Read of the Day: “What Happens to Women Who Are Denied Abortions?”
6:00 pm, June 13th | by Colette McIntyre
We’re pretty comfortable categorizing today’s Read of the Day as “necessary reading.” In The New York Times Magazine, Joshua Lang takes an in-depth look at a groundbreaking study that is seeks to discover how women fare after being turned away from abortion clinics. What happens to women who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term? Well, according to Diana Greene Foster’s research, they are three times more likely than women who got an abortion to be below the poverty level two weeks later.
Though S. is not part of Foster’s turnaway study, she is in many ways typical. The same month that she realized she would be having her baby, she was confronted with a host of financial hurdles. She couldn’t move in with her parents because they’d lost their home to foreclosure. By late March, S., exhausted by the pregnancy, had stopped working. Everyone moved into her older sister’s house — a three-bedroom, one-bathroom — where now seven people would be living. There was a family meeting. S. and her baby would take one room; her sister’s daughter would move into the small playroom; the parents would move into the garage. Their parents brought 20 years of belongings with them; S. sold, gave away or threw out everything she could but brought her parrot and her dog.
S., who had never seriously considered adoption, was overwhelmed when Baby S., a healthy girl, was born in May 2012. “It was like, whoa!” S. recalled. “That first night was terrible. I was tired, and she was so hungry, and she had a very loud cry. They don’t tell you how hard it is to nurse your baby. You don’t know how painful it is for something to eat off you, and it’s pulling your skin.” She developed plugged ducts, a condition in which the breasts become painfully engorged with milk.
It’s not unusual for new mothers to have trouble breast feeding, but S. felt overwhelmed in other ways too. “This baby is such a crybaby, and I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I felt like she didn’t love me, like maybe she was mad at me.” S. watched bitterly as her family members held a contented Baby S. When S. held her, the baby would begin to cry. It went on like that for weeks. S. sometimes buried her head in her pillow, crying, when the baby cried. “Her tone was negative,” one of S.’s sisters remembers. “She would become angry, saying she wished the baby would shut up.”
S. wanted to be a good mother, so she kept trying to nurse even when she began to develop sores on her breasts. Perhaps because of S.’s difficulty breast-feeding, Baby S. wasn’t gaining weight. Her physician threatened to call social services. Through a federal program — Women, Infants and Children (W.I.C.) — S. found a lactation consultant, who rented her a breast pump and provided her with information on baby formula. Once she stopped breast-feeding, Baby S. began to gain weight.
One day, when Baby S. was nearly 3 months old, S. left her on a pillow at the center of her bed while she went to the bathroom. She was gone for about a minute. When she came back, Baby S. was on the floor, lying face up, whimpering softly. S. and her mother took the baby to the hospital. It turned out nothing was wrong, but like many new parents in that situation, S. was terrified. The thought of losing Baby S. made her sick. From that point on, she no longer buried herself under the pillow when her baby cried. She didn’t let Baby S. out of her sight.
S. now says that Baby S. is the best thing that ever happened to her. “She is more than my best friend, more than the love of my life,” S. told me, glowingly. There were white spit-up stains on her green top. “She is just my whole world.”
When I told Foster S.’s story, she wasn’t surprised that S. ended up bonding with her baby. “That would be consistent with our study,” Foster said. “About 5 percent of the women, after they have had the baby, still wish they hadn’t. And the rest of them adjust.” S.’s experience is also consistent with one of the most striking statistics from Henry David’s Czech study. David found that nine years after being denied abortions, 38 percent of women said they never sought one in the first place.
To read the article in full, click here.