For those not familiar with the term, a shotgun marriage is another term for forced marriages (though not necessarily under the business end of a gun). The term originated in the United States, and is used to describe marriages that are enacted not out of love, but due to an accidental pregnancy.
Regardless, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that shotgun marriages are not an ideal model for what a proper modern marriage should be like, where couples today are often united under a mutual declaration of love (Sue me – I’m a romantic).
But you’re probably asking: What am I doing talking about shotgun marriages, and what do they have to do with the matter of the Reproductive Health Bill? The Anti-RH side of the discussions have shown continually that they are more than willing to distort otherwise credible research, just so they can parade its data around as ammunition for their screeds. In today’s example, I’ll be tackling one of their more common statements used against RH, which goes something like this:
Wide contraceptive use leads to more premarital sex, more fatherless children, more single mothers, more poverty, more abortions; and also a decline of marriage, less domesticated men, more crimes, more social pathology and poverty, according to the studies of Nobel prize winner, George Akerlof. Many other studies reached the same conclusion.
At first glance, it sounds like a solid case. You’ve got a Nobel Prize Winner who appears to back up the Pro-Lifer’s claims that contraceptive use will lead to the destruction of the concept of the family, leading to general moral decay in society.
Or does it?
The study under discussion in this case is titled “An Analysis on Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States,” and a copy of its abstract can be found here.
This paper relates the erosion of the custom of shotgun marriage to the legalization of abortion and the increased availability of contraception to unmarried women in the United States. The decline in shotgun marriage accounts for a significant fraction of the increase in out-of-wedlock first births. Several models illustrate the analogy between women who do not adopt either birth control or abortion and the hand-loom weavers, both victims of changing technology. Mechanisms causing female immiseration are modeled and historically described. This technology-shock hypothesis is an alternative to welfare and job-shortage theories of the feminization of poverty. Copyright 1996, the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Nowhere does the abstract say anything about “moral decay” in the family. What the abstract does say, however, is that there is a close link between the decrease of forced marriages with the prevalence of legal abortions and modern birth control.
On the matter of out-of-wedlock first births, Akerlof himself has stated in a separate article that this trend may be more of a case of the decreasing stigma against single mothers.
Before 1970, the stigma of unwed motherhood was so great that most women would only engage in sexual activity if it came with a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. Men were willing to make (and keep) that promise, for they knew that even if they left one woman, they would be unlikely to find another who would not make the same demand. In the 1970s, women who were willing to get an abortion, or who used contraception reliably, no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. But women who found abortion unacceptable, or who were unreliable in their contraceptive use, found themselves pressured to participate in premarital sexual relations as well. These women feared, correctly, that if they refused sexual relations, they would risk losing their partners.
To be fair to the Pro-Lifers though, the prevalence of contraceptives did lead to an increase in the incidence of incidences of single-parent births and abortions; Akerlof coined the event as “Reproductive Technology Shock.”
But instead of going off on the Pro-Life rant about this being evidence of the decay of family values in the United States, Akerlof’s analysis indicates that the trend is going in the direction of women empowerment – women of the time realized that they did not need to be dependent on a partner to be survive, and were given the opportunity to have kids on their terms, as opposed to being forced to submit to the whims of their spouse.
But getting back on topic, while Akerlof cited that the increased access to birth control contributed to the increase of unmarried (Note: NOT unwanted) births and abortions, enacting restrictions on women at this point of time – as most Pro-Lifers have asserted time and time again – are counterproductive. Quoting Akerlof’s exact statement:
What should be done? Even if possible, attempts to turn back the technological clock by restricting abortion and contraception would now be counterproductive. Besides denying reproductive freedom to women, such efforts would increase the number of children born and reared in impoverished single-parent families. Most children born out of wedlock are reported by their mothers to have been “wanted,” but “not at that time.” Some are reported as not having been wanted at all. Easier access to birth-control information and devices and to abortion could reduce the number of unwanted children and improve the timing of those whose mothers would have preferred to wait.
Straight from the horse’s mouth.
It is because of cases like this, where an uncscrupulous opponent of reproductive health resorts to misrepresenting the statements of an otherwise credible researcher to hoodwink people who don’t know any better, that we have to remember to be vigilant in our efforts. This is not the first time I’ve caught them lying through their teeth, and it certainly won’t be the last.
And from this same case, we can also see the Pro-Life side’s poorly veiled misogyny, and their contempt for family concept outside that of their ideal. Back in 2009, The Philippines Government had signed the Magna Carta for women into law.
Among other tenets, this Magna Carta secured several rights for pregnant women, one being their right not to be expelled due to their condition:
Expulsion and non-readmission of women faculty due to pregnancy outside of marriage shall be outlawed. No primary or secondary school shall turn out or refuse admission to a female student solely on account of her having contracted pregnancy outside of marriage during her term in school
The CBCP, being the organization that it is, howled in protest over the new law, saying that the it was an invasive of the religious freedom of Catholic schools, which made pregnancy a punishable offense.
Women’s welfare and empowerment seen as a threat to male authority. Gnashing of teeth for perceived enroachment of “religious rights.” Demonization of single parents as being less than the ideal.