motherhood and life. Also, there is evidence that millennials are not as supportive of abortion as their counterparts were in previous decades.
Historically, the abortion industry has often avoided serious challenges by presenting negative stereotypes of pro-life people as extreme and overly religious. But there are groups who defy such mischaracterization and labels. For example, Rebecca Stapleford, vice president of the University of Georgia Students for Life, and a “proud physically disabled autistic woman,” argues it’s time to Check Your Born Privilege. The Students For Life sockit2pp campaign proves that the 1960s are long gone by sending 323,999 baby socks to Congress calling on them to defund Planned Parenthood.
Feynman’s rocket science is instructive for pro-life, pro-family, pro-fact, pro-woman advocacy. A challenge to the status quo of Planned Parenthood and the CSW could save the lives of women and children by improving their health-care options, promoting access to community health centers, and reallocating funds for basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. The pink hat brigade will not correct the course of failed policy because they’re focused too narrowly on birth prevention to address the ecosystem women live inside. But other women can.
Contraceptive Access Has Coincided With Rising Inequality
Authentic reproductive health care should safeguard the lives of the most vulnerable women and children by ensuring that it is safe both to give birth and to be born. Pro-life advocates know that post-abortive women suffer physical, psychological, and mental health risks and that a contraceptive mentality is not without individual and societal harm.
More women and children are at increased risk of economic inequality and social immobility decades after hormonal contraception and the Roe v. Wade decision. Isabel V. Sawhill, in her book, “Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage,” writes in her introduction, “I have come to believe social policy faces an uphill battle as long as families continue to fragment and children are deprived of the resources of two parents.”
Sawhill favors LARC use, and social scientists will differ on the solutions to the economic devastation to families. One thing from research is clear: separating sex from marriage is not without consequence, and has contributed to economic and social decline for the most vulnerable: women and children.
Rebecca Oas, associate director of research at the Center for Family and Human Rights, summarizes her extensive research: “Policymakers need indicators that offer a clear picture of people’s realities and aspirations, not ones that risk institutionalizing coercive practices. Above all, they need to direct resources toward safeguarding the lives of the most vulnerable women and children by ensuring that it is safe both to give birth and to be born, no matter where you are.”
Stop Telling Women What They Need and Listen to Them
What does this mean for women’s rights? For human rights? Simply this: every woman serious about human rights must insist on transparency and accountability in the CSW and in the public debate—in short, the truth. Next year at the Women’s March, I hope women bring their calculators and pocket protectors, leaving the female genitalia costumes behind for posterity. If modern feminists want to end misogyny, they should start with the math.
Oas confirms the imperative for serious analysis: “The current and proposed indicators for family planning within the global development agenda are based on assumptions that are inextricably wedded to an advocacy agenda, which in turn unabashedly misconstrues them in an effort to direct funds toward meeting a demand that barely exists.” She explains how the “global family planning ‘crisis’ was based on false assumptions and misleading measurements better suited to advocacy than serious analysis.”
Correspondingly, she points out that vast sums of money are funneled to organizations that do not feed, clothe, shelter, or provide women with basic health care and education. Oas comments on the studies that validate the estimated $9.4 billion annual price tag for “meeting all women’s needs for modern contraceptive services” although a USAID report by Charles Westoff found that “a large proportion of women with purported unmet need have no intention to use contraception in the future.”
Even Harvard economist Lant Pritchett’s research, described in Oas’ analysis, debunks the statistical relevance of the term “unmet need” as broadly encompassing both the “supply need” and the need of “women who require motivation to want what they are presumed to need” (italics mine).
For example, women who regulate birth through natural family planning methods may be counted in the category of “unmet need.” Oas adds, “The claim that 200 million of the world’s women and girls want contraception but can’t get it is false, but it is still used to funnel billions of dollars to the international family planning and abortion industry each year.” Her detailed analysis is excellent.
Women Need Holistic Health Care
Providing good health care requires accurate risk analysis and dispensing with politically loaded language. An authentic model of women’s reproductive health safeguards the lives of women and the unborn by providing prenatal and postnatal care, diagnostic imaging, and comprehensive care that serves the diverse reproductive needs of all women. Unlike Planned Parenthood, community health centers offer more than barely there “health” care—a model that enriches the abortion industry, not women. Federally Qualified Health Centers outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities 20 to 1, and there are more than 13,000 FQHCs in the United States.
Often, pro-abortion advocates refer to “unmet need” for contraception as the problem—as though women would be instantaneously economically empowered and out shopping for luxury handbags because of their improved “reproductive health” and quality of life with, well, a magic pill or implant. If it were that easy, increases in economic equality should have been realized decades ago. Yet, nearly one-third of women are more likely to live in poverty than men and hormonal contraception increases their risk of depression.
Also, long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) use is increasingly promoted in local health centers in the United States and globally even though its safety is still debated. But science tells us that pro-life is pro-woman. Many macroeconomic, political, cultural and social influences account for economic inequality. These concerns are conveniently brushed aside in the access to birth control narrative, which perpetuates the myth of “unmet need.”
How About Start at the Bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy
Women and children across the globe lack food, water, adequate health care, and education, but UNFPA instead prioritizes a “satisfying and safe sex life” for funding.
If the CSW is also serious about putting an end to “violence against women,” it cannot ignore the harm of a sexualized culture and Planned Parenthood’s corresponding model. The abortion industry’s public relations should have a black box label. The social science confirms that a sexualized culture harms women and children. We don’t economically empower women by exploiting women. Institutions that encourage women’s objectification by promoting family planning policies that attack women’s dignity are part of the problem.
Research has affirmed a direct link between sexual objectification of girls and aggression toward them. Objectification in romantic relationships is correlated with sexual pressure and coercion and women internalize the objectification as shame. Another 2014 meta-analysis study confirmed Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is associated with termination of pregnancy (TOP) and that IPV “was associated with termination and with repeat termination. In one study, for example, women presenting for a third termination were more than two and a half times more likely to have a history of physical or sexual violence than women presenting for their first termination.”
If women are to reach their full potential and enjoy economic justice and prosperity, we ought to safeguard their lives and respect the dignity of human life. The CSW should strive to represent the voices of all women and examine bias in its structure, separating fact from fiction, and myth from reality. The 1980s are over. The data, the science, and the polling strongly suggest that Americans are prepared to change course—one, hopefully, which will safeguard the lives of women, children and the unborn.
What is truly good for women and children, and a nation, is the truth. That’s not rocket science.