Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Problems with the "Abortion Roadblock"

Twenty-six states have now imposed a mandatory waiting period between the day when a woman first visits an abortion clinic and the day she is actually allowed to get an abortion, according to an article in The Atlantic entitled "Waiting Periods and the Rising Price of Abortion," written by Olga Khazan. This ends up raising the overall cost of having an abortion, because women must make now arrangements twice in order to have one. As Khazan puts it, it is just "another attempt by pro-lifers to bring about the end of abortion by a thousand restrictions."

It brings up a point we discussed today in class. To what extent can the government get involved in the choices that people make? For instance, the government regulates the restrictions on tobacco, creating a sort of "sin-tax" (a heightened price on the product in the hopes to discourage people from "sinning"). The "sinning," in this case, would be getting an abortion. It is clear that these pro-life lawmakers imposing these laws feel this way, based on their language alone. In The Atlantic article, Missouri state Senator David Sater said he is "sure that the unborn child would like to see an extra 48 hours for the mother to decide on whether or not to have the abortion." He turns it around on the woman, questioning her right to make the decision herself.

This waiting period is yet another hurdle women are now forced to go through. A woman who goes to an abortion clinic has already made an incredibly difficult decision. She does not need yet another hurdle in her way. If she has other children, she must make arrangements for them, like childcare. She would have to take off from work, most likely losing pay for that day. She would also have to make arrangements to get to the clinic, which can be hours away, and expensive to travel to. Once she actually gets to the clinic, she is told to think about it and come back in 2 or 3 days, having to endure it all over again, which is emotionally and financially draining. This waiting period "made abortion more expensive by 48% for poor women" (Khazan). Abortion now has a sin-tax that is affecting women, especially poor women, who have even more trouble getting past these financial hurdles.

Aside from the financial part or this issue, are women gaining anything from this mandatory delay? 75% of women said they "couldn't name a single benefit of the waiting period" (Khazan). I would argue that the majority of women who seek out and travel to an abortion clinic have already come to their very difficult decision. But that decision gets questioned as soon as they walk in the door. Shouldn't this just be a choice a woman gets to make?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Working Mother

I recently came across a New York Times article entitled “Mounting Evidence of Advantages for Children of Working Mothers” by Claire Cain Miller that displayed a shocking statistic: 41% of adults think the increase in working mothers is “bad for society.” I was stunned. Nearly half the population still thinks mothers should be kept out of the work force.

However, there is evidence that being raised by a working mother has enormous benefits for children. In the United States, “daughters of working mothers earned 23% more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers” (Miller). And it wasn’t just daughters who were impacted: “sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care… and were significantly more likely to have a wife who worked” (Miller). So that 41% who claim that a working mother has a negative influence on her children and therefore on society may have failed to think about the impact that a strong female role model will have on children. It is undeniable that having a mother in the workforce sets a good example for impressionable children. These mothers serve as role models who are combating gender stereotypes and encouraging their kids to do the same.

Some question the correlation in this study. Does a working mother actually cause her daughter to work? There are are most definitely other factors that go into this, like education for example, or where a child is brought up. Harvard Business School professor Kathleen McGinn is the author of the study, and has controlled the data for factors like “age, education, and family makeup,” but the effects do not shrink significantly at all. Miller claims that “either way,” the study is a “shift away from focusing on whether working mothers hurt children;” we are moving “toward a richer understanding of the relationship between work and family.” Even if there are other forces impacting the data, the study has put to rest the falsehood that a working mother is “bad for society.” It’s really just about a tolerance we need to develop for different choices people are making regarding their family life. It is not about discouraging stay-at-home moms; it's about encouraging a mother's choice to work.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

America and The "Middle Class"

Recently in class we have been discussing the topic of class and classism. I came across an article a few days ago in The Atlantic entitled "What Does 'Middle Class' Even Mean?" written by Gillian B. White. It talks about class perception and how people choose to identify to one particular class. We discussed in class how it is the American way to identify as Middle Class, but what does that term really mean? Some would argue it is the middle 50% of Americans (their income is more than the bottom 25% and less than the top 25%). In 2013, the Survey of Consumer Finances stated that these are families with incomes "between $24,000 to $90,000." But if you take into account other factors besides solely income, like property or "liabilities," this same "middle class" expands to an enormous spectrum. This would mean the middle class would have "anywhere between $9,000 to $317,000." Families within this range would lead entirely different lives.

So maybe class is not about dividing up people based on income. Class can be "as much about perception and comparison as it is about measurable metrics, like money" (White). It's not just a socioeconomic matter, it's a way of life. Class does not just mean money, it's largely about self-perception and comparing yourself to those around you. In class, we were asked to try to place ourselves into one class category. The fact that we live in a very wealthy area definitely had an impact on people’s own perceptions of their class. A similar survey has been going on at a national level: Gallup began collecting data in 2000, inquiring what class people identified as. Here are the results:

Michael Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois gives an explanation of this graph. We are facing a growing gap between the rich and the poor, and this inequality often results in a tendency for people to compare themselves to one another even more. So, while someone may actually be closer to middle class income-wise, they identify as lower because of this enormous gap between the rich and poor. More and more people are perceiving themselves as "falling out of middle class." This is a problem for America because it affects people's view of social mobility. They have less hope that they can move up classes.

We see this theme of social mobility throughout The Great Gatsby, as well. The "American Dream" narrative arc is one that is at the core of our country, which is why Gatsby is so fascinating to us. We find out his parents were actually poor farm people and "his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all" (Fitzgerald 98). He chose to not "accept" this class he was born into; he rejected it entirely. He created a new persona he aspired to become and "to this conception he was faithful to the end" (98). He did all that he could to achieve his dream, the American Dream, and ended up succeeding, moving from lower, to middle, to upper class.