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Who Will Raise the Unaborted Child

In all the sound and fury of the "Abortion Wars", an issue that is rarely mentioned is that if an abortion cannot be obtained by a woman unable or unwilling to raise a child, who will raise that child whose birth has been coerced ?

Who will raise the unaborted child ?

While it is possible to coerce a woman to carry a fetus to term, it is impossible to coerce her or anyone else to actually raise the resulting child. It is impossible to coerce anyone to be a responsible and loving parent for the many years necessary to raise a newborn infant to an age of independance.


Who Will Raise the Unaborted Child ?

(the impossibility of coercing anyone to parent)

by Pam Green, © 2018

(certain to upset and offend many people)

(note : this topic has been on my mind for many years.)
(Note : if this discussion seems to ignore gay women and gay couples, it's because of the obvious fact that gay sex cannot result in an accidental or unwanted pregnancy. Gay couples have to put planning and effort into becoming parents, whether by gestation or adoption. Gay women, alas, may face the ugly situation of pregnancy via rape, in which situation their range of choices is essentially similar to that of any other unwillingly pregnant woman.)

Human infants require adult care

The newborn will not survive without adult care

Newborn humans do not survive the post-natal week without considerable care by at least one adult. If "viability" means ability to survive outside the womb, newborns are only contingently viable, contingent on adult care. (Note : I am NOT arguening in favor of infanticide, although many cultures, past and present, have practiced this with or without general approval.)

Humans are born extremely helpless and extremely immature. This is because there's a compromise between the infant's need for a large skull to house a large brain versus the woman's pelvic structure anabling her to walk upright and have a large enough opening for the infant skull to pass. (This doesn't always work, rsulting in maternal and fetal death unless a Caesarian can be performed.)

The first several years are critical for the infant to develop normal human cognition and social behaviors

The newoborn's brain is still quite immature. Growth to true human size takes several years. Growth and neural wiring are extremely active in the first few years.

Adult care is required for the newborn to acquire true human qualities. During those first years, the infant requires the right input from the adult or adults caring for it in order to develop language, in order to develop social attachment and empathy, and many other human attributes. (Probably without toys and / or adults to immitate, the infant won't develop tool use, though I'm not sure if the right experiments have been done.)

The basics of what children need during those first 3 to 5 years has been known for well over 20 years, though details have been added and added and added. The description in Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" describes these basics well (also what children need at later stages). In California, an organization called "First Five California" has been airing a lot of public service commercials urging parents to "talk, read, sing" to their children and to play games involving numbers. (Note : they might not urge me to sing to a child if they every heard me sing : pretty awful !). The commericals show both men (many of them bearded, thus making it unequivocally obvious that they are male) as well as women interacting in these ways with children.. Children also need to be held and stroked and cuddled. (Note : it was proven by experiment that premature infants who are gently stroked daily for 20 minutes while in NICU are able to leave NICU days earlier than those given same care but without the stroke therapy.)

Without these forms of interaction and care, the infant will not develop normal human attributes, even if it survives physically.

The child remains dependant on care by at least one adult, preverably several adults, for many years.

It may not take an entire "village" of direct child caregivers, though it does take some inputs from the society at large (school being the most obvious), but it's next to impossible for one parent to do it all alone without parenting helpers or co-parnets.. Humans have always recrutied helpers (which Sarah Blaffer Hrdy calls "alloparents"). The spouse or significant other of the mother is often the most involved alloparent, the pair being the primary child-rearers, though often not equally contributing to actual care. (Some cultures have the belief or tradition that several males can be the father of the child, thus several contribute care.) Grandparents, aunts, and uncles are often involved as alloparents. Many cultures have traditional ways of involving others as alloparents. The tradition of "godparents" is common in many. The "in-laws", parents and sibs of the mother's spouse are likely to be involved. "Honorary relatives" , often close friends of one or both primary parents, are another type of helper.

In agrarian or low tech societies, a child may start to be contributing useful work to the family when only partly grown. However that child remains dependant for many of its needs and would have difficulty surviving if tossed out on its own.

In developed nations, childhood dependance can last for over 2 decades and can include support through university and graduate school or professional school.

It's a long haul for primary parents. The nine months of gestation is nothing compared to the many years of child-rearing.

Simply coercing the unwillingly pregnant woman to carry to term and give birth simply creates what I term "the unaborted child" who will require adult care for immediate survival and decades of adult care to reach a stage of independance.

who is "the unaborted child" ?

Please remember that this topic is about the child who is born to a woman who would have chosen to abort but was prevented from doing so.

I am not talking about unplanned or accidental pregnancies where the woman has freely chosen to give birth and gives birth to a child that is now an accepted and wanted child. I am talking about the child who is unwanted and whose birth was coerced by the prevention of the woman from aborting. I am talking about the child whose coerced mother does not wish to parent it or is unable to do so.

I'm also not particularly talking about those children whose mother dies giving birth or from birth-related causes, whether or not the maternal death could have been prevented by abortion. Likewise those children whose mother suffers great health damage from the pregnancy or birth and who therefore has diminished ability to take care of the child. In some of these cases the mother has a spouse or life-partner who will very willingly take care of the child. In some cases a grandparent will step in as child-rearer or helper. But in some cases the child is in much the same position as the one whose coerced mother is simply unwilling to raise it.

(Note : We are not talking about (TV fictional) Murphy Brown, who had an accidental conception, could easily and legally have implemented a decision to abort, and who has an excellent income and an "alloparent" (one who helps rear the child) and other resources for child-rearing. Incidentally did you notice that once born the child seldom appeared on the show, never seemed to require any compromises with Murphy's job. Now in 2018 the show is being revived, and I will make you a bet that we seldom hear about this child.)

limits to coercion : a very inconvenient truth

Almost all of the "Abortion Wars" have centered on two issues. One is the right of the woman to control her own reproductive fate and servitude and to be able to act as an equal human being. The other is the value or rights of the "unborn child" , ie the fetus.

However once the fetus is actually born, actually becomes a child, there's a decided lack of discussion of the big big big issue of who will raise that neonatal child during the many long years of parental effort to enable that child to become an independant adult or near adult and (one hopes) a citizen.

(There's a saying "you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink" . (note : that's actually untrue, ask any vet who has passed a nasogastric tube to save the life of a seriously ill horse.) Likewise "you can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make her think." )

But the truely crucial truth is "you can coerce a woman to complete an unwanted pregnancy, but you cannot coerce her to be a loving parent." No catchy way to say that, but it's true true true. And it's going to be a really inconvenient truth that society (and taxpayers) will have to deal with as more and more barriers are placed in the way of women seeking abortion as their last best choice for a pregnancy that was totally unwanted or that was wanted but has turned into a disaster (serious risk to woman's health or life or a seriously damaged fetus whose prospects for decent quality life are very low or non-existant).

Who are the women being denied abortion

(the "undue burden" standard of Planned Parenthood v Casey and decisions following that rule)

In Planned Parenthood v Casey the Supreme Court essentially eviscerated Roe v Wade, changing the clear and biologically appropriate trimester system to a new rule that allows restrictions on abortion without regard to stage of pregnancy (ie age of embryo or fetus) so long at the restriction does not "unduly burden" the woman's right to choose to abort.

Helms Ammendment which prohibited Medicaid funding of abortion, thus making it very difficult for poor women to exercise their choice. (Note that these are the women least financially able to actually raise a child.).

Some "burdens" that have been ruled to be NOT "undue", therefore permissible are so far everything except (1) immediate danger to the woman's life and (2) a requirement of the husband's permission. The issue of just how far a "burden" can have a harmful effect on the woman's health, short of death, seems to be still unclear.: Burdens already approved include the following : :

Notice that none of these will prevent absolutely every woman from toughing through and obraining an abortion. But each of them will prevent some women completely, usually women who are poor or not well educated or not highly self-assertive and stubborn. Women who are affluednt and educated will always be able to find a way to get a safe abortion somewhere, just as they often did in the days before Roe v Wade.

Overall the approved restrictions (and who knows what others will be added) have the most discouraging and preventative impact on the very women who are the least able to bear the burden of actually raising a child (or another child added to those she already has). The burden of coerced pregnancy and birth is truely an undue burden and the burden of actually raising an unwanted child would be far more severe an undue burden.. The burden on the unfortunate child can be horrific.

and restrictions on contraception

An additional problem is that some of the same lawmakers who are creating obstacles to abortion are also intent on creating obstacles and prohibitions to contraception, at least to those methods that do not inevitably act by preventing sperm from meeting egg , ie barrier methods.. The obvious fact that the best way to prevent abortion is to prevent the need for abortion by preventing unwanted conception seems to have escaped notice.

The Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby has blessed employers refusing to include contraception coverage in employee health insurance. This is on the grounds that the employer's religious objections are all that matters, and the employee's religious beliefs do not count. The imposition of the religous beliefs of one person or even a majority of persons upon another person is exactly what the Framers had in mind in the First Amendment's Religion clause. They had seen first hand the evils that happen when a religious majority oppresses those of other beliefs.

lessons from anthropology and history

when acceptably safe and effective contraception and abortion are not available

Societies that lack acceptably safe and effective contraception and lack acceptably safe and effective abortion have high rates of infanticide and/or infant abandonment. This has been true in many many cultures and at many times in history. And it's still true today, more common in some countries and less so in others.

When I stress "acceptably safe and effective" means of contraception and / or abortion, that is to emphasize that the views of users as to these criteria vary with the culture and may differ between the woman and the man involved.

What is acceptable to a woman especially varies with the risks of pregnancy and parturition to the woman's health and survival. (Note that for most of human history, and indeed in some parts of the world today, pregancy and parturition have carried very serious risks of morbidity and mortality for the woman. Every woman has seen this occur to others.) The resources she has available, including help from partner and from others, will also be crucial. Her willingness and ability to attempt to rear a child or another child will be balanced against her needs and desires to survive and thrive personally and the needs of any children she already has. The needs of her spouse or the male involved may also come into this balance, especially if he is at all dependant on her services and support..

What is acceptable to her male partner or spouse will depend on some balance of his desire for sexual enjoyment (as opposed to abstinence or sexual uncooperation from the woman) , his valuing of the woman as a person and companion and partner , his need for her labor in family business (farm or whatever) or earnings from her job, and his need for her household and child-rearing labor . He may also want an added child while she does not.

Historically the fates of unwanted children have been as follows :

advice to the coercedly pregnant is unwilling to be coerced into raising her unwanted infant

I am transferring this material to a separate article , If You Are Unwillingly Pregnant. That allows me to deal with the topic at greater length and detail.

This material is for the woman who knows that she is unwilling to raise any child that might result from her unwanted pregnancy. Includes first a resume of tactics to obtain an abortion, then discussion of how to relinquish a live-born infant into "Safe Haven", thus terminating her parental duties and rights and making the infant available for adoption.


When Kipling wrote (in MacDonnagh's Song) "whether 'tis better to kill mankind before or after birth", he was probably well aware of the fate (usually infanticide) of unwanted children (usually girls) in India under the Brittish rule. The Brittish tried to abolish infanticide and widowed wife killing ("sutee" = she is thrown alive onto the funeral pyre of the dead husband), but their success was limited. Today infanticide is largely replaced by sex-selective abortion, bit wife killing (to retain the dowry then marry another) still occurs.

Kipling's message is just as relevant today in the USA, though the details take different forms from those in his time and place.

It's time for society and law to recognize that when contraception and abortion are made difficult, when unwanted births are made hard to prevent, often under the banner of the holiness of the fetus, the result is going to be unwanted babies whose prospects for a decent life are anything from questionable to very bad. The costs to society of this can be huge in terms of financial costs and in terms of bad behavior by those resented, neglected, abused, or otherwise ill-reared children who survive to become damaged adults.

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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 8/18/18 revised 9/05/18, 6/08/2019
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