The New York Times is not usually known for giving a hearing to a pro-life point of view so it was refreshing to see an insightful and intelligent article slamming the political view that says abortion is especially needed for poorer women. As the author writes: “It’s also patronizing, and patently dishonest. Of course unplanned pregnancy presents challenges. But it doesn’t have to lead to economic failure. Abortion is society’s easy way out — its way of avoiding grappling with the fundamental injustices driving women to abortion clinics.”
Read the article here on the NYT site or below.
The Problem With Linking Abortion and Economics
By LORI SZALAMAY, May 9 2017
IN recent days, Senator Bernie Sanders has come under fire for appearing at a campaign stop with Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate in Omaha who voted for anti-abortion legislation as a Nebraska state senator. Mr. Sanders said he supported Mr. Mello’s progressive economic positions, but critics said abortion and economics were inextricable — that women on the margins need abortion so that they can scramble up the economic ladder without children holding them back. “Abortion rights are a key pillar of income equality,” writes Ellen Shaffer at the Center for Policy Analysis. “Opposition to abortion rights is a key factor keeping women and kids in poverty.” Another commentator asserts that lack of abortion access is “one of the biggest contributors to the gender wage gap.” Activists see a lot of appeal in this argument, a way to bridge the gap between liberal women and economic populists. But it comes with enormous baggage. Above all, it’s a profoundly dehumanizing argument. It reduces mothers and their children to mere economic objects, and amounts to saying we are justified in killing those who impede our economic progress. Parenting presents undeniable challenges, but no one argues that those challenges give parents the right to kill their children. It’s also patronizing, and patently dishonest. Of course unplanned pregnancy presents challenges. But it doesn’t have to lead to economic failure. Abortion is society’s easy way out — its way of avoiding grappling with the fundamental injustices driving women to abortion clinics.
I know, because that’s my story, and the story of countless mothers I have helped confront similar challenges. When I became pregnant at the beginning of my senior year in high school, my community pressured me to abort. I grew up in a single-parent, working-class family that barely had the resources to send me to college. Doing that, and helping me raise a child, seemed out of the question. Feeling that a birth would make a mess of my future, I scheduled an abortion.
I asked a close friend to drive me to the appointment. This woman had been in the same situation just months before and, without much contemplation, aborted her child. Weeping, she explained how she was depressed and had considered suicide. She begged me to cancel the appointment, and I did.
I moved to a maternity home, took parenting classes and got tutoring to complete high school. I graduated with my class three weeks after my son was born, and I began taking courses at a community college. When my sister, who was caring for my son, moved out of state, I left school to work full time. I eventually worked my way up the ladder at an investment firm, married and had two more children. While my time as a single parent was not easy, we got by, and today my life is nothing like the one predicted by that chorus of pessimism 29 years ago. Obviously, not every woman will be as lucky as I was, with a strong network of family and friends to help. But that’s why we as a society have an obligation to help them. For the past 17 years, I have worked at organizations that do just that. Many of the women I have encountered believe they have no choice but to abort: Many tell me they would rather give birth, but they believe the complex, difficult circumstances of their lives — like joblessness, substance abuse, criminal records or homelessness — leave them with no real way to raise a new child. They want an abortion, as the anti-abortion writer Frederica Mathewes-Green says, “as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.” Abortion addresses only a symptom of these women’s problems. An abortion clinic, for a few hundred dollars, ends the life of a child whose upbringing may strain her mother’s resources. Full stop.
The woman will leave the clinic still burdened by every single problem she came in with. There are better solutions; they just require more creativity and more effort. Organizations like mine can help women find jobs, enter substance abuse treatment programs, regain their children from foster care, find housing, pay utility bills and sign up for government benefits. Such efforts require a community commitment. We recently had a client whose husband needed a car to get to work. A donor sold her car at a steep discount, another donor purchased it for the client, and a third paid for six months of car insurance.
We should all agree, whether anti-abortion or pro-choice, that abortion is not a solution to the host of systemic injustices driving poverty. Progressives cannot continue to claim every effort to reduce abortion is anti-woman and will lead to ruin and disaster. And conservatives must do more than tell abortion-seeking women to “go in peace and keep warm and well fed”; they must sacrifice their time and treasure to serve women in need.
We cannot allow the real, complex needs of abortion-seeking women to get lost in today’s polarized abortion debate. Our society must not settle for leaving women who face unplanned pregnancy no hope but abortion.
Lori Szala is the national director of client services at Human Coalition.
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