A few days after the Women’s March on Washington, the new US administration banned public funding for national and international health groups that perform or even discuss abortion. I am distraught by the immense ramifications of such decisions on humanity: they significantly harm women’s health, gender equality, families’ well-being, and the health of future generations. Here’s why.
- Restricting funds to organizations that provide reproductive health services restricts access to all health services for millions of women: Reproductive health is women’s number one health concern, whether they intend to have children or not. Millions of women use their ObGyn or Planned Parenthood clinic for primary care.
- Restricting access to abortion increases a cost that is already overwhelmingly borne by women:
- Assuming a woman wishes to have two to three children, as most around the world seem to, she will spend about thirty years – 75% of her reproductive life – trying to avoid an unintended pregnancy.
- During those thirty years, she will likely need to take responsibility for contraception. In 75% of cases, couples use female contraceptives – condom use makes up much of the rest. Even for couples choosing surgical sterilization, female tubal ligations are twice as common as male vasectomies in the US, though far more intrusive and expensive.
- Unintended pregnancies inevitably and frequently happen: in the US, nearly half of all pregnancies are. That is nearly three million mistimed or unwanted pregnancies every year. Of those, about 40% are interrupted with an abortion.
- The remaining pregnancies result in babies arriving in the lives of parents with statistically higher levels of depression and relationship conflict than those with planned pregnancies. Within two years, a majority of these babies end up with an impoverished single mother in her twenties.
- Indeed, 75% of single parent households are headed by women. According to Pew Research Center, single mothers are les likely than single fathens to be living with a cohabiting partner (16% versus 41%). Single mothers are far more likely to be living at or below the poverty line—43% versus 24%.
- Infant development and child well-being indicators are very poor in these circumstances. The accumulation of Adverse Childhood Experiences further undermines these babies’ chances to one day escape the socio-economic and psychological dynamics that led to their unintended arrival.
We can only agree that it is in our collective best interest to stop these multi-generational dynamics of poverty, gender inequality, and poor emotional, mental and physical health outcomes. Abortions should be safe and legal, and they will remain rare if health groups that provide contraceptive services flourish in the US and around the world.
- Data resource – The Annie E. Casey Foundation
- Research on US and Global Reproductive Health: The Guttmacher Institute
- Article – “Pregnancy and the Single Woman” (The Atlantic, Dec 2014)
- Article – Unplanned Pregnancy and Family Turmoil (National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, April 2008)