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New Pregnancy Assistance Fund Should Also Fund Abortions

July 7, 2010

Photo/Washington Post

Last week the Obama Administration announced the creation of a US$25 million fund available to assist pregnant women and teen mothers. The creation of the fund is a step toward the ‘common ground’ on abortion that Obama continues to strive for.  A white whale, if you ask me.  Signs so far from both pro- and anti-choice groups are that of support…of course.  Who would oppose money to help support new and struggling mothers?

It’s definitely a set of services that is critical and underfunded, so it’s great to get that boost.  The fund will also go toward vocational training and gender-based violence prevention – Brava – but no mention of sex ed or funds for birth control/emergency contraception – HUGE mistake.  Moreover, why wouldn’t the fund also go to help women who can’t afford an abortion?

I mean I think I know why, but that, to me, would be truly common ground: providing funding and support to women to carry out their choice, whether to continue with or terminate a pregnancy.  Already, intrepid groups like the National Network of Abortion Funds exist to help women pay for the procedure when they can’t, but like every other NGO – and imagine if you were one of the least popular NGOs among at least half the US population – it’s in dire need of a funding boost itself.  

The creation of the fund comes about a year after Obama gave his speech on abortion common ground at Notre Dame…and about a year after the calculated murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of the only abortion providers in the country skilled and compassionate enough to provide late-term abortion procedures to women whose life depended on them.  How far have we really come?  While I absolutely support more government funding for new mothers and especially teen mothers, I worry that this new fund will be that much more fodder for the anti-choice cohort.  Hey, 17-year old girl who accidentally got pregnant, there is $25 million out there to help you raise that baby, so now you really have no excuse for getting an abortion, you evil, evil person.

For many women and young women in particular, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is about economic hardship, but it’s almost always about more than that as well.  In many ways, the economic argument is the simplest and cleanest cut argument to make, and well-received by critics: crunch the numbers, I simply cannot afford this child and if I have him/her, he/she will grow up in poverty and I don’t want to do that to a child.

While accessing the funds will be extremely competitive, left up to the states, and most likely almost impossibly bureaucratic, “erasing” the economic argument somehow seems to, perhaps counter intuitively, undercut the justifications for choice.  And we have so few of them these days; I think I’m just feeling clingy to whatever is left.

As CNN notes, not surprisingly, the White House press release announcing the fund doesn’t make any mention of the word abortion.  While at first a sniffed in annoyance, it’s actually smart – it’s making it clear that the establishment of the fund is not to lure women away from their choice to terminate, but to provide support there if they decide to parent.  It’s not an either/or (though literally, it is), but both.  However, a little line in there reminding, reaffirming that the going law in the US is choice would not be unappreciated among the embattled repro rights brigade.  If I see one more egg as person ballot initiative, I am going to declare myself a cannibal over my morning omelet.

Props to Obama and Sebelius for addressing the very-oft forgotten needs of young mothers and pregnant women in poverty, but grade F in advancing the conversation about rights and choice.

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