She’s 19, she’s pregnant, and her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her – or the baby. In a few months, she will be yet-another single mom with few prospects and even fewer resources.
You’ve seen her before, shivering at a bus stop in January, new babe in arms. Or maybe at the federal building, or the county courthouse, waiting in glacially slow lines for some sort of public assistance.
College is out of the question, so she faces an endless string of low-wage, dead-end jobs. Factor in the cost of daycare, which may exceed her wages, and she could be dependent on Uncle Sam, her church, or the kindness of strangers for decades.
We’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the years ahead, especially in the Deep South, as sanctimonious conservatives rush to enact restrictive abortion laws. State lawmakers in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah have been busy little bees in the past 90 days, trying to out-do each other in their compassion for the fetus and indifference to the mother. (At last check, abortion bans in Mississippi and Kentucky were stalled by federal court injunctions.)
Someday, legal challenge to at least one of these new abortion laws will make its way through the federal appellate system and wind up before the United States Supreme Court. The long game is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 law that affirms the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy which, in practical terms, gives pregnant women the right to choose whether they want to become mothers.
Ain’t nobody’s business but their own.
You’d think America’s social conservatives would applaud that logic because, y’know, they want Big Government off their backs. The ironic elephant in the room is these new abortion laws are inserting an arm of the government straight between a pregnant woman’s legs.
How’s that for an invasion of privacy?
Now here’s a news flash: Not every woman who has sexual relations wants to conceive a child. In fact, it’s possible to experience the joy of sex while simultaneously NOT wanting to get pregnant. And given the efficacy of modern contraceptive methods, most women can strike that balance.
But not always. Condoms break, birth control pills get lost, and some naïve women simply don’t take contraceptive measures at all. Pregnancy happens.
The question is what to do next.
Social conservatives usually put an anvil on the scales, siding squarely with the fetus and leaving the soon-to-be mom to fend for herself. In many cases, it’s fair to say that conservative lawmakers care deeply about the rights of children until the moment they’re born.
It’s when a baby is finally out in the world, blinking in the harsh light of reality, that righteous Republicans reveal their true colors.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program? Bah! It creates a culture of dependency! Early childhood education? No money in the budget for any of that “Brighter Tomorrow” nonsense.
Now try to see the world through the eyes of a pregnant woman who doesn’t think she’s ready to be a mother. Should we, as a society, force her to have that child – a living, breathing ball-and-chain to drag around for years to come?
Maybe I’m missing something, but is there a shortage of unwanted children in America?
Do we really need more?
As an alternative, how about every child a wanted child? How about that for a guiding principle?
And finally, what gives conservatives the right to force women they’ve never met to give birth to children they don’t want?
Though I don’t have any personal experience with abortion, I think Bill Clinton got it right when he declared it should be “safe, legal and rare.” And yes, I’ll be the first to concede that abortion is a sad, soul-battering procedure that can leave women with profound emotional scars.
But it’s their decision to make, not mine.
And not yours, either.
William Brock lives in Pullman.