I’m Done Arguing With You About Abortion

Women are giving up our collective she-power in order to fight a battle that can never be won. We could accomplish so much more if we put down our poster-board and fought for common ground instead.

Dear Anti-Abortion Activist-

I’m pro-choice, you’re not, but I think we can agree on one thing: We are never going to change each other’s minds. We are never going to successfully sway one another to our side. We can debate about when life begins, what constitutes life, and who needs protecting until we’re blue in the face — but at the end of the day, this age-old debate is literally hundreds of ages old for a reason:

It’s unwinnable.

So I’m done. I’m done trying to explain my side of the debate to you. And you should be done with trying to explain your side to me. We both know that the debate will only wind up taking us down the same infuriating and unresolved loops again and again and again…

Instead, I want to find places you and I can agree. Points of action both of us can take. I want us to move forward collectively, in an effort to make motherhood a more desirable path for every woman who finds herself confronted with it.

I want us to make this world so damn attractive for might-be-mothers that the question of “Can I do this?” is answered with a resounding “YES, you CAN! And here’s how!”

Because as long as we keep arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal, we prevent ourselves from changing the world into the kind of place where becoming a mother is a beautiful, momentous, and celebration-worthy life-changing event for everyone — “Everyone” being the key word here.

Did you know America is the most expensive place in the world to give birth?

I was working part time as adjunct faculty at a small community college in Texas when I gave birth, three and a half weeks early, to a precious but stubbornly breech, baby boy. I had to have a C-section, and those ain’t cheap.

According to data from the national, independent, nonprofit organization FAIR Health, the national average charge for a vaginal delivery is $12,290, and the national average charge for a C-section is $16,907. — Huff Post

My husband was finishing grad school when we had our little dude, so between his stipend and my paltry adjunct pay, we were in no shape to conquer unwieldy medical bills. Fortunately we had had the foresight to enroll in really good insurance from the ACA, otherwise I don’t know how we would have afforded the hospital bills.

Even so, I went back to teaching just two-weeks after giving birth because we couldn’t afford for me to take the whole semester off. It was not ideal. But we had been planning for this, and we knew it was going to be tight — and we knew that even with our finances at their absolute maximum stretching capacity, we still had it a lot better than a lot of other folks.

According to Parenting.com, parents will spend close to $50 a week ($2,448 per year) on diapers, formula and baby food alone. Then, if you’re a working mother, you’ve got to factor in the exorbitant cost of hiring someone to care for your little need-monster while you work on bringing home the bacon…

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

According to Care.com, the average cost of center-based day care for infants in 2016 (so you know these numbers have only gone up) was about $10,468 per year. Of course, these numbers vary by city and by type of care — which Care.com further explains by detailing the fact that individual care costs can range between $6,605 to $20,209 a year!

Are we agreeing yet?

Hopefully we’re all in agreement that such staggering costs are unsustainable, and a major hurdle for a majority of women. The insane cost of becoming a mother in the United States is a big contributor to the reason so many unexpectedly-pregnant women decide they can’t follow through with their unplanned pregnancy in the first place. Lessening, or eliminating, these financial burdens would be a huge step towards making motherhood a more feasibly possibility for women.

But, as long as we keep debating about whether or not women should have access to legal abortion, we prevent ourselves from becoming the kind of united and unstoppable force that can demand affordable prenatal/maternity/postnatal care, paid maternity/paternity leave, and affordable childcare!

These are the things that mothers-to-be need! These are the tools we can all use to continue to lower abortion rates! These services serve every woman, every parent, and every child.

But we won’t make any of these goals a reality until we all fight together — and politicians know it. You see, it isn’t the old “Keep ’em barefoot and pregnant” adage that women have to fear — the debate itself is already dividing and controlling us.

A better place…

So, what if instead of arguing about who most deserves person-hood rights (The mother? The fetus? Both? Neither? Aggghhhh!), we banded together to demand lower costs for all? I’m talking better, and more affordable, pre/postnatal care, more affordable delivery costs, mandatory paid maternity/paternity leave, subsidized childcare for ALL... What would that look like?

I’ll tell you what it would look like: A kick-ass, baby-and-mom-friendly world, that’s what!

(I mean, a friggin’ royal birth in the UK costs less than the average vaginal birth in the US. And if you don’t agree that our post-natal care needs improvement, read this mom’s account of the difference between her US and UK birth experience. I guarantee you’ll be saying “I want that, ASAP!”)

If we could join forces to fight for a massive overhaul of the US motherhood/baby-having system, we would be an unstoppable force! United in our quest to make motherhood the beautiful seed of utter possibility it is mean to be, instead of the economic death sentence it currently resembles.

Lasting effects

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, having a child lower’s a woman’s lifetime earnings between $49,000 (low-skilled workers)and $230,000 (high-skilled workers) relative to women who never gave birth. And while high-skilled working mothers are quicker to bounce back/eventually see stronger wage growth, low-skilled working mothers are unlikely to see their income grow — meaning, having a baby can stall a woman’s career and upward momentum interminably.

And this matters so very, very much! This financial deficit is monumentally unforgiving, and is the difference between a child being born into/growing up in poverty, and that child (and their mother) truly having a chance at a better, healthier life.

If Americans love babies so much, why are we not fighting tooth and nail to make it easier to have them?

Bringing up these terrifying economic facts usually makes some anti-abortion activists says something callus and clueless like “Well, if you’re not ready to have a baby, you shouldn’t be having sex.” If that’s you, dear reader, kindly STFU, locate a hammer and a chisel, and go to work removing the calcified shell of ignorance and inhumanity currently encasing your heart and mind.

People. Have. Sex.

It’s in our genes to get into other people’s jeans.

This isn’t going to change. Human beings are animals programmed to procreate. The fact that we have birth-control is the only reason we haven’t already overpopulated this planet to a dusty demise, what with modern medicine making sure so freaking many of us live to a ripe old age!

Birth control is saving lives. It is also probably saving the planet.

So why isn’t it easier to get?

Maybe it’s because there are quite a few groups, more than a couple of them also anti-abortion, who advocate against birth control for religious (and other, confusing to me) reasons. And so, lest you and I get into another heated (and circular) debate arguing the moral/ethical implications of birth control, let’s just park things with a fact: When women have access to birth control, abortion rates go down.

And yet, even knowing this to be true, low-income women who use birth control are still more likely to get pregnant than high-income women. Do you know what that is? Because low-income women are less likely to have access to healthcare providers who are able to prescribe hormonal birth control or IUDs. That means they rely more heavily on condoms, and while condoms are super effective (holla!), they’re also less reliable/immediate than a prescribed birth control that is already inside your body when you’re about to get busy!

And this matters a whole hell of a lot because ya’ll keep trying to shut down the clinics that provide free family planning/affordable birth control options to (mostly) low income women! I mean, I get that you are focused on the abortion services aspect of these clinics, but you’re SO focused on them that you are ignoring the fact that without these clinics, the number of unwanted/unplanned pregnancies are just going to go UP, resulting in more women seeking abortion services.

But we’re probably not going to agree on that either.

We need to work together anyway!

I am hoping, however, that the largly economic argument I’m outlining for you is highly compelling in the “Why we need to make becoming a mother more affordable” department. I’m hoping we can agree that these numbers need to change. I’m hoping we can agree that if the numbers get better, women will be less likely to feel economically/socially stranded, and in need of abortion services to begin with.

Because that’s really the only option I see us having left.

You’re going to continue to fight for fetuses. I’m going to continue to fight for women. But they both need all of our help!

Because here’s the thing: I’m pro-choice because I’m pro-life. I want the world to be populated with healthy, happy women AND healthy, happy babies. You and I agree on these very important parts of the whole complex puzzle — so how about we work together for a bit?

Because the longer we continue to argue about when life begins and whose body needs protecting, the easier it is for politicians to pass legislation that punishes and controls women, children, and families, limiting our ability to collectively organize and demand a better, more just world for women, children, and families.

At the end of the day, and on both sides of the debate, I have to believe we have this desire in common. Let’s focus on that for a while and see what we can accomplish.

Who’s with me?

Thinking thoughts, writing them down… trying not to scream in the interim. Also: Playwright. Professor. Mom. Wife. Cat-Servant. Follow @LadyPlaywright

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