Sunday, October 17, 2004

On Group Maternity Homes

George Bush included a reference to group maternity homes in his presidential debate arguments. As he gave us nothing else specifically relevant to women in his election promises, I decided to study the potential of group maternity homes in some more detail. Will this liberate women? Help women? Make women happy?

It's hard to say. Group maternity homes are intended to be a substitute for abortions, so the intention here is not necessarily to help women but to help their fetuses. Though such homes may have been necessary in the past when pregnant single women were stigmatized and possibly kicked out of their parents' homes, it's hard to see why they would be so important today when having a child out of wedlock is not equally shameful. But maybe I am wrong, and there are large numbers of young women who really need to go to a group maternity home.

On the other hand, group maternity homes have a bad reputation. Remember the recent movie about the Magdalene Asylums, the Irish homes for unwed mothers and what happened there? Hard labor and punishment for the sin of getting pregnant? But surely Bush didn't have this in mind when he used the term? Surely such homes today would be enlightened and pleasant places for pregnant women?

I don't know. These are some of the house rules for a Christian group maternity home called His Nesting Place (a pdf file). Such an odd name to pick for a home for unwed mothers, isn't it? Anyway, the mothers at His Nesting Place are expected to act in very specific ways:

All mothers and children are expected to have a positive and willing attitude. Colossians
3:17 “Whatsoever you do in word or deed do it heartily as unto the Lord…not to be seen of
men.” Foul language, fighting, lying, hollering, gossiping, complaining, arguing, any and all
types of rebellion, sulking or any other such attitude will not be tolerated within or outside
the facility. There is a $10.00 fine for cursing. It is a mother’s responsibility to get along
with the other mothers. Mothers, who withhold information about any situation that is a
violation of any of these policies or regarding the security of the facilities, will be subject to
disciplinary action.
Mothers may visit boyfriends, relatives and other acquaintances after church services on
Wednesday evenings and Sunday’s mornings for one hour in the foyer, TV room or the
open-air courtyard, but never in the bedrooms. The only exception to this rule is mothers
and grandmothers of residents who may wish to see new babies. Permission from the
resident’s parents and/or grandparents and Pastor Al and Judy Howard is needed to
visit the facility at other times.
All chores are to always be completed by 9:15 a.m. unless prior approval has been given by
the House Manager on duty (i.e. illness). An inspection by the House Manager on duty will
be made from 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. If a mother needs to be released from a chore,
permission must be obtained from the House Manager on duty. All mothers are to help with
all fundraising preparation such as the monthly newsletter and pro-life weekend roses.
Mothers are expected to be neatly and properly attired. Please see Dress Rules. Mothers
should be seated quietly in the sanctuary at least ten minutes before service. Bible, pens
and notepads should be on hand. There is to be no moving around or whispering during the
service. All children should be in the Nursery or Jr. Church during the services and should
be picked up promptly after service. No babies older than one month are allowed in the
sanctuary during church service.
Devotions are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 – 10:30. Church services are
Wednesdays from 7:00 – 9:00. Attendance is mandatory.
Mothers are to be in their rooms by 10:00 p.m. Lights are to be out by 10:30 p.m. every
night except Friday. On Friday, residents are to be in their rooms by 10:30 p.m. Lights are
to be out by 11:00 p.m. Children are to be in bed by 8:30 p.m. Each mother is required to
adjust her child(ren)’s sleeping habits to fit with the schedule of HIS NESTING PLACE.7
Everyone is expected to be modestly and neatly groomed. Bras and proper undergarments
are to be worn at all times. Short shorts, tight or skimpy skirts, eccentric or outlandish attire,
excessively long fingernails and excessive make up are not allowed. Shoes must be worn
at all times. No nose rings, lip rings, tongue rings, eyebrow rings or rings other than one set
of earrings may be worn at any time. No see-through or low cut blouses or dresses. Slips
must be worn with all dresses and skirts. If a mother cannot fulfill these requirements they
should notify the House Manager and every effort will be made to assist them in meeting
these standards.

There are also rules which regulate if and when the mothers can go out and so on. This is a religious group maternity home, and the rules might not be the same in a secular one. Though whether there would be secular group maternity homes is not quite clear, given Bush's fondness for the faith-based initiative. It's hard not wonder, though, whether there indeed might be a punishment motive at work here.
Thanks to Zoe Is Short for the original link to His Nesting Place.