Rand Paul Is Here to Micromanage Your Family Size, Ladies

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is a man with a lot of highly specific and frankly confusing opinions on whether or not caring for children is a difficult, expensive task and a massive tax on resources. If you are a woman tasked with giving birth to and raising offspring yourself, then the answer is “no.” For individual women, Paul is so confident that it is no burden for you to have and care for children that he not only opposes abortion, but he has routinely advocated for cutting off taxpayer money that goes to preventing unintended pregnancy. When asked recently about whether or not there was a “war on women,” he went out of his way to praise his sister for being fecund, saying, “My younger sister is an OB-GYN with six kids and doing great.” The implication was clear: If his sister can handle six kids, then the rest of you have no excuse.

But at the same time, Rand Paul also believes that children are so incredibly expensive that women should be punished for having more than a “certain amount.” He recently gave a speech during which he endorsed capping the number of benefits that women receiving federal assistance could get based on how many children they have. “Maybe we have to say enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount,” he said, adding, “I don’t know how you do all that because then it’s tough to tell a woman with four kids that she’s got a fifth kid we’re not going to give her any more money. But we have to figure out how to get that message through because that is part of the answer.”

It’s telling the number of kids that is “too many” if you receive assistance just happens to be five, one short of the six children that Paul applauded his sister for bearing. The most obvious explanation for why six kids is “doing great” for one woman and evidence that you “shouldn’t be having kids” for another has everything to do with the class assumptions he brings to the table—and, let’s face it, race assumptions, because Paul’s conservative audience no doubt buys into false stereotypes that equate “welfare moms” with women of color. Juxtaposing these two quotes, the clearest thing that pops out is that Paul believes some people have children who are valuable, and they should have more of them; he even takes umbrage at the idea that women might curtail that a bit to put more resources into their careers. Then he turns around and suggests that other people’s children are not really worth investing in. Some kids are for giving the world to, others are for starving. He couldn’t have been clearer.

None of this is news, of course. Conservatives love to talk about how every life is “precious,” but when it comes to the lives of low-income people and their children, conservatives demonstrate that they don’t care about those lives much at all. The only time the “life” of someone in a low-income household matters is when they are in the embryonic stage. Indeed, considering how many women get abortions because they’re protecting their already existing children, it’s clear that the conservative position is that the life of an embryo is worth more than the life of an existing child. But Paul’s open praise for one woman for having six kids, and his damning of another hypothetical woman for having five, lays this kind of nastiness out in the open, making it impossible for observers to deny.

Emphasis, by the way, on “hypothetical,” because Paul’s assumption that women “on welfare” keep having kids to get more benefits is patently false. As ThinkProgress notes, people who receive direct assistance do not have larger families than average. In addition, Paul’s simplistic worldview, which holds that there are people “on welfare” and people who are not, is just wrong. Few people set out to be on public assistance. For most families, getting food stamps, unemployment, or even Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) support is hardly a lifelong affair, but something that only happens for periods of your life, in between jobs. A woman can have five children and live in a middle-class home and then get divorced and require assistance. That same woman Paul had praised then becomes a cautionary tale he uses to scare his right-wing audiences about the supposedly hyper-fertile poor using up all the taxpayer money.

And, of course, the fact that Paul has actively fought to strip away every tool that low-income women have to limit their family size makes this entire charade even more cruel.

This also demonstrates how much the conservative discourse about women and when, how, and why they have children is about how “children” exist primarily in conservative rhetoric not as human beings with needs, but as weapons to use against women. The wealthy or middle-class woman who has a big family is there to shame other, better-off women for choosing smaller families or not having children at all. And as Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have made clear, having a disabled child is often used as a sharp political tool to shame other women for their choice to have abortions—the implication being, “I could do it, what’s your excuse?”

This is why it’s so fundamentally dishonest to use the term “pro-life” to describe the anti-choice position. “Pro-life” insinuates a respect for children that isn’t there. “Anti-choice” better encapsulates the way that children are reduced to weapons to guilt-trip and punish women for making sexual and reproductive choices that conservatives don’t approve of.

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  • BJ Survivor

    Keep hammering it, Amanda! Thank you for delving into and coherently refuting the morass of cognitive dissonance and misogyny that is the forced-birth/conservative movement so the rest of us don’t have to.

    No less vile is père Paul, Rep. Ron Paul. Aside from the race-baiting newsletter bearing his name on the masthead, I will never forget his baby in a bucket story. Which is simply ludicrous on its face, but if it had actually occurred, why didn’t he report that crime when it happened?

    • Defamate

      I call bs on that story too.

  • Dana

    I keep telling people all over the place that this is about infant adoption and about extreme-right-wing Christians growing their numbers through said infant adoption, but no one listens to me, because they continue with the same tired old “Christians just want to punish women for f?!king.”

    Yes, that’s part of it, but it’s not what I’d call the Ultimate Agenda. (After all, the Biblical punishment for F?!king Without Permission was stoning the woman to death. None of these bozos are proposing the death penalty for us. Yet.)

    I don’t care if it means gay couples and single 50yo career women will have to chose a child from U.S. foster care, we need to talk about this. Not only does it traumatize women to lose a child soon after birth (a big reason some women say they’d choose abortion over adoption relinquishment, in fact), it traumatizes the baby and turns them into a second-class citizen who, in most states, can’t even access their original birth certificate or trust what medical history they are able to obtain (which may be years out of date, too, even if accurate).

    But Christians have discovered it’s easier to “train up a child” than to indoctrinate an adult. This is where they’re coming from, and they won’t stop til we start resisting them.

    Don’t expect succor from Planned Parenthood. They’re buying into the adoption BS now.

    • AZDem9933

      I think both are true. Conservatives push anti-choice laws to punish women for sex (and are able to get away with that because they operate in a larger culture of disapproval of female sexuality) AND they want more babies for adoption and indoctrination (and cheap labor for the plutocrats among them). They aren’t mutually exclusive things.

    • Amanda_Marcotte

      Read this “baby scoop” piece. It’s not about this more than that, but about a complete worldview that sees forcing women to give up babies for adoption as rightful punishment for having sex:


      I don’t think that it’s true that voluntary adoption is necessarily traumatic. Plenty of adoption agencies take a transparent approach, giving women full rights to change their minds. Open adoption is another option.

      • BJ Survivor

        Further, there are women who wouldn’t or couldn’t get an abortion who just don’t want to be contacted by the children they adopted out. Why should their right to privacy be abrogated? In a perfect world, no woman would be pregnant when she didn’t want to be. The next best thing, IMO, is that a generous social safety infrastructure would be in place and legally enforceable open adoption would be the standard for those who choose to adopt out, unless the birthmother requests a closed adoption. In that case, anonymous family health history would be provided, but that’s it.

        • paganheart

          Good point. The media loves to tell stories about happy reunions between birth parents and the children they gave up for adoption, but not every reunion is a happy one. One of my cousins is married to a woman who was adopted, and she decided to go in search of her birth parents a few years ago. She was born in 1982 and hers was a closed adoption, and she met tremendous roadblocks in her search, but was finally able to locate her birth mother with the help of a private investigator. She made several attempts to contact the woman, and was rebuffed. She persisted, and finally received a letter in which her birth mother said she got pregnant at 15 as a result of what would now be considered “date rape,” and the only reason she didn’t have an abortion was because her staunchly Southern Baptist parents wouldn’t allow it. She said something along the lines of: I gave you up the minute you were born, I didn’t hold you, I didn’t even look at you, I want nothing to do with you. The birth mother provided some cursory family health info, and the name of the man who “sired you” (birth mothers words) and closed with “If you ever attempt to contact me again, you will be hearing from the police.” It has been very traumatic for my cousin’s wife (she has not yet decided if she will attempt to contact her biological father at all), and obviously very traumatic for a birth mother who clearly did not want to be reminded of this horrible time in her life. It is all well and good to say that adoptions should be open and birth mothers more respected, but there are times when closed adoption and minimal contact with biological parents is better for everyone involved, and that should be respected as well.

          • goatini

            And there are times when a safe, legal pregnancy termination would have saved a 15-year-old child from a lifetime of misery and fear. Poor kiddo, she’s suffered her entire life over something so completely unnecessary. SO many females who are impressed by force, and/or by false blame, shame, and guilt, into gestational slavery and mandatory surrender to the billion dollar global human trafficking adoption syndicate, end up never being able to trust males ever again, and never become mothers on their own terms. Forced gestational slavery and surrender to the human traffickers scars MOST of the females coerced into it, FOR LIFE.

          • goatini

            Thanks for the downvotes from the creeps who think a pregnant child, who is an innocent victim of a violent felony crime, should be sentenced to gestational slavery like livestock. Your true colors are shining through.

          • Ella Warnock

            Hey, goatini, rape is just another way to build happy families!

            Seriously, though, I watched a few episodes of “I’m Having Their Baby” last year. None of the pregnant ladies were dealing with a rape situation, fortunately, but the dynamic they had with the potential adoptive parents was the most interesting thing.

            She would choose a couple and spend some time with them before the birth. In each case, these adoptive couples were *terrified*. So many shots of birth mom going off on some weird tangent while the couple sat there, white-knuckled, willing themselves not to roll their eyes or even look at each other lest birth mom get a whiff of any sort of disapproval at all and take their baby dreams to some greener pasture where potential parents don’t judge. They’re terrified right up to the birth – will she keep it, will she hand it over? Then when baby is finally handed over, they cannot get out of there fast enough. One couple wisely opted to not be on camera after they took custody of the kid.

            All of the adoptions that I saw were supposed to be open, and up until filming afterward, after everyone has settled in, they were. I do hope for the birth moms’ sakes they continued to be, but there’s no guarantee. All in all, it looked awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. And I don’t have any answers, I’m just relating a story and my observations of the people involved. There’s a lot of footage that never made it into the actual show, I’m sure, and there’s no telling what it would show or how that would have changed my perceptions.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            What a dreadfully sad experience-for the birth mother and her child.If the birth mother really does not want to have contact with the child, I think that should be respected.

        • Bonzai

          Because parents have no right to privacy from their own children (and that whole privacy thing is made up bs from the adoption industry, anyway) and even if they did, the child’s right to know who they are trumps it. In fact, it’s so important, it’s even part of the UN Rights of the Child declaration. All sealed records (and closed family courts) do is allow the adoption industry to hide their crimes while violating adoptees rights and turning them into second class citizens.

          Were you aware that many adoptees can’t even get passports because of their falsified “birth certificates”? If anyone else lies on legal documents, they are charged, but it’s totally ok to do if it involves adoption, I guess.

          • BJ Survivor

            I am flabbergasted that you could read paganheart’s story and still say something so entirely beyond the pale. Parents are people and absolutely do have a right to privacy, even from their children. If a woman was pregnant after rape, was not allowed to get an abortion, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the offspring she was forced to create, why on earth would it be okay to traumatize her even further by contacting her against her wishes?

            I agree that falsifying the birth certificates is a problem and should not be allowed, but I also feel that birthmothers have a right to have their wishes to not be contacted respected.

      • bitchybitchybitchy

        If a woman feels that she wants to carry her pregnancy to term but is not ready to be a mother and wants to give the child up for adoption, I see that as a positive outcome for both the woman and the child.
        The bottom line is that women need: access to accurate, non-judgmental sexuality education, access to whatever method of contraception works best for them, safe and legal abortion should they need that, and most of all, the support of their family, friends and society.

    • ansuz

      My mom was adopted as a toddler in the sixties (in Canada), and she’s honestly one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. I don’t think that adoption is an inherently damaging thing to either the biomom or the kid; I think that the biggest problem is that it’s quite often coerced on the biomom. As for traumatizing the baby, eh, maybe? I’d be interested in seeing a comparison of child outcomes where households with only adopted children were compared with mixed adopted and bio kid households, though. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that adopted kids do better in the former than the latter (though I’ll be the first to admit that what I’ve been told doesn’t go far).
      The paperwork stuff definitely sounds like it could use some work.

      • colleen2

        And I have several friends who were forced to gestate and relinquish children for adoption in the 60’s and who deeply regret doing so. The adoptions that seem to work out best are those that allow the mother to select the adoptive parents and be in her child’s life.

  • TheBrett

    There’s another darker aspect to this type of stance on the part of Ron Paul. In the not too distant past, it was used as a rationale for involuntarily sterilizing poor women of color (and poor women in general) in order to keep them from having children.

    Not that I expect them to stop. Complaining that poor people breed too much while refusing to work goes way, way farther back than Ron Paul.

  • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

    I am depressed in an ongoing way about the quality of human that we elect to Congress. This is only a scrub among many.

  • http://www.myspace.com/btdsloveshack blazintommyd

    If you can’t afford children don’t have them is a no brainer. There is no reason or need for Government to subsidize childbirth.

    • goatini

      I think that all those freeloaders with all those tax deductions for children should definitely have those exemptions discontinued forever. Why should they get a free tax ride just because they can do what livestock can do? NO deductions, and let them pay their fair share if they want kids.

      • http://www.myspace.com/btdsloveshack blazintommyd

        well I think the rhetoric is a little harsh and unnecessary but I tend to agree as long as birth control and abortion is free. So how would you feel about a 90% rate on $1million per annum and over; and then Progressive rates downward to about $25K where it would be tax free.