ABELLO: A world without abortion?



Oscar Abello

Twelve percent of Philadelphia households are single mother families. Forty percent of Philadelphia households earn less then $25,000 per year. Fifty-three percent of Philadelphia households are black or Hispanic. If you are concerned about abortion, those factors should matter to you because the average woman seeking abortion is black or Hispanic; makes $25,000 a year or less; and single mothers account for two thirds of abortions.

Nationally, for mothers aged 15 or younger, there are eight abortions for every 10 live births. For mothers aged 15 to 19, there are four abortions for every 10 live births.

In study after study, from those favoring abortion rights and those not, the overwhelming reason mothers give for seeking abortions is unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. A 2004 study by the Alan Guttmacher institute reported that 74 percent of women seeking abortion listed dramatic lifestyle change as one reason for an abortion – including interference with career, education or raising other children. Seventy-three percent listed also that they could not afford a child at the time.

The availability of legal abortion does not appear to affect their occurrence significantly. According to a study by The Third Way Culture Project, out of 46 million abortions performed annually worldwide, 20 million (44 percent) occur in countries where abortion is illegal. Ninety-seven percent of abortions occur outside of the United States.

Wherever they occur, legal or not, the reasons reported are generally the same as those found by the Guttmacher institute across the United States, the same factors found frequently right down Lancaster Avenue in the city of Philadelphia. Many women simply do not seem convinced society is conducive to more children.

Can you blame them?

Paid maternity leave is apparently too much to ask of the world’s largest market economy. There are firms out there that provide such benefits, but it does not appear most women seeking abortions find themselves in that position. Nor does it appear that high schools and higher education are environments conducive to pregnancy, let alone parenthood.

This month The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in the first three months of 2008, assaults on students rose 13.2 percent and robberies increased 22 percent. The same story noted that teachers believe the environment is much worse than the numbers indicate. The same story noted the Philadelphia School District’s chief safety executive believed that those numbers were not out of line with recent years’ data.

Is that a hopeful place to send your future child?

Besides physical violence, Philadelphia schools also experience structural violence. They remain hampered by under funding, understaffing and sometimes overcrowding. Most of all they remain handcuffed by No Child Left Behind – forced to teach a test in order to maintain current funding levels, rather than educate children in order to provide the real positive externalities education is supposed to provide for the economy.

What hope there is, starts with the recognition that those conditions are not static; they have not always been that way and they do not have to stay that way. Mothers and families do not have to feel left behind or ignored, surrounded only by violent crime, underemployment and failing schools.

For America and for the world, there is no quick and easy path to eliminating those conditions. For those who believe in the inherent dignity of every human life, that struggle is a worthy cause. At the heart of the matter is hope.

Mothers need to feel hopeful, as much as possible; be they single, married, engaged, rich, middle-class, poor, black, white, Hispanic, Asian or Native American. Mothers need to know their communities will be there for them, not against them; they need to believe the world is becoming a better place, that it has room for another child.

Even though there is rarely absolute certainty on the matter of improving the world, the most powerful hope starts with knowing that someone in power empathizes with the poor and the vulnerable, and is thinking of the world from their eyes when decisions are made. That kind of empathy is rare, but it just might be on the horizon.


Oscar Abello is a senior economics major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].