Pierre Espeu | The Economics of Abortion | Comment


In last week’s column There Is Feminism Without Abortion, I started sharing the interview with New York Times columnist Ezra Klein by feminist and jurist Dr. Erika Bachiochi. She argues in her 2021 book, Women’s rights: recovering a lost vision, that the sexual revolution associated with advanced forms of contraception and easy abortion have been devastating to women’s well-being and the culture of virtue.

Reflecting on the evolution of feminism, Dr. Bachiochi observes that in capitalism, the market has grown to value women – not because they are biological women – but when they act in the workplace as men. The norm has been masculinity, undervaluing (in fact ignoring) the roles and functions of women inasmuch as women. It is the ultimate patriarchy.

“We’ve seen women progress in so many ways, except there’s not this concomitant valuing of the work done by women during pregnancy and then the work done by men and women in the home. …Today’s women’s movement is truly capitulating to a market logic, where equality is seen in market terms, … where instead of … women as caregivers and men as breadwinners , men and women are valued only as breadwinners.

“And this really important care work that women especially but increasingly… men also really appreciate, this care work that they do at home, has not been valued in the market… And that has been particularly, I think, difficult for poor women.”

In capitalism, the market would prefer women to be like men – never get pregnant, never need maternity leave. Biological women can become pregnant, requiring absence from full-wage work; someone may need to be paid to support. In capitalism, pregnant women are impractical and expensive; this may partly explain why women are often paid less than men for the same work.


According to Dr. Bachiochi, abortion and contraception really serve the needs of capital and the market to the detriment of families.

“There should be a massive realignment where there is real renewed attention to … but support for caregiving. But just the fact that there’s a choice [for abortion] means that employers see it as a cheaper choice.

“That’s exactly why you have employers, companies…states talking about the business case for reproductive health…it’s a much cheaper option than pregnancy accommodations…for caregiving . And so when they think about the bottom line, that’s how they’re going to do it.”

“Suddenly there’s all this talk about autonomy, and there’s…a very Lockean approach to how progressives talk about abortion rights and this idea that the child – well, they don’t. [use the word] child – the fetus is like an intruder on their property of their body, property of their body, again, in a very Lockean way – and then they have this right to kick out anyone who walks by kind of an absolute property okay, when it seems to me that… in the progressive tradition, we understand better the duties of care that we owe to each other, that we are all interdependent, that there is more responsibility for those who are vulnerable and dependent . And… the child, who is a human being and who is really totally dependent on his mother at this time during these nine months, is the most vulnerable and the most dependent”.

Instead of asserting that because the child growing up in the womb is vulnerable and dependent on its mother for life, that same vulnerability is used to assert that the child has no right to life, not the right to be called human, because it is not “viable”. “outside the womb. Capitalism and the market are of no use to the vulnerable – the elderly, the disabled, the unskilled idlers – because they cannot produce, or because they limit optimal production.


Dr. Bachiochi suggests that the liberal capitalist way of thinking (exemplified by John Locke commonly referred to as the “Father of Liberalism”) may be at the root of a radical individualism disguised as personal autonomy that is ultimately anti-family and anti-community. . This approach to life needs to be challenged.

“As for the poor woman…resetting this question…the law teaches. Saying that there are all kinds of people, maybe not everyone in the country obviously, who believe that … a child’s life is caught up in an abortion and we actually have a duty to that child , that it helps reset thinking about sex itself, that I think it should help us take sex more seriously.

“When we take seriously the natural facts of human reproduction, namely that there are asymmetrical loads on women, … therefore, women should steer clear of men more and expect more of them.

“In the same way, I think enabling and, again, empowering the poor to take seriously the really important work of the home, of raising children, is basically what the rich are already doing. And that isn’t it fair that the wealthy, the rich, the well-educated see how important it is to prioritize the development of their children, the moral and intellectual development of their children, and then say, oh, well, we shouldn’t expect that from the poor.

“To me, it’s actually more of a flawed way of thinking about the capabilities of the poor. And… our human equality is not in how much property we own or how much wealth we have or how much money we earn or anything. But that’s just within our equal human capacity for moral development.

“And I think rich and poor both have that and that should be an expectation of our laws … that we should all strive for moral development. We must not protect the moral responsibility of the poor or the rich, our laws and policies must enable people to fulfill their obligations to one another, because… that is how people develop virtuously. And that tends to lead to personal and societal happiness.”

Engaging in the natural act of sexual intercourse involves moral obligations that many seek to avoid. The readily available abortion and contraception contribute to this and lead to a “new antinatalism…people deciding ex ante that they never want to become parents”. This can lead to immature behavior and sexual irresponsibility.

“People don’t realize what they’re missing when they make these kinds of decisions well in advance. … Parenthood runs deep. And I think for eons and eons, what human beings have seen is that becoming a mother or a father really develops the person, requires a big movement away from focusing on self towards the other, towards … caring and then being able to focus on others outside of your family as well, and that maturing process, I think, is most definitely needed in our culture right now on the part of both men and women.”

Peter Espout is a sociologist and development specialist. Send your comments to [email protected]


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