Suggestion: if you don’t have the patience to read this whole post (I know, it’s lengthy), just scroll down and look at the phrases in bold. If they make you curious, come on back and take it from the top! (And if you have lots of patience, please also read this and this on the topic of abortion.)
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Let me say that a few years ago, I never could have pictured myself writing this post. It is possible to make a huge paradigm shift.
I was going to tell the story of my brush with abortion-to-save-the-life-of-the-mother, and then reflect a little on pregnancy and abortion. But when I wrote my story down, it sounded pretty dull (and privileged). Basically, I spent my first trimester on complete bedrest, my second trimester in the hospital, and skipped the third trimester. It was a high-risk pregnancy almost from the get-go, and my doctor suggested that we abort the baby.
But we didn’t. Our little girl was born at 29 weeks, weighing 3 pounds. Today she is working on a doctorate, so yeah, she survived (and I got to brag).
As a white, married, middle class, insured woman, I had the luxury of choosing to continue the pregnancy. My doctor checked me into the hospital at about 20 weeks (because I “might not survive an ambulance ride to the ER” if things went downhill), and there I stayed until the pregnancy ended.
I left after about 65 days with an $80,000 hospital bill; our daughter was released 50 days later from neonatal intensive care with a $100,000 hospital bill (these are 1996 costs). Each of us had only a $10 copay.
I have to wonder what we would have done if the pregnancy had turned from “high-risk” to “mortal-danger.” Would we have considered that baby’s life more precious or valuable than mine? It takes a certain kind of faith to say, “Oh, take me (or “my wife”) to glory, Jesus, and let our baby live.”
My husband and I are both people of faith, but I don’t think our faith would have led us down that path. We already had three young children, and they needed a mother. Call us heathens if you like.
I can imagine my children always wondering why mommy didn’t love them enough to stay, possibly resenting their baby sister. I imagine my husband feeling constantly inadequate as he tried to be both mother and father, and probably feeling profound guilt all his life. I imagine my daughter, never knowing her mother, only knowing that she more or less killed me.
It’s not just about the baby.
Let’s be realistic about birth and abortion
What about a pregnant woman who is not white, not married, not middle class, and not insured?
It is essential that we be pragmatic about this, because now we’re talking about someone else’s body, someone else’s life. We can be idealistic about ourselves till the cows come home, but we can’t impose our ideals on others.
Most women who abort are non-white (65%), single (85%), and live in poverty (69%). Self-pay for abortion could cost up to $1,000, but a hospital birth runs at least $10,000 – so obviously if a woman is uninsured (or under-insured), birth can be nearly unimaginable.
How about adoption? Other than the fact that carrying a baby to term may cost a woman her job (and with it, her home), the sad truth is that black babies are not in demand.
How about contraception? As I mentioned last time, contraception is also not affordable for all women. Due to higher poverty rates among women of color, birth control can be out of reach (especially under Trump).
That means (read this at least twice),
White women have fewer abortions not because we’re more chaste, but because we’re more wealthy.
More inconvenient truths
A pro-birth website called Abort73 actually discredits contraception because it is not 100% effective:
This is the dirty secret of birth control. It only works most of the time.
The article speculates that Planned Parenthood sells birth control basically in order to get women pregnant so they can also sell abortions. Abort 73 suggests that PP should stop selling birth control, and then there will be fewer abortions.
The assumption here is that in the absence of contraceptives, couples will choose abstinence. Even among the “devout,” that’s not realistic. As Abort73 itself points out (again, read this at least twice):
30% of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant, and 24% identify as Catholic.
That’s the dirty secret, I think! Nice girls get knocked up and have abortions too.
Here’s something else pro-birth folks don’t generally talk about: the abortion rate has dropped with the increase in contraceptive use. From 2007 to 2016, the CDC reports, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 24%, 26%, and 18%, respectively. In 2016, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2007-2016).
We also must concede that abortions don’t involve “ripping a baby out of its mother’s womb a day before the due date.” That’s not how or when abortions occur.
Here are the facts: 66% of abortions occur before the 10th week, 89-92% occur during the first trimester.
Only 1.3% occur after the 21st week – and we need to acknowledge that most late term abortions are actually for wanted pregnancies. Birth defects are most often discovered at about 20 weeks; many women with high-risk pregnancies stick it out as long as they can, hoping for the best. (That included me – mine would have been a 20+ week abortion of a wanted pregnancy.)
There is no long line of 9th-month women waiting at abortion clinics with swollen ankles and nonchalant expressions on their faces. That’s not a thing. Read it again:
9 out of 10 abortions happen in the first trimester.
Bottom line on abortion
We want to condemn certain people who commit certain sins—or rather, people who get caught in certain sins (because white, middle class women have sex too, but they can afford contraceptives).
Unless you’ve ever faced the situation (and I haven’t either, really), you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. Our government, God bless it, has no clue either, and it’s not their business to make that decision. Therefore, abortion needs to be an available option.
The issue is more personal and more complicated than the bumper sticker logic, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” With all due respect to Mother Theresa, most women who abort babies are not living lives anything remotely like what they’d “wish.”
We do not have the information, and it is not our business, to make decisions about other women’s pregnancies. We need to realize that the baby in another woman’s womb is her responsibility. That baby is hers, not ours. We can not make a decision for another woman that will completely change the trajectory of her life.
Too many Christians are still willing to sell their votes for the 30 pieces of silver that is Roe.
But even if Trump overturns Roe, babies will be aborted – illegally and dangerously.
And Syrian babies will still die. Palestinian babies will still die. Mexican babies will go back to Mexico. And many, many American babies will grow up hungry, without a father, without a good education, and will very possibly end up dead or in prison.
Am I giving up on babies? No. I believe in the sanctity of life. But gang, let’s get real.
If you don’t like abortion, then fund contraception! If you genuinely “choose life,” then support a road to citizenship for the undocumented, support gun control, condemn war. How hard is it to see the connection?
How about we put our efforts into making the world a better, fairer place to live, so that more women and babies will have a decent chance?
FEATURED IMAGE: Yes sir, that’s my baby, in NICU, 1996.