Failure: Unintended Pregnancy

About 45% of all new U.S. pregnancies are unintended. This rate is much higher than in many other developed countries. The rate varies among groups: if you are between 18 and 24 years old, or living in poverty, or you haven’t completed high school, or you’re Black or Hispanic, or cohabitating but not married, your risk of an unplanned pregnancy is higher. Unintended pregnancies are not always unwanted. Of all pregnancies occurring in the U.S. each year, approximately 55% are intended, 27% are unexpected but welcomed, and 18% are unplanned and unwanted.

Failure: Contraception

More than half of women who have an abortion were using contraception during the month in which they got pregnant (it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the conception occurred). Overall contraceptive failures, whether caused by user error or product failure, account for about 10% of all unplanned pregnancies.

Failure: Poverty

73% of women with unplanned pregnancies chose abortion because they could not afford a baby at the time. About 75% of the women who get abortions are poor or low income. In the US, the averagecost of raising a child through the age of 17 is $233,610 – not including the cost of college. 

Failure: Maternal Mortality

The risk of dying in childbirth is 14 times higher than the risk of dying from a legal abortion.Of all the high-income countries, the U.S. has the highest rate of death among pregnant women and post-partum mothers – by far. Other countries’ maternal mortality rates decrease year after year, while ours continues to rise and rise…

A Black woman is 2 to 3 times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. Most of the mothers dying are African American. Banning abortion is estimated to lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths for all women in the U.S. and a 33% increase for Black women.

Primarily because she is at risk of medical trauma and death through the process of even a seemingly uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, a woman should need to consent to childbirth. It is inconsistent with ethical medical practice and one’s right of self-determination to have the government decide you must go through pregnancy, labor, and delivery rather than choosing to have a safer procedure – abortion.

Failure: Respect for Women

About 59% of women obtaining abortions are already mothers and are aware of the blessings and burdens of motherhood. About 25% of women in the U.S. have had an abortion. The decision is difficult, takes a lot of thoughtful consideration, and is intentional – no one wants to have an abortion. These women believed, in the context of their life and family, that an abortion was the best outcome for that pregnancy. Many women have chosen this path. Many women that you know, though you may not know it. To have one’s thoroughly considered, carefully considered, very personal decision to be overridden by an impersonal, soulless, faceless, unapproachable committee of mostly men who have never had to face this reality, is extremely condescending and disrespectful of women’s autonomy.

Failure: Support for Motherhood  

Unlike 185 of 193 countries in the United Nations, the U.S. does not provide national paid maternity leave. Many countries guarantee 14 weeks of paid leave, fifty countries provide six months’ paid leave or more. The U.S. does not pay your childbirth bill, does not pay anything towards the childcare you will need so you can go back to your job (that may pay less than the government-defined poverty level) so you can afford your new baby along with the children you already have.

Failure: Support for Women

New legislation from 10 abortion ban-ready states have not included exceptions for incest or rape, and similar legislation is waiting to be signed in 4 more states.Could anything be more cruel? Surveys show that 77% of Americans supported legal abortion in the first trimester when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.

The risk for domestic violence increases as the pregnancy develops and continues into the postpartum period. Domestic violence kills more pregnant women each year than any other cause. About 20% of women experience domestic violence during pregnancy. Women with unplanned pregnancies and pregnant teens are at a higher risk for experiencing domestic violence.

Failure: Support for Children

19 of the 22 states planning to implement abortion bans if/when Roe v. Wade is overturned are among the worst U.S. states for overall child well-being. Conversely, of the ten best U.S.states for child well-being, only two are planning to implement abortion bans or restrictions.

Abortion bans are passed in predominantly Republican-led states that espouse small government and fewer “handouts” (i.e., supportive social services). Of the 14 states that did not expand Medicaid for its citizens, all but three of have abortion restrictions and bans ready to implement. Twelve such states deny families that are already enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program any additional assistance if they have another child. Overwhelmingly, the data show far more challenges for children and their parents in states that did or will enact the most rigid abortion restrictions.

Failure: Support for Families

Many ban-ready states are not willing to give pregnant women, new babies and their families the educational, medical, or financial support they need to have a chance at a healthy and fulfilling life. Economists predict that as many as 75,000 babies will be born in the first year after Roe v. Wade is reversed. We are talking about tens of thousands of future children unnecessarily disadvantaged and living in poverty – exactly what the mothers feared who requested an abortion because they could not afford a child. It’s not like states don’t know what to do.Many kinds of government benefits — welfare, child care — have been shown to lower abortion rates.  

Failure: Separation of Church and State

Since the US Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked, Americans have been struggling with the fact that a minority group of Americans has insinuated its religious views into federal policy. We cringe at the abdication of a founding American principle – the separation of church and state. Surveys confirm that overturning Roe v. Wade is against the wishes of the majority of Americans.

Failure: Women’s Sexual Autonomy

Elements of this essay expose the hypocrisy of the anti-abortion movement’s false claims of wanting only to protect the health and safety of women and children. If that were true, they would be marching for increased financial and social support for pregnant women, newborn babies, and families living at or near poverty levels especially in the states with the worst scores on child well-being. Have you seen them doing that? No. How about advocating for affordable and accessible contraception to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies? Seen that? No. Pressuring their state representatives to expand Medicaid, WIC, and CHIP programs? Silence. Handing out diapers at fake crisis pregnancy centers? Yeah, they do that.

Most of the people who are against abortion are affiliated with a religion. Sex and religion have never gotten along well. Most religious rhetoric abides heterosexual activity confined to marriage for the purpose of having children. Any other sex is immoral for which you will be deserving of punishment. I can see how church followers might either frown upon or begrudge sexually active women their sexual freedom and, in a twisted way, not want them to “go unpunished for their sins.”

White men have exclusively ruled our country throughout our lifetimes – not just as heads of state but as legislators, heads of industry and finance, deans of schools, bishops of churches, and heads of households (particularly in religious homes). Undeniably that is changing. People in power want to retain that power and, in my opinion, that is why we are seeing a backlash against women and minority groups – we are slowly, inexorably encroaching on their dynasties. Replacement theory is not a conspiracy, but diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism is happening because it promotes success in business, richness in culture, and innovation in progress. But this sharing power with “others” makes them fearful, uncomfortable and angry.

It’s not just the men, many conservative religious women would also prefer things to stay as they were, as they are “supposed” to be, with men taking care of them in the manner to which they are accustomed or sharing the power within a predetermined class of rich white couples. Together, they are not so much pro-life, as they are pro-their-own-life and they don’t want it to change. Change is scary and when you’re at the top, the only way to go is down. A Black president almost followed by a female president shook the roots of the old patriarchy. And so, they are taking control of the ballot boxes, the school boards, and the children’s gender identities; reigning in Title IX, affirmative action, and Black Lives Matter. They’re gonna Make America Great-For-Them Again.

Now that they’ve connived their way to a conservatively packed Supreme Court, or “Scrotus” as I heard it called at a recent abortion rally, they are about to overturn Roe v. Wade.

I agree with the Yale law professor who believes that anti-abortion measures “function more as a tool of control than as an expression of care…” Some lawmakers and anti-abortion activists have actually admitted that their plan to outlaw or severely restrict abortion would lead people to change their sexual behavior, which seems to have been their goal. A Texas state representative said that his proposed legislation to make abortion a capital crime will “force” women to be “more personally responsible” in their sexual lives. What exactly does that mean? If it means using contraception, why isn’t he working on making birth control more affordable and available? Or does he mean something else? Does it mean having less sex? Could anything be more naïve – or more revealing? They are using legislation against legal abortion to try to regulate women’s sex lives. They are trying to legislate morality when the immorality is only in the mind of the legislator. Women should not be prisoners of other people’s consciences.

Unfortunately, I think it is even darker than that. Anti-abortion laws are a demonstration of power over the most vulnerable and uniquely-female part of a woman’s body; a part that has some power over men; a part that they can never know or own. Anti-abortion laws put women’s bodies under surveillance by health care providers, the community, and the state. Anti-abortion laws use childbirth as punishment. They judge the evidence of a woman’s sexuality and sentence her to pain by childbirth. (The pain ordained in their scripture?)  Forced birth is torture that no state should be empowered to order. We don’t force organ donation without a person’s (or their agent’s) permission – and they’re dead! But a pregnant woman’s agency, bodily integrity, and autonomy will now be supplanted by the government.

A Woman Has an Abortion Because She Loves Her Children

Whether childless or already a mother, women know what it takes to raise a child. It is endless, depleting, exhausting, impoverishing, diminishing, unrelenting, monotonous, serious, unpredictable, frightening, and permanent. Yes, yes, it can also be joyful and fulfilling but you still have to go through all the other adjectives too. And for many women, they just don’t have it to give – for many reasons.

As we discussed, there are many reasons why a woman might become pregnant inadvertently. Neither she, or the potential child should be punished for this. If circumstances are right, there may be a baby. If it is not right, there might need to be an abortion. Perhaps another baby at a better time in the future.

Women want to have their babies when they are ready and when they have the resources to do a good job because they want the best for their child. They don’t want to be a harried, half-assed mom, they want to be the best mother they can be. Because their kid deserves it. And so do the kids they already have.

When two distinct life forms inhabit the same body, the one upon whom the other is totally dependent has the control. It’s her body and she has agency. When the dependent reaches the age of independent viability, it too has agency. Until then, it might have to go, maybe to return another, better day. The decision of Roe v. Wade was wise, rational, and empathetic. Instead of the mean-spirited, judgmental, and controlling legislation that is ready to pounce in some states, I am hopeful that the other states, where children’s well-being is nurtured, can continue to be compassionate, rational, and less freaky about women’s sexuality.

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