When it comes to sex and unplanned pregnancy, a lot of people find it easy to pass judgment.
After all, someone will likely say, we all know how people get pregnant. Condoms are cheaper than child support. And the easiest way to not get knocked up is to not have sex at all.
Oh, so simple, it seems. Yet, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, by age 45 half of all American women will have had an unintended pregnancy. So, a lot of that teeth sucking and judging doesn’t quite fit a reality where there’s a good chance the person passing the judgment has either had an unplanned pregnancy, knows someone who has, or was an unplanned pregnancy themselves in their own mother’s womb.
But it’s easy to pass judgment on those who are the most vulnerable. Like the poor and the uninsured – who have become the face of who gets an abortion in this country.
Poor women accounted for 42% of all abortions in 2008, and their abortion rate increased 18% between 2000 and 2008, from 44.4 to 52.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44. In comparison, the national abortion rate for 2008 was 19.6 per 1,000, reflecting an 8% decline from a rate of 21.3 in 2000. Abortion rates decreased 18% among African American women in the same period, the largest decline among the four racial and ethnic groups examined. Notwithstanding this decline, the abortion rate among African American women is higher than the rate for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women: 40.2 per 1,000, compared with 28.7 and 11.5, respectively.
Reproductive health. Sex. Pregnancy. Money. It’s a part of life. You have to eat to live. Tax time comes every year. People are going to have sex. They’re going to have it unprotected or otherwise, safe or otherwise, consensual or … sadly … otherwise. And you can’t create public health policy based on fantasy or how you might “wish” people would conduct themselves, unless you live in one of the many states here in America that believes birth control is a luxury, women’s health is a “niche” issue and abortion is best if you make so it’s only an option to those who have the best means to reproductive health in the first place – the insured and the wealthy.
Everyone else? You’re on your own. If you’re poor and a woman, you likely don’t have health insurance. Birth control is expensive. You also probably have a hard time getting time off for doctor visits (that you also can’t afford), because your service job won’t allow it. You’d go to Planned Parenthood for reduced birth control, but that’s if there’s one near you, if you have access to transportation, if you can take the time off.
How did you get pregnant? Maybe it was a long-time boyfriend. Maybe it was the father of your child, your husband, or a one-night stand. No matter who it was, you have your reasons why you can’t be pregnant. But if you were lucky and found you were pregnant early, you should be able to get an abortion … if you can afford it. The average cost for a first trimester abortion is $470 and 57 percent of women pay their abortions out-of-pocket. If you get Medicaid, it only covers abortions in the case of rape, incest, or risk to the woman’s life, and only 17 states will pay for the abortions Medicaid won’t cover.
Because you have to pay out-of-pocket you spend a lot of time trying to raise funds for the procedure. And that comes out of your hourly pay … if you can get the time off from work without getting fired. And if you can get there. Is there adequate public transportation? Do you have a car? If you don’t, do you know someone who can give you a ride? Do you feel safe even telling anyone what you need that ride for?
Because 87 percent of U.S. counties don’t have an abortion provider, meaning most women have to travel as much as 50 miles to an abortion provider.
The end result is often women having children they can’t take care of or pursuing unsafe or unreliable means of birth control, of being trapped in a cycle of poverty, getting deeper and deeper into a system of debt and welfare they find near impossible to get out of. And it’s easy to say “personal responsibility.” Until you consider that if you’re a taxpayer, you end up paying anyway. In fact, you pay more when emergency rooms and unwanted children stuck in an inadequate and stressed child welfare system we pay for is the back-up plan.
But by simply having better access to health care, lower cost birth control, and a more understanding workplace that realizes employees – even low wage, service employees – need medical time off, could have solved this. It could have created a situation where a woman didn’t need an abortion, or could deal with her unwanted pregnancy earlier. But instead, we have a system that doesn’t help women make better reproductive choices. It leaves them trapped in them.
And the only advice is “don’t have sex.” And that sounds simple. But statistics say it’s not.