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Womb for Rent

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How much is nine months of pregnancy, labor, and the birth of a child worth? Less than 10 cents an hour, according to the supposed "Culture of Life" warriors in Texas.

The "Adoption Incentive Program" -- otherwise known as the Texas Baby Purchasing Act of 2007 -- would offer women $500 for forgoing abortion, giving birth and then signing away their parental rights. It does not apply to women who choose to keep their children or to women who choose adoption without first visiting an abortion provider, and it's being billed as an anti-abortion measure.

Talk about commodifying women's bodies.

This law would essentially pay women to rent out their uteruses. As BitchPhD points out, it's not about encouraging childbirth, it's about bribing women out of abortion and into adoption, effectively using them as cheap labor to create a child for someone else. Five hundred dollars isn't anywhere near enough to pay for the costs of pregnancy, like pre-natal care, maternity clothes, extra food, and time taken off of work. The bill even states that abortion providers -- and abortion providers alone -- are required to offer the funding to women seeking terminations. The funding is not offered to pregnant women who independently choose to give a child up for adoption. It's significantly less than women make by donating their eggs, even though common sense would dictate that being pregnant for nine months and birthing a child is slightly more labor-intensive than egg donation. Of course, there is a disproportionate demand for eggs from white, college-educated women, and egg donors get paid on a sliding scale which takes into account everything from their physical attractiveness to their SAT scores, both of which are linked to socioeconomic status. If there was ever an example of what kind of women are valued in America, this is it -- and it's not the low-income pregnant women who Texas Republicans are trying to bribe out of abortion for a couple hundred bucks.

Baby-selling, it should be noted, is pretty illegal. But the proposed Texas law deals with that by simply saying that the anti-baby-selling statute "does not apply to the grant or acceptance of money under this section." Well ok then.

I also suspect that this is less about preventing abortion than it is about insuring that the children of "unfit" mothers -- those 1 in 3 American women who will terminate a pregnancy at some point in her life -- are re-distributed to parents who are deemed to be better suited to raise them.

Adoption can be a wonderful thing for both pregnant women and people who want to adopt children -- but not when it's coercive (and especially when that coercion is insultingly low-balled). Pregnancy is no walk in the park. Neither is childbirth. If, as a society, we're going to decide that these things are worth financial compensation, then we need to compensate women who give birth for their labor (no pun intended) regardless of whether they keep the child or put it up for adoption. Or we need to decide that pregnancy, childbirth and adoption should be a completely voluntary and non-coercive process -- in which case we need to make sure that women have the widest variety of choices possible by increasing access to contraception, medically accurate sexual health information, secular adoption services and abortion; recognizing that infringements on our reproductive freedom are inexcusable violations of our most basic human rights to bodily integrity and autonomy; and making it possible for women to choose to give birth by promoting universal health care, more flexible work and education policies, paid parental leave, affordable childcare, better relief for low-income women with children, and an improved social safety net.

But you won't hear any of this from so-called "pro-life" politicians and leaders, who are remarkably disinterested in actually decreasing the abortion rate. They prefer to punish women for violating the right-wing version of sexual morality (in which you exchange sex for a wedding ring, let God decide how many babies you have, and everyone is heterosexual) by restricting and attempting to outlaw abortion, passing off medically inaccurate abstinence-only propaganda as "sex education," and quite literally viewing women as vessels for reproduction.

This law is unlikely to make it out of committee, but it's nonetheless reflective of just how little "pro-life" politicians and leaders actually care about women, beyond our ability to make a child for someone else. And despite the lip service they pay to babies, they don't care about kids all that much either -- 100% of the worst legislators for children in this country are "pro-life."

Paying women 7 cents an hour if they carry a pregnancy to term and then give the child up for adoption is not "pro-life." But it's good to know that pro-life politicians love babies so much that they're willing to sell them for bargain-basement prices.