Sharon Lerner’s dreary story at Salon.com doesn’t invoke much sympathy from me for a woman who found a three-month window to get an abortion too burdensome.
It’s a struggle for many women, especially the poor ones, to get an abortion in the state of Mississippi where clinics aren’t exactly within a Starbucks reach. But low-income earners can get one for about $300, a modest price tag I believe for women who don’t want their child. The sacrifices some have to make to scrounge up the dough to sacrifice their baby is apparently too great, and often takes longer than the 12-week limit set by Mississippi. As a result some women end up seeing their pregnancy through:
So young women like Angie continue to risk jobs and borrow money in order to make it out of state to get abortions. Others, like a young Mississippi woman named Tammy, forgo the procedure entirely. Tammy first came into the clinic last October, when she was in her 14th week of pregnancy. She hadn’t known the law had changed and had assumed she would be able to get an abortion. Instead she was told she’d have to make a trip to Alabama. A single mother, she would have had to arrange for childcare to go out of state, and she was struggling to raise the money for travel, according to Cheryl McGee, a staff member at Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “She had just started her job and she couldn’t get no time off and she couldn’t get nobody to take her,” explains McGee. “She doesn’t have a car to get there and she didn’t have the money to get a bus.”
Is the Mississippi law cruel for forcing some women to jump over a few hurdles to end their pregnancy? I say no. The deadline to get an abortion is a little different than the deadline to file your taxes. Paperwork is paperwork, but a fetus is a human being (or close to becoming a human being depending on your view) that will soon be viable.
The author admits that it is an accepted fact that fetuses can often live outside the womb at the 26th week (start of the third trimester) of pregnancy and sometimes even earlier. Abortion supporters are vocal about opposing such restrictive deadlines to get one but they don’t want to talk about the grisly reality that abortion is generally acceptable only 14 or so weeks before the baby can survive on its own. For that I applaud Mississippi’s 12-week limit and the positive results:
No one knows for sure what now happens to the women with unwanted pregnancies in Mississippi who have progressed beyond 12 weeks. In the year since the law went into effect, the clinic has performed 458 fewer abortions than the previous year. Many would-have-been patients, like Angie, were referred to a Montgomery clinic, New Woman All Women Health Care, which allows women who have attended informational sessions in Jackson to get abortions without having to repeat the session in Alabama.
The abortion rate here is low, despite the fact that the state has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. The state’s many restrictions clearly help depress the numbers. There were only six abortions for every thousand women of reproductive age in 2000 in Mississippi, compared to 21.3 in the U.S. In the six years following the enactment of the law requiring a 24-hour waiting period after counseling in 1992, the rate dropped from 11.3 per thousand to 9.9, according to a study published in Family Planning Perspectives in 2000.
I hope Tammy buckles down and does what she needs to do to provide for the new life in her life. I have no doubt in my mind that it will be difficult, but she won’t be the first mother to go through hardships of raising a kid. The author describes the birth of Tammy’s child as a “defeat,” but I can’t see it that way. And while I may not know what it’s like to be stuck with a child I never wanted, I certainly know the value of life and the potential greatness that can come from every almost-aborted survivor.