Pro-Life? Support women who are struggling to survive

Jamie Brian, Opinion writer

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will strand American women in a situation with no exit ramp. Without access to abortion, they will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

If Justice Alito’s draft overturning the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion becomes law, it will hand the decision-making process on abortion access and legality to individual states. In states that choose to criminalize abortion regardless of the situation, including rape and incest, women will be carrying more than just a child. Their pregnancy will be a constant reminder of the trauma they have endured. Perhaps the most traumatic thought for women will be knowing they no longer have a say in their own destinies.

Anti-abortion activists have long touted the value of human life in advocacy campaigns, with TV commercials featuring echoes of heartbeats as a symbol for their movement. However, their imagery very rarely progresses past the early days of a child’s life. Once a child is born, what happens next?

For many American women, especially poor women and members of marginalized communities, this is the most frightening question of all. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, 49 percent of women who received an abortion in 2014 lived below the federal poverty level, a 7 percent increase from 2008. Unable to travel long distances across state lines to receive abortion care, they will have no choice but to carry the pregnancy to term.

Once the child is born, he or she will awaken in an America with few social safety nets. Without healthcare, paid maternity leave or childcare, poor women will be left to raise children on their own if they do not choose adoption. Finding an adoptive family for a child is a process that can range from a few months to over a year. It may not be a suitable choice for a woman depending on her situation, including health concerns that would make continuing the pregnancy dangerous.

If a mother decides to keep her child, she will be faced with a harsh reality: raising a child is an expensive endeavor. According to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child to adulthood, not including college tuition, is $233,610. Adjusted for inflation, this number would be closer to $267,233.

For low income women who are unable to access an abortion, economic hardship will echo for years. The Turnaway Study is a study by the University of California, San Francisco that examined the long-term effects of unwanted pregnancies on women’s lives. Researchers found that women who were denied an abortion “experienced an increase in household poverty lasting at least four years relative to those who received an abortion.” Unable to cover expenses like housing, transportation or food, they will search for a way to survive.

If anti-abortion activists want to protect life, they should focus on improving the lives that are already in existence: the women working two jobs to pay for groceries, the 20-somethings selling plasma to pay for rent and the patients slicing medications in half to make them last longer. This is where the heartbeat of the country truly is.

It’s out there in the shadows of America, waiting for someone to listen.

Jamie Brian is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected]