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 : :
- requirement that minor woman get parental consent, or else go before a Judge and beg for permission. Some laws also make an exception if the woman alleges incest by a parent. The Judge may apply any standard he or she pleases, including personal belief that no one should ever be allowed to abort even if the result is death for the woman.
- waiting periods between the time the woman arrives at the clinic and the time she receives her abortion. The rationale is to ensure that she thinks the decision over carefully. Like she hasn't done that already ? It also ensures that the woman's costs will be higher.
- listening to a lecture that is full of misinformation about possible bad consequences of abortion (without giving equal emphasis to the dangers of pregnancy and parturition) and / or lecture on the fetus as a real living being (without mentioning that a newborn child is cognitively less developed than a chimpanzee). This is NOT simply a normal "informed consent" discussion as would be appropriate to any medical procedure and which presents the most truthful facts about all alternatives.. It's a very biased and counter-factual (or maybe the current term would be "alternate truth") attempt to over-ride her well thought out choice.
- various requirements for clinics and doctors that go well beyond those requirements that are actually appropriate for ensuring medical safety. Most clinics and doctors are quite concerned with safety, simply to avoid malpractie suits. The excess reauirements simply raise the cost or , too often, shut down the clinic.
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 :
- early death of the neonatal
- infanticide (usually by "exposure") by the father (or male head of household). This was completely accepted as his right in classic Greek and Roman societies. Cases are known in the USA in current times, though not commonly or at least not detected..(It's also far from unknown in the USA for the husband (or boyfriend) to murder the pregnant woman rather than let her produce a child for whom he does not want any responsibility. Indeed the risk of being murdered for this reason is higher than the risk of death in a medically attended normal child-birth.)
- infanticide by the mother's boyfriend who is not the sire of the child. This was common in some earlier societies as part of normal victory in war. It still occurs in the USA in current times, but not commonly or at least not detected. (See also comments above about risk of boyfriend murdering the pregnant woman, which also results in the death of the fetus.)
- infanticide by the woman or her birthing helpers. Direct infanticide by smothering or burying has been common in some cultures. It still occurs today in some parts of the world more commonly and in the USA less commonly or less often detected.
- Neglect or non-nurishment leading to failure to thrive and ultimately failure to survive. This can happen because the resources just are not sufficient or because the child is not valued. Girls are often fed less than boys.
- relinquishment or abandonment
- "exposure", leaving the infant somewhere and walking away. Sometimes done in an area where others in the culture know infants are left, thus the child may get picked up to become a slave or raised as servent or (if very lucky) adopted. A child not picked up will perish either from the elements or starvation or else from predation by local predators. Note : because the offspring of adequately nourished mothers are born with a high reserve of fat, starvation can take up to a week. Death from dehydration will occur sooner than from starvation, and death from exposure to cold or heat may mercifully act even sooner.
- wet nursing by a wet nurse not under supervision and at some distance from the natal home. This can take the form of "baby farming". Unless the nurse is being paid at intervals by someone who inspects to see that the delegated infant is still alive and well, there can be a high rate of neglect and mortality. Note also that the nurse's own infant may be abruptly weaned and may well not survive. Wet nursing was mostly used in times before the advent of nutritionally sound and sterilizable human milk substitute formulas were available. Early transition to formula is the more modern substitute, but if it's made with unsterile water, the result is usually devestating diarehha which can result in death. Wet nursing is no longer common in the USA. (Note : distinguished from donations of breast milk , especially colostrum, from a woman who has extra to the infant of a woman whose milk has not yet "let down" or whose supply is inadequate.)
- Wet nursing by a nurse who is resident in the parental home or otherwise adequately supervised. This can be a hired nurse or a slave. The child's survival chances should be essentially the same as if suckled by its own mother, assuming the nurse is well nourished during lactation. The nurse's own infant may be at risk however, unless it is recognized that many women are able to produce enough milk for two infants provided that she is well nourished..
- "oblation", placing the infant with the Church to be raised as an initiate. This was an available option during the Middle Ages, but usually the parents had to make a donation to the receiving monastery or convent. Those children placed without an adequate donation were treated as sevents, but that's a quality of life not very different from being a peasant or serf. I don't know if there is anywhere where oblation is still practiced. Not relevant to contemporary USA.
- relinquished to a Foundling Home or Orphanage. Foundling Homes began in Europe as early as the the 8th century. The "Hospital of the Innocents " in Florence Italy was founded in 1419 and is still standing. Some of these homes had a type of revolving window-basket into which infants could be deposited anonymously Huge numbers of children were deposited in these homes, especially in times of famine or other hardship. Mortality rates were high, often 2/3 or more during first year. In some homes the recorded mortality rate was 99 % in first year.
The most recent outstanding (ie horrifying) example was Romaina under Ceausescu, when contraception and abortion were banned and extreme measures of intrusion were used to coerce pregnancy. The result was huge numbers of infants dumped into the state orphanage system and mortality rates in the high 90s percent. Those who did survive were often damaged physically and psychologically..
- Surrendered for Adoption. This is a legal procedure and likely to require the consent of both parents. It does not guarrantee that the child will actually be adopted or that the adopting parents will treat it well. The child that is not adopted will grow up in "The System" of foster homes and be kicked out at age 18, thus often poorly prepared to earn a living.
Adoptive parents usually have some criteria for whether a child is a desirable adoptee. Many require that the child be quite young, an infant. Children over this "cute" infant stage have much less chance of adoption. Thus the Child Services "System" is full of older children whose chance of a real home is very poor. (Note : as someone with long experience in dog rescue and adoption, this preference for infants puzzles me. A puppyis quite a gamble as to what it will grow into physically and psychologically. An adult dog is much more of a "What You See is What You Get" proposition. The same is true of a human infant compared to one a few years old or older.)
Adoptive parents often have additional criteria. The child's gender may be a "deal breaker". The child's appearance of racial or ethnic descent may be highly relevant, many adopters prefering a child who appears to be of descent similar to their own. For older children, ones old enough for their personality, temperament, and intelligence and talents to be discernable, these qualities may be highly relevant. The normality of the child's health is likely to be highly relevant, though there are a few who seek out "disadvantaged" children. Most will not knowingly adopt a child damaged by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (which is not a rare condition these days) or opiod addicted or cocaine addicted . HIV infected is certainly not a desired condition.
Note that in the pre-Roe v Wade era, the supply of surrendered children considerably exceeded the supply of adopters. That will again be the situation if Roe is either over-ruled or becomes so impaired by obstacles and restrictions that it ceases to be effective. Those states with the most severe restrictions tend to also be those that do not allow adoption by single people or by gay couples.
- deposited in a "Safe Haven" . This is a modern US invention, the modern equivalent to the Foundling Home, available by state law in all 50 states. This is a legal relinguishment during a specified time after birth, only 3 days in most states, but longer in a few. State laws may protect the privacy of the relinquishing adult (as California law does), so the effect is that the person remains anonymous. California law specifies that the infant is "undamaged", presumably meaning that there has been no abuse, not that it was not born impaired.. The usual specified sites for deposit are hospitals and fire houses. Sites vary by state but hospital is included in all (I think) which certainly makes sense as it's the place where the infant can receive immediate appropriate care.
This is the easiest and quickest and most private way for a woman to free herself from a neonatal she was coerced to bear. She can reject the infant the moment it exits her body and sign it over for deposit at the very same hospital where the birth occurs. Every woman needs to research the laws for her state (I give a source in the links at the end of this article.)
The intent of Safe Haven laws is to prevent infants from becoming "dumpster babies" (ie abandoned in way likely to result in death) and to prevent more direct means of infanticide. These laws are thus unlikely to be repealed , although the longer time periods current in some states may be reduced to 3 days. (Wyoming had to reduce its period after it found people traveling from out of state to deposit older children and one in-state father deposited 7 children aged from newborn to 18 years.) Note that the high risk period for infanticide or abandonment is the first three days. Note also that the risk is highest among very young (teen) women who lack social support and reseources needed to sucessfully parent a child (note also that this is the very category that is hardest hit by all forms of legislated obstacles to abortion or contraception).
(as to the Wyoming 7 child incident, when I first wrote this I accidentally mistyped "1 to 18 years" as "1 to 8 years". this was a case of a truely desperate father unable to support those children. but Wyoming promptly changed its time limits.)
As more and more states pass restrictions on abortion (and may also make contraception less available or more costly) and as five or more of The Nine, ie the US Supreme Court, ratifies these restrictions, there will be more and more coerced births and more and more of those will be surrenderd into Safe Haven.
- kept by the coerced mother who may or may not be willing and able to parent well
- grows up in poverty. The child is likely to continue to live in poverty and may well produce still another generation of welfare children. The educational prospects may be limited. Parental supervision and teaching may be limited, as the mother has to work at at least one job and possibly several. Likely to grow up in a gang infested neighborhood and get drawn into a gang (especially male children). Better than average potential to spend part of life in jail. Better than average potential to die young.
- neglected or abused. or molested. Prospects similar to those of the poverty child and likely worse. Very likely to be psychologically damaged and to pass some of that damage on to his/her own children and to society generally.
- the woman succeeds against the odds in doing a reasonable job of parenting, probably with help from "alloparents" or from "the village", and thus the child probably turns out reasonably well, becoming a peaceful and productive citizen.
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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Related topics :
- Fight to Keep Abortion Safe and Legal for All Women !
- If You Are Unwillingly Pregnant , how to avoid being coerced into child-rearing , including how to use your state's Safe Haven laws if you are unable to obtain an abortion. Also a few tactics that might help you to obtain an abortion.
- If Roe v Wade were Over-Ruled or why 2018 isn't 1973. exploring the potentially horrific effects and the many ways that contraception and abortion will remain available legally or underground or via the Internet.
- Updated 2018 :You Say that You Dislike Abortion : about all the things that those who say they oppose abortion should be supporting to reduce the need for abortion, ie to reduce unwanted and problem pregnancies. (guaranteed to outrage the Rabid Right and Anti-Choicers everywhere) .
- Rob-ye Lobby , a satire on the Supreme Court "Hobby Lobby" decision and its potential implications.
- https://www.amazon.com/Mother-Nature-Maternal.../0345408934 the Amazon page for "Mother Nature" by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. covers primate and human strategies for balancing needs of self-sustinance versus reproduction of offspring who can survive.. especially see Chapter 14, concerning infanticide and abandonment. see also https://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Others...Origins.../0674060326 Amazon page for Hrdy's sequel, "Mothers and Others" (how mothers recruit "alloparents" , ie helpers in childrearing.). Help from others is usually necessary for a woman to rasie a child to an age of independance and potential reproduction. (It may not take an entire village, but it does take one or more helpers.) The sire of the child may or may not be a reliable alloparent.
- https://www.amazon.com/Myths-Motherhood.../dp/0140246835 The Myths of Motherhood by Psychologist Shari L. Thurer. how culture reinvents the idea of human motherhood. including infanticide and abandonment through the ages.
- http://safehaven.tv/states/ lists states having "Safe Haven" laws allowing parents to deposit an infant , ie relinquish the infant, and walk away. This site gives the time limits (ranging from only 3 days up to one year) for each state and has links to more details and then to the text of the state law..
- http://www.ceausescu.org/ceausescu_texts/overplanned_parenthood.htm"The fetus is the property of the entire society," Ceausescu proclaimed. The ultimate in banning of contraception and abortion.
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4629589.stm What happened to Romania's orphans?
By Kate McGeown, BBC News . describes the fates of those lucky enough to survive.
- http://www.columbia.edu/~cp2124/papers/unwanted_latest.pdf< studies the outcomes of the Romania abortion ban. Compares the life prospects and social impact of children born when contraception and abortion are unavailable to those born when such tools are available. Includes comments on studies in the US. In analyzing the results in Romania, only children reared by their parents are included ; the large number who were abandoned into orphanages is not included.
- pricetheory.uchicago.edu/.../DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2001.pdf the impact of legalized abortion as reducing crime rates in the USA. note : there's some controversy about this.
- http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0011128715615882 denial of abortion re crime, teen birth, in US
- http://ec.princeton.edu/pills/plan-b.html has information on Plan B from Princton University
- https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/the-abortion-pill for reliable information about the Abortion Pill.
- http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/10/10/plan-c-medication-abortion-mail/ very interesting advocacy of "Plan C" , ie the Abortion Pill, to be made available legally OTC or by e-commerce or perhaps by use of telemedicine consultation. .