Pro-choice organizations, people, and rhetoric often frame abortion as an easy solution to a complicated problem. But a child is not a problem, and killing a child does not solve a problem. On the other hand, pro-life circles often fail to recognize and address the root causes of abortion, instead focusing just on the legality and morality of that matter. It is essential that we look at why people get abortions and strive to address those core issues. Doing so is the most effective way to reduce and eliminate abortion as a whole.
Nearly 30% of single-mother families live below the poverty line, 90% of welfare recipients are single mothers, and statistically speaking, a child from a single parent home is far more likely to experience violence, die by suicide, live in poverty, or become addicted to drugs. In the face of statistics like these, it’s not difficult to understand how someone would think it’s better for a child to simply not exist, rather than suffer in poverty. Yes, every life can be meaningful and beautiful regardless of circumstances, but that does not negate the very real effects of poverty and suffering.
Outside of statistics, single parents – particularly single mothers – face tremendous societal shame. Pew Research shows public opinion stands biased against single mothers. Nearly 70% of respondents said the trend toward more single women having children is bad for society. One must look no further than the proliferation of shows like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant to see how young single mothers are caricatured and mocked in the media. Having a child changes your life fundamentally. It can feel far easier to simply get an abortion rather than deal with raising a human life for 18+ years.
When it comes to finances, birth is incredibly expensive, especially for those without health insurance. With no complications or health insurance, the average birth costs $10,808 dollars. In some states, it can cost upwards of twenty thousand dollars. And these figures aren’t counting any prenatal or postnatal care, or the consistent costs associated with raising a child.
Then there’s the impact pregnancy has on the human body. It can cause anemia, UTIs, depression, and a host of other health issues. On top of all this, maternal mortality rates in the United States are astoundingly bad, with 20.1 deaths per 100,00 live births in 2019. The mortality rate is exponentially higher for Black women, who experience a rate of 44 deaths per 100,000 live births. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country.
Paxton Smith, a high school valedictorian from Dallas, Texas, recently gave a speech in response to a Texas “Heartbeat Bill.”
Six weeks. That's all women get. And so ... before they have a chance to decide if they are emotionally, physically and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger. A decision that will affect the rest of their lives is made by a stranger. I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter.
Michelle Williams shared a similar sentiment at the end of her 2020 Golden Globes Acceptance speech, saying, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.”
The vast majority of women don’t choose to have abortions in favor of frilly dresses and awards. They have abortions because they do not see other options available to them. Women have abortions because they are afraid of the very real hardship that faces single mothers, poor mothers, and teen mothers.
We need to acknowledge and work on resolving structural inequity while also realizing that harming some of the most vulnerable members of society is not a true solution. While pregnancy and birth can be difficult, abortion not only ends a preborn life, but it likely has negative effects on the mental health of women. According to a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, women who have had abortions are 34% more likely to develop anxiety, 37% more likely to experience depression, 110% more likely to abuse alcohol, 155% more likely to commit suicide, and 220% more likely to use marijuana.
So how can we address the issues that lead women to choose abortion? Well, there are a few ways. One of the biggest motivators of abortion is simple: poverty. Raising the federal minimum wage so that people can afford to rent apartments will undoubtedly ease anxiety regarding having children.
We need to ensure there is health insurance provided to everyone to cover prenatal care and the cost of giving birth. Maternal mortality is largely based in racism and sexism. Numerous studies have shown that doctors take women’s reports of pain less seriously, are more likely to prescribe women sedatives as opposed to painkillers, and are far more likely to misdiagnose and prematurely discharge women. Racial bias training for doctors is essential so that the needs of Black mothers are properly heard and met.
We need to stop stigmatizing teen and single mothers. We need to provide childcare and parental leave. We need to make it so that going down the street to Planned Parenthood for an abortion is ten times more difficult than going through pregnancy and raising a child.
On an individual scale, we need to show up for friends and community members who face unexpected pregnancies. We need to prepare ourselves with resources and organizations to offer to pregnant people in need. You know all those go-fund-me campaigns you see floating around? Donate to those.
Abortion is touted as an easy option, with preborn children painted as a hindrance and problem. This is not true. Abortion will not fix anything. And a child will not bring an end to your every dream. You can have children and dreams. But it requires financial, emotional, and physical support. We need to provide that support so women are empowered to choose life. We need to build a culture of life.