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Women's Right to Choose Reproductive Options

Controversy about Abortion Rights for Women

On the 49th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade, which established women’s federal right to secure an abortion and limited the states’ ability to impose restrictions, we face the very real threat that this right to choose will be taken away. If women’s right to choose is removed by government, what will be the outcomes for women, and indeed, for the babies they are forced to carry and deliver?

Amongst all the religious and political discussion of reproductive rights, the fates for women in the predicament of an unplanned pregnancy are not considered nearly enough. “Pro-life” advocates forget about the lives of the women and how devastating can be the outcomes for them in carrying the pregnancy to term. There are educational consequences, such as having to discontinue high school or college; a loss of income and career advancement that can constrict earning power for years to come; inordinate medical expenses; mental health crises due to multiple stressors during a pregnancy, especially if alone and without support; and possible adverse health effects during and after pregnancy. How many men would give up their right to choose what to do with an unplanned pregnancy? How many men or resourced women would suffer such privations and losses due to someone else’s beliefs and laws--instead of having a choice? Psychologically, when forced to endure a fate not of their choosing, anyone would suffer severe anxiety and depression. The least the government and all the pro-lifers could do if legal abortion is disallowed is to assist and support these women to provide better outcomes for them during and after the pregnancy.

Then we must turn our attention to the outcomes for the babies themselves. Pro-lifers act like this is all just sunshine and roses for these babies after birth! No, that is often NOT the case. Much of the time, an unwanted pregnancy is not known until later in the pregnancy; however, during the first trimester, many of the effects of substance use (alcohol, drugs, and tobacco) and lack of prenatal care have already damaged the brain of the developing fetus. Pro-life advocates also rarely mention who it is that becomes accidentally pregnant—it is often women with their own challenges who created a baby with a sperm donor father, who will either be uninvolved and unsupportive or make a lousy father. And it is these folks who have contributed to the actual genetics of this baby! Yes, there are many successful adoptions. But, adopted children are disproportionately represented in psychiatric and special education populations. Further, if inadequate biological parents raise them, many of these children will end up abused and neglected, as well as often being mired in poverty.

In my clinical psychology practice, I have seen many children--who have been adopted, raised by single mothers or extended family, or embedded in poverty-- who have significant disabilities due to prenatal insults, the biology of genetics, and post-birth deprivations and adverse circumstances. When these children need help, where are all the people who insisted they be born against the will of the mother? Those people who claim to care about the unborn children are nowhere to be found after the babies are born. Instead, they are off somewhere else, pontificating their self-righteous hypocrisy: asserting they care about these children and then failing to provide the human services they will need; advocating for personal liberty regarding pandemic restrictions and then having the gall to restrict women’s personal liberty about their own bodies; claiming Christianity and then imposing harsh legislation on these desperate and struggling mothers; and worst of all, neglecting basic empathy and potential medical and life risks in legislating their own beliefs about abortion rights. This is an egregious misuse of the power of legislation, further aided by the deceitful Republican stacking of the Supreme Court, causing harm, yet again, to vulnerable and marginalized subsets of the population. We cannot allow such soul-sickening behavior on the part of our “leaders” to continue.

Editorial by: H. Denise Wooten, PsyD

January 22, 2022

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