Who left this soapbox unattended?

21 02 2011

I’ve heard it many times now. “Aren’t you glad your mother was pro-choice?” Meaning, “If your mother supported abortion rights, surely she would have had one.”

If that were true, I wouldn’t be dealing with abortion at all. My mother is pro-choice. (She raised me that way.) Somehow, this wicked pro-choice heathen escaped the abortioneers.

OK, but I’m a family social worker. The women I work with are mothers. They’ve chosen life. So why is abortion important to them?

Contrary to popular belief, 61% of women who elect to have abortions already have at least one child. Each pregnancy involves a decision. One can choose to have a child, and then choose an abortion.

Then there are the teenagers, those mother’s children, who don’t yet have children of their own, and would like to keep it that way.

Last week, I got a call from a client. She’s 21 years old, has a four year old daughter and a three month old son, and is a wonderful mother.

She’s also been through hell. Absentee, drug addicted father. Abusive and neglectful mother. Placed in a foster home after she had been damaged enough that she was running the streets and acting out.

This young woman got herself together for the sake of her daughter, and has done better than anyone has the right to expect her to. Unfortunately, she still struggles with relationships. As a result, the man she elected to have her son with is, if I speak generously, a worthless loser.

I don’t have anything better to say about a man who threatens the life of a woman who is pregnant with his child, and then threatens to lie to get custody of that child.

I’m extremely proud of this woman. We’re working on getting her to be proud of herself. She recently started dating a long time friend. Personally, I thought it was a little soon, but that’s not my call to make. It seems to be the first healthy relationship she’s had with any man.

So I was a little heartbroken when I got a call from her just last week. Apparently, she thought she had a stomach virus over the weekend, because she felt so terribly sick.

It wasn’t a stomach virus.

Two young kids at home, a brand new relationship, struggling to move out of a shelter, and pregnant again.

She opted to have an abortion.

Who could blame her? What else could we expect this intelligent, resilient, responsible, though financially and emotionally fragile 21 year old mother to do?

She was not happy about the decision. But she did what she had to do, for herself, and for the two children she already has.

Her boyfriend was not happy about the decision. But he went to the clinic with her, and supported her.

She’s not happy. But she’s coping well. She’ll be all right. I’m much more hopeful than I would be if she were still pregnant.

I’ve worked with other women who’ve had abortions. I’m very supportive of teen mothers, but some girls are not ready. I’m confident that they made the right choice.

One young mother really wanted another child, but recognized that her son’s mental health issues and her own physical health problems meant that this wasn’t the right time.

Then there was a mother of four, who had recently lost an infant daughter born with severe health problems. She had just regained custody of her four surviving children, after physically abusing one, and expressing the desire to kill herself and her children. Throwing a new baby into the mix would have been a disaster.

For anyone wondering about “responsibility,” yes, it is discussed. I don’t think anyone can accuse me of not talking up birth control. We discuss it.

I then direct my clients to Planned Parenthood.

Sometimes for an abortion, but most often not. Usually it’s for information, gynecological exams, pre-natal care…oh, and free or low-cost birth control.  Because we want to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And this is what Planned Parenthood does.

No woman I work with has ever skipped merrily into my office to share with me the details of her latest abortion. (Huzzah!) They are upset that the situation arose, and disappointed that they became pregnant when they didn’t want to.  They sometimes have feelings of guilt, about not being able to carry the pregnancy to term.


Every woman I have worked with who has had an abortion, though, has expressed feelings of relief. Even if they were not happy about it, they know that they made the right decision. For themselves, and for their families.

Planned Parenthood, in case you haven’t heard, is under attack. The house recently voted to strip them of federal funding. If this is allowed to pass, the familiar Bronx building that I refer my clients to when they need things that I can’t provide (often thanks to our funding) will have a much more difficult time meeting those needs. Condoms, Depo shots, HIV testing, cancer screenings, and yes, abortions.

Because for all I hear about taking Planned Parenthood down, I don’t hear about plans to allocate funding to make it easier for a 21 year old mother of three to find day care for two infants so she can complete her GED.

I don’t see those politicians developing plans for increased access to mental heath services in the Bronx, so that a mentally ill mother of four can be there for her children.

I haven’t heard plans to expand TANF or WIC to make it possible for teenage girls to support themselves and their babies while attending school.

I hear New Jersey Republican Chris Smith decrying abortion as “child abuse,” but I haven’t seen him at my clients’ homes, crying with them about their own abusive upbringings, or hearing what having another child would do to their mentally unstable state, and to the safety of their children.

As a social worker, I trust women, and I stand with Planned Parenthood. I hope you all do as well.




4 responses

21 02 2011
chantal wayman

Excellent post. I do not know much about the services available in the US as I am in England, but it seems Planned Parenthood is one the key providers in this area. Are services free to clients? Or income tested? Just so I can compare to UK services….
Really enjoy your blog, so glad I found it.
Best wishes, Chantal (newly qualified SW, in the midst of interviews for my first SW post!)

21 02 2011

Planned Parenthood is definitely a key provider. The Bronx is a very underserved area in terms of health services (most services, actually.) Services and policies vary by state, so I can only really speak for NYC, but Planned Parenthood accepts health insurance, including Medicaid, which is what all of my clients have. If people have no health insurance and do not qualify for any health insurance (PP has entitlement counselors that see patients who are uninsured) they offer services on a sliding scale based on income. Teens also qualify for a variety of free services–free birth control and morning after pills, for one.

Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Good luck in your interviews and your career! Glad to have you on our side 🙂

21 02 2011

Top post.
These conservatives just don’t get it.

I’m in australia, and we may be behind the times in some respects, but we get universal health care. (private if you can afford it).

i don’t understand how educated, regulated people can be so cruel to poor people.

(I enjoy your blog too.)

22 02 2011

Thank you! I’m not terribly familiar with the way things work in Australia, but I would definitely say that universal health care puts you ahead of us in a few respects.

This is definitely a class issue. They say they’re going after abortion, but really they’re going after poor women being able to access abortion (and other necessary health care.) I really believe that if these people saw the way these policies affect actual people, they would change their minds. But I doubt that they’ll be troubled to do that.

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