I was sitting at the bar with a guy I met while studying at Harvard’s summer school program. He was in his mid 20s, working at a successful financial institution in London. He attended Harvard that summer to take a couple of economics courses. During the day, he was a student; at night, he was quite the sexual deviant. On this particular evening, he made a confession. Detailing how his method of contraception failed during a one night stand, he confessed that his mistress accidentally got pregnant, and he was going to pay for her to get an abortion. “I know this isn’t ideal,” he said. “But I want to have children that grow up with a father, and right now, I’m not ready to be one. I don’t want this kid to have to grow up in that kind of world.”
To him, this was the best of the worst decisions that could be made. At least for him. He wouldn’t have to rearrange his life, commit to a girl he didn’t know, take plane trips across the Atlantic Ocean to see his child every now and then, and pay child support. Most likely, this child would have grown up without a father, and to him, that was way worse than this child not growing up at all.
My friend was financially sound and could have paid for child support. So let’s imagine this scenario a little differently. Picture a black woman living in poverty. She just debated whether to spend her last few dollars buying a gallon of milk or a pregnancy test. She chose the latter. The spell of vomiting in the morning into the communal toilet wasn’t because of the flu. She is pregnant, and the father is a man who would never pay a dime of child support. In fact, the father is a man she doesn’t mind sharing a bed with now and then, but he is not a man with whom she would ever share her life, home, or children.
When you picture that, you are picturing the most common demographic of abortion patients. Women of color from impoverished homes are the most common frequenters of an abortion clinic. 69 percent of women who have abortions are economically disadvantaged.
As anyone who has children will attest, kids are expensive. From a purely economical standpoint, having an abortion is much more financially sound than having a child. And having a child in poverty doesn’t just affect the family, it has societal implications.
In the book Freakenomics, the authors ask the question, “Why did the crime rate suddenly drop in the early 90s?” Based on statistics, the answer they propose is this:
In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years — the years during which young men enter their criminal prime — the rate of crime began to fall. What this cohort was missing, of course, were the children who stood the greatest chance of becoming criminals. And the crime rate continued to fall as an entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world. Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.
One could make a strong argument that abortion is the less-than-ideal but most effective answer to a lot of problems and difficult choices. Legalized abortion means that less people will grow up unwanted, in poverty, susceptible to crime, from broken homes with no fathers. Legalized abortion means that we don’t have to make tough decisions like when is it medically permissive to abort a baby (like when a mother’s health is at risk from a non-viable pregnancy such as an ectopic pregnancy). Legalized abortion means we don’t have to emphasize abstinence or ensure that everyone has access to contraception. Legalized abortion means that we have less strain on our welfare system. Abortion is the easy way out.
But it is the lazy way out. Legalizing abortion means that we have failed women as a society. We are unwilling to make the tough, hard decisions to truly support them. Abortion may be a quick solution, but it has terrible emotional and physical side effects. It may “solve” some problems, but it creates a whole host of others. Let’s not forget the real victims. Legalized abortion has resulted in the systematic execution of 55 million American babies – a statistic that makes the Holocaust seem benign.
We can’t just place the blame on liberal legislators and judges for their efforts in promoting abortion. As this illustration points out, there is plenty of blame to go around on the right. Unfortunately, this is the straw man stereotype pro-lifer. They’re the rich Republican marching at pro-life rallies and then advocating for less federal funding for the poor, standing against socialized healthcare, yelling at people to get jobs and go back across the border. When it comes to supporting the baby in the womb, Fox News sounds like Jesus overturning tables in the Temple court. When it comes to supporting the single mom in poverty, they suddenly take on a rhetoric that sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump.
We can’t have it both ways. If we are going to be pro-life, we can’t just stop supporting life when the baby is born. Breathing should not be the standard of a pro-lifer. The standard should be a healthy, thriving, and supported life. It should mean that we are cherishing, nourishing, fostering life – whether that person is in utero, in poverty, or on a deathbed. It is a very high standard, and I have to confess that I have failed more often than not. Every time I’ve ignored a person in need, I have failed. It goes beyond giving monetary handouts. It involves investing my life in the life of another.
Fortunately, that right wing, pro-life stereotype doesn’t apply to everyone. I have good friends who adopted two children. In both cases, the moms were black, single, living in poverty, and considering having an abortion. In one case, the relationship between the birth mom and my friends didn’t end with the adoption. They frequently talk to each other, the moms got matching tattoos, and my friends do everything possible to empower the birth mom to rise above the cycle of poverty. They’ve paid for her to travel and live with them. They’ve put food on the table for her. Their extended family has basically adopted her and given her the family that she never had. They didn’t just preach at her. They shared the Gospel with her.
It makes me realize that if I am going to stand here and tell a woman (or social media) that it is immoral to have an abortion, I must be willing to put my money where my mouth is. I must be willing not to just preach on a soapbox but to get my hands dirty in a soup kitchen. I must be willing to not just offer money but my life. Government cannot in any way provide what our society truly needs. We need much more than just legislation against abortion or funding for impoverished families. That’s a good start, but our society needs an investment of personal lives. It needs you and me involved in the lives of people who can’t imagine raising the baby that’s in their womb.
I believe that we will see the end of abortion in our country in our time, but I am convinced that we will only have an abortionless society when we become one that truly promotes life – from the womb to the deathbed.