A couple weeks ago I had a girls weekend with 2 very good friends. Both of them would describe themselves as feminists. My one friend was recently married but doesn’t expect to have kids any time soon. We were discussing birth control and sex, as we are wont to do. My married friend and her husband are very careful and use hormonal and barrier methods; I just use hormonal. She pondered what would happen if she got pregnant now. I piped up and told her that if she wasn’t ready for kids, she could have an abortion. She was quite taken aback by my suggestion that she have an abortion “for convenience.” In her mind, she is married, she has a house, they have jobs, albeit her job is as a TA while in grad school – she and her husband could afford a child, and thus an abortion would be for mere “convenience.” As I am wont to do, I stated in no uncertain terms that if I got pregnant before I was ready, I would have an abortion.
Antis love to talk about how women have abortions for “convenience.” The definition of which is a moving target depending on which anti you speak with. I am currently reading Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. While little of it surprises me, it is very eye opening. She references hundreds of studies that have been done to discredit any notion that gender is innate. Many of these studies illustrate how women are constantly subjected to moving targets. In a series of studies, researchers demonstrated how participants would mould a job that was traditionally male in such a manner so as to make it fit the strengths of a male applicant. For example, when the job was as a construction manager, 1 applicant had more education and less experience and the other had more experience and less education. When sex was not mentioned, 76% of male undergrads strongly preferred the more educated applicant. When sex was mentioned, 75% preferred the better educated male candidate over a female candidate with more industry experience. But when the female applicant had more education, only 43% preferred her over the male with more experience (Norton, Vandello & Darley, 2004). In a similar study involving a police chief position when the applicant was a male, participants placed greater value on whatever skill he possessed more of, be it education or experience, more than the skill he possessed less of, so as to mould the job to fit his skills (Uhlmann & Cohen, 2005). As the researchers wryly stated, it is not a matter of picking the right person for the job, it’s picking the right job for the man. No matter what, when a job is traditionally male, women face a moving target that cannot be met.
When discussed in relation to motherhood notions of gender are even more punishing for women. In a study using identical resumes for 2 women, participants consistently rated the mother as 10% less competent and 15% less committed than the non-mother. Only 47% of mothers compared with 84% of non-mothers were recommended for hire as head of the marketing department for a start-up communications company. Not only that, but the mother was docked in her salary by a whopping $11,000 (Correll, Benard & Paik, 2007). When antis discuss abortion as a matter of convenience, are they considering that a mother is less hireable and worthy of significantly less salary than non-mothers? How can $11,000 be considered a matter of convenience? In a follow up study, employers were sent resumes for 2 applicants, both of the same gender. Men, whether they had kids or not, received the same number of call-backs. But women who had kids were subjected to a significant “motherhood penalty” and received half as many call-backs as their identically qualified childless counterparts (Crosby, Williams & Biernat, 2004). And the kicker? Women are punished for displaying “masculine” traits such as aggression just as much as they are punished for displaying “feminine” traits such as compassion (eg. Bolino & Turnley, 2003, and others).
Nothing about those statistics is a matter of convenience. I do not believe that any abortion can be said to have be done for mere convenience sake when mothers face this sort of discrimination. This is not even about career advancement, but simply hiring. The fact remains, if you are a mother you are less likely to be brought in for an interview, less likely to be hired, and you are going to be paid less. How can the inability to get interviews, get hired, or get paid be considered matters of convenience? The fact is abortions for convenience sake are a myth.