and the Devil himself...

and the Devil himself...
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What No One's Talking About in the Abortion Debate - The Economic Reality and It's Impact on Society

I rarely discuss my personal experiences or political issues here but the recent reactions to a 14 year old girl's protest sign (read her statement here) in support of a woman's right to choose to terminate pregnancy struck me to the point that I feel I need to say something.

Too many people seem utterly unaware of what pregnancy and the subsequent care of an infant entail for, considering the economic crisis our society has been facing for quite a while, I'm sure a growing number of women. That is not even the main point of the abortion issue, but it is a point that I don't even hear being raised in the discussion and so it's the one I'm going to address. Maybe my story will open some eyes. I hope so. I was not poor, I was fairly middle class. I was not uneducated, I completed college and had a career commensurate with my background. I still don't quite see how we survived.

Here's what happened.

When I discovered I was pregnant with my super amazing son, (and this was 11 years ago when the economy was actually good),  I knew it would be life-changing and was excited about how marvelous those changes would be. And, of course it was! However, in retrospect, I don't see how either of us survived.

I would have never thought that would be the case, nor would anyone who knew me. I had a fantastic paralegal job with a firm that was discussing sending me to law school. I was surrounded by close friends who were also having their first children. The father and I were not together but he lived a block away and also had a very stable job/owned his home. I had great insurance. Everything seemed like it would be just fine.

But it wasn't. I became very seriously ill with toxemia, which effected my ability to work. This resulted in the firm (Civil Rights firm mind you) pushing me out of my job when I was 7 mos. pregnant (maybe 8, it was so traumatic I've blocked it out). Good luck fighting it, most of their time was spent on cases just like that so they were realllllyyyy good at pushing me out. Validly afraid I was dying and jobless at 7 or 8 mos pregnant I, of course, didn't know what on earth to do. And trust me, no one hires a pregnant woman; especially one THAT pregnant.

I wanted to be with my family, (in part because I wasn't sure I'd be around much longer), so moved from Louisville to Virginia, where they were. I, thankfully, kept my insurance. How I managed to find and pay for an apartment I don't know but somehow I did. I did have some help from my son's father, who, thank God is a really great person/father, and from family members but believe me, things were nearly impossible. If my Aunt, for example, hadn't covered the enormous cost of all the things needed for a new baby, (crib, stroller etc -- altogether it's thousands, even if you're frugal - not to mention an entire new wardrobe every 3 mos), I have no idea what we would have done.

Both of my parents have cerebal palsy so were not physically able to help or to provide child care. The father was in another state and there were no other relatives to help with it either really. This raised an impossible question - how on earth was I going to work? I was beyond qualified to earn 50,000.00 + a year but, see above for why that with paid maternity leave wasn't the case.

Now, that I had the ability to earn that much or to have paid maternity leave, (which should be a basic thing because it's absolutely a basic necessity), was not a situation most women find themselves in. It was, sadly and frankly discgracefully, an exception to the norm. So, what I found myself facing before and after the birth of my son is, unless I'm very much mistaken, a common experience.

Child care for infants is extremely, or shall I say prohibitively (to the point that I wonder if it's not as costly as it is to prevent women from being able to utilize it) expensive. I wound up paying $150 a week. Because I had been out of the work force for several months and because my experience was in another state, and also because finding someone to watch my infant while I interviewed was nearly impossible, it took a long time to find a job in spite of my qualifications, (I started in the field in the President's law firm, had fantastic references and, with a professional writing background and a typing speed of 100wpm was more qualified than many, if not most applicants).

My first position was part time, (30 hours - enough that the firm enjoyed a nearly full time employee without having to pay full time benefits). I think I was paid $11 an hour, maybe $13. Whichever the case, my check was about $200 a week. I applied for child care subsidy, which I felt was ridiculous considering what my salary history had been but there was no other choice. I made $1 an hour too much to qualify. So, I worked for $50 a week after paying for child care.

This continued until my son was about a year and a half, when I finally found a job similar to the one I'd been pushed out of in the first place. I was not able to pursue music, theater or comedy, all of which had supplemented my income at other times in my life when my job situation was less than ideal because I didn't have family help with child care and with $50 a week after paying for day care certainly couldn't pay a sitter. The same situation prevented my getting a 2nd job bartending or waitressing, which in normal circumstances I surely would have done if my day job income had only been $50 a week.

So, this is what can go down when you DO plan a pregnancy based on your (perceived) ability to support your child. Our society pays attention to the needs of mothers in a really glossed over, superficial kind of way  - and basic needs here folks - I'm not talking handouts I'm talking the ability to earn enough to live on. Hell, I'm talking about the ability to even go to work. I believe the WIC program was cut in the last go round of food stamp eliminations. 

Making abortion illegal will place God knows how many more women and children in the above situation and far worse. I was lucky. I had the support (albiet from a state away) of  a great Dad, am overly educated and was on a solid career path. Men, whether they have children or not, always have the option of education and establishing a career path. Women do not if we are not able to plan our pregnancies. That's not only profoundly screwed up, not only does a great disservice to women and children, but to society as a whole.

Like I said, there are a lot of other very important points in the argument for reproductive rights. This one, however, is as fact based as it gets. Maybe that's why it's so over looked. I hope I helped change that just a little.


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