The issue of abortions has always been a controversial one leading to multiple clashes between irreconcilable ideologies. Despite the recent trend of decline in the use of the procedures, the discussion remains valid (Jones & Jerman, 2017). There are certain critical social and economic situations in which a mothers decision to have an abortion can be justified. However, the discussion is complicated by various factors. The controversy is driven by the involvement of multiple parties, with each of them having the authority to be considered. These might include government, both parents, and a child, but the issue is often further expanded into religious and philosophical debates.
Various religious institutions condemn the practice emphasizing the right of a fetus to live. Their opponents, on the contrary, often concentrate on the mother’s right to decide what to do with her body and rely on the idea that a fetus is not yet a human being. Pro-life advocates use Christian dogmas to counter the pro-choice activists, but the given religion on its own does not directly condemn the practice, and their arguments mostly come from Aristotle’s ideas adopted by Thomas Aquinas (Brodziak et al., 2017). The issue lies in the fact that both parties are deeply convinced in their rightness and view their opponents arguments through the lenses of their ideology.
The fundamental differences in the initial stances and beliefs between these conflicting parties hinder the process of reaching a common ground and making weighted political decisions. A two-dimensional approach dismisses a large intermediary group of situationists. The best resolution is to move from ideology to facts and, instead of adhering to any absolutist values, evaluate the situations when the practice is, indeed, necessary (Rye & Underhill, 2020). Any black-and-white attitude will inevitably create major pitfalls within the established argument and positions, which means that such systems will be prone to failures. In some cases, abortions can be recommended on medical grounds, but such are not the only reasons that may explain the necessity. Abortions should also be allowed in instances of serious social or economic obstacles that may prevent a woman from giving birth to and raising a child.
Raising a child is a process that requires substantial financial resources. According to the United States Department of Agriculture 2015 report, even low-income families spend about $187, 270 on a child until the age of 17 (2017). The expenditure items include transportation, housing, food, clothing, healthcare, and education (United States Department of Agriculture, 2017). It should also be noted that apart from these bare necessities, children also need toys, pocket money, and personal devices, so they do not feel slighted and can grow, learn, and develop the same way their peers do. Therefore, before deciding to have a child, a family should carefully evaluate their resources. The economic pressure can be even more significant, in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, because single mothers do not have additional financial support from their partners. For a young unemployed woman or the one having a low-paid job, it can become an unsustainable burden. The same can be true for multi-child families who cannot afford to raise another one.
If a woman in poor economic circumstances is denied an abortion, the consequences might be quite significant. The research mentions that three-quarters of women who seek an abortion “struggle to pay for food, housing, and transportation” (Foster et al., 2018, p. 411). Comparing the financial situation of females who were denied an abortion and the ones who received the procedure, Foster et al. (2018) find that the first have higher rates of poverty, are less likely to be fully employed, and are more likely to rely on public assistance six months and four years after the denial. Pro-life advocates may point out that mothers can derive the necessary financial aid by seeking public support. However, evidence suggests that such assistance may not be sufficient enough to keep these families above the poverty line (Foster et al., 2018). Therefore, relying solely on financial support, a woman is not likely to have enough resources to adequately provide for her child. These economic difficulties may hurt a mother’s physical and mental health, handicapping her as a caregiver.
Since the primary concern of pro-life advocates is the life of the child, it is essential to emphasize that they are the ones who are likely to be directly affected by the difficult financial situation of the family. The study finds that, on average, the states with the most anti-abortion policies have more low birthweight babies, greater infant mortality rates, and a higher child death rate (Medoff, 2016). It is worth particular attention that these states also tend to provide less financial assistance to unmarried mothers and have larger percentages of children in poverty (Medoff, 2016). This might indicate that while pro-life supporters emphasize the importance of preserving a fetus’s life, the administration of the states with the most anti-abortion policies tend to not care as much for the babies once they are already born. Therefore, the financial assistance that is often mentioned as the way out for the mothers who live under the poverty line may, in fact, often be inaccessible or insufficient.
Some pro-life supporters may argue that life in poverty is better than no life at all, and even in desperate circumstances, people can lead happy, fulfilling lives. However, a difficult financial situation in the family is likely to influence the child’s life both on a short- and long-term basis. Research suggests that household poverty leads to poor health outcomes and lower school readiness, with the years spent below the poverty line is a major predictor (Roos et al., 2019). Adolescents living in poverty often may struggle to find purpose in life and engage in antisocial behavior, including violence, crime, and substance abuse (Machell et al., 2016). While poverty does not necessarily entail long-term negative consequences for all individuals, it may serve as an important predictor, especially if coupled with other adverse experiences such as poor mental health, violence, and drug addiction of one or several family members.
This explains why abortions should be allowed not only in the cases of economic desperation but also if a mother is underage, experiences psychological problems, or lives in social circumstances not suitable for pregnancy and raising a child (such as prison). The pregnancy itself can be complicated when a woman does not have access to sufficient nutrition and the necessary medical assistance and regularly experiences stressful situations. It can have significant adverse health implications both for her and for the child.
The problem of abortions is often discussed from a philosophical or religious perspective. However, it is implausible that the majority of people would agree on a particular theory. Therefore, relying on ideology while addressing such an important social issue would only impede reaching an area of agreement. Clashes between two deeply opposing positions would provoke more debates while thousands of women and children would suffer. Hence, the government must take a practical approach addressing situations when abortions should be allowed due to particular social and economic obstacles that make it impossible to adequately provide for a child’s wellbeing.
Foster, D. G., Biggs, M. A., Ralph, L., Gerdts, C., Roberts, S., & Glymour, M. M. (2018). Socioeconomic outcomes of women who receive and women who are denied wanted abortions in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 108(3), 407-413. Web.
Jones, R. K., & Jerman, J. (2017). Abortion incidence and service availability in the United States, 2014. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 49(1), 17-27. Web.
Machell, K. A., Disabato, D. J., & Kashdan, T. B. (2016). Buffering the negative impact of poverty on youth: The power of purpose in life. Social Indicators Research, 126(2), 845-861.
Medoff, M. (2016). Pro-choice versus pro-life: The relationship between state abortion policy and child wellbeing in the United States. Health Care for Women International, 37(2), 158-169. Web.
Roos, L. L., Wall-Wieler, E., & Lee, J. B. (2019). Poverty and early childhood outcomes. Pediatrics, 143(6). Web.
Rye, B. J., & Underhill, A. (2020). Pro-choice and pro-life are not enough: An investigation of abortion attitudes as a function of abortion prototypes. Sexuality & Culture, 24, 1829-1851. Web.
United States Department of Agriculture (2017). Expenditures on children by families, 2015. Web.