Following the release last week of new statistics supporting a decline in U.S. abortion rates—statistics that both pro-life and pro-choice advocates claim favor their stance—I decided to link on over to the Guttmacher Institute website to see what I could see with my own eyes.
The Guttmacher Institute is the nonprofit organization focused (hallelujah!) on reproductive issues whose research concluded that abortions had declined 25 percent since peaking in 1990 (the data covers only through 2005). Reasons for the steady decline are debatable, but wherever your ideology lands you on the choice spectrum, a decline in abortion is unarguably a good thing.
What is perhaps of equal importance, though, is for every child to be a wanted child and not a resentment born to a woman who had no other choice. In reducing the need for abortions, it might be useful to determine why women choose to have abortions in the first place.
The researchers at Guttmacher obviously had this in mind and published the results of a survey in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Family Issues. According to “‘I Would Want to Give My Child, Like, Everything in the World:' How Issues of Motherhood Influence Women Who Have Abortions” by senior researcher Rachel Jones and her colleagues, women's “sense of responsibility for their existing and future children influences their decision to seek an abortion.”
Dr. Jones' survey found that 61 percent of women who have abortions in this country already have children, and it is out of a sense of wanting to provide a stable life for their existing kids that they choose abortion. Many of the women in the survey, including those without kids, expressed the desire for an “ideal” situation for becoming mothers.
Gee. I don't know what they're talking about.
When I was 19, despite my responsible and unfailing use of contraception, I became pregnant. I was on a full scholarship to college and was completely unprepared—emotionally, psychologically or financially—to have and/or raise a child. I knew my capabilities. And I knew my choices. I chose to have an abortion.
It was a personal decision, one I made with the support of my then-boyfriend, my doctor and my mother. It was without question the right decision for me at the time and still is now. I do not regret it, nor do I make apologies for, harbor shame about or—as some on the pro-life intimidation squadron would suggest—suffer lifelong emotional trauma from it.
Now I'm raising a daughter who was adopted. She is here on this mad planet and (fortunately) in my life because her birthmother made a different choice. Like me, she had the freedom to choose abortion, but unlike me, she opted for the more difficult path; some might say she is the braver woman, and I wouldn't begin to argue. She chose to carry her baby to term, chose my husband and me to raise her child, chose to relinquish Ruby with the hope that she would have a life better than what she felt she was capable of providing.
(I'd like to say here that I find it ironic how our society is so quick to vilify the woman who chooses abortion but is equally as loathsome of the woman who makes an adoption plan for her baby. Believe me, I've been privy to some very special conversations about the latter, but that tangent will take me well beyond the space provided here.
Suffice it to say, apparently we're all just stupid whores for winding up pregnant in the first place.)
Clearly, the reasons behind my choice echo the reasons given by the survey's respondents. I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to speak for Ruby's birthmother, but I could take a wild guess as to her reasons, were I so inclined. It is nevertheless telling that our choices occurred more than two decades apart from each other, yet the situation is timeless. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Today, religious folk and self-righteous zealots line up outside health clinics to wave their violent, vulgar, larger-than-life images and shout through bullhorns their righteous morality. They proceed to harass, bully, verbally abuse and demoralize women, many of whom already feel demoralized. If they can't intimidate the women, these extreme activists intimidate the healthcare workers.
In more than 30 states requiring pre-abortion “counseling,” infuriating lies are dispensed as legitimate information, warning with feigned legitimacy that an abortion will increase a woman's risk for breast cancer or cause post-traumatic stress disorder. In Missouri, physicians who dare dispense RU486—the “abortion pill,” as the pro-lifers have weaseled into American lexicon—are going to be required to transform their offices into full surgical units. And the state of Mississippi has only one abortion provider. One. In the whole state. This is an indicator of what giving the legislative decision to the states would mean.
This kind of ever-dwindling access is occurring right now, under the protection of Roe vs. Wade, legislation designed to ensure access to a safe and legal abortion for all women, even those in Mississippi. It's likely that the next president will appoint another Supreme Court justice, and depending on how this election shakes down—I shudder to think—this could very well mean the end of Roe. If it's overturned, women will still want, need and seek abortions.
The educated and privileged will always have the access; the rest of the suckers will bleed to death.
Look, if these right-to-lifers—who are so interested in what happens with a little clump of cells in the uterus of a woman they don't know—genuinely cared about “the sanctity of life,” they would put their energy into assuring that the fundamental needs of women and children are met.
Instead of picketing Planned Parenthood, they should picket Congress and demand proper healthcare and decent education; they should demand equal pay for women and better family-leave policies in the workplace; they should help set the stage for the ideal parenting circumstances that anyone considering having children desires. The abortion rate might just plummet.
I really hope Roe v. Wade withstands the violent assault it's cowered under for the past 35 years so that my daughter will be assured privacy, dignity and respect when it comes to her own personal health decisions. And someday, if she becomes a mother, I hope she does it in the comfort of what she herself deems the ideal circumstances.
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