Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More On The Next Post

I am so angry at this particular topic that I may not have been as clear as I wanted to be and I didn't get all the arguments into that one post. So here are a few more things:

Consider the following societal problem: We have too many car accident deaths because of drunk driving. What should we do about this? Whose behavior should we affect?

If we applied the same logic as in the recommendations which label all fertile women pre-pregnant we would regard all people who drink as potential drunk drivers, and the only solution would be to advise nobody to drink. After all, when people get drunk they may grab the wheel of the car without having planned to do so and then they may turn the key and start the car and hit a pedestrian who then dies. Clearly, we can't let the drinkers decide for themselves not to drive, because driving may be unplanned. By extension of the same argument, drinking at any time might result in a situation where unplanned drunk driving might happen.

If we wish to reduce traffic fatalities only one recommendation is valid: Nobody should drink. Ever. It might be helpful to view every person as potentially drunk-driving when we sell this recommendation to the citizens of the United States.

How do you like it? The level of intervention here is about the same as in the recommendation about women's behavior in the actual government proposal. I'm sure that it would be opposed as far too wide-reaching. Nothing appears too wide-reaching when it comes to women and fertility, though.

My traffic proposal would also be resisted on the grounds that we can't just recommend no drinking for all sorts of people who are totally innocent of any drunk driving. But note that this argument doesn't seem to apply to women. Women are assumed to be pre-pregnant, whatever they themselves say or whatever precautions they may be taking.

Some might also argue that my traffic proposal has high costs in terms of causing millions of light drinkers unhappiness from abstaining from a few glasses of wine a week for very little benefit. Suppose that the actual group of people who are likely to drive drunk is a lot smaller than the general group of all drinkers, and suppose that we could find some way of identifying that group and of affecting its behavior directly. Wouldn't that be a lot more effective as a social policy?

The answer is yes, but clearly when the same argument is applied to women the answer is no. It doesn't seem to matter how much unhappiness we would cause millions of women if they all obeyed the pre-pregnancy rules, even if most of this unhappiness turned out to be totally wasted in the sense that the woman does not get pregnant after all. And it doesn't seem to matter that the proposal doesn't really address the true reasons for high infant mortality rates, just as my proposal probably would do very little in combating drunk driving, especially as it's just a recommendation. The true reasons are in the lack of proper antenatal care in this country and in poverty and its corollaries.

Someone pointed out that the government recommendations are just that, recommendations, and that women can simply ignore them. True. But what these government recommendations tell us, clear as a bell, is that this government does not respect women as full human beings and does not treat women as full human beings or as human beings of independent worth.