Universal Preschool, The Right to Give Birth, and Why Girls Are Better At School Than Boys

On this episode of Reality Cast, Claudia Buchmann will explain why women are outperforming men academically and what it means. Obama proposes universal preschool, and conservatives predictably reject any measure that would improve women’s lives. Also, a pregnant teen in Texas wins the right to give birth against her parents’ wishes.

Esther Perel gave a TED talk addressing one of the biggest sexual conundrums of our time.

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It’s an interesting talk, and surprisingly optimistic despite the admitted problems with trying to reconcile domestic comfort and the need for novelty and passion.


If you read right wing media, you’ll find that there is a constant drumbeat of panic over the fact that women aren’t having what they believe is enough babies. It’s obviously just a fig leaf for creating momentum behind restricting reproductive rights, but it’s usually taboo to state this obvious observation openly. I’m not impressed, as you can tell, because it’s crystal clear that people are having fewer children for economic reasons. They don’t have enough time or money to raise kids, and contraception and abortion are simply the means to that end. If conservatives were sincere in their concerns about lowered birth rates, they’d be moving heaven and earth to make child-rearing more affordable. But instead they oppose it every step of the way, especially if it means helping women achieve economic independence.

Take, for instance, President Obama’s suggestion during the State of the Union address that we institute universal preschool. This is a great idea, because the research shows that it’s good for kids. Researcher James Heckman explained on NPR.


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Now, it’s true that they mostly focused on disadvantaged kids, and the return may not be so high for middle class kids. But the return is so great for disadvantaged kids that even if there was no return on outcomes for middle class kids, it would still put us in the black. But, as Heckman explains, a lot of it comes down to learning pro-social behaviors and self-control at a younger age, which will be beneficial for kids across class.

No matter, because no way will conservatives support this. The reason is that universal preschool makes it easier for women to hold full-time jobs, because it would save families a fortune in childcare costs. But of course, the stated reasons are the usual incoherent nonsense, such as that which came out of Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s mouth.


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Rep. Blackburn would have you believe that teachers would object to a huge influx of job opportunities teaching preschool cause, uh, more paperwork. Okay, well if they hate paperwork so much that they’d rather have fewer jobs on the market than fill it out, why not just quit the jobs they have now and live a life free of that confounded paperwork? Because they need the work, that’s why.

Of course, there was also the usual complaining that we can’t afford to hire all these new teachers and build schools and whatnot, represented by Gerri Willis on Fox News.


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Meh, we can build a few fewer bombs this year or something. No, seriously, this is just deliberate economic ignorance. The truth of the matter is establishing universal preschool would be a huge economic boon. It would immediately create jobs for teachers and administrators, as well as those building the infrastructure. It would allow parents, mothers especially, to work more, which would contribute economically. And what’s immoral is painting a program that we know saves us $7 for every dollar spent as something we can’t afford. Stepping back, I’d say we can’t afford not to do this.

But it will probably mean that fewer women choose to stay at home with their kids or cut back hours at work, which means that more women will be competing against men for plum jobs. Which means conservatives will oppose it, even if it would help get up that birth rate they’re always fussing about.


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Anti-choicers are always going on and on with disingenuous claims that pro-choicers are just “pro-abortion”, and always trying to claim that we support the use of coercion and subterfuge to get unwilling women into abortion clinics. Their desperation to believe this is only equaled by the lack of evidence they have to support this contention, but they finally got lucky this month and found a 16-year-old who is desperate to have a baby and marry her 16-year-old boyfriend. And her parents sound like they were willing to do anything to stop them.

The Texas Center for Defense of Life took up the case and sued the parents on behalf of the girl.


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Sounds terrible, it really does. Despite the fact that she went to the wrong people for help in securing her basic reproductive rights, I firmly support this girl in her lawsuit. The right to choose, contrary to anti-choice claims, really is just that: The right to choose. If a 16-year-old girl wants to have a baby, that is her choice, even if the rest of us believe it’s a bad choice. As much as it may pain parents to hear it, teenagers have rights, and that includes the right to start making sexual and reproductive decisions for themselves. Her parents sound like idiots, too, making threats and talking about drugging her in secret—something that is harder than the mother probably guessed, since good luck finding a doctor to cooperate.

What’s interesting is the girl’s lawyer cited Roe v. Wade as precedent.


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In other words, in an attempt to make pro-choicers look like hypocrites, anti-choicers revealed their own hypocrisy. Let’s be clear: I think it’s true that minors do have an absolute right to make a choice. But Texas law doesn’t agree, because anti-choicers have put parental notification laws in place to force young women to get their parents to sign off on abortion. Antis claim these laws aren’t a violation of Roe, because they’re supposed to “involve” parents in the decision. But as you can see from this lawyer’s argument, they know damn well that parental notification laws violate a girl’s right to choose. Hopefully, this lawyer made arguments that could be used as precedent to overturn parental notification, though I’m not holding my breath.

The result of all this is that the girl not only won her case, but she super-won it.


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The parents not only have to respect her right to choose and to marry under Texas state law, they also agreed to support her by returning use of a car to her and even paying half her medical bills until she married. Which is just as well, because the parents really need to be disabused of the notion that trying to control teenagers in this way works. If they did successfully coerce an abortion—and again, good luck finding a doctor who will do it over the patient’s protests—she’d just go out and get pregnant again if that’s what she’s determined to do.

I don’t know the particulars of this case, but I will say that generally speaking, if you want to avoid having your teenage daughter show up pregnant and insisting that she has to get married right now, the best prevention is to apply pro-choice principles from the beginning. If you discover your daughter is sexually active, trying to forbid her from seeing her boyfriend will likely backfire, causing the couple to believe they are star-crossed lovers who need to find a strategy to force you to accept their young love, often by having a baby and getting married. By accepting their relationship and even providing access to contraception to show your support, you will make it clear that they have all the time in the world to enjoy being young and in love without rushing into babies and marriage. If you respect her right to choose, the odds are high she’ll make smarter, calmer, more rational choices. But the father in this case sounds like a domineering, conservative type who believes that force is the only answer to his problems, and that belief appears to be biting him in the ass.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Rush Limbaugh gets his last sexist dig on Hillary Clinton in.


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Limbaugh lives in a world where, if women have power, men cannot. In the beginning, this was evidence of his total lack of imagination, but now it just demonstrates he can’t even open his eyes and see that men are continuing to hold powerful offices even as women are moving up the ranks. It is not, no matter how much he insists otherwise, a zero sum game.