As human beings we are largely all alike, 99.9 percent of our DNA is the same. Despite the differences in gender, sexual orientation, appearance, our skin color and the shape of our eyes and nose, etc., we have far more in common than different. Nonetheless, each of us is different. We all have different combinations of genes, skills, strengths and weaknesses, background and experiences. Those differences make it possible for us each to make a unique contribution.
There has been a recent rash of anti-abortion legislation. Some States have made it illegal to have an abortion once the fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur before the woman even knows that she is pregnant. Let’s take a closer look at the consequences — on the woman, the child and society — of making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion when she would elect to have one.
Regardless of the circumstances that led to the pregnancy, making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion puts her in a very difficult position. Because the decision is forced on her, this changes her life, lifestyle and her life path. It places her decision in the hands of others. She and the child bear the consequences and the burdens of the unwanted pregnancy. Typically, she receives little or no additional support or help adjust to the decision that was forced upon her. Much of the time the man, who is also responsible for the pregnancy, is not held accountable for the results of his actions.
The unwanted pregnancy also has important additional consequences. Each of us, as adults, is responsible for taking care of ourselves on a daily basis. That obviously becomes more difficult for a woman in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. That responsibility is present regardless of her age and marital status. It is even more difficult to fulfill when she is single, a teenager, or the victim of rape or incest. If she elects not to put the child up for adoption, that added burden of raising a child she didn’t plan on having, continues until both are adults. Under any of those circumstances not allowing her to have an abortion when she wants one, clearly, places an additional burden on her and the child.
Furthermore, that burden can fall on the rest of society not only up to the time the child is born, but afterwards as well. Here’s one example. Let us assume that Jane was in her late teens and doing very well in high school or in her early college years, when she realized she was pregnant. She was from a family at the lower end of the income distribution with a number of siblings. Because it was illegal to get an abortion, Jane had to drop out of school. Her prior experience made it possible to get a low-paying job as a waitress in order to support herself. The job did not provide any medical benefits. To support herself and the child after the baby’s birth she continued working at low-paying jobs. Those jobs did not take advantage of her skills. Those circumstances make it much more difficult for her and the baby to have enough funds to be able to take care of themselves and to be able to get out of the lower end of the income distribution as Jane had hoped.
Clearly, the anti-abortion legislation is coercive, potentially causes physical and emotional harm and makes those individuals who would have elected to get an abortion worse off. Not only does it place a burden on them, it places an additional burden on the family and friends who provide assistance and on abortion service providers. Importantly, it also places a burden on the rest of society. Included are the additional health-care costs and medical and social services provided to the mother and the child. Furthermore, because of the path they are forced to take, it becomes less likely for those in current and future generations to be able to accomplish the objectives they aspire to. Added to those costs are any expenses involved in enacting and enforcing the anti-abortion legislation. Those costs fall on society as well. The burden of the actions of those who support anti-abortion legislation fall on the rest of us — even if we disagree with the lawmakers.
With the recent flood of anti-abortion legislation how often have you heard anti-abortion advocates talk about providing funds and resources for the woman and the child? Those funds would help compensate those who are harmed or made worse off by the legislation. Here are some examples. Advocates could provide the additional necessary funds (1) to help ensure that the pregnant women gets adequate medical care; (2) to make it possible for the mother to both raise the child and pursue her education, and/or (3) to help raise the child until it becomes an adult. Furthermore, some of the money used to promote anti-abortion legislation could be used to support, promote, finance and educate both males and females in the use of contraceptives in order to make unwanted pregnancies less likely in the first place. Part of the governments’ limited resources are used up to pass and enforce anti-abortion legislation when there are potential alternative uses of those resources. How about using government as the vehicle to attempt to reconcile differences rather than use it as the stage to promote and enforce private agendas? Here I go talking like an economist again.
Each of us has a right to their own opinion. Even though the opinion of others may differ from yours, they have a right to theirs as well. What we don’t have is the right to impose our opinions on others. That is especially true when others choices, decisions and actions have no effect on your life, livelihood or lifestyle in any way.
Allowing a pregnant woman to have an abortion when she would elect that option allows her to pursue the life and lifestyle she prefers. That approach enables her to make the unique contribution to society that only she can make, and not to take a path forced on her by others.