Abortion rights advocates call themselves 'pro-choice.' Frequently, they also say that a woman's right to abortion is as much a necessity as her right to vote -- that without abortion, women could not possibly have true equality. These two statements clearly contradict each other. Is abortion a choice, or a necessity?
The reasons women give for aborting clearly illustrate why women 'need'abortion - and why supporting abortion ends up being just the opposite of pro-'choice', and far from feminist.
Most women give multiple reasons for aborting. Rank Reason Percentage 1. Woman is unready for how a baby could 76% change her life a) A baby would interfere with her 67% employment b) A baby would interfere with her 49% school attendance c) Other children or other people 28% already need her care 2. Woman cannot afford a baby now 68% 3. Woman has problems with 52% relationship or wants to avoid single parenthood 4. Woman is not ready for 31% responsibility 5. Woman does not want others to 31% know she has had sex or is pregnant 6. Woman is not mature enough or is 30% too young to have a child 7. Woman has all the chilren she wants 26% or grown-up children 8. Woman's husband or partner wants her 23% to have an abortion 9. Fetus has possible health problem 13% 10. Woman has health problem 6% 11. Woman's parents want her to have an 6% abortion 12. Woman was victim of rape or incest 1% 13. Other reasons 6% Source: Family Planning Perspectives, July/August 1988
The reasons women give for aborting are, for the most part, economic. The vast majority of women named interference with jobor school, or being unable to afford a baby, as a reason for choosing abortion. These reasons are far from trivial -- in fact, most women do not choose abortion for reasons of 'convenience', reguardless of popular opinion. Most women choose abortion because they feel they have no other option.
Our society punishes women for becoming mothers. A woman with a child has special needs -- needs that the educational and working worlds are unwilling to meet. Childcare is inadequate, and ridiculously expensive. Few jobs offer the sort of flexible scheduling that a new mother needs. The academic world makes few exceptions for a woman trying to be a student and a mother. For a woman working a job that barely pays the bills, a job that she knows she will loose if she must be continually taking time off to care for a child, a job that could never pay for daycare, what choice is there but abortion? For a college student halfway through her education, with thousands of dollars of debt from loans and no way to pay them back unless she finishes that education, and little chance of finishing that education as a mother -- is there really any 'choice' involved?
Clearly, in today's world, motherhood is simply not an option for some women. So, should a feminist support a woman's right to abortion?
Of course not.
To respond to society's blatant prejudice against mothers, especially single mothers, by giving women a way out of motherhood is to accept that prejudice. Abortion does not liberate women. It makes certain that society doesn't really ever have to adapt to women's needs. It means accepting that a woman cannot have a successful career, and care properly for her children. I means accepting that abortion isn't really a choice, for a woman on the verge of poverty, but a necessity -- accepting that our society forces a woman to choose between her economic survival and her child's life.
True feminism calls for true reform. A true feminist demands that women have the tools they need to succeed financially and socially and be mothers as well -- inexpensive, readily available childcare, a workplace or school that acknowledges the needs of mothers, including flexible scheduling and maternity leave, and welfare that actually works towards re-intergrating a woman into the workforce. If all this were accomplished -- if women were truly respected, and had true equality -- abortion would be unnecessary.
Therefore, rather than demanding the dubious 'right' of a woman to kill her offspring in order to fit into a patriachal world, feminists should be working to change that world. We should be demanding that women be respected, rather than punished, for being mothers.
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