I’ve been paying attention to the politics lately, because there’s some kind of election coming up and it feels like I ought to. From what I gather, abortions and rape are a thing, and a lot of old white dudes have a lot of feelings about the vaginas they don’t have. I got to reading up on the subject a bit, and as it turns out, most abortions are not a result of rape, although linking the two did make me extremely uncomfortable. Because, really, if a woman’s right to make decisions about her body is based on whether a man forcibly impregnates her, it seems to me we’re right back on the corner of Patriarchal St. and Dominance Ave. where most of us women-folk don’t want to be.
But ohhhhhhhh abortion. Feelings! What I haven’t heard much about, and would really love to, is the experience of actually having a baby. You know, of gestating a fetus for nine months and shoving it out of my body. Ie.: what a woman experiences. In lieu of actually going through this process (which, as far as I’m concerned, sounds like the most horrifying thing I could do to myself, but I respect that it’s a very beautiful and moving experience to many others), I went investigating. Because I’m a super sleuth! Also I used the interwebs and made some calls. For the sake of this research project, let’s suppose the pregnancy in question is one of the 50% of unintended pregnancies in the US per year (there are going to be stats, guys, hang on to your umbrellas).
First of all, insurance probably isn’t happening. Pregnancy is termed a pre-existing condition, so most insurance companies won’t cover any costs. That’s right: you can pretty much get prenatal health insurance only when you’re not pregnant. However, you might be able to add a prenatal rider to your insurance plan, if you’re over 18 and have gotten married within the last 30 days. Woo! Incentivizing shotgun weddings! Sounds like a plan. Pretty much, if a woman wants any kind of prenatal care for an unintended pregnancy, her choices are either being poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, or hitting up the local Planned Parenthood.
Assuming your boss doesn’t mind you taking off all those hours for doctor’s appointments, that you can handle your life force mostly going to your fetus, and aren’t relying on food stamps (because those don’t increase just because you’re eating for two), the cost of a pregnancy will involve a lot of cash going to new bras, new clothes, and vitamins (not covered by food stamps). Time to think about birthing options! A vaginal delivery runs at about $10K, while a c-section costs around $20K+. Since doctors get paid more to do c-sections, there can be a tendency to steer patients towards that option, even when it’s unnecessary.
Some ladies will have a 2 hour labor and get home in time to catch their favorite CSI rerun (the one with the death victim!). Some ladies will go through 48 hours of miserable hell. After reading the chapter on birth in Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to Be a Woman’ I pretty much sewed up my vagina forever.
So now, birth. Wow! You made a person! That’s kind of crazy, in a good way, and also in an emotionally, physically, and financially draining way. Hopefully you still have a job, and can take a couple weeks off.
Now, let’s say this unwanted pregnancy was always headed for adoption. All of this work and sacrifice has gone to having your child be taken away at the ripe old age of 24 hours. More than this, the inherent chemical bonds formed are now left hanging mid-air, increasing the potential of post-partum depression. When a woman orgasms, one of the hormones released is oxytocin – the same hormone that induces labor and creates a bond between mother and child, both through the process of birth as well as through breast milk. So just going for it and having a baby, then giving it away, is a lot to ask of a woman (and yet a surprising number of people suggest this).
Let’s assess – $15-$50K in prenatal costs, physical toll, job/career suffering, the intensity of labor and birth, and potential post-partum depression (and when it comes to post-partum, our hospitals are not on the case). The other option of an unintended pregnancy is, of course, abortion (“feelingsssssssss!!!!” – America). Stats time! According to the Guttmacher Institute, who totally know their stuff, 61% of women who have abortions already have at least one child. Only 56% are unmarried and not cohabiting, 73% report a religious affiliation, and 69% are economically disadvantaged. Many are also either on birth control or used some form of contraceptive.