Continuing from Part I, “How Forced Birth Laws Reflect One Belief about When Human Life Begins,” we need to talk more – and loudly – about the nightmarish costs that will come as a result of these laws.
Looking to Romania
We can look to Romania for evidence on how things will change. Prior to the mid-1960s, Romania had one of the most liberal abortion policies in the world. With declining birth rates and labor shortages, the Ceaușescu issued Decree 770 with the goal of population growth.
As Maria Bucur and Kristen Ghodsee discuss in their piece, “How Banning Abortion Will Transform America:”
“…abortion and contraception were criminalized for all women age 45 and under who had not borne at least four children (later increased to five). The only exceptions were for rape and incest, high-risk pregnancies, and cases in which the fetus could contract a hereditary disease from either parent. The law was strictly enforced. The Romanian secret police, the Securitate, registered suspected pregnancies and kept tabs on women until the birth of the child.”
The ban on abortion lasted between 1966 and 1990. What ensued? A gynecologist describes one impact in Birth of Democratic Citizenship: Women and Power in Modern Romania, by Maria Bucur and Mihaela Miroiu: “Women refused to have sexual lives, resulting in family fights and abandonment.”
Bucur and Ghodsee add, “Far from strengthening the family, Romania’s draconian ‘pro-life’ policies poisoned heterosexual intimacy, strained marriages, and weakened social trust. Monthly gynecological exams brought the state inside women’s uteruses and, by extension, into the bedroom.”
After three decades of the ban, few Romanians “had any doubt that forcing women to have babies they didn’t want had been disastrous for the country.” Its birth rate had not increased, between 1967-1989 over 7 million women had had back-alley abortions, and “at least 15,000 women died as a result of complications and untreated side effects.” In addition, Romania’s infant-mortality rate “was the highest in Europe.”
Not only did forcing women to become mothers not increase the population, but caused loss of sex life, worsened relationships, and deaths. The law also did not work as many women had abortions anyway, and unsafe ones at that.
There are even more costs people will pay, and big ones at that, when women are forced to carry a pregnancy to term. Here’s the tip of the iceberg:
Costs of Unprepared Parent(s) and Unwanted Children
Increased financial hardship. A major reason women obtain abortions with Roe v Wade in effect has to do with financial concerns; “40 percent of women who get abortions cite the fact that they are not financially prepared to raise a child.” If laws force women to give birth when they aren’t financially ready, we will see even more economic hardship than we do now. And think of the lifelong costs that will come with forcing births in the case of defects and horrible anomalies. Dealing with the financial costs will lead to even more familial breakdown than we see now. It will make single parenthood even more financially challenging. Forcing parenthood on people will bring even more financial adversity to their lives, which will eventually impact the larger economy.
Emotional and psychological impacts from being forced into parenthood. Right now, when people have unwanted children or aren’t ready for parenthood and become parents, they face emotional and psychological challenges, difficulties and problems. With forced birth laws, many people will need to deal with even deeper emotional and psychological issues as a result of being pushed into parenthood against their will. And think of the impacts of being forced to carry a pregnancy to term in cases when the mother knows the child will have birth defects, or is carrying it term and is faced with having to raise a child in the case of rape or incest. Intimate/spousal and parent-child relationships will also undoubtedly be affected.
Increased parent neglect, abuse and abandonment. Forcing women to bear children will lead to even more unfit parenting. This is already a major issue without forced birth laws. We all see it – people who aren’t ready to have children and do, and those who should have never become parents in the first place. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, already “hundreds of thousands of children are victims of child abuse and neglect” each year, and “one in seven children has been the victim of abuse or neglect within the past year” (2018). With forced birth laws, we will see these numbers rise. We will also likely see parental abandonment rates rise – more babies left on the steps of hospitals, police stations and fire stations. And we will see the foster care system explode.
Emotional and psychological impacts on children. One could argue that kids will suffer the most from forced birth laws. Think of the suffering of those forced into the world with severe defects, being unwanted, subjected to unfit parenting, and/or ending up in foster care as a result of being neglected, abused, or given up. And if they are not placed in homes and age out of the foster care system by age 18, many end up homeless. According to National Foster Youth Institute, even now, “after reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.” Think where a kid’s tough life goes from there, and the worsened social impacts it will have as a result on our society.
Hard Costs to Us All
Who will pay the hard costs as a result of forced births? We will. When it comes to the negative impacts of unfit parents, we already pay astronomical costs. Take child abuse and neglect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the lifetime cost of child abuse and neglect is $124 billion annually. According to “The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States, 2015,” published in Child Abuse & Neglect (December 2018), for substantiated incident cases, the estimated annual economic burden of child maltreatment on the US population in 2015 was $428 billion. The estimated annual economic burden annually for investigated cases was $2 trillion (italics mine). These numbers don’t include unsubstantiated incidences, which of course takes the costs soaring higher.
These costs don’t also factor in the costs associated with future behaviors. Abused children have higher odds of engaging in substance abuse, which turns into treatment service costs. Abuse in childhood also increases the likelihood of juvenile and adult arrests and violent crime, which leads to incarceration. Forced births will only deepen all of these kinds of costs that American society will pay.
Then there is what we will pay to ensure other people pay child support. The government already spends billions of dollars on this. With forced birth laws in effect, the costs associated with finding and getting the other parent to legally help support the child required by law will only increase.
Not that those amounts will solve the custodial parent’s financial hardship, however. As Lizzy Francis says in her piece, “Want to Limit the Number of Abortions? Make Men Pay Child Support,” the median amount a custodial parent receives is “just $3,447 annually — that’s $287 a month, and reminds us that the average cost of raising a child (not including college), is about $250,000 from birth until the child turns 18.”
As I discuss in The Baby Matrix, society already pays a heavy price for subscribing to the idea that it’s everyone’s right to have children, regardless of whether people are emotionally, financially, or psychologically ready to have them. The costs we will pay as a result of forced birth laws will just exacerbate these costs.
On Wired, Adam Rogers contends that abortion bans will create a public health nightmare. They will also create a whole slew of social and financial nightmares affecting us all.
All Due to One Belief
How will those who push forced birth legislation – laws based on a personal and religious belief that life begins at conception – take responsibility for the societal costs they’ll bring? They won’t.
This is why we need to see more straight talk about the drastic consequences of these laws, starting with how ludicrous it is that one belief the “Moment of Conceptionists” hold could actually drive legal control over women’s reproduction.