A Conversation for Ask h2g2

Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 1

Hoovooloo

I'm annoyed by the media hoohaa around Sabisky. Partly because most of the arguments against him are kneejerk virtue signalling strawmanning involving imputing to him things he did not, in fact, say.

For instance - "he wants to sterilise poor people!". False. Probably.

What he SAID was: "One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty"

Let's unpack that:
He thinks unplanned pregnancies create a permanent underclass, and that this is a bad thing. I have a child, and another on the way. I know they are incredibly draining of resources, time and energy. I cannot imagine having to deal with one while at school, college, university or while making minimum wage, especially if it was not planned. While I have personal experience of the spiritual joy kids can bring you, they definitely can ruin your life economically. I can't see how anyone can defend a specifically UNPLANNED pregnancy as being an unalloyed Good Thing unless the mother and/or father is a millionaire.

Also, he is pretty specific about legally enforcing UNIVERSAL uptake of long-term contraception. He even went on to say that vaccinations were a useful precedent. "Universal" is a pretty straightforward term that does NOT imply he means only to apply it to poor people. I mean - why would you? An unplanned pregnancy can be and often is a disaster for even the most affluent. After all, that's why women bleat on and on about the absolute necessity of having the right to and access to safe abortion on demand. Isn't it better to simply prevent all those pregnancies in the first place?

Nowhere have I seen anyone rationally interrogate this suggestion. For instance: what is "long term" in this context? Three months? Three years? When do people get to come off the "no-baby" injections? Are there exemptions available, and if so, for what? That kind of thing. None of that - just "he wants to STERILISE THE POOR!!!!11!!!1!".

I weep for the state of debate in this country.


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 2

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

The state of debate is pretty much a wasteland in lots of places, Hoo.

Unexpected pregnancies probably figured in the family trees for most of us. It's just that times have changed a lot in the upper branches. In the days when most of one's children died before the age of five, a healthy baby, even if unexpected, may have been regarded as better than nothing. (Not an unalloyed joy, exactly, but joy may have been so sparse that people tried to make do with the little that they could get...).


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 3

Hoovooloo

History is not a guide here - not even recent history. We've only had oral contraceptives since 1950. Long term implantable/injectable ones are even more recent.

And yes, unexpected pregnancies are common. Rather the point is that that is actually a BAD thing, and that everyone - parents, children and society as a whole - would be better off psychologically, financially and in many other ways if we only had children when we wanted to.

For starters, universally-applied long-term contraception would mean that abortions would become incredibly rare. You'd obviously want to retain the absolute right to abortion on demand, but if you made unplanned pregnancies stop being a thing, the demand would just evaporate. I can't see how that's not a good thing, and crucially I can't see how anyone on either side of the pro-choice/"pro-life" debate can object to it.

By all means, someone debate this - tell me why it's important that women should have the right to become pregnant accidentally.


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 4

Baron Grim

I'm certainly not going to do that.


At least y'all don't have conservatives promoting and enacting laws (state level) that require schools to teach "abstinence only" sexual education.

And yes, the pro-life folks here absolutely would argue for unplanned pregnancies seeing as many of them actively advocate against contraception as well, despite the logical idiocy of that stance. Many, if not most, pro-life advocacy here is religious. They actually do seem to believe that "Every Sperm is Sacred smiley - musicalnote". You can't argue with them because they are only lecturing/preaching to you and no argument will change their position.


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 5

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

"History is not a guide here - not even recent history. We've only had oral contraceptives since 1950. Long term implantable/injectable ones are even more recent." [Hoovooloo]

I don't want to fall into the Maginot Line trap, of course. smiley - smiley Your point about making abortions largely unneeded sounds good. Would it do any good if I brought up regression to the mean? We're a species with a long enough track record that we know there are highs and lows, with a possibly computable average (granted, it could take a lifetime or two of debate to figure out how to come up with on that has any predictive value).

Having enjoyed higher highs than any generation in history, might we be headed for similarly historic lows?

Like you, I will probably not live to see that, or even know whether I was right or wrong.

Pierce the Pirate has clued me in on a facet of Stoicism that I was not aware of before: treat things as if you were about to lose them. This helps you appreciate them more. I've realized that I've been doing a variation on that anyway in the last ten years.

There's also the idea of geological time. If we want to compare our current ppm for atmospheric CO2, d we select the last 700,000 years, the last 15 million years, or some other benchmark level? We don't have a benchmark for AI. When and if it comes, it will be a game-changer. Game-changers make forecasting pretty much impossible.


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 6

Mr. X ---> I spent a year dead for tax purposes. It worked so well that I'm going to do it again.

"By all means, someone debate this - tell me why it's important that women should have the right to become pregnant accidentally."


For the same reason that it's important to ALWAYS avoid governments intruding in people's personal lives, because governments clearly can't be trusted with that level of power. Even when their intentions are good, they wind up causing more problems or abusing the privilige.

I would argue that the best solution is to make long-term (reversable) contraception cheap and voluntary, then release a bunch of PSAs about why it's a good thing to have. Which is what America did with vaccinations and it worked out really well.

...

Until recently. smiley - erm

...

smiley - pirate


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 7

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

That's a good post. smiley - ok


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 8

Hoovooloo

"it's important to ALWAYS avoid governments intruding in people's personal lives"

That's an argument against vaccinations. It's an argument against safeguarding precautions in schools that spot things like ongoing child sexual abuse and exploitation.

So... it fails. I don't feel the need to go into why.

Try again?


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 9

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")


Think I broadly agree about the response to some of the arguments/positions that Sabisky holds. Seems to me that they have been misrepresented. However, they also don't strike me as particularly serious or sensible arguments nor any kind of sign that he's any kind of radical thinker.

On the contrary, it sounds like the kind of stuff that undergraduate contrarians come up with, especially those exposed to consequential theories of ethics for the first time. Not least because, well, sometimes it takes one to know one. And I'm not above wheeling one or two out if I want to provoke someone at a social gathering.

But yeah, let's unpack it. Do unplanned pregnancies create a permanent underclass? There are plenty of examples of women who gave birth very young who go on to achieve great things. There are also reasons to doubt the very existence of a permanent underclass - Tory politicians go on about generations of worklessness and the like, but I'm not aware of any evidence that this is true, or if it is true, that such families are common. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that this is true.

Is a permanent underclass a bad thing? Let's assume everyone agrees that this is true - even those who don't seem to mind the existence of an underclass are required to pay at least lip service to it not being permanent. Otherwise they would have to admit that poverty and unemployment and deprivation might be societal structural issues, not individual moral failure.

So... if we want to prevent young women in particular from joining said underclass as a result of unplanned pregnancies. What are our policy options?

[Noting, of course, e should note that teenage pregnancy rates are falling, and the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England is working.
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/conceptionandfertilityrates/bulletins/conceptionstatistics/2018 ]

So one set of policy options would be to invest more in the existing strategy if we still think that teenage pregnancy rates (and unplanned pregnancy rates, not the same thing I know) are still too high. We could provide more help and support for young mothers and fathers to mitigate against the financial costs - this could be through an increased parenthood grant, better support for returning to work/access to training, childcare support etc. Some may regard this as an incentive to get pregnant, but there's lots of perfectly legitimate evidence and arguments we could have around how this ought to work, who should get help, and what that help ought to be.

Or... and this is radical... we could look at the whole structural issues as to why we have an underclass at all.

Or... a la Sabisky.... we could go straight for compulsory legally enforceable contraception for everyone. It's a completely disproportionate response to the problem identified... sledgehammer/walnut. As Mr X intimated, this is a lot of government interference in individual rights, including bodily integrity. You don't have to be a US-style libertarian to think this. But you don't even need to think in terms of government and individual rights - any such programme would be vastly and ruinously expensive compared to social programmes or other assistance.

It's a crazy idea... I've no problem with people thinking the unthinkable and thinking about radical policy solutions. I love thought experiments - I can't imagine a world without them.

However... of all of the social problems we could chose to think about, and all of the policy solutions we could play around with... to alight on these two in particular... it's the wrong thing to obsess over, and the wrong solution to propose.



Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 10

Mr. X ---> I spent a year dead for tax purposes. It worked so well that I'm going to do it again.

"it's important to ALWAYS avoid governments intruding in people's personal lives"

"That's an argument against vaccinations."


No, it isn't. At all. I'm not even sure how you can conflate one with the other.

I can't speak for Britain, but I can tell you that in America vaccinations are not mandated by the government. Or overseen by the government. Or paid for by the government. Or have the government involved in any way, besides creating the things.

People choose, or choose not, to get them. Personally I think you'd be stupid not to, but that's neither here nor there.




"It's an argument against safeguarding precautions in schools that spot things like ongoing child sexual abuse and exploitation."


*rolls eyes*

And please note that the word "avoided" does not mean the same as "prevented at any cost." I know it's difficult for you, since it's always your default reaction, but please don't try to twist my words into absurdly deformed arguments that I never made. It's painfully transparent.

smiley - pirate


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 11

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

Is this a discussion of privacy, then? Keeping the government from spying on people who are in their bedrooms?

Or does it extend to curtailing people's agency? Military conscription, for instance.

Just curious.


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 12

winnoch2 - Impostair Syndromair Extraordinaire

*pulls up a chair at the fire, gets the toasting fork out and sits back to watch this one*
Been a while since we've had a good old robust argument/discussion on hootoo smiley - bigeyes


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 13

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

Some of the participants show up once a week, or even once or twice a year. It won't be a fast-moving discussion.

Also, does anyone have a sense that there's a direction to it? You know, something like thesis->Antithesis-> synthesis.

Chances are, we're going to end up with people having the same views at the end as they had at the beginning. The Scientific Method will not help us here.Science can (and does) produce produce mixed results. Which studies do you find credible, and which ones do you not?

Expert opinion? Even in the peer-reviewed realms, you can find experts who are heroes to some, and villains to others. Ancel Keys in nutrition/health, for instance. he was a hero to some for warning people against cholesterol, and a villain to others for helping create a world in which people overdosed on carbs and often became obese. (And, yes, I know o studies where people were fed calorically equal diets on different food groups, and they all made out the same.)


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 14

Hoovooloo

@Otto:
"Seems to me that they have been misrepresented"

Irony alert in 5,4,3...

"There are plenty of examples of women who gave birth very young who go on to achieve great things"

Leaving aside that the plural of anecdote is not data, this is a very, very common misrepresentation here. The argument is not and never has been that women who have unplanned kids make up the underclass. The argument is that (many of) those kids contribute to a permanent underclass. It's a very different argument. We're not trying to stop pregnancies to benefit the women - they'll almost all remain poor, which is unfortunate. What they won't do is accidentally and without forethought contribute another two, three, four or more mouths to feed. I am a very happy parent, but I'd have been very very UNhappy to have become one without planning to or (given that I'm male) wanting to or having and direct control over whether I do once I find out there's a pregnancy in progress.

"if we want to prevent young women in particular from joining said underclass" - straw man. Answering the wrong question. See above.

" It's a completely disproportionate response to the problem" - I disagree. Contraception is a well-understood area of medicine and the drugs are out of patent. You have a captive audience in every school, an audience you already inject to protect them from things like HPV and measles.

@Mr. X

"I'm not even sure how you can conflate one with the other"

You aren't sure how I can conflate an invasive medical procedure performed on a child to administer a drug to prevent that child experiencing an undesired outcome, with an invasive medical procedure performed on a child to administer a drug to prevent that child experiencing an undesired outcome? I'm not sure I can help you.

"I can't speak for Britain, but I can tell you that in America vaccinations are not mandated"

Ah. You're basing your concept of what's possible or desirable in a civilised healthcare system on your knowledge and experience of the healthcare system of the USA. That's like basing your opinions on justice on the goings on in Saudi Arabia.

@paulh:
"Is this a discussion of privacy, then?"
No. Next questions.

"does it extend to curtailing people's agency? "
I'd argue it does the oppposite. It places fertility directly into the control of everyone. If EVERYONE prevented from becoming accidentally pregnant, the only people who will become pregnant are the ones who actively want to. I'd see that as an unalloyed Good Thing, and feminist as heck to boot.

"Chances are, we're going to end up with people having the same views at the end as they had at the beginning"

Not at all. Convince me - I'm open to it. I don't see a good argument against making all pregnancies planned, but if there is one I'll entertain it and potentially change my mind. Conversely, if you think allowing everyone to become pregnant willy-nilly is a good thing, now, in an advanced capitalist society where we have a choice not to - tell me why.


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 15

Otto Fisch ("Stop analysing Strava.... and cut your hedge")

*sigh* "Is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?"

Happy have a debate the actual issues *in good faith*, but you seem to think that argument is just skim-reading what others write in search for things to quote out of context and to disagree with. I don't share that view - and it's a game I'm not sure I can be bothered playing at the moment.

I don't see that it matters a great deal whether the concern is for the economic prospects of mother (and father) and family unit, or just the for child. I'm not even sure they are issues that are easily separable. And if the concern is *solely* for the child, this view ends up dangerously close to arguing that it's better not to exist than being born with poor economic prospects.

All the same arguments from my previous post - none of which you have engaged with - still apply.


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 16

Hoovooloo

On debate style: if I haven't quoted something you've said, I'm tacitly agreeing. I only quote the bits I disagree with.

"dangerously close to arguing that it's better not to exist than being born with poor economic prospects"

Well, that's an interesting proposition. Why would you characterise it as "dangerous"?

The following two propositions I would say are uncontroversial:
1. it's better to exist as the planned, healthy, loved and nurtured child of a billionaire than it is to not exist at all.
2. it's better not to exist in the first place than to exist as the unplanned, neglected and abused, unhealthy child of a poor, abusive single parent.

Now: somewhere on that continuum of circumstance there's a point where existence becomes worthwhile and fulfilling, rather than just tolerable or even just about survivable. We may disagree on where the line is drawn, but you'll have a hard time convincing me that life, any life at all, no matter how nasty, brutish and short, has intrinsic value that means existence is preferable to the alternative.

Note: we're not talking about death - we're talking about not being born in the first place. Most civilised people demonstrate that they are on my side of this argument by the way they live their lives: they take steps to avoid having children when they don't want or feel ready for them, yet when they DO feel ready, they do in the main have them. Civilised people with education and resources *overwhelmingly* delay childbirth and limit family size. The correlation between the level of education and wealth of a populace and the size of families is well known. It's been shown over and over again that a hugely successful way to reduce teenage pregnancy is with increased resources and education.

You, on the other hand, seem to be arguing that nature should be allowed to take its course and the devil take the hindmost. The people paying for your policy are the under-resourced children who result.

Are you happy with that as a position?


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 17

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

I'm somewhat closer to 1. than 2. My siblings and I were planned, and welcomed into the world, and appreciated for a long time into our parents' lives.

I'm aware that there are studies of "happiness" (however the studies define happiness) among women who become pregnant against their will. The mothers are, on the whole, not a happy lot. Can some of them gradually accept their situation with equanimity? Apparently, yes.

The vast majority of us are, well, average, give or take a bit. No billionaire parents (yes, I understand that this was one end of the spectrum), not usually much of a net to catch us when we fall. A bad parent for some, maybe some psychiatric therapy in later life, and hopefully a better understanding what makes life work for us before life ends.

I remember a book called "Old, poor, alone, black, female, and happy." (Not the exact title, but close.) So, there will be people who beat the odds. An abandoned child may grow up to be Louis Armstrong. That sort of thing.

What I'd like to avoid is the mechanistic thinking that is satirised in "Every sperm is sacred." Life is not a formula. Promising children can, with no apparent reason, go seriously off the tracks. Would this include billionaires' children? Well, the sample size for billionaries is not large (perhaps not large enough to infer results from), but I don't think John D Rockefeller, Jr. was all that happy. Neither was Vincent Astor.

So, yes, I'm kind of moderate in this. People who are trapped in lives lived in a rigidly formulaic way can be quite unhappy. There may be ways to soothe some of the rough edges (Astor was happy with Brooke, his third wife. His idea of a good evening was staying at home, listening to her sing and play the piano).


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 18

Hoovooloo

"there will be people who beat the odds"

I hate this line of thinking. Yes, there will be people who beat the odds. There will be people who find the golden ticket, who win the lottery.

But there will be so many, many more who do not. That's what odds ARE.

Taking steps to, at the very least, ensure every child who is born was planned and wanted at least by the mother would increase the proportion of human happiness, both for the mother and for those children.

(Here's a thought: it would also mean I would not have been conceived, and I still hold this opinion.)


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 19

Baron Grim

My niece-in-law went to the emergency room last night (with COVID-19 anxieties, of course) only to find out she's not sick, she's pregnant with their 3rd child. smiley - facepalm


Sabisky, poor people and contraception

Post 20

paulh. Antisocial distancing works a well as the Social kind

"Taking steps to, at the very least, ensure every child who is born was planned and wanted at least by the mother would increase the proportion of human happiness, both for the mother and for those children." [Hoovooloo]

Getting from the high ideals to the application is the hard part. Plato's "Republic" had the idea that a society's oldest and wisest citizens should be in charge of, well, matchmaking for the younger ones. Some societies still have arranged marriages. I'm not saying it's a bad thing (who am I to say anyway? smiley - winkeye).

It's just that Plato was never (and could never have been) a teenage girl. And, even when he was a teenage boy, he wasn't every teenage boy. He was just one person. There's an awful lot going on with young people in love.

So, good luck crafting a public policy. It's going to draw fire as well as praise. Be ready for it.

Yes, I do know what odds are. I neither love nor hate them. All I can aspire to is understanding them and,. maybe, making things a little better by applying them a bit.

Fine, from the standpoint of government policy,


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