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?