One Cause of Abortion

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“Can’t you take care of it?” the boyfriend asks. He wants the problem to go away. What problem? The unsought and unwanted pregnancy. He helped to create the situation, but he wants his girlfriend to “take care of it.”

If she says that she’s not sure what she wants to do, he panics. He wants to appear supportive, but thoughts of child support take over his mind. And he’s certainly not ready to get married. That’s the old-fashioned way to handle it: by doing the “right” thing. Nowadays the right thing is to get an abortion. At least that’s the way he sees it.

Many women get abortions because they truly don’t want or can’t handle having a child. But I wonder how many get abortions mainly because they know the man who impregnated them wants them to. If he’s not gung-ho about being a father, if he seems resistant to paying support or being involved in the child’s life and the woman doesn’t feel strong enough or doesn’t have the resources to do it alone, what is she supposed to do?

Many First Wave feminists saw abortion as murder. Alice Paul called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.” But I don’t think she meant that women were the source of their own exploitation; she was saying that society exploits women by forcing them to make the horrible choice (in those days) between unwed motherhood and societal (read: male) acceptance.

It can be argued that even today, most women have abortions because they know that the society they live in will not be supportive if they have the child. They will be censured if they’re unmarried (yes, even in this day and age), forced into poverty, and left to their own devices when it comes to the demands of work and motherhood. (Inflexible schedules, no health insurance, poor and/or expensive child care.) If a prospective mother knew that society, and the prospective father, were going to be supportive in every way possible, she might be more likely to eschew abortion and have the child.

So who really is at fault when a woman has an abortion? Who or what tips the scale in abortion’s favor? Is it that the woman just doesn’t want to be bothered? Or is it that she knows her child will suffer–from reduced circumstances, poor or no health care, lack of a father or other supportive adults, substandard shelter, limited educational resources, and a mother who is forced work two or three jobs just to make ends meet? If society were more cooperative, more focused on children’s welfare, perhaps more women would choose to have their babies.

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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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