On the Choice to Parent

I  have spoken before about the lack of cultural and financial support for people choosing to terminate their pregnancies, but what about people who choose to continue them? And how much do we present abortion as the solution to other people’s pregnancies, like when we discuss teen pregnancy, or pregnancy that results from assault, or pregnancy of a fetus diagnosed with a disability like Down’s Syndrome? How much or how little do as a culture support the right to keep a pregnancy?

I am entirely unwavering in my support for pregnant people to be empowered to make their own pregnancy decisions, including termination. Anyone who wants an abortion should have immediate access to one, without gatekeeping measures such as waiting periods or mandatory invasive exams. However, in all my talks with people deciding what to do with their unplanned pregnancies, a few common hurdles to making the decision to parent stand out.

Stigma against teen or single mothers

Some people who would potentially make wonderful parents and who want to parent terminate pregnancies they would like to keep, because they are afraid of the hatred that will be heaped on them, for loving their child. The abortions most regretted are those not truly chosen, those that people feel socially or otherwise pressured into. And that pain serves no one.

Stigma against rape victims, as well as against children conceived in rape

I’ve seen people, in their efforts to support a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape, make wild and harmful claims, like that the baby will be like the father. This is completely unfounded and it is factually incorrect. Rape is a learned behavior and a choice. It is not an involuntary compulsion. Deciding to keep a pregnancy resulting from assault is a deeply personal choice, with a lot of complications. Your ignorant opinions on the morality of a victim’s child is unwanted and you should keep it to yourself.

Misinformation about health conditions or disabilities

Prenatal tests are more available than accurate information on the conditions they seek to detect. For example, a lot of people getting prenatal testing for Down’s Syndrome have some pretty inaccurate or outdated concepts of what quality of life can be like for someone with DS. They don’t know that a DS diagnosis doesn’t prevent their child from attending public school in traditional classrooms, gaining employment, or getting married. And they don’t know that life expectancy for people with DS has tripled over the course of my lifetime. Informed consent requires accurate and unbiased information.

Actual barriers to quality of life imposed on disabled people

Ableist bigotry exists and most parents want to protect their children or hypothetical potential children from harm. Changing the world to accept and embrace diversity, including disabilities, is going to take a lot of work from a lot of people. Individual people and couples making pregnancy decisions are making decisions based on the world they believe we live in today.

Poverty

7 out of 10 American women who terminate pregnancies live at or below 200% of the federal poverty limit, or make less than $25K a year. I have to believe that includes a segment of women who would like to complete their pregnancies and parent, but cannot afford to.

In order to truly protect all reproductive choice, we are going to need to protect not just abortion clinics and doctors and access, but also the economic stability of all people. We’re going to need to address not just sexism against women who abort, but sexism against women who parent without a man. And we’re going to need to address the ableism and factual inaccuracies that keep prospective parents from being able to give informed consent.

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