The XX Factor

Back Alley Abortionists Exist Because of Us

Rachael, I understand why late-term abortions are upsetting, I really do. That’s why I believe that we should do everything in our power to make sure that pregnancies destined for late-term abortions under the status quo can be performed earlier. Contrary to anti-choice belief, no woman wants a late-term abortion. It’s pretty much always for medical necessity or because an earlier-term abortion wasn’t possible.

You scoff at blaming the Hyde Amendment, but don’t actually offer evidence for why not to blame the Hyde Amendment. If people don’t want to pay for poor women who have early term abortions, then they should suck it up and accept that the consequences are going to be monsters like Gosnell preying on those poor women. It’s true that he charged more for a later term abortion than Planned Parenthood does for an early abortion, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. He actually charged way less for a late term abortion than reputable clinics that offer the service do.

Why, you imply, did these women living in poverty not reach into their savings accounts and pull out that $350 to get that early term abortion at Planned Parenthood, if that’s what they wanted to do? Well, let me assure you, it’s not because they’re moral monsters or stupid people .  Being poor, they don’t have $350.  Here is an incredibly useful blog post by a former abortion counselor about how women who live in poverty end up in this vicious cycle where they don’t have the money and the price keeps going up as they try to raise the money for abortion.  She’s not just talking from personal experience, but about solid research on second-trimester abortions and who gets them: people who have been screwed by anti-choice policies.

This means that if a woman doesn’t live in a progressive state and if she doesn’t have health insurance that covers an abortion, she will have to spend time raising money towards the cost of her procedure. Depending on how long this takes, the cost of the procedure could go up weekly (as it often does in the second trimester). In the world of abortion funding, this is called “chasing the fee” and is kind of a Dante-esque hell. The longer she waits to have the abortion and the more time it takes her to raise the money, the more the abortion will cost, causing her to have to raise more money and further delay the procedure.

I agree with you that contraception should be free to everyone.  That goal is actually within reach.  The new health care reform (which mostly anti-choice politicians fought against) requires insurance companies to provide preventive services for free. This could mean contraception, which would be a great boon. Unfortunately, this may not happen if the pressure from anti-choicers prevails .  Already we’re seeing some of the Tea Party-empowered social conservatives in Congress agitate against the already-existing contraception funding for lower-income women. Better contraception would mean a lower abortion rate, but we’d have to disempower the anti-abortion conservative bloc to get that done.  And even if every woman in the country had all the access she needed, unintended pregnancies will happen. Abortion can be made rare, but it’ll probably always be with us.

I also agree that Gosnell made himself a monster. But his ability to prey on poor women was not his doing, but the fault of our society for failing those women. If we want to prevent future Gosnells from having customers, we need to address the obstacles that create the desperation that causes women to go to back-alley providers . We need to repeal waiting periods and the Hyde Amendment, so that poor women can afford early-term abortions on a schedule that’s more suited to the hectic lives they often lead. Ideally, we would provide child care and transportation, so that they don’t delay trying to seek those things. We would work to make it so family doctors and low income clinics can provide abortion directly, so women don’t waste time seeking referrals. If we had already done all these things for women, someone like Gosnell would have been stuck making money by selling illegal prescription drugs to addicts.