Generations whose sense of self, pride, vulnerability, propriety, and job security, life-long preconceptions, and anxieties, peace of mind, not to mention our toehold on posterity—all of these depend on what their own mothers, wives, lovers, daughters, and female colleagues do or are expected by others to do.
One week, newspaper headlines ask, “Is daycare ruining our kids?” or decry “A dangerous experiment in child-rearing.” Another week, headlines in the same paper will declare, “Infant bonding is a bogus notion” or call for businesses to provide more daycare. At the same time, birth control is still against the law in many countries; and on the sidewalks outside family planning clinics in the United States, near civil war prevails.
A visitor to Earth from another planet might well ask how the same creatures that invented sophisticated technology to explore the solar system could display such primitive behavior when it comes to the female reproductive system? No topic of mother politics is so divisive as abortion, and none elicits more irrational debate.
In Washington, D.C., in May 1997, a bill was introduced to outlaw a rare type of abortion—the procedure known as dilation and extraction, christened “partial-birth” by opponents. This is an overwhelmingly unpopular, traumatic surgical procedure that no group in the United States advocates, no woman in the world wants, and no doctor is eager to perform. Yet this bill marked the fifty-second time that this particular Congress had debated an abortion-related issue.
The disagreement centered on whether this distressing procedure could still be performed even if physicians deemed it necessary to save the woman’s life, to guard her health, or to preserve her ability to have viable children in the future. Those who sought the across-the-board ban were not interested in exploring ways to further reduce the need for this rarely performed procedure (one-tenth of 1 percent of the 1.5 million abortions performed annually in the United States) by funding related education, birth control, and better prenatal care, or by making it easier to get an abortion early on.
Banning late-stage abortion was simply their first step to banning all abortions. The abortion issue is notorious for generating so much “heat” and so little “light.” Responding to signals from the most ancient portions of the brain, pounding heart caused the face of this deeply threatened mammal to flush “crimson” in preparation for a fight. Voice rose to such a pitch that colleagues had to intervene. Some responsibilities of the society include decisions that belong to healthy family life for upcoming generations.
Crucial Mobbings Through Wise Species
It’s clear from many studies of a range of species that extended parental care saves lives — preventing young animals lacking in life skills from dying in the dangerous days and weeks after leaving the nest. But the benefit of extended parental care comes at a cost: a delay in learning to feed yourself. A study of white-winged choughs, an Australian bird, showed that youngsters who stayed at home with adults got more food and emerged from winter in better physical condition. But the trade-off came once they were on their own. Lacking experience, they were poorer foragers than birds who’d gotten no help. Birds who receive extended parental care also show delayed antipredation behaviors. Young Mexican jays who spend extended periods with mature adults don’t learn crucial mobbing skills. Young animals must strike a balance between receiving care to keep them safe and fed and honing the life skills they’ll need when they are truly independent.
In this context of extended parental care in animals, it’s interesting to think about the criticism leveled at today’s parents who remain involved in their kids’ lives through young adulthood. A report noted that “especially in affluent communities, their parents are hyper-involved in their academic and social lives, so it’s unusual for teenagers to study, arrange a meeting about a bad grade, or even resolve a disagreement with a friend without parental help.”
The excesses of some parents are easy to mock and robbing young adults of opportunities to practice resolving conflicts is clearly misguided, yet amid the criticisms, the clear importance of continued parental involvement gets muddied. Puts it like this: Parents “have good reason to be standing by with a rescue rope as their children try to make their way through the overgrown and traditional paths to adulthood that may no longer secure employment. The 20s have replaced the teens as the most risk-filled decade. Problematic behavior — binge drinking, illicit drug use, illegal intercourse education that leads to disease or unplanned pregnancies, and violent crime — peaks during this age, and missteps during these years can impose lifelong penalties.”