Rachel Held Evans asks:

So yesterday I complained about feeling stuck in the middle between pro-life idealism and those progressive policies I think are most likely to actually curb the abortion rate. But today I’m thinking about practical solutions. There are a few I’ve been advocating and supporting for a long time, but I want to crowdsource a bit: What are some key initiatives (both domestically and globally) around which conservatives and liberals could rally that would address the underlying causes of abortion: poverty, expensive healthcare, expensive childcare, lack of access to contraception and comprehensive sex education, domestic violence, etc? If I find the time I’ll share the best in a blog post. Thanks for weighing in! (And let’s keep it positive and practical!)

I love talking about ways to address the underlying issues that lead to abortion. There’s so much that we can do to prevent abortions — IF, as an early feminist wrote in The Revolution, “We want prevention, not merely punishment.” My reply:

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As other commenters have said, affordable and easy access to contraception is important. The less often people have to go pick up prescription refills, the better — there was a study in L.A. that showed that allowing low-income women to get twelve months’ worth of pills at a time decreased the odds of unintended pregnancy by 30%, and the odds of an abortion by 46%. Even better, IF a woman freely chooses them and can have them removed upon request, are long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs and implants that don’t require any action to be taken once they’re in. In general, humans are not great at taking a pill at the same time every day (not just contraceptives). LARCs also can’t be sabotaged by abusive partners.

Speaking of which, we also need to do more to stop rape, and to help women out of abusive relationships. Early research shows that counseling women who come to family planning clinics about reproductive coercion (asking about whether their partners hide their pills, threaten to hurt them or kick them out of the home if they use contraception, etc.) not only reduces unintended pregnancies among women in abusive relationships, it also increases the chance they’ll leave those relationships. Men who father children by rape must not be allowed to have custody or visitation. This is already the case in 35 or so states, but we need to finish the job.

Comprehensive and accurate sex ed, including instruction about how to be safe and responsible about sexual activity if one chooses to use drugs or alcohol.

School and workplace policies that are designed with the idea that workers are human beings who have lives outside of work, not just productivity machines. No more just-in-time scheduling. No more pregnancy discrimination. Paid maternity and paternity leave. Affordable child care.

Nobody should ever be in a position where they don’t feel like they can bear a child because they won’t be able to pay rent or feed their other kids. More power for workers would mean better wages, and a real social safety net (one that’s not premised on the false idea of recipients as moochers who need to be humiliated) would alleviate some of the financial fear that often leads to abortion. Better yet, a guaranteed basic income and/or a child allowance. It’s disgraceful that in a country as rich as ours, hundreds of thousands of abortions happen every year because mothers are afraid they can’t afford to give their children life.

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The above comment was dashed off quickly, but I would also add perinatal hospice, so that abortion doesn’t seem like the only option for parents whose children are diagnosed in the womb with fatal conditions. Also, there needs to be community support for parents of children with disabilities. Asking them to go it alone, with all the added stress and expense and work that can be involved, overwhelms many parents. They can’t see themselves handling all that, especially if they also have other kids. They shouldn’t have to handle it without help.

And while it’s not a policy issue, in general we need to foster a sexual ethic that emphasizes care for the health and well-being of oneself, one’s partner, and for any child who might be conceived. Not just safe sex, but caring sex. Wise sex. Sex that acknowledges that we aren’t pleasure-seeking islands, but are connected to — and affect — our fellow human beings.

I don’t disagree with the rest of the paragraph, but honestly [emphasis added]:

The elitism is a big part of this, but so is the sex part. As Franke-Ruta notes, the only other coverage point that has created as much conservative ire is the contraception benefit. What do contraception and maternity coverage have in common? Both imply that the woman who is using the benefit willingly chose to have sex. It really isn’t much more complicated than that. Which is why Mankiw insists that having children is a “choice”, even though it’s not that simple. Half of pregnancies in this country are unintended. Of those, not an insignificant number result in childbirth because the woman felt that abortion was not really a choice, either because she’s been guilt-tripped by anti-choice propaganda, bullied by family members, or simply couldn’t afford to jump through the rapidly expanding number of hoops that Republicans are putting in place to keep women from abortion. When conservatives say it’s a “choice”, they are pretending that abstaining from sex is a realistic expectation to place on the majority of American women who are not members of the economic elite, full stop. That’s what this is about.

Shorter Amanda Marcotte: no woman acting according to her own free will and moral compass would ever feel that abortion was an unacceptable choice for her in the event of unintended pregnancy.

Mankiw, in the blog post Marcotte quoted, was pretty repulsive himself:

But having children is more a choice than a random act of nature. People who drive a new Porsche pay more for car insurance than those who drive an old Chevy. We consider that fair because which car you drive is a choice.  Why isn’t having children viewed in the same way?

Because a child isn’t a consumer good, he or she is a human being who both needs and deserves care. Because none of that is any less true if that child’s mother could have had an abortion and didn’t. And because parenthood shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for the well-off.

A professor of Social Work in Mississippi has this genius idea for preventing teen pregnancy:

Social workers should explain to teenage females that if they get pregnant, while in middle school or high school, there is no money for prenatal care, no money for prenatal exams, no money for a birth at a hospital, no money for formula or baby food, no money for diapers.

Dr. Swindell calls this “an unconventional approach.” Yes, punishing teen moms and their children is bold and innovative.

I hope this professor doesn’t call herself pro-life, because this is a great way to guarantee more abortions.

Three years ago, I attended a conference at Princeton that was intended to bring pro-life and pro-choice advocates together to find common ground. Its success was, shall we say, limited. But one moment of vehement agreement came when pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike expressed frustration with politicians who talk about their opposition to abortion and respect for life while at the same time cutting funding for social welfare programs.

You see, pregnancy assistance centers can’t meet the needs of the women and children they serve on their own. One of the services many centers provide is helping mothers connect with programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) so they and their children can get enough to eat. Centers like Birthright in Salina, Kansas:

“If this shutdown continues, girls won’t get the vouchers they need for baby formula,” said Linda Campbell, director of Birthright. “We will have hungry babies in Salina. A lot of our clients are very low-income. If they don’t get their WIC vouchers, who knows what will happen.

“I can’t see letting our babies go hungry and starve to death.”

The shutdown has left a portion of the federal workforce furloughed and services suspended, including funding for the WIC program that helps families up to 180 percent of the poverty line.

Campbell said Birthright, a crisis pregnancy service, helps women in need, giving emergency formula and other help. She said many of her clients are on WIC.

The government shutdown isn’t just a political game — it’s hurting real women and children.

It’s not just WIC, either. Domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers that receive federal funds authorized under the Violence Against Women Act and other programs face critical losses of funding. And then there are the cancelled cancer trials, the inability of the CDC to respond quickly to a widespread salmonella outbreak, the debilitating effects of loss of income on the households of federal employees, and so many more life-diminishing effects.

Democrats for Life is challenging pro-life groups to call for an end to the shutdown. We join them in that challenge.

US supporters: Please call and ask your Representative to end the shutdown with no strings attached. You can find your House members using Contacting the Congress. Please call and make the pro-life case against the shutdown.

I wanted to share this awesome series of tweets from Gretchen Sisson (@gsisson), fighting back against efforts to prevent teen pregnancy using shame and fear tactics.

Teen pregnancy is so often portrayed as a life-ruiner, but in fact it’s the conditions that lead to high rates of teen pregnancy that really hurt teen mothers’ life chances. And those same conditions are at least as devastating for their peers who don’t get pregnant.

That doesn’t mean teens should be encouraged to get pregnant! If a teen, especially a younger teen, is in a position where pregnancy seems like her best option, that’s a good sign that she’s lacking adequate opportunity in her life and needs a lot of social support. But it does mean that we shouldn’t accept the narrative that says a girl’s life is over if she does get pregnant and have a baby.

At the conference held for the 25th anniversary of Consistent Life (of which All Our Lives is a member group), Mary spoke with Elizabeth Palmberg about her views on how abortion relates to issues of reproductive justice faced by women, as well as to other forms of lifetaking. This interview is reprinted, with permission, from the Fall 2012 newsletter of Consistent Life.

When I was small, I had a strong intuition that all lives are sacred. And I heard about women’s liberation; I heard the feminists burned bras, and this and that and the other thing, but there was something about it that, inside, made me cheer. I was always kind of a free spirit. What I learned in college, at Bryn Mawr, was that if you’re for women’s rights, you have to be pro-choice— something about that just didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t know many people who felt the same way who would talk about it. I came from a very conservative background, and I came out of college feeling that some of my earlier moral and political intuitions were validated by feminism and progressive politics. But this issue of abortion—I just could not get away from the feeling that this is violence and it arises from injustice against women.

I wanted to do something about violence, but I felt very discontent with the pro-life movement as such. I became a social worker and worked in pregnancy care services. When I became too disabled to work a “normal” job, I went to being a writer and editor; one of my specializations is recovering lost history.

I’ve written on black history, Polish-American history. And I’ve done work on early feminists—even though the situation is different today, obviously, they have a very keen analysis, that still holds, why women have unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Two years ago Jennifer Roth and I co-founded a group called All Our Lives; we very consciously take a reproductive justice approach. Reproductive justice is a movement that arose from women of color, people with disabilities, people with a working-class perspective. Reproductive justice involves having not only the right to have a child but the social power to exercise that right, to raise the children we have in safety, and it also includes the right not to have a child.

Many people who identify with reproductive justice take a pro-choice stand on abortion, but there are many of us who don’t. Loretta Ross, the head of SisterSong, a very influential reproductive justice organization, talks about “perfect choice.” If everyone had the means to do what they wanted to do reproductively and sexually, that would be the state of perfect choice. Some people believe that in that state there would still be abortions, and others of us think that it would be rare to nonexistent.

So that’s why we started All Our Lives, and we’ve had very interesting dialogues, mostly behind the scenes, with both pro-life and pro-choice people. One thing that we’re finding is a niche that nobody’s taken up is that a lot of scientific research now suggests that methods that were considered abortifacient really aren’t—there is so much resistance to hearing that perspective. We also have on our website a PowerPoint presentation called “Family Planning Freedom is Prolife.” It gives 10 reasons, many backed up with scientific studies. It addresses a lot of myths that both pro-life and pro-choice people have.

“As many as God sends us” is a family planning choice, and natural family planning is one, but the important thing is I don’t think “choice” is an empty word. Some people think it’s a cover for all abortion all the time, but I think it’s very real. You can’t just talk about choice in a vacuum; you have to talk about how it’s compromised by issues of race, gender, disability, class, sexual orientation. Environmental justice is one; a lot of women are losing their ability to conceive when they want to because of environmental toxins.

Believing that all life is sacred, that means women’s lives too, and that means we do have a right over our own bodies. Pro-lifers often interpret that as a selfish demand, but I [don’t.] I remember Muhammad Ali, when I was a little kid, boasting about how great he was; a lot of white people were saying, “God, this man has an ego!” But after living in a black community for a long time and having an interracial family, I realized that that’s not egotism—that’s saying, “I’m somebody, I have value.” That’s what women are saying when they say, “We have a right over our own bodies.”

Now with pregnancy, it’s a matter of two bodies, two lives. Our responsibility has two sides: one is responsibility for pregnant women and their children, and the other side is the responsibility to respect women’s right to prevent conception when they want to. That is a difficult thing to write in the pro-life movement. Some Catholics have objections; the other thing is the belief in something called the “contraceptive mentality,” that if your contraception fails, that you automatically have an abortion—that doesn’t explain millions of pregnancy outcomes. It certainly doesn’t explain why I had my daughter and why she had her son. I know lots of women who use contraception in the knowledge that it doesn’t always work as intended. But if it doesn’t work as intended, then you and your child have a right to everything that will help you both survive.

A lot of [the bridge-building we at All Our Lives have] done so far is behind the scenes. We find, in surprising places, opportunities to join with people who have a common concern. We have found pro-choice people who say, “I don’t agree with you on abortion, but I have respect for your perspective because it’s consistent, because you value women’s lives.” We found pro-lifers who say, “That’s exactly how I feel.” We share a lot of supporters with the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. One very interesting thing is that women of color, even those who identify as pro-choice, really can relate to this perspective. There’s probably a lot of opportunity for common ground there.

We have a small board; most of us have disabilities. We’re all female; one of our board members is a woman and an independent ordained Catholic priest. We’re not anti-religious; we’re open to people of all faiths. I’m someone with Catholic and Protestant ancestry, and I also practice Buddhism, and Jen Roth is an atheist. We really try to bring in multiple perspectives, which can be difficult sometimes, but so far it’s worked out really well.

I was involved in Feminists for Life, I think, from 1986 until I resigned in 2007. I don’t quarrel with what they do—what they do is good—but I left specifically in protest of their inaction on pre-conception issues. [They] said [they] couldn’t come to a consensus because people disagree. I feel like we’ve worked out another approach. I kind of understand; Catholics in the United States, including my white ethnic ancestors, Polish and Irish, were targeted for eugenics, and that collective memory is still there. That legacy is one reason it’s hard to talk about birth control in the pro-life movement. But I think it needs to come more out in the open, it needs to heal.

As a multiply disabled person who depends on expensive medical care, I am really concerned about the threat euthanasia poses, especially to people on public assistance. I think disability rights folks—who are often not included in the debates, but we have had some impact—have gotten people to think about the fact [euthanasia often] isn’t a free choice; it can easily slide into coercion. As for the death penalty, I really think that’s tied into racism, it’s tied into poverty. I know a family with a member who was eventually exonerated, but he was on death row for something like 14 years. He was a young man, and he lost those years of his life. So that issue has a very human face to me. All these issues do.

War is very tied in. I know people who have gone into the military for very noble reasons: they want to serve their country, they know that some things are worth dying for. It’s unfortunate that they’re dying for such horrible reasons.

I see a parallel between that and a lot of women I know who’ve had abortions. They are not evil people; they are people trying, like all of us, to make the best of very bad situations. I know women who’ve had abortions who go to either the pro-life or the pro-choice movements, and I see good people in both groups. A lot of women feel they have to have an abortion because it preserves a relationship with a man, or with their parents. They are concerned about the situation they bring the child into. I just think it’s unfair that women are placed in that position to begin with, that the whole karmic burden is thrown on that woman and that child. We always talk about most of these issues in terms of individual rights, but what about collective responsibility? I think that’s where Americans really, really have gone wrong.

All Our Lives is proud to support the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act in the United States Congress. The Act provides the necessary framework and resources to states and school districts to improve graduation rates for pregnant and parenting students, and to ensure that states and localities fulfill their obligations to these students under Title IX. If you represent an organization that can support this piece of legislation, please sign on to this letter to Congress and show your support. If you do not represent an organization but wish to support the bill, please write or call your member of Congress (a handwritten letter or fax is best; email is the least effective) and ask them to support H.R. 2617

The National Women's Law Center is providing the following information resources for pregnant and parenting students:


Finally, if you suspect that you or someone you know has been subjected to discrimination on the basis of being a pregnant or parenting student, you can contact the NWLC by emailing info@nwlc.org or by calling 202-588-5180. Depending on your situation, they might be able to help you directly, refer you to a more appropriate person or work to ensure that those who follow you do not face the same barriers.

I'm planning to call in for this, and I hope some of our members will be there too. Supporting pregnant and parenting students is so important for women's equal access to economic opportunity. Pro-life advocates in particular should be eager to ensure that no woman feels she has to resort to abortion in order to complete her education and have a chance at a better life.

Know Your Rights: A Conference Call for Pregnant and Parenting Students!

(Please note that if you don't tick the box marked "Please continue to send me e-mail updates from the National Women's Law Center," you will not receive the call details in e-mail. This is annoying, but you can unsubscribe from the e-mail updates later if you want.)

Danielle Jackson of the NWLC writes (via email);

We’re hoping to reach a larger audience than just students who are pregnant or have children – we hope that this call can be a resource for educators, guidance counselors, and community members who work with teens and young women – and we’d love to have anyone who is interested to sign up to listen in on the call.

Busy day today, but I wanted to draw people's attentions to a few items:

Groundbreaking Bill Integrates Pregnancy and Violence Prevention Strategies for Young People of Color

The “Communities of Color Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Act,” HR 2678, recognizes that a broader approach is needed to address teen pregnancy in communities of color, including the role coercion and violence plays in unintended pregnancy, and invests in getting young people of color the information and skills they need to build healthy relationships.  It further addresses the need among racial or ethnic minority and immigrant communities for culturally appropriate information and education on issues of reproductive and sexual health.


Know Your Rights: A Conference Call for Pregnant and Parenting Students!

Wednesday, August 10, 3pm Eastern

Pregnant and parenting students have a right to equal educational opportunities! Interested? Get more information about protections for students against discrimination.


Court: No tax-funded abortion in healthcare law

"Whether it is possible, under contingent circumstances, that at some point in the future, upon the execution of x, y, and z, that the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] would not prevent taxpayer funded abortion is entirely different from providing for 'tax-payer funded abortion,'" the opinion states. "The express language of the PPACA does not provide for tax-payer funded abortion. That is a fact, and it is clear on its face."

The ELECT (Education Leading to Employment and Career Training) program in Philadelphia is under threat from budget cuts. ELECT is helping about 1,000 pregnant and parenting teens finish high school and start building a solid future for themselves and their children.

When Quentina Fields found out she was pregnant – at 17, a junior at Bartram High School – the news was so disorienting, it felt as if it were happening to someone else.

"Like out of a movie," she said.

Teachers took Fields to the school ELECT program, which helps pregnant students and young mothers stay in class and graduate.

In November, Fields gave birth to a son. And in June, bolstered by parent training and academic tutoring, she accepted her diploma.

Now the future of ELECT has grown hazy.

"Program for pregnant students has unclear future" – Philadelphia Inquirer

The program will probably not be eliminated, but may be scaled back. Nationwide, about 60 percent of girls who have children while in high school drop out. Without programs like ELECT, girls in high school who get pregnant face bleak prospects — and strong incentives for abortion.