Last night I was totally gutted by a New York Times Magazine article detailing results of a new study about what happens to abortion seekers after they either receive or are denied an abortion. The study dealt with women seeking elective abortion who were refused due to gestational restrictions and contrasted their outcomes with women who were able to get abortions. The whole story just broke my heart, mainly because the reason for so many women seeking to end pregnancies was poverty. That’s nothing new, of course. But this study just put it all into sharp relief for me.
I’ll let you read about the study results in my piece at Babble but here are my thoughts on the tragedy that is our system for handling women’s health and support for families in America. We are failing at both and it’s time for a change:
So, what are we supposed to take from this study? Is abortion better for women than carrying children to term? Is denying women abortion a route to overcoming misgivings about pregnancy and motherhood? A little of both? Neither? It’s all as clear as mud. We know more today than we did before about the who and why of abortion, and we know more about the aftermath of both abortion and lack thereof. The next step is to decide what we’re going to do about it.
I will conclude by saying two things that I’ve said so often I probably mumble them in my sleep. First, we live in an age where we can significantly reduce the incidence of the kind of crisis pregnancies that the women in this study sought to end. There is no excuse for the lack of access to reproductive health care, sexual health information and contraception that leads to 49% of unplanned pregnancies in the US. It is well past the time for us to start implementing policies that protect the sexual and reproductive health of our citizens and cut the crisis pregnancy rate dramatically. Reducing crisis pregnancies is the only thing that will reduce the abortion rate.
Second, we need to support families in fact as well as in theory. I’m sickened by the notion that 80% of the women in this study, most of whom already had children, didn’t have enough money for basic needs. Mothers and children should not be living in consistent financial insecurity. The decision to terminate a pregnancy should not be made because a woman lacks the funds to feed the children she already has. The cycle of poverty for these families is crushing and real and it’s time we look at it honestly and figure out how to support mothers and children in meaningful ways.
Photo credit: Joseph Hoban
Read the rest of the article at Babble.