The 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade has the internet exploding with stories of women sharing their own experiences of abortion. Both sides of this issue are making compelling arguments for being either pro-choice or pro-life.
Interestingly, despite the lowered rates of abortion in the country overall, there are still more lower income and poor women having abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Most often, the women having abortions are simply poor. Statistics show that in 2014, three-fourths of abortion patients were low income—49% living at less than the federal poverty level, and 26% living at 100–199% of the poverty level.
Here are some more interesting facts:
1) 59% of abortions in 2014 were obtained by patients who had had at least one birth, meaning they were already mothers.
2) The three most common reasons each cited by three-fourths of patients—were 1) concern for or responsibility to other individuals 2) the inability to afford to raise a child 3) the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for other dependents.
4) 50% said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner
To help put the terms low income and poverty in perspective:
Low-income is considered 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and poor is defined as 100 percent of the poverty level. For example, a family of four making less than $23,624 is considered at the federal poverty level, and $47,248 is considered low income. Researchers found white children make up the largest proportion of low-income children, and Hispanics the largest share of poor children. Overall, black, American Indian, and Hispanic children are all disproportionately low income and poor.
With both pro-choice and pro-life marches happening this month, we are also hearing stories coming out of both camps that are filled hope, shame, struggle, overcoming and ultimately “healing”.
Recently I came across a story written by a constitutional lawyer/ abortion storyteller, where she often shares her voice for an organization that “builds power with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice”. That’s a wordy way of saying that they have created an organizational network of women who have had abortions from all walks of life to support other women from all walks of life who have had abortions or are thinking about having abortions.
Her latest article highlighted how her past abortion strengthened her once-fractured relationship with her mother. It was shared over 18,000 times with abounding applause.
Then there are the stories of Christian women in the pro-life camp who write about the very same things that the women in the pro-choice camp write about, except the women in the pro-life camp incorporate their faith in Christ into their healing, grieving and hope-filled stories. They lend their voices to give encouragement to other women who have had abortions so that they can learn to “acknowledge the trauma of abortion” and embrace that the “process of healing doesn’t mean we have to spend our lives as wounded women”.
No woman wants to live her life as a “wounded woman” over past abortions so these kinds of stories are applauded en masse as well, especially by many Christian women and pro-life supporters.
Similarly, what women in both camps have in common is that they were able to go on and attain a certain level of moderate outward success, either personally or professionally. We love a good “overcoming” story. We are fixated on “healing”, regardless of what route our healing takes. – either secular “success” through higher education attainment or personal faith-based “success” through relying solely on the forgiveness of our sins through our faith in Christ by spending the rest of our lives relying on that faith.
Stories of healing are extraordinarily significant, sadly, even when women incorporate a sense of purposeful reflection on the murder of their babies to drive that “overcoming” or “healing” point home.
Lamentably, the majority of the voices missing from this conversation are the invisible women who keep their babies alive.
If 75% of the women having abortions come from lower-income or poor backgrounds, that means there are millions of women in this socioeconomic demographic who keep their babies, in spite of their lower income or poverty bracket. These women know that their future will include long seasons of food stamps, Section 8, and WIC, yet they never contemplated taking a trip to the abortion clinic down the street to divert that projection or position in life.
Tragically, a mother who falls in the lower income or poor bracket knows that keeping her baby alive is going to make her invisible to her family, to her church, to her community. She will become a single parent statistic. She will no longer have a name, but rather she will be known as ” so-and-so’s mother” (insert baby name)
Women who kept their babies had dreams too. Maybe going to college to make something of herself. She may have dreamed of one day not having to rely on government assistance to put food in her fridge, gas in her car or subsidies to pay her rent.
She may have wanted to be that teacher, that doctor or that lawyer.
She probably wanted to move away from the crime, the drugs, or the chronic drama of having to deal with a “baby daddy”, who treated her more like she was a commodity to use, but not invest any real time in. That reality probably stung the most.
She may have wanted more but inherently she also valued more.
Nevertheless, because of that one choice she made over that one guy who uttered empty promises to her or “hooked up” with as form of empowerment….which is the very same dilmena that many women find themselves in, she chose a different route- to let her baby live. In doing so, she completely derailed her own life in the process. The only difference between her and those other woman is that instead of aborting her baby, she aborted her life.
She aborted her aspirations of immediately going to college and getting out of the lower income bracket she now qualified for. She found herself drowning in a life she didn’t plan for. However, one thing was for certain….aborting her baby was never a part of her unplanned plan. It simply was never an option.
So she signed herself up for WIC, as well as state paid OBGYN care. When it was time to have her baby, she took herself to the hospital. Or, depending on the state of her relationship with her mom, a close friend or the baby daddy, one of them might have have been there at the hospital with her. Nothing was guaranteed anymore so she took any support she could get, even if the support was not that supportive or came with extra emotional baggage.
Her self-worth plummeted to the point of being nonexistent. Her aspirations of something more…..shredded apart. All she had were sleepless nights, caring for a baby she didn’t know how to care for. Even though she found herself crying every time her baby cried at 2 am or 4, the reality of her unplanned plan of keeping her un-aborted baby alive is not something she dwelled on. She just never questioned if she made the right choice to keep her baby alive. She knew she just did.
She also never had the privilege of questioning whether or not she was pro-life or pro-choice. Granted she never had to deal with the shame, guilt, or remorse that abortion often brings to a woman’s psyche, nevertheless, she still carried guilt, shame, and remorse because this side of the Fall, that’s a guarantee for all of us.
Pro-lifers are often Christian. Pro-life marchers are often middle to upper-class individuals. There are countless ministry efforts where Christians organize and rally together to take trips to the “abortion mill” in the hopes of talking a woman out of aborting her baby. When it happens, it is indeed commendable and praiseworthy. To be able to talk a woman out of an abortion is an honorable duty because the precious life of a baby was saved and for that alone we should be thankful for those ministry efforts.
But then there are the Christian “closet” pro-choicers. These are the ones that complain that the pro-lifers are not doing enough. They accuse the pro-lifer of not caring about babies from “the womb to the tomb”. They make it their life’s mission to chronically rebuke the Christian pro-lifer by singing about, writing poems about, growing platforms on, or jumping on the pro-choice bandwagon by attending a local Women’s March to declare how much more they care about the lives of lower-income women, mothers and babies. Through easy advocacy and activism they are not doing any more or any less than the pro-life advocates that they “valiantly” reproof.
Both conservative Christian pro-lifers and liberal Christian pro-choicers in the church have a major blind spot if neither are willing to literally stand in the gap in support of lower income single mothers who have made, and daily make, the hard decision to keep her baby or the myriad of women who never felt inclined to head to the abortion clinic in the first place. There are millions of women who have never questioned if she should have kept or aborted her baby because she simply and quietly, “just kept”.
In our desire to make a difference in our churches and our communities through our activism and advocacy, while also trying to prove that those on the other side of this controversial abortion issue that we care more about the poor or the baby or the women, we fail to see that in our bickering over who understands the problem more thoroughly, the low-income woman or mother simply slinks back in defeat and retreats into invisible obscurity because she can’t wait around for us to get it right. She’s got kids to raise.
Let’s learn to help these women not feel invisible when they decide to keep their baby, by providing an unconditional network that she can rely on during and after her pregnancy, for child care, for counseling and parenting classes, for encouragement, maybe even a place to live for awhile, until she can figure out the direction that her life now needs to take as she cares for her little ones.
Yes, let’s help her attain secular success by helping her go back to school so that she can support her children and her family, but also, and most importantly, let’s introduce her to the God that we serve, the one who tells us to love the poor and the fatherless. Let’s help her learn to trust Him and look to his Son, our Messiah and King, who reigns over her life so that she can see that her value and worth does not depend on that baby daddy who comes in and out of her life without any regard for her need for security and stability, not only for herself, but most importantly, her children. Let’s model for her, with our own lives, what relying on a trustworthy God looks like, regardless of our circumstances.
Let’s teach her that progressive sanctification is what being a daughter of a King is about. And while we are showing, teaching and modeling, we will discover that the Christian life is harder than we thought, making us rely on God in ways that stretch us as well.
Getting out of our comfort zones, we will find that “do as I say” is empty and the Christian life is more about “do as I do” or rather, “let’s do this together”.
Mutual edification will ultimately be the consequence of a life lived for Christ.
Our care and concern should not just stop at wanting to end abortion. As we proudly sign and share pro-life petitions on social media this month, or don our pro-life or Women’s March t-shirts, while we carry our bullhorns and signs to our local marches, we need to be willing to ask ourselves how far are we willing to go to show that we are truly pro-life or pro-women kind of people.
Are we only willing to sacrifice an afternoon with a sign in our hands, or will we be a people who put everything on the line for our activism, including our homes, our finances, our comforts, even if it means interrupting our lifestyles, preferences or schedules?
What is being pro-life really worth to us?
This blog first appeard on Ariel’s personal blog at arielgbovat.com