Staircase inside the United States Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C., 2013 (CC)
People who believe in the sanctity of all life, including the unborn, can recognize that abortion law is a particularly complicated matter because of the competing goods it must balance: the life of a child, the health and self-determination of the mother. The state has an interest in protecting both. Restricting access to abortion is morally irresponsible if it’s separated from fulfilling obligations to support women who are pregnant or might become pregnant. We should acknowledge the risks to physical and mental health that attend pregnancy, the financial and social stressors that accompany it, and the effects it can have on women’s agency—and we should reject glib assertions that adoption, private charity, and access to crisis pregnancy centers are enough to address the challenges new abortion restrictions will create. We should advocate for policies reflecting the conviction that child-rearing and family care are not burdens to be borne by self-sufficient individuals but something for which the whole community shares responsibility. Bearing this responsibility in twenty-first-century America requires state and federal programs that meet the material needs of pregnant women, mothers, and their children. These include comprehensive, accessible, and affordable healthcare; paid parental leave; a child tax credit; a living wage; robust social safety-net programs; and affordable childcare options. It is telling that none of the trigger laws going into effect does anything to address the realities of carrying or raising a child. A society that requires women to bring pregnancies to term without addressing the burdens that can accompany motherhood demonstrates that it is possible—and all too common—to be anti-abortion without really being pro-life.