Last month I wrote an article titled Are They Pro Life? In this piece I offered mixed praise of Rand Paul, the Republican Senator from Kentucky, and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Senator from Vermont, two candidates that in various areas diverged from the establishment, while concluding that their respective guiding principles are ultimately neither pro-life nor pro-family.
The Democratic Platform idolizes abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, gender ideology, and aims to exert greater control over who can or who cannot participate in the economy—penalizing small entrepreneurs with uniform tax policies and hefty regulations in order to satisfy those at the very top of their market sectors.
This assessment might leave our readers to assume I hold the opposite platform, applauding the Republican alternative and extolling Capitalism as the victor in its sesquicentennial wrestling match with Socialism. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Capitalism arose as a social and economic force that annihilated the family and organically developed into the culture of death we breathe in today. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in The Wells and the Shallows,
It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism. No doubt it might have been Communism, if Communism had ever a chance, outside that semi-Mongolian wilderness where it actually flourishes. But, so far as we are concerned, what has broken up households, and encourages divorces, and treated the old domestic virtues with more and more open contempt, is the epoch and power of Capitalism. It is Capitalism that has forced a moral feud and a commercial competition between the sexes; that has destroyed the influence of the parent in favor of the influence of the employer; that has driven men from their homes to look for jobs; that has forced them to live near their factories or their firms instead of near their families; and, above all, that has encouraged, for commercial reasons, a parade of publicity and garish novelty, which is in its nature the death of all that was called dignity and modesty by our mothers and fathers.1While most Republican candidates tend to be nominally pro-life, their platform has little to offer that is truly pro-life and pro-family. Influenced by the principles that promote radical individualism and low wage dependence, the Republican Platform makes it difficult, if not altogether impossible, for expectant mothers to support their children post birth. Even if abortion is made illegal, if Roe v. Wade is overturned (both of which would be good things), an economic philosophy that makes abortions desirable and resolves to have charity provide for those who take the courageous decision to keep their children, is hardly pro-life.
Multiple studies have shown that poverty plays a significant part in a woman’s decision to procure an abortion. One U.S. study from 2008 shows that close to 42% of women who obtained abortions live at or below the poverty line, while a more recent 2011 study reveals that nearly 69% of terminated pregnancies are from economically disadvantaged women—women who can’t take time off work, typically have substandard healthcare, have little or no paid vacation, and work more than 40 hours a week. Using data from 2008 and 2011, a recent study polled 954 women and concluded that close to 40% of women sought abortions because they did not consider themselves financially prepared for a child, 12% sought a better life for a child than was available to them at that moment, and 36% felt it simply wasn’t the right time for a baby.
These statistics do not make abortions morally justifiable. Not by any means. But they do show a correlation between systematic financial instability and infanticide.
Just as Chesterton, Belloc and many other distributists have documented, Distributism takes these socio-economic realities into account.2 A distributist economy would entail supporting local and small family-owned businesses that would encourage the growth of family size through direct control of the means of production. Those employed outside of the home would be guaranteed a just wage, that is, a substantial wage for a single parent to provide for the family, one which “allows a person not only to provide the basic needs of his family and maintain his status, but also enough extra that, through diligence and effect, he can improve his situation.”3 Amongst other practical distributist economic policies would be the development of programs to help expectant mothers support their children (post birth) in the wake of pregnancy: paid maternity leave, effective and affordable educational assistance for mother and child to advance in their educational paths, and providing free or affordable education for those who choose to have more children. This could also include the creation of a “child allowance” in which parents are given a monthly allowance for each child—a financial boost for the wellbeing of their children. According to Elizabeth Bruenig and as illustrated by Matt Bruenig a no-strings attached $300 per month per child stipend would reduce child poverty by 42 percent. Similarly, a working child allowance program would also provide private charities (including crisis pregnancy centers) with job opportunities and a valuable source of reassurance. Crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-life agencies could train volunteers to help struggling parents or single mothers sign up for the program.
These practical distributist policies emerge as an antidote to the destruction of the family caused by the natures of Capitalism and Socialism, which have both sought to undermine the family economically and socially. Distributism would allow families to be self-sufficient with access to the means of production, sound policies to encourage family flourishing, and an authentic platform for achieving a truly pro-life and pro-family economy.