I was a second-year medical student, and married to an abusive man when I learned I was pregnant. I was so distraught, my best friend thought I must have cancer. “It’s worse,” I said. Though I was resource-poor, I had the love and support of my family and friends. My parents moved to help and provide child care. Because people told me I could, I have two amazing sons and became an OB-GYN doctor. Many women don’t have the support that I did.
According to a 2005 study published by Guttmacher Institute, the most common reasons women choose abortion are difficult financial and social situations (education, ability to work or care for dependents), unable to afford a baby now, and single or relationship problems.
The normalization of abortion on-demand has increased the burden of pregnancy and parenting on women, relieving men of their responsibility, and has resulted in businesses promoting and funding abortion rather than making meaningful accommodations for working mothers. After all, “she could have had an abortion; it’s her choice.” Abortion has not solved poverty. Rather, it has become a root cause of the feminization of poverty.
Is the only answer to unplanned pregnancy to abort our children? No! Pregnant women do have real choices because there is real help available.
In 2017, I skeptically walked into a Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC). I had heard they were judgmental, untruthful and tried to coerce women not to have abortions. I found the opposite to be true. They discussed with the women there five options: Parent single, Parent with partner/husband, temporary custody with a family or trusted friend, adoption and abortion. They also offered material resources, as well as a support person to walk with the mother through the pregnancy and after. If the woman chose abortion, they offered post-abortion recovery support.
Adoption is a brave, loving decision for life. Most adoptions are now “open,” allowing birth parents to have some involvement in their child’s life. They can choose the adoptive parents. The world is full of well-adjusted and thriving people who have been adopted.
There are approximately 3,000 Pregnancy Resource Centers in the United States providing free and low-cost services including pregnancy tests and STI screening; pregnancy ultrasounds; prenatal and parenting classes; free baby care items such as car seats, strollers, and diapers and clothes; and material assistance. In 2019 Pregnancy Resource Centers provided more than $266 million in free services and assistance to 1.85 million people.
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The authors of the Associated Press report quote the Turnaway Study, the basis for more than 50 studies about women who were denied abortion because they were past the gestational age cut-offs. Though this study has been claimed to prove women who are turned away from abortion have worse financial and mental health outcomes, its conclusions are invalidated by fatally flawed methodology, including:
- Non-random invitation of participants.
- 32% of the women “turned away” later had an abortion or miscarriage.
- Did not control for prior and subsequent pregnancies and abortions.
- Women in both groups were raising children not aborted, and many “turned away” were not raising children.
- The researchers refused requests to publish their questionnaires and make their data available for re-analysis, the usual scientific standard.
- Low participation rates, and high dropout rates. Only 37% of women invited agreed to participate, and only 17% of the women completed the five-year study.
There is abundant research documenting that abortion is a risk factor for mental illness when compared to childbirth. A 2011 meta-analysis of published literature included 22 studies finding abortion was associated with an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, including anxiety, 34%; depression, 37%; alcohol use/abuse, 110%; marijuana use/abuse, 220% and suicide behaviors 155%.
In my 24 years of practice, I regularly heard the lament and regret of women who had chosen abortion. They said, “I had no choice,” were pressured and often were alone. One woman asked, “how could I choose this one and not that one?” Not a one told me she was happy about her abortion.
I performed abortions in my early career, and also have regret. However, the Pregnancy Resource Center provided abortion-provider recovery. I know the brutality of abortion first-hand. Pregnant women deserve our help and support, not abortion. Be the hero. Offer help and hope.
It is of utmost importance that we also advocate for policies and governmental programs that alleviate poverty and support pregnant mothers — rather than adhering to the cruel pipe dream that abortion is the answer to poverty.
LifeNews Note: Catherine J, Wheeler, M.D., is a certified obstetrician/gynecologist. She practiced medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah for 24 years, and now resides in Divide. This column oriignally appeared at Colorado Politics.