This has already been blogged about quite a bit, but I think it’s worth mentioning nonetheless — and it’s worth pointing out the “pro-life” reaction to it. The story, basically, is that more American women are giving birth to babies that were unwanted when they became pregnant. To start, I think this story has been over-simplified on both sides. Many pro-choicers responded with, “This means women lack access to abortion,” while pro-lifers claimed, “This means women’s attitudes have shifted to be more pro-life.” Those both may be true, but I’m willing to bet that, like most social shifts, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
First, I’d be interested to see where these unintended pregnancies are most strongly concentrated. That isn’t detailed in this article, so if anyone has info on it, post away. The article points out that the number of abortion clinics has decreased from 2,000 in 1996 to 1,800 in 2000. While I’m sure this has an impact, the bigger issue to me is the fact that so many women are getting pregnant in the first place when they don’t want to be. Something is going on with access to contraception, the education on how to properly use it, and the stigma related to being on it (or to having sex). Something else is going on with race and education issues here, too.
Sixty-one percent of women ages 25 to 44 who never graduated from high school had an unintended birth, which includes both mistimed and unwanted babies.
Eighteen percent of women with college degrees delivered such babies.
That’s a huge difference, and I’m not sure what accounts for it. I’m sure part of it has to do with basic ambition and worldview — women who are college-educated are probably more likely to see lots of doors open to them, and want to delay childbirth so that they can seek out other options for their lives. That isn’t to say that women who don’t graduate from high school lack ambition or intelligence or drive; simply that lacking a high school degree leaves most people with fewer options, and can leave a lot of people feeling generally trapped. When you feel like there are fewer options in front of you, there may be less of a reason to delay childbirth. But I’d guess that the bigger connection to education level is the education itself — I got pretty good sex ed in high school, and I had a great mom who told me that she would get me birth control if I needed it (and told me that I could get it from my doctor without her having to know), but I didn’t have easy access to comprehensive information about contraceptives (and the contraceptives themselves) until college. The best sex ed also came later on in high school. Women on college campuses generally have easy and anonymous access to condoms, birth control, and sexual health information. It’s a little harder for women living at home, or in rural areas without sexual health clinics.
Lower levels of education also strongly correlate to wealth, which further correlates to insurance and access to medical care. An uninsured high school drop-out working a minimum-wage job in a rural area is a heck of a lot less likely to have insurance than, say, a 22-year-old law student living in an urban center. Because I’m insured, I can get my birth control and my annual exams cheaply and easily at my school’s health center. Because I live in an urban area, and because I’m from another liberal urban center, I can go to Planned Parenthood and get birth control for free (note to anyone who lives in Western Washington: If your annual income is less than, I believe, $19,000, you can get a year’s worth of birth control free. Note to those who have some spare cash: Consider donating to Planned Parenthood to keep these programs up and running). If I was smack in the middle of the fly-over zone in a small town in a conservative state, these options simply wouldn’t exist. I probably would have gotten abstinence-only sex education, which would have taught me that birth control doesn’t work anyway and that sex is shameful and bad — and that going on birth control means that you’re planning on having sex, which is even worse.
Pro-lifers, of course, see this as some sort of victory, and are skeptical of simple statements by Planned Parenthood representatives like, “We all wish to see that number decrease so women don’t get pregnant until they want to be.” I agree that Planned Parenthood should have chosen their words better — if by “we” they mean the pro-choice movement, then sure, we all do wish to see a world where women don’t get pregnant unless they want to be. But if by “we” they meant people in general, they’re far off base — because folks like Dawn and Peter just don’t agree.
Women, you are the ones ultimately in control. Don’t have sex unless you are married and ready to have a child. If you love a man and marry him, you will figure out how to enjoy sex with him. We don’t have to take each other for “trial runs” to make sure we are sexually compatible. If you do wind up with an “unwanted” child, it is your responsibility to care for her/him with everything you have, regardless of the callousness of the man who got you pregnant.
Lay back and think of England, ladies. You’ll learn to like it. And if the guy’s a loser who refuses to help, guess what? It’s still your responsibility.
We men need to be more responsible and supportive. We need to help our women, not hurt them. Don’t have sex if you aren’t willing to have children. Don’t have sex if you aren’t willing to be a husband and father. Don’t have sex if you aren’t willing to marry. Finally, call me old-fashioned, but don’t have sex until you are married. A relationship isn’t about sex, it’s about love, caring, sharing and commitment.
Treat women with respect. I know there are a lot of “feminists” who want to blend in with men out there, but the majority of women are still women.
Men: Get out there and protect your women (who says pro-lifers don’t have uterus-ownership issues?). Plus, feminists aren’t real women, because real women don’t want to blend in with men at all — they prefer to be relegated to second-class status. That’s the what God wanted.
I like to think that there is some common ground on which pro-life and pro-choice groups can come together. It seems like pregnancy prevention could be that ground, but the extremists — who unfortunately seem to maintain control of the major pro-life organizations — don’t want to be a part of it. I can understand being against abortion. I don’t particularly like the anti-abortion view that believes it should be illegal or highly limited; I think such a view is sexist and seriously misguided, but I can, to a point, understand the ideas behind it. But I simply cannot wrap my mind around the mentality that women shouldn’t have the right to control whether or not they become pregnant in the first place, or that it’s a good thing that so many women are becoming unintentionally pregnant.
My take on the pregnancy story is basically this: If women have a full range of options at their fingertips, and more of them are choosing to give birth, that’s great. It could indicate that women are more economically empowered, and feel they can afford to give birth even when it wasn’t planned. It could indicate that the stigma attached to unwed pregnancy is waning, and unmarried women don’t feel pushed into a particular choice. It could indicate that working women face less pregnancy-related discrimination, and feel that they can realistically have a child and a career.
But I don’t think this is the case. Given that women don’t have a full range of options — subsidized childcare isn’t really a part of the welfare system, there are throngs of uninsured Americans, contraception and sexual health information are censored and manipulated in schools, the vast majority of U.S. counties lack an abortion provider, we don’t have a decent national parental leave policy — there’s something else going on here. And birth/abortion rates regardless, America’s unintended pregnancy rate is nothing to celebrate. It’s interesting that it’s being spun as a “pro-life” victory.
In other Blogging for Choice news, check out Copy editor for Christ Dawn Eden play fast and loose with the facts in her never-ending efforts to demonize any pro-choice organization. This week she goes after Jessica and NARAL’s Bush v. Choice blog, stating that, “NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Blog Calls Abortion the ‘Supposedly Traumatic Decision to Excise a Few Parasitic Cells’.” She originally attributed the post to Jessica. Except… Jessica didn’t write it, and Bush v. Choice doesn’t say that. It’s clearly an excerpt from another blog post, which Bush v. Choice links to. It’s obviously not a NARAL talking point (although the post by Twisty is indeed great).
But hey, I kinda like these Dawn Eden-style “facts.” So using her formula, let’s take a look at what’s on Dawn’s blog this week: “One commonly accepted figure is that proper and consistent use of condoms will lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant to 3% in one year. Sounds good, until you do this simple calculation. If you have a 3% risk in one year, your risk over 5 years is 15%, and over 10 years it’s 30%….Now it is easier to get pregnant than to get a veneral disease (the process isn’t specifically designed to transmit disease, but it sure is designed to get a woman pregnant), so condoms are better at preventing venereal disease than pregnancy. BUT getting many venereal diseases increases the chance for getting another, so risks balloon for the more sexually active people.” Dude, Dawn Eden can’t do math!! More evidence that all pro-lifers are totally stupid! (If I was more Dawn-like, I’d insert a really clever pun and a screaming Post-style headline, but I just can’t bring myself to do it).
- How Texas Got Itself The Highest Teen Birthrate In The Country by Jill April 2, 2006
- A Different Anti-Choice Strategy by Jill January 16, 2006
- Playing Politics With Cancer Screening by Jill March 26, 2007
- Saletan v. Pollitt by Jill February 3, 2006
- It’s the Birth Control, Stupid by Jill June 28, 2006