Sometimes, abortion becomes a necessity

The recession is driving American demand for contraception and for abortions. The media have been riven this past week with stories about the rising number of couples and single mothers doing the math and deciding this is no time to bring a child into the world — not when the economy is depressed, jobs are scarce and family incomes are dropping.

The media have also been rife with stories portraying this trend as something of a tragedy. Let me propose a counter view: it is not.

The Associated Press ran a story on March 25 that read as follows: ‘The pregnant woman showed up at the medical centre in flip-flops and in tears, after walking there to save bus fare. Her boyfriend had lost his job, she told her doctor in Oakland, Calif., and now — fearing harder times for her family — she wanted to abort what would have been her fourth child. ‘This was a desired pregnancy — she’d been getting prenatal care — but they re-evaluated expenses and decided not to continue,’ said Dr. Pratima Gupta. ‘When I was doing the options counseling, she interrupted me halfway through, crying, and said, ‘Dr. Gupta, I just walked here for an hour. I’m sure of my decision.”

Yes, it’s sad that this unwed, pregnant mother of three had no money for bus fare. It’s terrible that her boyfriend lost his job. It is heart-wrenching that she fell to tears in the doctor’s office. But in the long run, can we agree that this unwed couple’s decision not to bring a fourth child into the world when they are having trouble feeding themselves and three children is no tragedy? It’s actually a fact-based, rational decision that in the end benefits the three children they already have and society as well.

Feeding and raising children is expensive. Tuition may be free at public schools but there are still books, transportation, food, clothes, medical care and activities that add up — way up. One may assume this family of five is struggling just to maintain its basics: housing and food. Add one more child and those costs rise as income drops. It’s no tragedy: it’s a good decision. The decision benefits society in two ways. It allows the couple to focus more time, energy and resources on their three children, giving each child a better life and a better chance of growing up to become a contributor to society. It also reduces the chance the family will have to rely on scarce public resources to raise their children.

Abortion was not viewed as a tragic event in the early days after the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on a national scale. A tough decision: you bet. An unpleasant process: that, too. But it was not something women whined about publicly on the scale many seem to now. Nor was it covered by the media or promoted by pro-choice politicians in "woe is me" terms.

All that started when Norma McCorvey, one of the two original plaintiffs in the Roe and Doe pair (the Roe decision was actually handed down as one opinion for two cases) turned against the pro-choice movement some 10 years or so after the decision became law. Norma McCorvey, who never actually had an abortion before she became the movement’s poster child, changed from pro-choice to pro-life. She began speaking out about the evils of abortion. The pro-life movement seized upon her change of heart and promoted her as the symbol of abortion gone wrong.

Do some women have regrets about their decisions to terminate pregnancies? Of course. Are those decisions legitimate? Adamantly so. But is it wrong of the media to become a trumpet for the pro-life message that abortion is always a tragedy? Equally adamantly, yes. It is not always tragic and lots of times, it actually makes good sense.

(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)