Many women choose to have an abortion because they realize they do not have the time, resources, or support to raise a child at the time. They are women who know what is available, and often have a deep respect for parenthood, and make the informed decision that they don’t have the capacity at the time to be a parent.
No amount of free diapers will change that. And as for adoption, for some women is is not an option, it is something they know they would regret. Women do regret placing a child for adoption. (That doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome adoption people out there, looking at you Adoption Access Network.)
So, society has set a trap for these women.
Low-income women know they cannot afford a child. But they also cannot afford an abortion. Women who cannot come up with the money in time for an abortion end up having the child they cannot support, and many of them do not place for adoption. They lose their job, even though there are laws prohibiting the firing of an employee based on pregnancy, if she lives in an at-will state, they can find any other reason under the sun. Suddenly, she is without the small income she had, and she is unable to afford prenatal care, or labor and delivery. She is unable to afford nutritional food required for a healthy pregnancy. She gives birth to an underweight baby, and suddenly finds her every decision criticized.
If she managed to keep her job, she now has to weigh the cost of child care against how much money she will be making at work. If she wasn’t able to keep her job, she now has to try to find one while taking care of a child. Other mothers will criticize her if she goes back to work, which she must do in order to feed her child, telling her she is being a bad mother. If she doesn’t go back to work, she is called a “welfare queen” and is blamed for the bad economy. She can’t win either way. No matter what, society will scorn her, rather than help her.
People will question her ability to be responsible, attempt to pry into her sex life, and often tell her she just shouldn’t have one. They will either pity the child (but do nothing to help him/her), or watch it with a leery eye, already assuming it will grow up to be a criminal.
Many times, the same protesters you see outside the clinics passing out pamphlet with the phone numbers of places that can “help” are the same people you see wanting to take away free and reduced lunch programs, the same people you see protesting against any sort of government program that might help this woman and her child. Inside crisis pregnancy centers, “counselors” tell these young women that they can get on medicaid, that they can get WIC, that they can get housing assistance and that these programs will help her and her future child. Then they go to the polls on election day and vote for politicians who promise to get rid of these very same programs.
I am totally cool with providing material support to women who choose to give birth, despite economic barriers. No woman who wants a child should be told she shouldn’t have one because of her economic circumstances. No woman should feel pressured to have an abortion because she is afraid society will mock and scorn her for her desire to be a mother, despite being single, low-income, or a woman of color. But crisis pregnancy centers offer the material support as a way of coercion, and as a way of stripping that woman of her right to choose.
So this is the trap society sets for the women who find themselves pregnant and impoverished. In order to over come this trap we must not just work for abortion access, but for birth justice, economic justice, racial justice, and for broader access to education.