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Friday, September 10, 2010

'Abortion fund' is going broke

The other day I read a blog post about how the New York Abortion Assistance Fund is "going broke" and they are making pleas for financial assistance. The non-profit organization provides money to low-income women for them to seek an abortion.

A couple things bugged me, and continue to do so. First, as a Christian, I have a problem with abortion, but - a BIG but - realize that sometimes there is no choice. An ectopic pregnancy, for instance, can threaten your chances of getting pregnant in the future and even kill you if left untreated. Although rare, they do happen, and apparently from some figures, are on the rise.

This is a topic that I tend not to write about, simply because it crosses over into difficult territory when it comes to matters of morality, politics, and spirituality. (I hesitate to use the term 'religion,' because there is a difference.) But this time, I couldn't help myself and it weighed so heavily on me that I had to say something.

I went to the NYAAF's website and saw they were having a number of fundraisers to help their cause. They spoke of a recession being to blame for donations being down, and were holding a bowl-a-thon and some kind of event with alcohol (wine tasting, maybe?) to raise funds. I kind of frowned, because the whole idea of a "bowl-a-thon to support abortion" seemed so bizarre and to almost trivialize the whole thing. That, and kind of thought, "Isn't one of the main attractions of their fundraiser - alcohol - probably what aids in more unplanned pregnancies all over the world?"

Ironically, the very recession that's causing funding of this program to dwindle should be the biggest motivator for people to make even more of an effort to prevent pregnancy.

I then went a little further by researching some of the reasons most commonly cited for abortions. Economics is definitely one of them, where many low- and middle-class women decide to have one because they just can't afford to keep the baby. Only five percent, according to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, are done because of situations involving rape or incest, and an equally small number are performed for life-threatening medical conditions.

Fetal abnormalities and sexual assault aside, the greatest number of abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, are done because of convenience reasons. I won't so much go into that as much as I am blown away by those who claim 'they had no idea' about access to pregnancy information, how to prevent one, or even claiming that birth control is "inaccessible."

I'm not sure I can believe this.

In today's age, we have unlimited access to the internet, computers, libraries and publications - the works - all at our fingertips. I am willing to bet a large percentage of those people who fall into the "low-income" bracket have a computer at home. At the very least, they can obtain a library card, which gives them unfettered access to library computers, magazines and other publications that can tell them all they need to know and more about birth control and its proper usage. I am wondering why more people don't take advantage of these resources.

You can also go down to any corner drugstore in probably every small town and big city in North America and buy a box of condoms or spermicide. Heck, you can even get them in a vending machine at the truck stop. I mean, is limited finances really a valid excuse anymore? Why not do something to prevent a pregnancy in the first place - because, we should all know that what goes in must come out - and avoid the heartache, emotional and psychological pain, as well as social stigma, whether right or wrong, of having an abortion?

In today's American classrooms sex education classes are usually offered. I have mixed feelings about this: personally, I think parents need to do a better job in educating their children about this stuff and tell their kids the facts, instead of letting them hear it on some talk show or off the street. It doesn't mean you have to hand out birth control; it just means you need to tell your kids that there is always a risk of getting pregnant any time you have sex. Period.

I can't help but think of a couple friends I have on FaceBook who gave birth before their twenties and are now entering grandmotherhood at age 34.

It's estimated that about 18 percent of abortions are performed on teens. And I'm guessing that a growing number of those teens fit the "low-income" category the NYAAF is talking about because they feel they cannot go to their parents for financial assistance when it comes to either having an abortion or raising a baby.

Conversely, I'm wondering just what parents are telling their kids about sex these days. From the looks of it, based on the questions I see on the birth boards I frequent, not a whole hell of a lot. One classic question came up the other day: "Can I get pregnant from having anal sex?" Excuse me? I hope this is bogus. As I told the person, "If you have to even ask this question, then you probably shouldn't be having sex in the first place." If we have such basic misunderstanding or complete lack of knowledge about our anatomy, it's not a wonder teens - and even adults - get pregnant.

Aside from the anal sex question, I have seen more than my fair share of "Am I pregnant?!" questions, including "Can I get pregnant from skipping two pills in my pill pack?" That's usually pretty common. I don't know what's going on here - either the sex ed they're doing in school is not working, or people need to read basic instructions. If you've ever had a prescription filled, you know that the pharmacy includes basic patient information on how to take your medicine. And even if it's not a prescription, there are the package inserts that come with condoms, spermicide - heck, sometimes it's even written on the outside of the box - that plainly say how to use it, when to use it, and that it could fail. Therefore no one can ever say "I had no idea," because it's all right there. Perhaps a milk carton campaign is in order - whatever it takes to get the word out. But its genesis has to start somewhere - and I do think that's squarely with the parents.

Unfortunately I think some parents believe this role should be approached by the public school or the government. And abstinence is always an option, although people quickly dismiss it and say "it doesn't work." As my physician father-in-law says, "Abstinence works every time it's tried." The problem is, it doesn't work because no one's trying it. I've heard the argument "that's unrealistic - humans are sexual beings," as if to justify why it's normal for someone to have sex even though they shouldn't be, as if they just can't help themselves. I'm sorry, but we aren't animals, and unless you're capable of either seeking treatment for an STD, preventing an unwanted pregnancy, taking care of a baby, or dealing with any of the other myriad problems that sexual intercourse presents, you shouldn't be having sex.

And not surprisingly, a lot of teens take a very cavalier approach to sex and pregnancy, comprising a growing number of people affected by STDs before they're even 18. Some I've read questions from use terms like "getting rid of it" to describe what to do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy, and many describe situations about having an abortion only to suspect that they're pregnant just a few months, or even weeks, later. I wonder, does the NYAAF endorse this kind of behavior?

Statistics say that half of American women will have had an unintended pregnancy by the time they are 45. I can say, that two summers ago, I became one of those women. I am happily married, but for whatever reason - namely, because I wanted to lose more weight - I was not planning on getting pregnant. Thinking I knew my cycle like clockwork, I got pregnant. That was a major shocker - I was totally unprepared, in denial, and scared. Then, after a few days of fits of weeping and sadness, I pulled my head out of my ass and realized that maybe this could work better than I thought it could.

As a woman who lives in New York State, I technically (probably) meet their "low-income" requirements. (We already qualify for WIC, which seems kind of laughable, actually.) However, I know that I can easily get reliable birth control, even without a prescription. I know that I have choices - they include not having sex, or protecting myself. And, ironically, the one time birth control failed me was when I did not use it.

Because I don't have a money tree growing in my yard, I sought out an alternative to getting prescription birth control: one that doesn't involve hormones, and is fairly convenient and easy to use. You can get it at Target, Walmart, and I'm sure lots of other places. I know people of all economic backgrounds shop at Target and Walmart, and so I'm wondering where the idea of having limited access to reliable birth control comes in.

Of the women surveyed by the Guttmacher Institute, "fifty-four percent of women who have had abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently."(emphasis mine) A certain percentage reported getting pregnant while using those methods, and reporting consistent usage; we can assume that a) these people contribute to the reported failure rate of certain forms of contraception, or b) that perhaps their idea of 'consistent' isn't all that consistent. And, "each year two percent of women aged 15-44 have an abortion; half have had at least one previous abortion." That's quite a large number, when you consider the entire female population of the United States.

Even more alarming, is that of those surveyed, nearly 50 percent of them had used no contraception whatsoever. "Of these, 33 percent had perceived themselves to be at low risk for a pregnancy." Scary. The study goes on to say that, statistically, those people for whom non-use of contraception is greatest are those who are "young, poor, black, Hispanic or less educated." That opens up another can of worms for sure, a can so big I could devote an entire blog to it.

Interestingly enough, when I googled "pregnancy prevention" I found a lot of resources that dealt with teenagers. However, statistics show that women between the ages of 20 to 24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and around 24% of women aged 24 to 29 obtain one. As if to reflect the trend of abortion for convenience sake, one particular website offers the stories of unremorseful women who've had abortions - many, if not all, of which featured stories from women who got pregnant because of extreme lapses in judgment involving alcohol use, or because they simply did not use contraception (or both). I went round and round with one woman who supports the site not that long ago, who's newspaper editorial on the subject - and her rather blase attitude about the whole thing - started off a veritable firestorm of fury.

Of course we know birth control can fail. Prescription, non-prescription; we know it can happen. I remember one woman on a birth board who had like six kids, all of which were conceived while she was taking some form of birth control. If you are concerned at all about preventing pregnancy, then at the very least, use it. The Guttmacher Institute and others say that even though there is some margin for failure when using protection, it's still much better than not using anything. And if you're really concerned about getting pregnant, double up. If you have a known medical illness that could pose serious threats to your health should you get pregnant, double up. It seems rather simple, really.

It's hard not to draw some conclusions here: that people who choose not to use birth control and have sex, yet wind up pregnant unintentionally, are somehow not taking responsibility for themselves. Blaming an inability to afford it seems like a weak excuse when you consider the growing number of cheap, effective ways of preventing pregnancy. Coupled with ignorance about basic bodily functions and a complete lack of motivation to find out about them, it presents an alarming trend.

You don't really have to be a rocket scientist to prevent a pregnancy. I guess it just means you have to want to prevent one. I would (and probably do) dole out taxpayer money to educate women (and men!) to become better advocates of their own health - and to take charge of their fertility - before it's too late.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had an abortion a few years ago. My tubal ligation failed, and it turns out it actually wasn't performed correctly in the first place. I chose to resume using my previous method of birth control, which had been 100% reliable.

If this birth control fails (always possible), I will have another abortion.

The fact is, birth control options are currently poor: side effects, operator error, manufacturer's error, $$$... Vasectomy is a great option. Vasectomy has an extremely low failure rate.

If you care about minimizing the number of unintended pregnancies, especially among married women, be an advocate for vasectomy. Man up.

Anonymous said...

"At the very least, they can obtain a library card, which gives them unfettered access to library computers, magazines and other publications that can tell them all they need to know and more about birth control and its proper usage."

Well, maybe. What if you work a job (or two, or three!) that prevents you from getting to the library during open hours? What if you don't have access to a car or reliable public transportation? What if you went through abstinence only education? What if you don't have the type of relationship that allows you to choose when or when not to have sex? What if resources aren't available in your language? What if, what if?

Sure, the vast majority of women who get abortions wish they'd never gotten pregnant to begin with. But they did. And now they're taking responsibility for their lives or the families they have now and making a decision about their best long-term interest. It's the decision that's best for them, for their unique circumstances.

Every situation we're faced with is the accumulation of our choices, someone else's choices for us, and the forces that act around us. That doesn't mean we throw up our arms and do nothing. It means we figure out how to deal with what comes. Sometimes that means having a baby, sometimes it means having an abortion.

The Deranged Housewife said...

A vasectomy costs money, too. And if people are looking for something non-surgical or temporary, that is not really an option.

I don't think birth control options are poor - people's attitudes towards preventing pregnancy are. When I go to the drug store I can pick from several different options, all of which are pretty easy to use: if you know how to insert a tampon, you can use spermicide. I chose to use something I needed only for when I chose to have sex, which is cheaper than taking something once daily when I'm not even going to need it, theoretically. It figures out to be a little over $1 per dose. How often do people have sex, anyways?

As far as side effects, I'm not sure I buy that, either. Again, there are choices, and not all of them are hormonal. Repeat abortions can have side effects - like scarring of the uterus, which can complicate future wanted pregnancies.

In my view, it's not so much about people who have the abortion - but do it again and again that frosts me. They use it as a form of birth control, which is complete irresponsibility. How many abortions must someone have before they realize they need to "woman up" and start using better/more protection?

http://www.ivillage.com/risks-repeated-abortion/4-n-108313

And again, I find the plethora of excuses why access to information and birth control is limited to be suspect. Language barrier? Find someone who can interpret for you. Call a pregnancy hotline for more information; ask a nurse, call an obstetrics ward of the hospital. As far as unstable relationships that can produce an unwanted pregnancy, seek help - are you saying it's easier to obtain an abortion than flee from an abusive relationship? Both seem pretty difficult to me - emotionally, physically, and psychologically. You have to make a choice.

As the second person said, it's all about choices - if you choose not to use protection, that's a choice you have made. If you use it inconsistently, that's also a choice you have made. It should be more about taking responsibility for those choices, instead of blaming other people for a possible bad decision. (Obviously the unintended pregnancy as a result of a botched tubal is beyond your control and a horse of a different color entirely.)

As far as unintended pregnancies among married women, we cannot assume that all unintended pregnancies in married couples will remain unwanted, if you get my meaning. In my case, especially, initially I did not want to get pregnant, but that doesn't mean I'll seek out an abortion. Even though it was initially unplanned, I saw no reason why my husband and I, who are in a stable, loving relationship, could not have this child. Generally, married couples are in a better position to support another baby than someone who is unwed, in an abusive or non-existent long-term relationship, with no support system, etc. Statistically women who are having abortions are single and not in a long-term relationship/co-habitating with a partner.

The Deranged Housewife said...
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The Deranged Housewife said...
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The Deranged Housewife said...

Sorry, slow computer and lots of duplicate posts.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I will say this: from my perspective, it's a spiritual matter as well. Being in a stable, loving relationship, I will not terminate a pregnancy because I either a) made the choice not to use protection or b) was protected and still got pregnant. For me personally, getting pregnant even while on birth control is God's way of saying this was his plan for my life. And admittedly, preventing a pregnancy is perhaps going against what God's will is.

There are so many facets to this argument - especially, as a Christian, the part about God and what he wants for us in terms of our fertility - that I would be here all day, for sure.

Anonymous said...

I'm married. Neither my husband nor I wanted a pregnancy, obviously, since I'd had a tubal ligation.

Some other facts: we're both self-employed, and insured with individual health insurance policies. Neither policy covers pregnancy. Ever paid for a C/S or NICU stay out-of-pocket? I'd also be unable to work at my job for half of my pregnancy, and it would take years for me to rebuild the business, so I'd lose a ton of income just as we'd incur huge expenses (kids aren't cheap). I'm guessing a lot of women who choose abortion are in situations similar to mine.

Let's talk about birth control failure rates, too. Assume virginity until marriage at age 23, followed by 25 years of fertility. Consider birth control pills, a popular choice. A couple of websites say there's about a 3% failure annual rate for birth control pills. A group of 100 women using birth control pills would expect 3 pregnancies/year (97 would not become pregnant). Multiply that by 25 years of sexual activity and that's 75 unintended pregnancies.

No wonder 50% of pregnancies in this country are unintended - which is not to say always unwanted, as you've pointed out.

As for abortions causing uterine scarring: early medical abortions cause no more damage than an early miscarriage. They're clinically indistinguishable.

I have plenty of sympathy for women whose birth control fails. I've been there. It sucks.

I have no regrets, and if my current form of birth control fails before my husband has that vasectomy, I'll have another abortion. I guess I'll be a repeat offender. This does not trouble me.

Elizabeth A. said...

It really doesn't bother me much either. Of course, education is paramount but apparently no one has figured how to get that message out effectively. As the comedian says, "You can't fix stupid." And teenagers are stupid.

If it keeps one kid out of the foster system, then it's fine by me.

I would love not to use a hormonal birth control as I have for the past 10+ years, but it's my best option even though it interferes with my other medications. I really miss using Depo, but I can't because of my depression. Doctors are rather reluctant to explore other options because I'm 26. Spermicide and/or condoms aren't a reliable enough option because there's no doubt in my mind I would terminate the pregnancy asap even though I'm in a happy marriage with sound finances.

sara said...

I agree with pretty much everything you said in your post. My husband's step-brother impregnated at least 2 girls that my husband knows of, and both of them had abortions. My viewpoint of abortion is directly related to what I read in the Bible- God sees even the embyro of us, and although men may argue semantics about when a baby becomes a life, there are no such questions in the Creator's mind. Life begins in the womb an at the time of conception, and He views each life as precious. To destroy that life, no matter how small, is not a trivial thing in his eyes.

I was in a similar position to you- my husband and I had just celebrated our 7th anniversary and are relatively financially stable, but we didn't really have the desire for children. I was charting my cycles and using barrier methods and we still found out that we were pregnant with my daughter. I was in shock- I spent the first 12 weeks in denial...until I saw the ultrasound. It was really amazing. I don't think that He intentionally gave me my daughter, but I also didn't know how wonderful being a parent would be. I had an awesome pregnancy, labor, and birth, and my daughter is all that I ever could have dreamed she would be (she's almost 8 months old). I can't fathom how someone who has children could have an abortion knowing what they are terminating? We got over our shock and now our life is mostly the same, but better :) I am looking forward to having one more, hopefully.

And the fact that there are at the same point in time, thousands of women having abortions, and also thousands of women fighting with infertility...it's really sadly ironic.

Anonymous said...

You are condescending and insulting in your response to a teen's honest question about anal sex, implying it is either a stupid question or a joke, showing that it is YOU who are undereducated about sex and unqualified to give advice. Sorry if I'm offending you, but you brought this up and expressed outrage at it.

This is actually a very good question, and the answer to it is actually "Yes, you can, although probably not and much less likely than through vaginal sex." If you had actually had real experience with anal sex, or at least watched some fine pornography featuring it, you would know this. By necessity I'll be explicit in explaining; ejaculation is messy business--what goes in must come out, and it is very easy for semen to leak and dribble from behind into the vagina, where it can cause pregnancy, especially if further manipulation follows.

This isn't just anecdotal or speculation either; there have been studies on couples whose method of birth control is anal sex showing a significant, although relatively low rate of failure, when not backed up by condoms or other methods. So please drop the attitude and admit you were wrong.

Anonymous said...

>>thousands of women having abortions, and also thousands of women fighting with infertility...it's really sadly ironic.>>

I found out much later that the same week I found out my tubal ligation failed and I had an immediate abortion, one of my friends had another unsuccessful IVF cycle.

That is because no matter one's personal beliefs, life is not fair. Believe me, I wish I were infertile. I'd have had no way of knowing this prior to the failed tubal ligation because my birth control prior was 100% effective for me, but if I were actually infertile I'd also never have known my tubal had been botched. I'd have been spared a lot of painful, expensive (much not covered by insurance) and humiliating testing in order to figure out the tubal was no good and could not be relied upon.

There's no way my continuing an unwanted pregnancy would have "made up" for anyone's infertility problems.

From the Guttmacher Institute, re: birth control use and women seeking abortions:

54% were using birth control the month they became pregnant.

46% were not. Of these, 33% thought they were "low risk" (older, etc.); 32% had "concerns" about their former birth control methods (side effects and cost, anyone?), 26% had unexpected sex (even married women do this, and once is all it takes) and 1% had been forced.

Non-use of birth control is more common amongst poor, young, less educated, and minority women. Many were probably all of the above. Not coincidentally, these groups tend to have very little disposable income available to pay for birth control.

IOW, these women have little in common with married, insured, educated women who have the wherewithal to purchase computers and internet access. Becoming a single mother is one of the most reliable ways to stop one's education and stay in poverty for life, so I understand why this group elected abortion: for the same reasons I did, albeit in more extreme circumstances.

Finally, I know exactly what I'm terminating: I have a doctorate in a biological science, and I've seen plenty of embryos. Five weeks looks pretty much the same no matter the species. It's a life, but my life and the lives of those who depend upon me are far more important.

The Deranged Housewife said...

How I am "undereducated" about sex? I'm sure there are ways you *can* get pregnant from anal sex, if you think about it. But if you have to ask the question, 'Can I get pregnant from (any kind, really) sex?' then you shouldn't be having sex. That is the main problem, though - the fact that a teen would rather go to someplace like Yahoo Answers rather than ask either their parents or a doctor. Probably the biggest reasons for teen pregnancy is because parents are completely out of touch with or in denial of their kids' lives.

Again, people are not animals. They may want to have sex, but it might not be a good idea for them at the time for a number of reasons and it doesn't mean they should. if you can't afford a 50 cent condom, then you can't afford to have sex.

I find the endless list of excuses to prevent someone from taking charge of their own bodies to be astounding. And yet sometimes, even when we do take charge, we are still faced with consequences. Some people would see that, then as "This was meant to happen for a reason." As far as paying out of pocket for birth procedures, etc. you might be surprised - most places just want your money and will gladly take less than the original amount just because it means they're getting paid.

To the person who brought up ultrasound - I was thinking of this the other day, because the pro-life organization Focus on the Family, I believe, was doing ultrasounds on young women who were considering abortions. Once they saw the pictures, they changed their minds, no doubt because it made their pregnancy more 'real' and tangible. Of course, the pro-choice groups were going up in flames over their anger - I think, though, that if you were that on the fence about it, you didn't really want to have one, anyway.

I find the origins of the pro-choice movement and Roe v. Wade to be rather ironic, considering that Norma McCorvey never ended up having an abortion, regretted her part in the case and has ties to Operation Rescue. :?

Heather Griffith Brewer said...

I'm in a state that believes in the abstinence education over all else. I had to sign a pile of waivers in order for my kids to hear the words "penis" and "vagina". Which I think is ridiculous. I talk to my kids, and they know how pregnancy occurs, what STD's are, and they have been taught that sex is a responsibility. Not only to themselves, but to their partners as well.
Things happen, and sometimes pregnancy is a more desirable outcome than some of the others. I believe parents should teach their kids the facts, but when you see parents who obviously don't care, then I think it is in the best interest of our economy to arm children with the facts that their parents aren't willing, or able to.

Anonymous said...

>>As far as paying out of pocket for birth procedures, etc. you might be surprised - most places just want your money and will gladly take less than the original amount just because it means they're getting paid.>>

Just try this if you own a house, have a decent credit score, and both you and your spouse are employed. You will be sent to collections and your credit will be ruined.

If I experience another birth control failure, I'll have another abortion. An ultrasound won't change my mind.

Anonymous said...

AMEN sister! You said it!!

Mama Clementine said...

I Choose to keep my son! a unplanned pregnancy, even though his daddy was over seas at the time... I've never regreted it! and I never feel I have to justify my Choice like those who Choose Abortion do! what seemed impossible and horrible for a few months worked out :) I am happily married now to the same man we have a 15yr. 10yr. 8yr. and again suprize 4mo. olds, I am only 32 you do the math. We foster children too! and that bringd up the other Choice You can Choose Adoption too!