Another Cause of Abortion

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In a December 2008 post I wrote that men not wanting to assume the responsibilities of fatherhood has a lot to do with why women have abortions.  After thinking about that for a while I’ve come to the conclusion that our whole damn society is reluctant to take on the responsibilities involved in looking after its children. The real culprit is the system which says that raising children is the responsibility of the women who have them. “They choose to have ’em, they have to take care of ’em.”

You hear this most often in connection with young, unwed and poor mothers. We’re used to that debate. But what we fail to realize is that our society is just as unaccommodating toward all mothers.  Why do you think we don’t have universal health care for children? Or quality child care that is affordable? Or flexible working arrangements for working mothers?

But those are just the most obvious injustices and doesn’t address the underlying cause: our society is not child-friendly. We say we care about children, but what we really care about is the market they represent. Sales of baby paraphenalia, food, toys, educational systems, clothes, sports equipment, movies and TV shows–this is what our society cares about. The children themselves are seen as the responsibility of the parents and society isn’t willing to spend an extra dime making sure that they thrive.

Sure we have programs that target children, especially those in dire need. But that has more to do with wanting to ward off future problems of juvenile delinquency and unemployment. It’s easier to blame bad behavior and aimlessness on the parents, for not being involved in what their children are up to. We put that charge on parents without being willing to do everything we can to back them up. Is it any wonder that a woman–especially a single woman–who finds herself pregnant feels that her only choice is to have an abortion?

Pro-lifers would do more to reduce abortions if they focused on what women need in order to successfully raise a child in this world. Some of them say, “If she can’t afford a baby, she should give it up for adoption.” But that’s short-sighted: even an adoptive mom will have trouble raising a child in this environment.

Many women who have children want to stay home with them but find that they have to work to help support them. Even if they are able to arrange a flexible schedule, they will be passed over for promotions “because they’re not as dedicated as men or childless women.” (Funny how it doesn’t seem to matter if the man has children.) Business needs to make concessions for working mothers (and fathers). But then you would hear complaints about preferential treatment. So? Employers could give all their workers more personal days or the ability to call off when a child is sick, flexible, part-time or at-home work assignments and alternate ways of qualifying for promotions. What’s good for working mothers is good for the whole work force.

Until we are willing, as individuals and as a society, to invest all that is necessary to support parents as they attempt to raise their children to be productive members of society, there will always be women who will see having an abortion as the responsible thing to do. Because it’s irresponsible to bring a child into a world that doesn’t want to deal with it.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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