Abortion. It’s something people very dear to me have experienced, and it’s difficult for me to write about for fear of reopening old wounds, but it’s something we should be able to talk about openly and comfortably. It’s one of those issues that has never permanently left the public eye over the past few decades. But is it even necessary?
If you do some research, you’ll find that the majority of women who decide to receive abortions do so for the following four reasons: financial instability, bad timing in regards to school or career, relationship problems, or an unwillingness to become a single mother.
If you do some more research, you’ll learn that some secondary reasons include pressure from partners or family members, health problems, a lack of desire to raise children, rape, and shame that can be experienced by an unplanned pregnancy. Most women who receive abortions do not reach the decision easily, many of them feeling it is their only option, and that’s a shame. Excluding factors like rape and health issues, few of these reasons are unavoidable. It takes a village to raise a child, so why are so many women alone during such a crucial time? Why aren’t we pitching in to lighten their loads? While I consider myself to be pro-life, this is not a plea to convert to my beliefs. All women under these circumstances make decisions for different reasons, and they all deserve respect. But there’s a lot more we all could be doing that could make abortion a little less necessary, and these 9 challenges are only the start.
1. Provide better options for women with demanding careers and women in high school or college.
It’s no secret that women who become pregnant in high school or college are less likely to graduate. If you are the only person expected to care for your child, your education or career just isn’t going to get the attention it deserves. Hiring a babysitter or finding a daycare aren’t always options for these women, and outside of work and class, nobody is going to feed and change the baby while they’re finishing reports or studying for exams. Some workplaces and universities host free daycare centers, and though it doesn’t eliminate all the struggles of motherhood, I’m sure it makes a world of difference. Getting creative about approaching this issue could make even larger improvements.
2. Provide financial support for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies in your community.
Call childrearing anything you’d like, just don’t call it cheap. Prenatal care typically ranges from $1,500 to $3,00o, while $8,000 is the average cost of a hospital birth. Without health insurance, those services are anything but easy payments. Tack those costs onto an estimated $200,000 to raise a child to the age of seventeen, and the prospects of caring for a child become both extremely terrifying and seemingly impossible. Most places have centers that accept donations of money and food and all things for babies, but resources are often scarce, and it isn’t unusual for single mothers or struggling families to be put on waiting lists or turned away. Your local donation centers are what you make them, so if you have some spare change, pantry items, or a surplus of kids’ supplies, don’t hesitate to support them.
3. If you have a friend or family member confronting an unplanned pregnancy, embrace them.
If a woman finds herself in the middle of an unplanned pregnancy, and she has a relationship with family members and/or a close circle of friends, there is no reason she should feel alone. Stop in once every few weeks to help clean her house, stay home with the baby while she has a night to herself, or just listen to her worries and excitements. Having a community behind you can empower you to accomplish things you never before thought possible.
4. Hold both parents accountable.
It takes two to make a baby, right? Too many women are alone in their decisions regarding their pregnancy. Asking one person to take care of another human being all day, every day without support from a partner is absolutely ridiculous. Even if the woman and man are not committed to each other, the father should be held accountable for whatever support is necessary from him, be it financial, emotional, or a share in parenting responsibilities.
5. Rethink what it actually means to raise a child.
Many women who become pregnant have no desire to raise a child for reasons they should not have to defend. But it’s a worthwhile question: what are we thinking of when we hear the word parenting? Having a child does not necessarily mean giving up a career or a successful relationship. It’s much more than late-night feedings and diaper changings and staying in more often on Friday nights. Raising a family is filled with its challenges, but also with those beautiful milestones and everyday moments, like watching your child take her first steps, or that unexpected bouquet of dandelions after a day of outside play.
6. Stop putting so much pressure on women’s bodies.
While thoughts of a post-baby body don’t exactly make or break a decision to have an abortion, society’s distorted perceptions of beauty aren’t so helpful. Having a baby stretches your body to its limits. Wouldn’t it be something to celebrate the capabilities of a woman’s body rather than to view it as “destroyed goods” as soon as she has children?
7. Stop shaming unwed mothers.
A single or unmarried woman facing an unplanned pregnancy has a long list of things to deal with, and none of them should be your judgment. On that note, the same goes for women who have already had abortions. Things happen that are not according to plan, and not everybody has the same value system as you. Are you going to be holding her hand in the delivery room? Paying for hospital visits? Funding her child’s college education? I highly doubt it. She’s heard your ridicule, and she doesn’t need it—she needs your acceptance. So if you have nothing supportive to say, zip it.
8. Be ready to take responsibility for your actions.
We’ve all had biology class, so we know how babies are made. Sex is supposed to feel good; it’s how your body convinces you to reproduce. Anybody who gets physical should always keep the possibility of pregnancy in mind. So if you’re having sex for pleasure rather than for having children, please be sure to consistently use effective contraception.
9. Realize that we don’t always get to choose what happens to us in life, so embrace the unexpected.
Things don’t always go as we originally planned, and sometimes that’s OK. Sometimes, spontaneously buying a puppy for sale turns out to be the best decision ever. Sometimes, walking into an exam and hoping for the best works out better than studying all night would have. Sometimes, missing your stop on the subway leads you to a part of the city you have yet to explore. Don’t mistake an inconvenience for an unexpected opportunity, but by all means, follow your intuition.