Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Social is Economic

I wish there were more hours in the day.

As I was going through my epic and extensive RSS feed list, I came across an article about Pennsylvania and women.  Specifically, Pennsylvania is failing women.  If you're a person who's got a progressive political mindset you probably didn't need to be told this, and in the Centre Daily Times the preaching is probably happening largely to the choir, but these facts need to be disseminated broadly to every person of every political persuasion.

First of all, if you like numbers and you are a nerd for statistics then you should absolutely check out this study that was done by the Center for American Progress.  They've got an interactive page where you can check out all the data.  It's amazing.  It's a really helpful place to check out the fact that Pennsylvania has only 1 gynecologist per 19,565 women.  That makes Pennsylvania the worst place to find a gynecologist.  We are worse than Alabama and worse than Mississippi and worse than West Virginia.  Every state you've ever made fun of for being a backwater hotbed of bumpkinery, we're worse than them. This should be underlined, I feel, by the fact that, just because you've got a gynecologist nearby (and I do mean a gynecologist) doesn't mean that your one gynecological option accepts your insurance.  That means that you may well have zero access to a gynecologist, most especially in the center swath of the state that gets referred to so often as Pennsyltucky.  I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to Kentucky who - though they rank 4 lower than us overall - has 1 gynecologist per only 4,095 women.

If only it ended there.  Pennsylvania was the 28th worst state for women, according to this study.  We got a C-.  I know a lot of college students that would high five over a C-, but when lives are on the line a C- might as well be an F.

This article seemed to drop into my lap at the perfect time.  Just today I was talking about the things that Democrats in Pennsylvania - and probably in other places where conservatives rule the roost - sacrifice in the name of appealing to a broader section of the public.  Who are the first two groups that get thrown under the bus?

LGBT persons.


Democrats feel the need to call themselves "pro-family".  They back away from supporting marriage equality (not all of them) and they back off of protecting a woman's right to control her body (again, not all of them).  In areas where people identify primarily as conservative, Democrats do things like identify as "conservative".  In Altoona we've got a mayoral race coming up in which our Democratic candidate (who is a nice guy and pro-labor and all that good stuff) who on his About page calls himself "conservative"!  I have heard Democrats who I like and respect who actively push "social issues" to the side because "we can't win on those."

I'd like to deliver some truth to you.  In 1969, Carol Hanisch wrote an essay titled "The Personal is Political" and that became the rallying cry of Second Wave feminism.  What we need to realize now is that these social issues are economic issues.  Abortion is an economic issue.  Birth control is an economic issue.  Making decisions for my body is an economic issue.  When I can't afford to drive out of my way to go to a gynecologist to diagnose a medical issue that I'm having, that has an economic impact on my life and that has an economic impact on my family and I am not the only one.  When you add up all the women who have to made their health decisions in a way that is motivated by their financial situation you have a serious economic problem.

Yesterday a young woman in one of my political science classes asked our professor what would happen if we got rid of all of our social welfare programs and my professor wasn't even really sure how to answer that question because it's so big and so complicated.  And this, by the way, is not a criticism of my professor.  He's right, that is a big huge question.  I think, however, that I've come up with a way to think about it that relates to the economic issue of bodily autonomy and access to health options.  If there is no social safety net, if there is no unemployment and no social security and nothing whatsoever, what are the things that you make choices not to do or to buy?  What happens to the American economy when only the very very richest people are able to have luxury products?  And I'm not talking about gold-plated yachts; I'm talking about blu-rays and televisions and cell phones and anything that you can think of that you don't need.  What happens to our economy which relies so heavily on our collective ability to buy crap that we don't need when we can't afford to buy the crap that we don't need?  For so many women in America, this is already a reality.

The social is economic.  For too long Democrats have allowed Republicans to frame the debate.  We will never win that way.  How do you fight against "pro-family"?  What is "pro-family"?  Are there people out there who are campaigning against families?  No, they aren't, and every time a Democrat is forced to label themselves as "pro-family" they're handing a win to the Republicans.  When we let the debate be about whether or not abortion is a moral choice then we lose because whether or not it is a moral choice is beside the point.  Moral according to whom?  You?  Me?  Pat Robertson?

It's time to take back the debate and show it for what it really is: an economic issue.  When Democrats (and Democrats in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, I'm talking to you) cave in to this pressure to see reproductive justice as something that can be tossed aside then you are effectively tossing women aside.  When you don't support reproductive justice then you don't support a woman's ability to find economic parity with men.  The social is economic, and it's time for every Democrat to heed that call.