Over the years, given the awareness and exposure that came with the advent of media and the internet, human societies and cultural norms across the globe have evolved from being very conservative to moderate to liberal. With apparent increases in literacy rates, standards of living and awareness in general, people around the world have reconsidered many of their notions and have adopted more liberal approaches towards social norms and myths. That said, despite of moving towards liberal broad minded cultural notions, the practice of Abortion still attracts intensive debates in both developed and less developed societies. This paper particularly focuses on the degree to which poverty is related to the practice of Abortion and how this relationship does implicates on the lives of poor women. The paper also aims at proposing a policy that would help in tackling the said problem.
As medical sciences evolved and progressed for the betterment of human lives, many practices and solutions proposed by science for the general well being of humans have attracted great debates from people of almost every school of thought and socio economic background. One such subject is Abortion, a practice that has been criticized widely around the world regardless of religion, ethnic and cultural orientations and socio-economic origins.
An Abortion process pertaining to maternal services involves services such as abortions which means killing of a living fetus. An abortion, in medical terms, refers to removal of the fetus from the mother's body. Major reasons why women might go for abortions include danger to life, illegitimacy of the child, poverty or economic conditions, overage or under age pregnancies and child being unwanted by the husband.
The practices have attracted both criticism and support from various social circles on ethical and social grounds. There are two angles to the practice that generally attract debates. The first and the principal part of the problem is that whether or not abortion should be allowed at all. The opponent and the extreme view is that since the practice involves killing of a fetus, a living thing, the practice should not be allowed under any circumstances. However, a more flexible view is that while aborting a living fetus is unethical, abortion may be carried out if the fetus poses serious danger to the life of the mother.
The second aspect of the problem is that who would decide whether or not a woman should undergo an abortion. This aspect is directly related to the degree to which women enjoy rights and freedom in a society. This aspect further has two angles. On one side, there have been women who have been forced to undergo abortion despite of their willingness to deliver the baby. This mainly happens due to social reasons such as in the case of 'illegitimate pregnancies' that is when babies are conceived out of wedlock. On the other hand there are women who are forced to deliver their babies despite the fact that they do not want to conceive it be it for social or economical reasons. Both the aspects come down to a bottom line that in most cases, the decision of whether or not to abort a baby is dictated by social and cultural norms and pressures, with the mother having little or no say in the matter.
The Relationship between Poor Women and Abortion
As stated earlier, the issue pertaining to the practice of aborting fetus is approached critically in both developed and less developed societies alike. However, the issue become direr in societies that are less privileged especially where literacy rates and awareness among women is much lower and the societies are mostly male dominated with conservative mindsets. In these cases, unlike developed societies, economical reasons and educational awareness also play an important role in deciding on whether or not a mother would be undergoing an abortion.
Wind (2011), in a recent research report released by Guttmacher Institute, states that while the rate of abortion among most groups of women have seen a decline between the years 2000 and 2008, the rate of abortion has risen among the group of women belonging to households with family incomes below federal poverty level by around 18%. According to the report, these increases in rates of abortion among poor women are predominantly attributed to economic reasons. The report claims that the recent cuts in the health sector pertaining to maternity services and family planning counseling have made it difficult for women to avoid unintended pregnancies. The report further claims that the current economic crunch have further played an important role in making contraceptives out of reach of women who intend to use them. The report further argues that many women who ended up conceiving a baby unintentionally may have decided to undergo an abortion as they might not be confident about their ability to support a child in an uncertain and fluctuating economic climate.
Rachel Jones, a research associate at Guttmacher Institute pointed out that the recent cuts made on publicly funded abortion activities and Planned Parenthood counseling services by various state governments are also having disproportionate implication over poor women (ABC News, 2011). Jones, as reported by ABC News (2011), indicated that the cost of abortion ranges from $350 to $950, depending on the age of fetus, which is out of the affordability levels of poor women. With abortion not being funded by the public sector and contraceptives and family planning counseling services out of reach, it results in poor women unwillingly giving birth to a child they are unable to support thus creating an unintended economical burden on a poverty struck family.
Policy Options and Alternatives to Tackle the Problem
In the recent past, governments of many states have initiated a campaign to cut down spending on publicly funded Planned Parenthood counseling services and organizations on the allegations that they are using the funds to perform abortions. This implies that indirectly the governments are showing reluctance to fund abortion practices. Texas and Virginia were the two major states that moved these propositions of cutting down funds on publicly funded Planned Parenthood organizations. Other states including North Carolina, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Ohio have followed the suit.
According to The Washington Post (2012), the delegates who passed the said bill in Virginia argued that since these public spendings are made out of tax payer's money, it would be unethical to make those people pay for performing abortions, who consider abortions as a wrong practice. On the contrary, many opponents of the proposed bill, including activists that support the idea that the decision of whether or not to abort a baby should be at the discretion of the mother, alleged that the recent anti-abortion bills passed by the governments are politically driven and are merely aimed at political point scoring and hyping up their political graphs among general public.
As a policy analyst, I believe that making outright cuts in publicly funded Planned Parenthood services is going have dire disproportionate effects on poor women who would be forced to bare the burden of an unintended child in an unstable economic environment. The policy makers must adopt a rational approach that could keep a balance between 'sustainable politics' and social welfare. This means that the underprivileged social groups must be considered before moving any bills that are aimed at garnering political support from the majority populace.
When making a policy the government will have to be particular about placing their socio-economic objectives above individual political motives in order to come to agreement with a rationally drafted, unbiased and socially motivated policy statement. Ideally, it would be a policy that takes on board both the stakeholders of the law that is the one who need the economic support for Planned Parenthood and the one who oppose abortion as an unethical practice. This means that a policy would be such that while it does provide essential support pertaining to Planned Parenthood to the underprivileged faction of the society where required, it must also launch an awareness campaign that aim at creating awareness among the opponent school of thought about the need to support Planned Parenthood among the poor and that it is in the best interest of the society and economy at large (West, 2009). Keeping this in view, the following policy options and alternatives are proposed.
Increase in public sector funding to Planned Parenthood organizations with an aim to bring down the rate of abortion among poor women by giving them greater accessibility to contraceptives and family planning counseling services.
Funding shall be made conditional to those organizations that perform abortions unnecessarily or when other contraceptive alternatives can be made available to the parents.
Overall emphasis shall be on avoiding an unintended pregnancy by preventing it altogether rather than aborting it.
In case the government plans to discontinue funding abortions under any circumstances whatsoever, it shall be the government's responsibility to support the 'unintended' addition to the populace that becomes the economic burden on the family.