York Times , November
Decisions Made in the Shadows
HILL, NJ -- WATCHING the presidential candidates speak about their views on abortion
at the final debate, I wondered how many Americans understand who the typical
woman getting an abortion is.
had long assumed it was someone like Juno the title character of the recent
popular movie a teenager in high school who finds herself pregnant and
is not ready to raise a child.
is wrong. The typical American woman having an abortion is a parent of one or
more children (60 percent); in her 20s (57 percent); has never married (67 percent);
is economically disadvantaged (57 percent); lives in a metropolitan area (88 percent);
considers herself a Christian (70 percent); and has graduated from high school
(87 percent) and attended at least some college (57 percent).
according to two studies, one released in September and one in 2002, by the Guttmacher
Institute, a nonprofit, politically nonpartisan research center that supports
abortion rights but whose work is often quoted by both sides of the abortion debate.
The Guttmacher studies surveyed 10,000 women who had undergone abortions and included
data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
attracted considerable attention earlier this year, when it reported that the
number of women having abortions dropped to 1.2 million in 2005 from 1.3 million
in 2000, the fewest since the Supreme Court legalized it 35 years ago. This was
widely welcomed as good news, although explanations varied, depending on which
side of the issue people were on: One side attributed the decline to comprehensive
sex education programs in states where most abortions occur, along with the availability
of the morning-after pill; the other credited the demonizing of abortion and the
emphasis on adoption as an alternative.
the media have recently shown us teenagers who decide to keep their babies or
put them up for adoption like Juno, Sarah Palins daughter Bristol,
and Jamie Lynn Spears I dont think we know the parent in her 20s
having the abortion.
numerous inquiries, I found a clinic here that performs abortions and was willing
to help me, the Cherry Hill Womens Center. It took many more weeks to find
three statistically typical women willing to be interviewed. Not one would allow
her name to be used; each had told three or four people at most.
their shared demographics, the women had several things in common. All three are
balancing demanding work schedules while raising children. All three are economically
lower middle class, but upwardly striving. All three described their children
as the most important thing in their lives and said their decision had been influenced
by the need to give the children they already had the necessary support. And all
three were deeply conflicted about the decision, but grateful for the option.
The head bank teller:
28; three children, ages 12, 8 and 3; engaged to be married; two years
of college; Catholic (the two oldest children go to Catholic school and the family
attends Mass twice a month).
My 3-year-old son was not speaking, and going back and forth to doctors,
we discovered his speech was severely delayed. I just knew, with all I was going
through with him, I didnt want to have to go through having to care for
another baby at the same time. It was too much.
decision: Very hard, very emotional for me. I thought about it for five
weeks. Youre ending a life, youre cutting life short. Who knows what
would have been.
No. I dont want to be found 20 years from now.
Catholic faith: Its my decision, my body, something I have to answer
for when the day comes, when Im gone and Im standing there before
him. And Im prepared.
beautician: 25; one daughter, 4; has a boyfriend of three years; works two jobs
(at a beauty salon and for a beauty supply company); Baptist; has a community
college degree in business.
To be honest, I kind of felt it was not the right time to have another child.
I just graduated and started working in my career. I want to make a good living
for my daughter. Its hard being a single parent, and Im trying to
get to a level in a career where Im more established. I didnt want
to be one of those barefoot-and-pregnants.
decision: It was very hard emotionally. I was scared to death of everything.
Scared of having another child. Me and my boyfriend are together three years,
but how would our relationship change with a baby in the picture? Would he stay?
It was scary thinking about having and scary thinking about not having it.
Adoption: I thought
if I went through the pregnancy, I wouldnt be able to go through with it,
Id wind up keeping the baby.
daughter: Shes my motivation, she makes me get up every day and do
what I have to do. You do everything for them.
children: Definitely. I cant wait to get to the point where I have
exotic dancer: 25; 1-year-old son; not really with his father; works
four nights a week dancing; Catholic; attends Camden Community College two nights
Why: I knew
his father couldnt help me he didnt help when I was pregnant
with my son. Hes a scrub even his family says hes relapsed
on heroin again. Last time, I danced until I was five months and waitressed
the rest of the pregnancy. I cant do that again, working, going to school
its too much. I need to take care of my son.
decision: Morally I thought its wrong and taking the easy way out.
I felt horrible. It was a lose-lose situation. I was a screw-up for a lot of years.
Very self-destructive. A lot of drugs. I weaned myself off it, two years now and
Im trying to do the right thing.
I didnt think Id be able to be pregnant, dance and take care
of my son.
Whether I would have stayed clean without him I dont know. It isnt
about me anymore; its about him. My life is done, my life is getting prepared
so he can live.
children: No. Not unless I find the right man, and I dont think I
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