Nobody should be forced to choose between aborting a child and losing a job, or an education, or a home. Workplaces and other institutions should be adapted to the needs of people, not the other way around. Abortion isn’t economic justice for poor women—it’s a substitute offered in the hopes of avoiding having to provide the real thing.
Racial justice intersects with pregnancy and abortion in so many ways. Due to racial disparities in health care and the particular stresses placed on the bodies of marginalized people, Black women in America are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Black and Hispanic women are more likely than white women to experience unintended pregnancy, and their pregnancies and children are more likely to be viewed as a threat to the social order. Native women are raped with horrifying frequency. Nothing about the rates of pregnancy and abortion among racially marginalized populations can be understood without a grasp of these social dynamics.
Prevention encompasses not only the wholly voluntary use of family planning to time and space pregnancies, but also women’s ability to control when, how, and with whom they have sex, without threat of coercion or violence.
Human worth is not measured by ability. Some humans are still developing and not yet able to perform the functions we associate with “personhood.” Others may have physical or mental conditions that mean their lives look different from those we consider “able-bodied” or developmentally “typical.” But humanity is innate; it is not bestowed by others or measured against others. It exists regardless of others’ subjective opinions about the worthiness of this or that life.
The impulse to police and to punish is strong in American society. We divide the world into good people and bad people, and use police and courts and jails to try to make the former feel safe from the latter. But real people are complicated, nobody is all bad or all good, and throwing people into an inhumane carceral system is not the only way to address social problems. We need not make criminals of women who have abortions, or of women who struggle with substance abuse while pregnant, to protect the lives of unborn children. When a child’s life is so interconnected with and dependent on her mother, why would anyone imagine they could help the child by hurting her mother? And why would anyone want to?