Abortion and Poverty: Relationships are Key


Financial questions are often a leading concern for women facing an unplanned pregnancy, but a woman's decision to carry her baby to term is rarely determined solely by her economic situation.

If there’s one thing most people can agree on, it’s that raising children costs money.

Some parents fret about expenses when their kids need braces, car insurance or a college education. Others start worrying much earlier in the process.

Indeed, financial questions are a leading concern for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. For example, prominent abortion researcher Tracy Weitz told the independent news site ProPublica that “most women are having an abortion because they say they can’t afford to have a child.”

Those who support abortion on demand often make the point that without easy access to the procedure, poor women will suffer even greater financial distress. But just as poverty is complicated and isn’t about finances alone, it’s unlikely that a woman’s decision to carry her baby to term is determined solely by her economic situation.

Perhaps a greater influence on a woman’s decision is her relationships. 

Denise Beck, the director of client services at Choices, a medical pregnancy clinic in Joplin, Missouri, says broken relationships – or a lack of healthy relationships – more often motivate a woman to abort.

In Beck’s experience, while finances are definitely a consideration, “immediate relational support” is the greatest influence for pregnant women who are considering abortion. If the father of the baby or the woman’s parents support her, Beck says, she is more likely to carry her child to term.

“In general,” Beck says, “if the client has emotional support from the father of her child should she choose to carry, finances no longer rank as a top concern.”

The stability – or instability – of a mother’s personal and family relationships plays a significant role. For a young woman we’ll call Betsy*, shame and fear, as well as unstable relationships with her partners, drove her decision to abort.

According to Betsy, finances were not a consideration for her first two abortions. Betsy’s parents paid for her first abortion, and her then-partner, already married and unwilling to face the situation, paid for the second.

She carried a third pregnancy to term, and had that child to consider when she became pregnant a fourth time. Betsy once again considered abortion, knowing that she barely had enough money to care for the child she already had. Yet after her boyfriend spoke with a pregnancy center counselor, he assured Betsy of his support, and he encouraged her to continue the pregnancy.

That made all the difference to Betsy. “I knew no matter what the finances, I could do whatever and make it through this pregnancy,” she says. “He said what I really wanted to hear all along.”

* Not her real name

Jenny Knowles and her husband are adoptive parents to two sisters through foster care.

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