Commentary Abortion

Honoring Motherhood Means Honoring a Woman’s Decision About Whether She Is Ready to Mother

Kirsten Moore & Strong Families

Let's recognize that the way to honor motherhood is to respect and support a woman’s decision about whether she is ready to be a parent. That means making sure that every pregnant woman, regardless of her ability to pay, has health care insurance coverage for all of her medical needs, including abortion.

This article is one in a series published in collaboration with our sister organization, Strong Families.

Mothering. Abortion. Two very big topics that may seem antithetical to one another.

But when you pull back the curtain a bit it’s easier to see how they are inextricably linked.

First — let’s look at the “WHO.” Who has abortions? According to the Guttmacher Institute, six in 10 American women seeking an abortion already have a child, and more than three in ten already have two or more children. Surprised?

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Not when you find out the second point: WHY. The fact is that one of the most common reasons a woman will give for deciding to seek an abortion is that she fears she cannot meet the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school, or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner

That’s not surprising when you stop and think about it. The National Poverty Center found that families headed by single women have the highest poverty rates, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor.

And it’s not just single moms. There are plenty of couples who are struggling to get by. More than six percent of married-couple households are living in poverty in the United States. When a couple is living paycheck to paycheck, the idea of another baby may feel like a blessing from God. Or it may feel like the tipping point between holding things together and losing complete control.

Today, a pregnancy can still mean the loss of a job if a woman can’t go back to work soon enough, or the loss of health if a woman isn’t able to pay for her prenatal visits. Either of these scenarios can easily spiral into loss of a place to live. Besides the not-so-simple economic calculations, what about the mom who already feels she can’t face another 18-hour day of balancing work, childcare, kids, groceries, bills, and keeping her home together – even on the best days?

To me, this feels like a thoughtful and honorable reason to end a pregnancy. She knows how big the job is. She knows what it demands of her and her partner. And she knows she is already stretched to the max. She has thought it through, weighing whether she can really take care of another child and give him or her what they need to live with dignity. If she decides she can’t, why would I want to convince her otherwise?

Unfortunately financial resources – or the lack thereof – can adversely affect not just a woman’s decision about whether to carry a pregnancy to term. They can also dictate her ability to access care. Imagine a woman who realizes she is pregnant, makes a decision to end the pregnancy, calls to schedule a procedure and learns it will cost at least $450 out of pocket. It takes her a few weeks to come up with the resources and she shows up at the clinic only to learn the pregnancy is further along than she believed. So now the procedure is potentially riskier and will cost more than $1,000. She starts again, but eventually, the clock runs out.

People like to assume that “oh, she’ll just find the money for an abortion.” But that doesn’t always happen. A National Bureau of Economic Research study on the variation of funding through a Medicaid program found that three in ten women ended up having a child because they could not afford an abortion.

Given how important this decision is, how far-reaching the impacts are for women and their families, why would we as a society want to put the option of affordable abortion care out of reach?

But that is what our public policy does for all too many women who live near or below the poverty line. For the past 35 years women who get their health insurance through Medicaid have been dealing with the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of public funds for abortion care unless the procedure is necessary to save the woman’s life or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

And it’s not just Medicaid. Women in the military, federal employees, Peace Corp volunteers, disabled women who are enrolled in the Medicare program, women in federal prisons, and women who receive care from Indian Health Services also have restricted access to abortion care. And now, policymakers are trying to extend these restrictions to the new health care exchanges that will be created in states.

Fortunately, this is not the case in every state. State Medicaid programs in 15 states currently provide coverage for abortion care. These policies are often under attack, but have been successfully defended in several states including those you might not think of such as West Virginia and Montana.

Let’s recognize that the way to honor motherhood is to respect and support a woman’s decision about whether she is ready to be a parent. That means making sure that every pregnant woman, regardless of her ability to pay, has health care insurance coverage for all of her medical needs, including abortion.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.