We are told that it's poor women. In Fact, the most at-risk group are The wealthiest, and then those at 200-300% of the Federal Poverty levels.
For quite some time we have been told that half or more of those getting abortions were poor women, beneath the Federal Poverty Level. It seems that this is not the case. In the online article, "Sex, Contraception, or Abortion: Explaining Class Gaps in Unintended Childbearing," published by the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, Richard Reeves and Joanna Venator show that women below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) who conceive unintentionally tend overall to keep their children. Wealthy women do not, but nor do those who are at 200 to 300% of the FPL. Check out the table below.
While there were more of these poor women, the great majority - 78% - carried their children to term. Sadly, 9% aborted. Not surprisingly, those at 400+ of the FPL, the wealthy, conceived less frequently, but, if they conceived, they aborted much more frequently: they were 32% of pregnant women who got an abortion, and only 52% carried to term. (The difference between those who aborted and those who carried to term - 16% - must reflect miscarriages.)
Who are these women? Here's a chart of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2017, which should correspond roughly to the FPL for the original study in 2013. These figures reflect total household income.
It is not poverty, per se, which inclines women to abort, but the complications to life -- work, the rearing of other children -- that another child represents. Likely in many cases, the woman is working. This fits with what many women report when asked about why they are seeking an abortion: they have obligations to others that are made more difficult by the addition of another child. Perhaps the loss of a job seems critical. Oddly, those with less money -- 100 - 200% of the FPL -- carry their children to term 75% of the time. And then those in the bracket above -- 300 - 400% of the FPL -- are more able as a group to handle the challenges, and so 86% carry to term. There's something about this group in the middle, among whom less than half carry to term.
What does this tell us? For one thing, generally speaking, it is not poverty that leads women to abort. The group that resorts to abortion is not poor. So any sentimentality about grinding poverty is off-base, and any attempt to "solve" the problem of abortion by throwing money at it is not going to help.
We don't know how many from this group are coming to pregnancy help centers. If they are, then staff at these centers have their work cut out for them. The commonest problem may be one of morale. Those in this group will not starve if another child is born, but they may have to make sacrifices that they find overwhelming. Their work and family arrangements may have to change in ways that they find drastic. (We know that about 60% of abortion patients have one child or more already.) They may feel that they will be falling behind financially with another child. Issues of morale are best addressed by the truths of faith: staff at the centers can remind these women that God cares for them, for their families, for their situations. It is true, and it may be crucial.
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).
God knows our future, and He has it in His hands. Our material situation may change, but the gift of another child, understood properly, is so much more significant to our lives than any material or social challenge we may face.
Vision for Life - Pittsburgh has been running Facebook ad campaigns for three years now. For most of that period, we were generating, on average, 11 calls a month to pregnancy medical centers -- not bad, when you consider that this was not an audience seeking abortions or pregnancy help.
The numbers began to drop last Spring, however, and I was looking at possible reasons why. The most obvious reason was that every young woman on Facebook had seen the ads -- "Don't choose alone" -- and the campaign was simply tired, faded. I read that videos and combined video/slideshow posts were actually much more successful in reaching and engaging viewers, so we have tried our hand at it. When I say "we," I mean a team of volunteers -- Carley Adams, Cassandra Adams, David Adams, David Bodin, Emily Bonessi, Katie Breckenridge, and myself. We have produced two videos. You can see the first video on YouTube.
Here's a graph showing the response so far: over 7,500 have seen the video, and there were 103 unique "link clicks," that is, 103 viewers "clicked through" to the Women's Choice Network website. That's more than 100 young people (70% women), who now know about a pregnancy medical center organization with offices in Oakland, Wexford, Monroeville and the North Side.
About 40% of clients at pregnancy help centers come by word-of-mouth advertising. Jake Barr of iRapture and I are talking regularly about using Facebook to encourage friends to tell friends about local pregnancy medical centers -- in my case, Choices Pregnancy Services and Women's Choice Network. The hope is that people who like our Facebook pages ("Pittsburgh Choices," "Unexpected"), and people who are like those people, will be willing to say something if a friend says that she's pregnant, and she's thinking about abortion. This is a different audience than the pregnant woman herself, but I think it says all the right things to any woman in this age bracket.
We know that many women feel coerced or forced into abortion -- that they "have no choice." Ironically, it is Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry members that do their best to narrow choices down to abortion: they make money that way, and, no doubt for some counselors/sales people, it is part of justifying their own abortions, or their complicity in the killing. It is the pregnancy medical centers that truthfully describe all the options: raising a child oneself, placing a child for adoption, or aborting the child. Many women feel that they can't manage their situations with another child; often, it is not a matter of serious hardship, but of morale -- everyone around her is telling her to "get rid of it." A woman can be surprised to find out, for example, that she can continue to go to school and have a baby. "Coercion" can be subtle or unmistakable: the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder. A woman's psychological state in a time of crisis is also a big factor in the question of coercion.
Here's our second video ad for Facebook. Carley and Cassandra, sisters, play best friends. What does a friend say when a woman says she's pregnant, and it's going to mess up her life?
An article on coerced abortion gives us a sense of what women are going through. "The problem of women feeling pressured into unwanted abortions is . . . acute in light of research into the risk of defective decision making in crisis situations.
"Experts on crisis counseling have found that those who are in a state of crisis are increasingly vulnerable to outside influences and have less trust in their own opinions and abilities to make the right decision. Such 'heightened psychological accessibility'can lead to a situation where parents, counselors, or others in authority can have enormous influence over a woman’s decision. 'A relatively minor force, acting for a relatively short time, can switch the whole balance from one side or to the other—to the side of mental health or to the side of ill health.' Persons in crisis 'are less in touch with reality . . . and more vulnerable to change than they are in non-crisis periods.' They often experience feelings of tiredness, lethargy, hopelessness, inadequacy, confusion, anxiety, and disorganization. Thus, they are more likely to stand back and let other people make their decisions for them, instead of protecting themselves from decisions that may not be in their best interests.
"A person who is upset and trapped in a crisis wants to reestablish stability, and is therefore very susceptible to any influence from others who claim to be able to solve the crisis, especially those who have status or authority. Thus, with a minimal effort on the part of a mental health professional, family member, minister, or male partner, an enormous amount of leverage may be exerted upon a woman who is in a crisis situation. This can be a dangerous situation for a woman who doesn’t really want an abortion but has others around her who push for it.
. . .
"What women experience as 'pressure' to abort may involve indirect but significant pressure such as withholding love, approval and personal or practical support from the woman unless she agrees to an abortion. Or it may be overt, as in abuse or an outright threat to abandon or expel the woman from her home if she does not abort her child. In many cases, the pressure is applied intentionally by others. In other cases, the “pressure” is not intended, but simply perceived by the woman. For instance, if her boyfriend exhibits an unenthusiastic response to the news that she is pregnant, she may see this as his way of telling her that he will not help to support her or their child."
The videos we have made may resonate with a well-to-do, educated audience. This is not the group who are having most of the abortions: abortion patients are more often poor, and disproportionately black. They are more likely to feel explicitly pressured to have an abortion. We will be looking to see if we can't produce materials that appeal to this audience as well. It will be a challenge to find the right actors, and the right scripts, and to keep the material upbeat enough that it will encourage women to call the pregnancy medical centers, and get past the Facebook censors (who really just care that people enjoy Facebook). Pray for our success, please.
Chris Humphrey has been involved in pro-life activity of one kind or another since the late 1970s, when he first looked at the subject of abortion in seminary in Canada. He has an undergraduate degree in English (University of Toronto), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in religious studies (McGill). He has had a varied career as a pastor, chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, editor of academic and instructional publications, semi-professional photographer, and home renovator. He is a husband of over 45 years to Edith (a Professor of New Testament), father to three girls, and grandfather to seventeen grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.