As I typed the letters in the title of this article, I felt my chest tighten and my stomach sink. What I’m about to tell you is something that a lot of people believe, but that people are afraid to say. People are afraid of pro-lifers. People are afraid of their mob mentality and their violent, fringe, terrorist ties. People are afraid of their secret gatherings and their plots to trap and kidnap women. People are afraid of their organized crime tactics of coming after loved ones, even children and harassing people in all public and private spheres.
If it needs to be said, a wanted, uncomplicated pregnancy is a great thing. It’s so rare to envision a life for yourself and then have it simply play out the way that you hoped. That’s what a wanted, uncomplicated pregnancy is. It’s literally a dream come true. However, not every pregnancy is a blessing. Everyone knows this is true, it seems, up until that moment they start building a bomb or picketing. The most anti-choice of people can be found often saying, implying and thinking that so-and-so shouldn’t be having children, but when the pregnant woman thinks it of herself, she’s an evil wretch that deserves the most horrible of punishments. She only believes what others believe, but they consider her an ungrateful monster who turns away life’s blessings and kills children.
The tough thing to realize, is that the particular circumstances of any pregnancy have the power to transform a dream into a nightmare. Some women will try to salvage their dream from the wreckage of their circumstances, but that is their choice, and something only they know if they’re able to do.
Below I’m going to address a few situations that we are not dealing with, other than dealing with them by restricting the options of the person who is actually dealing with them.
The reason that all of this “forcible rape” talk started in the first place is because people do not want statutory rape to “count” as rape in the context of abortion. If you have your 40 year old neighbor babysit your 15 year old daughter and he impregnates her by any other means than drugging her unconscious or battering her, people don’t want her to have the choice to get an abortion. If he has done this to every teenage girl in a one mile radius, they do not want you to have the option to get an abortion. If he is sent to prison for it, they do not want you to have the option to get an abortion. They believe this stance to be the one that is most loving towards children. The Guttmacher Institute found that at least half of the approximately 1 million pregnancies occurring every year to 15-17 year olds were being fathered by adult men who were five or more years older than the pregnant woman.
Many people seem to think that, despite the age differences, these young women are equally responsible for their pregnancies as the adult men who fathered them. They believe that these young women should be forced to carry their pregnancies to term in order “to teach them a lesson” about all of the things that no one bothered to teach them before, like contraception, self-respect, and “consequences.” For some reason, they do not find it contradictory to refer to the pregnancy (that they so often state is a blessing) as a punishment. Personally, I think that if you’ve waited until a girl is pregnant to teach her any of those things, you’ve waited far too long. I also believe that pregnancy is a poor teacher of any of those lessons. People who believe that an unwanted pregnancy teaches a child responsibility are drawing erroneous parallels from their own wanted pregnancies. People do change and do become more responsible as a response to pregnancies that they want. People make the decision to a carry pregnancy to term when they are ready and willing to become more responsible, and that’s as it should be, to the exclusion of all else. Women who don’t want their pregnancies are much less likely to get the prenatal care that they need, eat properly and abstain from activities harmful to a fetus. On top of that, there is a U-shaped curve of bad outcomes for mother and baby based on maternal age; these younger women are at a greatly elevated risk of having fragile, low birthweight babies and delivery complications that require vigilant, competent care.
In addition, it should be noted that children are in the highest risk group to pursue the much reviled second trimester abortion. When second trimester abortion providers are asked, they always consider children to be the primary recipient for second trimester abortions. They find that the children wait because they are afraid to tell anyone or are unaware of the basic facts of reproduction.
Forcing these children to give birth is bad, and giving them the option to have an abortion is a good thing, a compassionate thing to do for them.
Making the choice between the needs of your family and your pregnancy
This is by far the most common abortion scenario. A healthy majority of women who get abortions already have children, and 75% say they are getting the abortion because they can’t afford another child. People often say that women should simply give up their child for adoption instead of having an abortion, but they seem to have forgotten that appropriate prenatal care and maternal care of a baby can cost tens of thousands of dollars even with insurance. Although nearly every OB/GYN insists on regular pregnancy ultrasounds, the IOM has determined that pregnancy ultrasounds don’t prevent bad pregnancy outcomes, so many insurance companies have stopped covering pregnancy scans or continue to reimburse them, but at a much lower rate. If you’re seeing your OB/GYN in the hospital like most people, a single ultrasound may run $200 to $1000. The Guttmacher Institute report finds a plurality of these women are extremely impoverished, and already face difficulties providing for their children, so you have to ask yourself whether you could look at your own struggling children every night and ask them to give up more so that you could carry a pregnancy to term.
I do believe that some of these women should ideally carry their pregnancies to term; some of these women don’t want to have abortions at all and are being coerced by their own lack of resources. If they love these pregnancies and they want these pregnancies, they should have them, but they should be provided with the resources they need in order to have them. Forcing women to have abortions by keeping them in poverty is wrong; just as wrong as forcing women to give birth. However the abortion is not the actor here, the poverty is the villain. Cutting off the abortion without addressing the poverty merely forces impoverished women to torture their own children. That is cruel and inhumane. It is not loving to children to force their mothers to take second and third jobs that prevent them from having space to love and bond with their children. It is not loving to children to starve them and stuff them into dangerous, substandard housing. It is not loving to children to force their mothers to go a week or two without paycheck as they recover physically from a pregnancy. Ideally, we would give them solutions and pathways out of poverty, but until we manage to do that for them, giving them the option to have an abortion is the next best thing.
Although mainstream anti-choice people are often quick to say that abortion is okay in cases of rape, their actions do not support that exception. Rape conceptions account for at least 16,000 abortions every year, or half of 32,000 pregnancies, although these are considered to be low estimates. All the abortion restriction laws aimed limiting abortion circumstances have made no effort to address how one goes about getting a rape exception. 92% of rapes go unprosecuted for various reasons. Even when a rape is prosecuted, it takes months or years, which certainly doesn’t fit into the timeline that you need for an abortion. Anti-choicers do not want to take the woman’s word for it, so how do you get an abortion when you’ve been raped? And who provides an abortion to rape victims when no one else can have them? When all the clinics have been shut down by anti-choice harassment, where will rape survivors go?
It should be noted that rape survivors are another primary consumer of the much-hated second trimester abortion, as about a third of them remain in denial about their pregnancy until the second trimester.
Despite this massive problem, we still don’t have rape education in schools and we haven’t made a dent in the poor prosecution rates of rape. A lot of anti-choicers like to brush the rape issue to the side, thinking it “detracts from the point” and this is a large part of what makes their movement seem so damningly patriarchal.
When a rape results in an unwanted pregnancy, abortion is a blessing. I am grateful that we have this safe, advanced medical technology to reduce the harm from these rapes.