There is not a "war on women," but there is a "war on women's fertility," Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, an economist and president of the Ruth Institute, believes. Rather than view fertility as a problem to be solved, Morse argued Friday, fertility should be viewed as a gift from God. Colleges and labor markets should, therefore, adjust to the biological needs of women.
In a search for equality, Morse insisted, women have been trying to fit themselves into a work/life cycle developed for the male body. Instead, she said women should demand that the education system and labor markets adjust to needs of the female body. Namely, by recognizing that women's peak fertility is in their early 20s.
Morse delivered her remarks at a symposium hosted by The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society in Washington, D.C., called, "Demography and Public Policy: Can the Right Policy Mix Reverse Family Breakdown?" She was accompanied by Dr. Allan Carlson, president of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, who spoke about public policies aimed at reversing the declines in marriage and birth rates.
Economic studies have long held, Morse explained, that gender wage differences are mostly due to marriage and children, not workplace discrimination. Comparing single women to single men, there is no wage difference, or, in some professions women are paid more. Marriage and children, though, tends to have a negative impact on women's wages and a positive impact on men's wages. The reason, Morse said, is that when men get married and have children they become more focused on workplace performance and when women get married and have children they become more focused on caring for the children.
In the typical male career path most of the demands are placed early in the career. For women, though, this is the best time to have and raise kids. When women follow the typical male career path, they are past their peak fertility by the time they feel secure enough in their careers to have children.
"Highly-educated women have defined their goal as equal participants in a labor market designed for people who don't give birth," Morse said.
This has led women to participate in highly invasive procedures to adapt to the typical male-defined career path.
"We are allowed to participate in a labor market, and in education, as long as we agree to chemically neuter ourselves during our peak child bearing years. When our children are the smallest and most vulnerable, we agree to place them in commercial care, that is if we're lucky to have any children. And if we're unable to conceive when we're finally ready, professionally and financially, we agree to submit our bodies to the trauma of artificial reproductive technology, including the over stimulation of our ovaries," Morse explained.
Alternatively, Morse described a potential career path designed for a female body this way: "Go to college for a liberal, not a vocational, education. Get married. Have your kids. Let your husband support you. It won't kill him, or you. Then go back to school, maybe, for an advanced degree after the kids are grown. Go to work. Then help support the kid's college in your joint retirement. And since we women live longer than men, we can be working longer than they are and let them relax a little bit."
Morse said she is not opposed to and finds nothing objectionable with women choosing not to have children. She also believes, though, that a pro-woman policy would insist that the education system and labor markets adapt to the needs of women who do not want to delay childbirth.
Morse provided several anecdotes, along with the empirical evidence, demonstrating that society views fertility as a problem to be solved rather than a gift to be embraced.
The Department of Health and Human Services' recent birth control mandate, requiring employers to provide birth control in their health plans, for instance, referred to birth control as "preventative care." The implication, Morse said, is that pregnancy is a disease or illness.
"I deeply resent the implication that the normal healthy functioning of my body is considered an illness," Morse implored. "The mandate itself is offensive and is evidence of a war against women's fertility."
Morse also complained that Medicaid, a government health insurance program for the poor, has many anti-fertility policies. Contraception is required, for instance, by program participants and made available to minors without parental consent.
Morse does "not accept that government has an interest in directing the fertility of poor people because there are too many." Indeed, Morse views the anti-fertility policies as an admission to the moral and fiscal failures of the welfare system.
"Change welfare policies to make them more sustainable and compassionate," Morse said, and "stop viewing the children of the poor as a problem for policy makers to solve by preventing their existence."
Morse also appealed to her Christian faith in defense of her position.
The typical secular feminist viewpoint, Morse said, replaced stability in marriage with stability in the workplace, and resents sex differences, "viewing them as some kind of cosmic injustice."
"Modern secularists insist that love, sex and reproduction be separated from each other for the sake of making men and women equal. But that view places men and women at odds with each other and encourages us to use one another – men using women for sex and women using men as combination sperm banks and wallets," Morse complained.
The Judeo-Christian tradition offers an alternative vision, Morse claimed.
"The Judeo-Christian vision insists that marriage is the proper context for both sexual activity and child rearing. The man's sexual desire for woman turns his love toward her. Christianity insists that he love his wife as Christ loves the Church, which is to say, completely self-emptying, self-giving love. His love for his wife builds upon and reinforces their love for their children that they have together, and the woman's desire for children turns her heart toward her children. Love, sex and child bearing are integrated under the umbrella of marriage."
Before founding the Ruth Institute, Morse taught at Yale University and George Mason University and was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Acton Institute.