Why I’m Pro-Choice
As a woman, and especially as one who coos over baby shoes and browses babynames.com when she’s bored, abortion has always been a difficult personal subject for me. Though I hold the belief that a fetus is only a person when it first becomes cognizant and able to feel emotion, (which typically happens somewhere around the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third) I am well aware of the potential for life manifested in the rapidly dividing clump of cells of the first two trimesters. It is, therefore, difficult for me to imagine what I would do if I were ever put in the uniquely terrible position of being pregnant when unprepared for it.
For this reason, I am profoundly disturbed by two new anti-abortion bills that some of our lawmakers are shepherding through Congress. According to The New York Times, the first bill, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act” (the one which initially included the highly contested and highly ridiculous “forcible rape” clause), “would eliminate tax breaks for private employers who provide health coverage if their plans offer abortion services, and would forbid women who use a flexible spending plan to use pre-tax dollars for abortions.” The second, arguably more heinous bill, the “Protect Life Act,” would prohibit “Americans who receive insurance through state exchanges from purchasing abortion coverage, even with their own money.” This second bill could also allow hospitals, even in the event of emergency, to deny abortions to women if it offends the conscience of the health care providers.
First of all, let me say that this makes me angry. In my nightmarish fantasy of seeing the strip turn pink while still in college, the question of whether I can get an abortion–in my city, in a timely manner, and for a reasonable price–is not an issue. If I have to make that heartbreaking decision, I don’t want to be faced with the sudden realization that, if I do choose to get an abortion, I may not be able to pay for it or that medical staff might refuse my request.
What bothers me more, however, is that this is a situation that would not affect me as severely as it would others. Poor women, as well as federal employees, and military women, will truly bear the brunt of the burden. The average cost of a first trimester abortion in the U.S. is about $450. If I, as a middle-class girl with a savings account and a relatively liberal family am committed to terminating a pregnancy, I can probably figure out some way to come up with that money, even if my parent’s insurance won’t cover it because of the new bill. The same is not the case with every girl my age.
In my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, teen pregnancy is a devastating problem. Texas holds the title for the highest rate of teen pregnancies, while San Antonio is third in the nation for repeat teen birth rates. Additionally, according to state surveys, about 60 percent of San Antonio is Hispanic, the ethnic group with the highest national rate of teen pregnancies (52 percent of Hispanic women become pregnant before the age of 20). Finally, about 20 percent of San Antonio lives below the poverty line. San Antonio is a depressing example of the unfair truth: poor, non-white women are the ones who are most likely to become pregnant at a young age–yet these are the women we would deny abortion care. So even though I am statistically unlikely to get pregnant, if I do, I have a world of options, including a supportive, middle class family with which to raise my child should I choose.
My socioeconomically deprived hometown counterpart does not have my options. When Speaker of the House John Boehner eliminates tax breaks to the struggling company her mother works for because their health insurance plan covers abortion care, the company will change plans. If this nameless girl gets pregnant, (not unlikely, as Texas still only funds abstinence-only education) her mother’s minimum wage job will not allow for a spare $450 and she will likely have the baby. This new mother will be less likely to graduate high school and college and more likely to live in poverty. Her child is more likely to go to jail than if she had been born later, and more likely to get pregnant as a teen herself.
So yes, these bills make me angry. The lawmakers who are trying to pass this bill are the same people who have been choking our youth with abstinence-only education for decades, despite no proof that it is effective in preventing pregnancy or STIs. And now they are trying to effectively deny lower-class women (those arguably most affected by lack of in-school sexual health education) the right to choose when and how they will start a family.
No, I am not completely comfortable with abortion, and I don’t know how I would react if I got pregnant. But that’s why I call myself Pro-Choice–I want the right to choose. Just as importantly, I want the right to pay for an abortion if I elect to have one and I want employers to be able to cover it should they choose. In the end, it is all about choice, and it is unacceptable for our lawmakers to use weak claims of fiscal and personal responsibility to limit mine – or anyone else’s.
Francis is a member of the class of 2014.