Despite today’s historic and overwhelming popularity of legal abortion in this country and elsewhere, the one crisis rarely mentioned in this age-old fractious issue is still who pays for child’s survival to age 18 or emancipation—if current abortion bans pass in most states?
The current average estimated cost is a staggering $288,094 , according to the Federal government.
Small wonder, then, that 73 percent of patients in a 2004 Gallup poll said they wanted an abortion because they couldn’t afford a child. Last year, pro-choice responses were up to 85 percent . Presumably those polled included male teenagers and adults (married or not) sowing their wild oats, yet escaping Nature’s bitter harvest of unsupported children.
Unlike other creatures, human males obeying hormonal urges, often spawn unknown or unwanted children from forced pregnancies. Because DNA testing (deoxyribonucleic acid) since the 1980s legally determines paternity, denials no longer provide an escape from legal and financial responsibilities for offspring. Federal child- support laws currently threaten even the jobless owing more than $5,000 in child support with fines and two years in prison, subject to state laws.
Over the centuries, millions have been forced into “shotgun marriages” by parents or relatives—as happened to one of my relatives—who otherwise would bear financial support for grandchildren. Many of these marriages last for a lifetime of misery and rage, frightening and negatively impacting their children from infancy to the rest of their lives unless they seek psychological help.
Worse, emerging studies indicate millions of unwanted children do spend a lifetime suffering from emotional damage of being ignored or mistreated and who lack social skills for connection to others. Many carry that unhappy pattern into parenting. British novelist Thomas Hardy illustrated inherited depression with gruesome accuracy involving three children in Jude the Obscure .
As a counselor once told me about such a debilitating legacy: “If you never got love, how can you give it?” Suicidal ideation and deed may also play a role in the usual forced-pregnancy outcome of unwanted children.
Time has changed little in this dynamic from antiquity to today. The plight of single women caught in forced pregnancies began appearing in European and English popular novels in the 1800s. Public television’s current series of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables depicts the predicament of the single young woman Fantine. Deserted by a lover, she keeps and supports their child by factory work, home sewing, and prostitution before dying of depression and tuberculosis —and leaving it to survive “by the kindness of strangers.”
Even author Sir Walter Scott took time out from tales of knights of old in 1818 to write what some consider to be his finest novel, The Heart of Mid-lothian when infanticide was a hanging offense for women in Britain and elsewhere. Heroine Jeanie Dean travels on foot from Scotland to London to convince the queen to pardon her imprisoned sister Effie for that crime. Too, millions of high schoolers used to be assigned reading about the imprisonment and enforced wearing of the letter “A” (for adultery) of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 classic The Scarlet Letter.
Few novelists then portrayed married women distraught over the unspoken mandate of continued births because high infant mortality adversely affected the family income by child labor on farms or in factories. Hard times’ offspring may have vowed to have only two children or none at all, aided by abortions, the rhythm method, or infanticide. Indeed, in 1910, the live birth rate was 30.1 per 1,000 U.S. populations, which plummeted to 18.7 during the 1930s Great Depression.
Economics, in short, is always closely tied to abortion—or lack of birth control.
Though one or two prolife groups such as Democrats for Life pledge financial aid immediately after births—cribs, bottles, diapers, etc.—most of the others usually close their chequebooks at births. Survival has been achieved. Duty to protect the unborn has been done. Amen! But what about protecting survival of those who live, thanks to the Biblical command (Genesis 9L7) to “Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” Somehow that seems of little concern to most prolifers.
That attitude represents their monumental hypocrisy in genuinely protecting human life. That’s why so many of us see the prolifers’ real motive is to punish the Fantines, Effies, Hesters, and Magdalenes for upsetting moral standards set by the patriarchy over the centuries. Women like my teenaged ancestor was flogged and did time in the Boston Common stocks for fornication with a sailor who promised to marry her next time he made port. He never returned, but she escaped community shaming and shunning by marrying a neighbor in the stocks and moving to New Hampshire.
Interestingly, the dearth of children born in the Great Depression of the 1930s began to concern economists, politicians, theologians, and the well off who could afford large families. They were worried about the nation’s future consumers, workforce, voters, and military recruits. The fertile were limiting mouths to feed by practicing ancient birth-control methods of infanticide, adoptions, or abortion. Or new techniques taught by Margaret Sanger’s national Planned Parenthood movement, beginning in 1910.
To the rescue came president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal containing the 1935 Social Security Act, essentially for financial aid to low-income people over age 65. Tucked inside that law was a financial-support program for those from birth to age 15 eventually called Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). Indigent parents and guardians were allotted $6 per month for the first month and $4 for each additional child (today’s value: $132.90, $88.56, respectively).
Needless to say, such a taxpayer subsidy for the next 60 years to increase population was to draw the fury of both the influential and/or wealthy—and those receiving no support. Opposition grew when food stamps were resurrected in 1964 and Medicaid in 1965 by president Lyndon Johnson. Ironically, concern by the ruling and middle classes eventually shifted to fears of overpopulation among the masses. They might openly advocate contraceptives or genocide, but weren’t brave enough to suggest or support legal abortions.
Meantime, grateful recipients ignored public pejoratives of “fecund freeloaders” and “welfare queens” from fiscal conservatives such as millionaires in Congress and social-climbing, elitist presidents like Ronald Reagan (R) and Bill Clinton (D) in the 1960s and 1970s. Both laid down draconian eligibility requirements and funding cuts for public assistance. Their key remedy was “workfare” for welfare cheques. The idea was that forcing mothers to minimum-wage jobs as of old, increased earnings would soon remove them from the public pocketbook. They and their stingy supporters refused to recognize that legal abortion might accomplish that goal.
And so AFDC benefits were terminated in 1996 by a Republican Congress during the Clinton administration, replaced by the harsh rules of today’s block-grant Temporary (five years maximum ) Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Its federal allocation was handed over to states—sums based on previous state payments—for means-testing eligibility and distribution. That’s why monthly checks in 2020 to single-parent children in New Hampshire were $862 and $146 in Mississippi.
Undoubtedly, many probably are cheering the legislators who repealed of Child Labor laws in Arkansas and, soon, Iowa and other states with labor shortages or $15 hourly wages for adults. Iowa governor Kim Reynolds declared it would develop a “strong work ethic” in children to “get ahead in life.”
That was not yesteryear’s reason for large families. Children’s earnings were essential to family incomes. Still are, apparently. Why else would parents in at least four states (Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio) put their 10-year-olds to work at a string of McDonalds until 2 a.m.? Department of Labor investigators in Kentucky found them preparing and distributing food orders, tending deep-fryers, doing cashiering, and cleanup. Last February, DoL also discovered 13-year-olds on night shifts for a sanitation company using “caustic chemicals to clean razor-sharp saws” at slaughterhouses in eight states (Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas).
Destroying public assistance programs is again being tried by the hard-hearted parsimonious lawmakers in Congress and legislatures: From 5.1 million families in 1994, the number of recipients has dropped to 1.0 million as of last September. But so have the number of live births in the last half-dozen years: 11.968 per 1,000 in 2018; to 12.012 in 2022. Without abortions, contraceptives, or abstention, how could that be?
The long struggle for legal abortions was finally won in 1973 by the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling. It has made those cruel prolife customs cited above, moot for the last 50 years in the United States—until it was overturned last June by the Court in the Dobbs v. Jackson decision .
So far, 24 states have either banned abortion or soon may. Texas has added a bounty law providing $10,000 to those finding anyone who knowingly “aids or abets” an abortion. Its supporters suggest other states use it. Coming soon from its legislature and governor may be a law (HB 17) firing elected prosecutors refusing to pursue those accused of violating Texas’ abortion ban.
The Roe ruling curbed public condemnation of women choosing abortion, of course, though prove costly to those quietly paying for that service. Gallup polls from 1996 to 2022 showed most women were pro-choice, dramatically moving from 50 percent approval in 1996 to last year’s 61 percent. Men’s prolife responses for the same period ranged from 35 percent to 47.5 percent; pro-choicers from 50 to 47.5 percent.
That could explain why in state legislatures, Congress, courts, and the streets the most heated advocates against abortion, abortion pills, and contraception seem to be men. A possible conclusion might be losing control of wives who in prior eras were “barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen”.
In fairness to all genders, it should be remembered that Kansans last August defeated the state’s constitutional amendment to bar abortions by a 543,855 to 378,466 vote . Currently, Republican leaders instantly recognized the abortion issue was so paramount and personal that it could defeat their prolife candidates and ballot initiatives in the 2024 election . And just when they began urging a major shift to other burning issues (supporting Ukraine, demonizing China, etc.), banning the abortion pill mifepristone was expected to take center stage for the months ahead.
Now, Congressional Republicans are presently holding hostage the vital need of raising the federal debt ceiling before June 1 to save the nation from its first default unless the Senate Democrats agree to pass their House bill (H.R. 2811), the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 approved in squeaking by a 217-215 vote. Aside from its far-reaching cuts (IRS), nullifications (student loans), repeals (energy tax credits), and endorsements (oil and gas leasing), it sets new and demanding work requirements for recipients of Medicaid, food stamps, and TANF. Again, the idea is to wipe out welfare and opening the door to ending both Social Security and Medicare.
Senate Democrats could counter this cynical bargain with an offer to give all newborns regular Social Security benefits (2023 average: $1833.23 ) up to age 18. That certainly would jar loose a “clean,” bipartisan bill focused totally on raising the debt ceiling, as is customarily.
That tactic might also awaken a few million prolifers to reconsider their implacable stance against contraception or, by contrast, a safe legal abortion as the real choices in determining family life. But it also shows undeniably that abortion is still a major economic issue, like it or not. That it has been so since our species first arrived on this planet. One of these days prolifers just might get over it.