On Parenting and Choice.

10 May
I spent this past weekend with my mother. She (along with my father) carefully planned each of her three pregnancies, starting with me (whom she chose to have in March that year, since as a teacher, she would be able to then take maternity leave for the remainder of the school year) and ending with my brother, for whom we moved to a larger home.  I was struck with the recklessness of forcing women to have children when they are not prepared to do so.
Being a parent is not easy – It takes tremendous amounts of time, energy, and money.  Let’s talk about that last point – In order to raise my siblings and I, my parents had to spend thousands of dollars on feeding and clothing us.  Money on medical insurance so we would have regular check ups and prescriptions.  Money on vehicles large enough to fit a family of five (yes, my mom had a mini van), and money on a home large enough to house us.  Money for college and money for summer camps.  Money in the form of income lost when my mom stayed home to raise us for about ten years.  Money in the form of retirement savings lost since my mother’s time out of the workforce resulted in lower social security earnings, less money in a 401(k), and a lower salary when she returned to the workforce than she would have had at that point if she had stayed.
I suspect that the amount of money reaches far past mere thousands.  We’re talking about debt taken on for college educations, money spent for piano lessons and summer vacations, and dinner on the table every night.  My parents are wonderful, amazing, people, but my childhood was not an extravagant one – the money my parents happily spent on my siblings and I was carefully calculated, each decision made with a surgeon’s precision in the juggling act of a family budget that millions of families go through each month all over the world.

My parents were 27 and 30 when they had me – adults who had gotten their respective educations, started careers, and saved some money – and I was planned.  We were all planned, very much wanted, and it still took the lion’s share of my parents economic assets, the sacrifice of my mother’s career, and then some to raise us.  What is the wisdom in forcing someone who does not want a child to have one?  To force someone who does not have the huge amount of money it takes to raise a child, to have one?  A Kansas State Senator, Mary Pilcher Cook, tried to pass a sales tax on abortions to make them more difficult to obtain (she failed, barely) – and here’s my question to her and the other anti-choice, short sighted politicians trying to make it economically impossible to obtain an abortion:
If a woman cannot afford an abortion, since you have succeeded in pricing it out of her reach, what makes you think she can afford to be a parent?  What makes you think she’ll be able to raise a child with the family values that anti-choice groups like to trumpet and bleat about?  She’s smart enough to know that she can’t devote the economic resources that a child requires – or even the economic resources that a healthy pregnancy requires – why force her to?  There are no mechanisms in place to reward women for having children beyond a paltry tax exemption and a few credits – hardly enough to compensate parents for the huge amount of money, time and sacrifices made.  My parents were ready to be parents, ready to take on at least 18 years of being responsible for someone else, to spend millions of dollars on those children – and they chose to be parents.  Shouldn’t we all have that choice?  And don’t we all deserve to be raised by parents who want us?

7 Responses to “On Parenting and Choice.”

  1. Ronnica May 11, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    I mentioned this to the other commenters on your own blog, but being pro-life (I don’t like the term “anti-choice”…I don’t call people who are pro-choice “anti-life”) means more than just caring about the child yet unborn. It means caring about the child after birth, whether by supporting mothers who make the hard choice to raise their child or supporting the mother and child through adoption. I know not all pro-lifers are as strongly pro-adoption…but they should be.

  2. Shayna May 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Ronnica – as I said on Life: Forward (my blog), I agree that adoption is a choice open to women (and should be open) – and it’s just that, a choice among many, including abortion.

    As lovely and ideal as adoption sounds, the risks and effects of a nine month pregnancy are too great and too dangerous for many women, for any number of reasons – none of which are for you or I to judge, just like it’s not for me to judge a woman who decides to carry a pregnancy to term when, if I were in her circumstances, would abort. Being Pro-Choice is about giving options to women, and trusting them to decide as competent human beings. That’s why we use the term ‘anti-choice’ – because it’s not pro my life if someone forces me to have an unwanted pregnancy – anti-choice means anti giving women choices, and that’s what the so called ‘pro-life’ movement’s philosophy is about.

  3. Sarah May 11, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    Ronnica:

    I guess I don’t understand how you can construe adoption as a choice and not support a women’s right to decide that she wants an abortion. Adoption can only remain a choice so long as abortion remains a choice- otherwise, adoption becomes the legally sanctioned hijacking of a woman’s body to produce a child she does not necessarily want to give birth to or that is a health risk to the mother. In the promotion of adoption as an alternative to abortion, you dismiss an unwanted pregnancy as an issue and assume that the issue is an unwanted child.

  4. Ronnica May 13, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Shayna: I get that we see this issue from different angles, and likely will never be able to convince each other to the other’s viewpoint. As long as I see the unborn child as a human, I can’t endorse the destruction of his or her life. But without that basic view, abortion isn’t as big a deal.

    Sarah: I’m not pro-choice…so I don’t even use that terminology. But the woman should have a choice…regardless of why she is pregnant, she does not have to choose to raise the child. Adoption is a very real option. It’d be great if we lived in a world without “unwanted” pregnancies and no need for adoption, but until then, I’ll be very much pro-adoption (but in no way forcing a mother to give up her child, but supportive of whichever path she chooses).

  5. Shannon Drury May 14, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    As a mother of two, I couldn’t agree with this post more. I planned every damned thing about my first baby–except how difficult an infant he was going to be and how unprepared I really was after I brought him home. I had the resources and support to make it through, but in my darkest hours I understood the desperation that less fortunate new parents feel. And in those situations, the adults don’t suffer–children do. Anyone who cares about children’s health and safety MUST support women’s reproductive freedom and autonomy.

  6. Shayna May 24, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    Ronnica – By forcing someone to go through with a pregnancy, even if she does give it up for adoption, you’re holding her body hostage, forcing her to go through a process (giving birth) that is traumatic to her body, will cause her to miss work, and whether the anti choice groups plan to compensate her for that time, studies have shown time and again that an absence as short as six weeks for maternity leave will cost women hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in lost earning potential and stunted career growth.

    And again, you’re saying that it’s okay to take a woman’s body hostage, which to me says that her life is worth less than an unformed fetus’s — which is not okay.

  7. Sarah R September 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    My husband and I conceived via fertility treatments (sexual abuse as a child damaged me and made it difficult to conceive).
    Despite wanting my baby more than anything in the world when my life was threatened by the pregnancy I was ready to abort. Fortunately for me my doctor was able to look after me and get me to 36 weeks so I could deliver a healthy baby.

    Ronnica, I’m grateful that I had the choice to have an abortion if I needed or wanted one.

    Unfortunately, if you’re not willing to give a woman the choice to abort her pregnancy then you are not “pro life” you are anti choice. I don’t mean to be pedantic but let’s call a spade a spade. If you don’t like being referred to as anti choice then don’t BE antichoice.

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