The unexplained gap in the abortion rate

In a recent study entitled, “Sex, contraception, or abortion? Explaining class gaps in unintended childbearing,” researchers at the Brookings Institute found that poor women are much more likely to choose Life in unplanned pregnancies than wealthy women. Unsurprisingly, the socioeconomic difference was attributed poor women not being able to afford abortions, in addition to a dwindling number of abortionists and required waiting periods. The study’s outcomes are noteworthy, but the conclusions drawn therefrom may be far from the truth.

First, the difference in the abortion rate between rich and poor women is somewhat shocking. Almost 32% of wealthy women abort their children when they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, while only 8.6% of their less-affluent counterparts make the choice for death. And poor women become pregnant without planning for a child far more often than affluent women. This, of course, is attributed by the study to a lack of contraceptive access among poor women.

But the study’s glaring oversight – as the Institute for Family Studies aptly notes– is the possibility that poor women are simply more open to Life, planned or unplanned. This theory is supported by polling data, and is more logical than the solutions proffered by the study. For example, poor women who do not pay for abortions (roughly $500) face the alternative of spending at least 18 years paying for the food, shelter, clothing, and education of that same child. Yet, despite their poverty, the latter option is by far the most popular. Furthermore, the waiting periods and dwindling number of providers, cited as supposed causes for poor women having fewer abortions, also apply to rich women. Citing Pro-Life legislation as a barrier to poor women aborting their children when the same legislation applies to women of all socioeconomic positions is a telling sign of the study’s abortion bias.   

The Institute for Family Studies cites two significant findings that both suggest that there is a correlation between socioeconomic status and respect for the dignity of Life:

For example, one RAND report found that “The higher the education and income levels of a respondent, the more likely he or she is to support the liberal end of the abortion spectrum, and vice versa,” and a 2012 Gallup poll revealed the same trend applies to identifying as pro-choice.

These findings do not explain whether or why poor women are definitively more Pro-Life, but their significance should not have been discounted from the Brookings Institute’s study. Failing to acknowledge that a disparity in each group’s respect for Life could have been a factor in the drastically different abortion rates was a significant oversight. Instead, researchers assume – by omitting any relevant data – that rich and poor women, respectively, have the exact same views on the morality of abortion and the dignity of Life.

What is most disturbing about the study’s conclusion, however, is the notion that unplanned pregnancies are always negative events in women’s lives. This notion is reflected in the researchers’ claim that wealthy women have “more to lose from an unintended birth” because of their brighter job prospects. Motherhood, to the researchers, seems only to possess the ability to be a positive experience for women who mindfully chose their conception dates years in advance. If women do not plan the precise time when they will become mothers, the study implies, somehow their ambitions vanish and a padlock is placed on their worldly aspirations.

 Instead of rejecting the idea that motherhood and success cannot coexist outside of careful planning and control, pop culture has fallen hook, line, and sinker for the lie. Instead of accommodating the biological capability of women, their very power to procreate is treated as an inconvenience that must be tamed by hormones, devices, and access to abortuaries when their bodies fail to submit. This way of speaking to and about women is not pro-woman. Just maybe, poorer women have been less tainted by the lie that unplanned children are a curse, and that their bodies malfunction when new Life dares to begin independent of their command. 

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