When I was a girl I loved reading the Des Moines Register and discussing current events with my parents. There was one thing I never asked them about. It was a steady drip of trouble that I didn’t understand. Women would be found dead, and they’d be pregnant, and although it appeared that a mass killer was on the loose, nobody ever went looking for him. Only later did I figure it out–these women had died from illegal or self-induced abortions or suicide.
During my first pregnancy, abortion was legal. I went to a woman’s clinic for prenatal care for the first few months. I had to walk through a sea of pro-life protestors to get there. Imagine walking through a crowd of bossy men and women making you feel guilty and telling you lies such as abortion causing breast cancer or that it is more dangerous than childbirth. It isn’t. Abortion is safer. I, however, wanted to have the baby.
Why isn’t every woman all about being a mom no matter what the circumstances? Why have women for centuries risked or ended their lives to end a pregnancy? The answer, of course, is that across the animal kingdom, pregnancy and childbirth are risky endeavors. The placenta and growing embryo compete with the mother for resources. The placenta has been called a parasitic organ that attacks the mother like cancer. Gestation is a tug of war between the mother and the fetus. When the mother is malnourished, young, has recently given birth, or is emotionally at risk, pregnancy can be a threat to both the mother and the embryo.
There seems to be a loose connection between pregnancy problems and bad relationships. If the woman is a victim of rape, she is more likely to have a pregnancy related problem such as pre-eclampsia.Pre-eclampsia is more common if the woman does not know the father of the baby well. The reason for this is not well-understood. If the mother experiences abuse before and during pregnancy, the baby is at increased risk of health problems such as autism.
Babies born to unhealthy mothers, either due to poor nutrition, exposure to toxins, or adolescence, face a lifetime of health problems. These include heart and blood pressure issues along with mental health struggles. If a woman delivers a baby and has not had good health care and nutrition, she faces health complications. including a prolapsed uterus and fistulas. Worldwide, one million women suffer the later. It’s awful. Even well-cared-for women can develop PTSD.
A woman who has just given birth is at increased risk for pulmonary embolism. How many women die due to complications of childbirth and pregnancy? Here in the cost-cutting budget-whacking modern US, we don’t know. We don’t know! However, more women in the US die during labor than soldiers die in war–and it has always been this way.
Most women understand the seriousness of having a baby, the importance of pregnancy spacing, and understand the costs of raising a child. Women spend thirty years trying to NOT get pregnant. Yet, over such a wide span of time, accidents can happen even despite the problems with modern sperm. In the United States, “mis-timed” pregnancies are fairly common–more common than in many other places, although the rate has been going down thanks to increased access to contraception. Unintended pregnancies are most prevalent for women in poverty and those who live in the Southern United States. Of unintended pregnancies, approximately 40% end in abortion and the rest in birth. Women who have been abused are more likely to seek an abortion. Minors–adolescents–are also likely. Given that these women are in most danger, it is realistic.
Unplanned/unwanted pregnancies bring depression no matter what the woman chooses to do. Most women do not regret having an abortion. Most mothers also accept and bond with their unwanted babies after they are born. However, poverty and neglect may follow.
It’s estimated that public cost of the unplanned births is over 20 billion dollars per year. Family planning services have decreased the rate of unintended pregnancies by nearly 70% in the U.S.
(More to come. This post got so long I split it into two pieces.)