I got an email yesterday from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. I don’t know how they got my address. They were freaking out a bit because of something called 40 Days for Life.
40 Days for Life is, according to their website, “a focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion.” It doesn’t sound particularly awful.
According to Planned Parenthood, “every single day until Good Friday, protestors will show up in force, doing everything they can to intimidate and threaten women and families who need reproductive health care.”
Okay, that sounds problematic. The question is, which of these accounts is true? If you believe the 40 Days for Life website, they’re just there praying, fasting, and standing watch. If you believe Planned Parenthood, they’re trying to threaten and intimidate anyone who shows up.
More interestingly, at the 40 Days for Life Sign-up page, this pledge appears:
I testify to the following:
1. I will only pursue peaceful solutions to the violence of abortion when volunteering with the 40 Days for Life campaign
2. I will show compassion and reflect Christ’s love to all abortion facility employees, volunteers, and customers
3. I understand that acting in a violent or harmful manner immediately and completely disassociates me from the 40 Days for Life campaign…
While standing in the city right of way in front of the abortion facility:
…8. I will not threaten, physically contact, or verbally abuse the abortion facility/Planned Parenthood employees, volunteers, or customers…
Okay, they don’t sound so evil. It seems to me that Planned Parenthood has them confused with other protestors. But I’m still not completely convinced. I think I would have to see it to believe that the folks standing “vigil” outside of these clinics aren’t intimidating their customers.
Why I Like Planned Parenthood
For me, the biggest problem with pro-life people protesting outside Planned Parenthood is that it’s not purely an abortion mill. Their site has links to the facts on
- Birth Control
- Morning After Pill
- Breast Cancer Screenings
- General Health Care
- Body Image
- Men’s Sexual Health
- Sex & Sexuality
- Sexual Orientation and Gender
- Women’s Health.
Planned Parenthood is, in their own words, America’s “leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate.” They say, “For nearly 100 years, we’ve worked to improve women’s health and safety, prevent unintended pregnancies, and advance the right and ability of individuals and families to make informed and responsible choices.”
If I were to venture a guess, I would say that Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to be in the abortion business. They provide it as an option, though.
Let’s think this through. Let’s start by asking ourselves, “Why does Planned Parenthood do abortions?” No, no. It’s not because they’re evil nazi godless baby-hating zombies. That option isn’t on the table.
The folks at Planned Parenthood think they’re doing something good, and that it’s something good for women (and men). They are meeting a need. I have a difficult request if you disagree: please hear me out. Please don’t shut me out. You must realize that the problems that Planned Parenthood confronts are real, and if anyone wants to offer a viable pro-life alternative to Planned Parenthood, they will need to address those same problems. It’s not enough to stand outside and say that they’re evil. We must find out problem they are solving and find other ways to meet that need.
Here are the problems associated with unplanned pregnancy that Planned Parenthood is solving, and that viable pro-life alternatives must solve.
The Problems Planned Parenthood Solves
1. Being Pregnant makes going to work difficult.
Let’s be honest: pregnant women aren’t supposed to move around a lot to protect their baby. If they work in fast food, and many women in poverty do, there’s a lot of moving around, and at some point, women are gonna need to take a maternity leave. In fast food, that maternity leave will be unpaid.
2. Being Pregnant is Uncomfortable, and So is Giving Birth.
I’ve never been pregnant, and never given birth, and never will, but I’ve seen it happen on TV, and it looks unpleasant. And I’ve seen women who’ve actually given birth shake their heads and say, “Awww, they make it look so easy.”
3. Maternity Healthcare is MUCH More Expensive Than Abortion.
If you give birth to a baby, it’s gonna cost you a lot of money. WebMD reports that good prenatal care will run you, on average, $2000. “The charge for an uncomplicated cesarean section was about $15,800 in 2008. An uncomplicated vaginal birth cost about $9,600, government data show.” If I’m doing my math right, uncomplicated pregnancy will cost, on average, $11,600. If you need a C Section, that’s $17,800.
Planned Parenthood, that bastion of godlessness, offers in-clinic abortions in Colorado Springs at 5-11 weeks for $455 and 16-18 weeks for $910. Let’s compare:
Having an Abortion: up to $910 or more.
Giving Birth: up to $17,800 or more.
4. Raising a Child is Cost-Prohibitive.
CNN Money calculates that the average cost to raise a child from birth to 18 years old for a low-income family is about $173,490. That is almost $10,000 a year, or $803.19 per month. Assuming a minimum wage of $8/hr (Colorado, 2014), a 40-hour work week, and 4.3 weeks per month, that comes to about $1386.66 a month. Simple subtraction:
Monthly pay: $1386.66
– Child Costs: $803.19
Left Over: $583.47
Supposing you’re in a low-income family, one kid is going to kill your budget. My wife and I had a cheap apartment in Colorado Springs and it cost $450 a month plus utilities. In the winter, those utility costs are going to wipe out that other $133.47 pretty quickly, and that doesn’t even begin to cover food or gas. Two children will put you in the red. Two.
Remember, a late-term abortion costs up to $910. If you nip it in the bud, you can do it for less than you would have left over at the end of the month after the average monthly cost of having a kid.
Say a girl gets knocked-up in high school. She gets to carry around this roundness inside of her (if she doesn’t get an abortion) for nine months. Nine months of being called a slut and a whore. A quick, inexpensive procedure could solve her problem, and easily.
6. It’s Unfair.
The girl walks around school getting called a slut and a whore. The guy walks around getting called a player. Abortion acts as an equalizer in which the girl doesn’t have to wear that scarlet letter around her waist.
The Ways Planned Parenthood Solves Them
1. Inexpensive Abortions
As discussed previously, abortion is quick, easy, and inexpensive compared to the problems an unplanned pregnancy entails. Many Christians, however, believe abortion is murder, so this creates quite the ethical problem for them. Many are protesting outside Planned Parenthood clinics all over the country even as I write this.
2. Inexpensive, Accessible, and Effective Birth Control
Birth Control is a more middle-of-the-road position. Most (and I do say most) Christians have no issues whatsoever with birth control. If you believe life begins at conception, and many pro-life Christians do, then you should have no problem with birth control. There are many different kinds of birth control available, and most, if not all, prevent conception from happening. Even Plan B doesn’t cause abortions.
3. Sex Ed
Planned Parenthood does a great job killing ignorance. Their web site explains in helpful detail how ovulation works, how sex works, and how birth control works, among other things.
I got my first sex ed lesson from James Dobson’s book Preparing for Adolescence. He explained what goes where, what squirts, and that when that happens, the girl gets pregnant.
I got my first real sex ed from Planned Parenthood. They explained the stages of sex, ovulation, male and female sex organs, and birth control, among many other useful things. Their education was useful, helpful, and easy to understand.
The Ways Evangelicals Solve Them
1. Abstinence Education
If you don’t have sex outside of marriage, you won’t get pregnant outside of marriage. Once you’re married, all of your financial problems will go away, but if they don’t, you can probably take birth control. In circles where birth control is frowned upon, trust that God will take care of you.
Planned Parenthood even states, “Used continuously, abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. It also prevents STDs.” However, they also warn, “People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time and may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to protect themselves against pregnancy or infection.”
This solves the problem of the expenses of raising a child, and possibly the expenses of maternity health care, but the woman still has to deal with the discomfort of being pregnant and giving birth and the unfair shame cast upon them that is not cast upon the person who impregnated them.
These solutions are not enough.
The Solutions Evangelicals Still Need
1. Provide for free or very inexpensive, effective, accessible birth control
The cool thing about birth control is that when you’re using effective birth control, there is no conception and therefore, abortion is impossible. That’s right, folks. Effective birth control prevents abortions. Even pro-choice women can’t get abortions if their birth control is working, no matter how much they may want them. If you’re going to be pro-life, you should be pro-birth control.
Hobby Lobby is lobbying (see what I did there?) to not have to pay for employee birth control. This is, if I may say so, stupid and self-defeating. Put bluntly,
1. Women want to have sex, and
2. Some women who want to have sex don’t want to have babies.
These women are going to have sex, and they are going to not have babies. There are exactly two ways that this is going to go down:
1. They will not have babies because they used birth control, or
2. They will not have babies because they got an abortion.
No, Hobby Lobby. “They will not have sex” is not one of those options. “They will bring those babies to term” is not another one. These women, your employees, are going to either use birth control, or they are going to have an abortion. So either smile and accept that they’re going to get an abortion, or pony up and pay for their birth control pills. For the love of God, either put your money where your mouth is, or shut up.
2. Take Away the Stigma of Birth Control
Teenagers tend to be a bit overloaded with hormones. If they “lose control” some night, they need to understand birth control. Put the girl on the pill. Give the guy a condom, and teach him how to use it. Educate, educate, educate.
Abstinence-only education is not going to solve this, because only in the religious world is premarital sex sinful, and even there it’s not working: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that, among conservative white Protestants 20-29, a full 74% report having had sex in the last year! (This includes 60% of white conservative Protestant women).
“Only” 73% of white mainline Protestants report having had sex in the last year, and the percentage from every other Christian group is higher. Abstinence-only isn’t even working in the Christian world. Why would we expect it to work anywhere else?
Oddly, among other religions, it’s lower (64%), and among Mormons, it’s only 37%. Only. Even among Mormons, abstinence-only education is successful less than 2/3 of the time.
3. Force Employers to Provide Paid Maternity Leave
Otherwise, pregnant women aren’t going to be able to afford to take time off from work to take care of their babies, and abortion will begin to seem like more and more of an attractive option.
Unfortunately, conservatives will argue that this is socialism because Sweden does it.
4. Pay for Prenatal and Birth Care for Women with Unplanned Pregnancies
As you may have noticed in my math work earlier, having a baby can cost 3800% more than getting an abortion. If you want babies to get born instead of getting aborted, Crisis Pregnancy Centers have to offer more than free ultrasounds and warnings about the dangers of abortions. They need to provide affordable options for bringing babies to term and giving birth – and options that are more financially feasible than abortions.
There are two ways to do this: universal healthcare, and private donations. The problem is that conservatives tend to hate the idea of a single-payer universal healthcare system. That means that pregnant moms without health insurance are pretty much screwed unless they can get on Medicaid.
And who can afford to pay $17,800 for every unplanned pregnancy? The government, maybe?
5. Pay for the Cost of Raising Children
The average cost of raising a child, even for low-income folks, are staggering (See the info above). Maybe if we could manage to pay for their prenatal care and pay for them to take care of those children, we could get them to bring those babies to term rather than get an abortion.
Wait, what’s that? We already do that? That’s wonderful! I wonder if we have a name for the women who take advantage of that system that’s in place to prevent abortions. We do? “Welfare Queens,” you say? Sounds like a good idea. I guess conservatives would love welfare queens and want to create more of them, rather than allow abortion. What’s that? I’m sorry, what? Conservatives are using welfare queens as an argument against a social safety net?
I don’t even understand.
6. Equalize the Responsibility
Say a guy gets a girl pregnant. She’s stuck with this kid for the next 18 years. She has to pay the bills because, assuming she brings the kid to term, she’s probably going to bond with the kid. The guy wanders off and doesn’t pay for his offspring, but somebody has to. We need to find a way to make the financial and time burden more equal. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 provides an interesting ancient solution. While it wouldn’t work today, perhaps we could learn something from it.
7. Equalize (or Better, Eliminate) the Shame
Christians play a major part in the consideration that being pregnant out of wedlock is shameful. The woman wears the scarlet letter, and the man walks around scot-free. This needs to stop. There’s no way to get rid of the girl’s belly bump other than to prevent it from happening in the first place, so we need to either
1. Prevent it from happening by providing sex ed and birth control, or
2. Stop the stigma so she doesn’t feel ashamed to be pregnant.