In the 1982 Movie Sophie’s Choice, Sophie must offer one of her children up for killing by the Nazi’s in order to save her other child. Her alternative is to refuse to choose, in which case both children will be killed. She chooses her young daughter to be executed in order to save her son.
Does Sophie really have a choice? A choice is defined as having,” The power, right or liberty to choose”. Before she gives up her daughter she begs her captures, “ Don’t make me choose. I can’t choose…”. Displaying no evidence of “power”, “rights “or “liberty”.
In reality, Sophie doesn’t have a choice, she has a dilemma. She must act in a situation that requires a decision be made between unfavorable options.
Every year in America hundreds of thousands of women face Sophie’s Dilemma. They must decide between the economic welfare of an older child and an unborn one. Given the economic and social pressures in our society millions of women resolve this dilemma by having their unborn child killed.
Those who support abortion, or who turn a blind eye to it, defend their position by using the word, “choice”. But like Sophie, millions of American mothers were and are faced not with a choice but with a dilemma.
Who has abortions?
The Allan Guttmacher Institute (widely conceded to be pro-choice) recently completed a study of abortions for the Center of Disease Control and found the following:
· On average women gave 3 reasons for abortion:
o 75% said that having a child would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities
o 75% stated that they could not afford a child
o 50% stated that they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with husbands or boy friends
I don’t see a lot of talk about “choice” or “power” or ‘rights” or “liberty” among the women who participated in this study. They had a dilemma and resolved it by having their unborn children killed.
This study also presented demographics describing the mothers who chose abortion. While women from all races, religions and economic levels have abortions; poor, young, single, minority women who are already mothers have a disproportionate number of abortions. Statistically, this study found that 93% of the mothers who have their unborn child killed do so for social/economic reasons, not because of free choice.
They also found that the abortion rate among single women living at or below the poverty level is more than 4 times that of women 300% above of the poverty level (that’s $28,710 PA or more).
Finally, this study found that 60% of all abortions are among women who already have one or more children.
As the table below shows, there is a correlation between a society’s distribution of wealth and its abortion rate; the greater the distribution of wealth the lower the abortion rate.
Western Europe with a greater distribution of wealth has a lower rate of abortion than the US where a narrower distribution of wealth and a higher abortion rate go hand in hand. The one European exception is Britain where the distribution of wealth is narrower and the abortion rate higher than among its Western European neighbors.
Society GINI Coefficient* Abortion Rate**
>25 /1,000 women
· The Gini Coefficient of Inequality is the most commonly used measure of economic inequality. The coefficient’s values range from 0 to 1. Zero indicting complete equality and 1 reflecting complete inequality (one person has all the wealth). The higher the Gini Coefficient the greater the inequality of wealth distribution. *Inequality & Economic Growth European vs. U.S. experiences, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich, June 2003
· Abortion rates noted are from a 1999 Allan Guttmacher Institute study.
Similarly, the US (37%) and Japan (27%) have over 60% of the world’s wealthiest people and share the highest abortion rates in the developed world: 25% and 20% respectively.
These statistics indicate that a more equitable distribution of wealth in a society is associated with lower abortion rates.
Are we using abortion to deal with the problem of poverty rather than dealing with poverty to address the problem of abortion?
In 1729, Jonathon Swift wrote an essay commonly called, “A Modest Proposal”. Swift’s fuller name of the essay is, “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to their Parents…”. His “proposal” was to kill and eat the children of the poor, reducing the number of poor and adding the available food stocks. Here we are almost 400 years later taking Swift at his word. No, we don’t eat the aborted children but we do kill the unborn so that they won’t be a burden to their poor parents or on society.
The irony of course is that Swift was only joking but we are in deadly earnest.
Actually, the practice of the poor killing their children out of economic necessity goes back further than the 18th century. During Europe’s Little Ice age (a 400 year period starting in the 1200’s) it was not uncommon for starving peasants to abandon some of their children to die in the woods so that others in the family might live.
While our economic system creates great material wealth, it has not solved the problem of poverty. In the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote that the “invisible hand” of the capitalist system would somehow create a moral/justice society out of an essentially greed based, amoral economic system. However, he never detailed how this would occur.
In the hundreds of years since Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations, our economic system has not solved the problem of poverty. Those of us who have worked through the last 25 years of the Reaganomics, the newest take on the “invisible hand”, recognize that it also hasn’t solved the problem of persistent poverty. Our nation gets richer but working class wages don’t grow in proportion to the nation’s growth in wealth. Just the opposite, we have seen a hollowing out of the middle class and a growing gap between rich and poor as a result of our economic policies. Our middle class is being maintained by both mothers and fathers working outside of the home. This makes child rearing more difficult and costly, especially among the growing number of X-middle class who have joined the ranks of the working poor.
How can we significantly reduce the number of abortions in our country?
- Encourage contraception: Planned Parenthood, the single biggest abortion provider in the US, once opposed abortion. Instead, its leaders argued in favor of contraception. It was only after this failed that Planned Parenthood turned to supporting abortion. In the Guttermacher study noted above, the researchers found that approximately 50% of the women (who had an abortion) who participated in the study were using contraceptives in the month they became pregnant. Ok, so much for contraception.
- Make abortion illegal: Our society has a genius for breaking laws the public does not support (i.e. drinking during Prohibition, breaking the current laws against the sale and use of controlled substances). Changing the law on abortion now would only lead to law breaking. In any case, the Supreme Court whether staffed by liberals or conservatives seems more interested in maintaining consistency in its legal interpretations by employing stare decisis (let the thing stand) than in overturning Roe vs. Wade. For example, Chief Justice Roberts, a Bush appointee, in his senate appointment hearings stated that he would support Roe vs. Wade based on the principle of stare decisis, despite his personal objections to abortion.
A New Approach:
The abortion debate is stalled. In this long presidential nominating process how much time has been spent on abortion vs. time spent on war, the economy and political one-up-man ship? The country is divided into 3 camps: minorities of hard core Pro-life and Pro-abortion adherents and a third camp made up of the vast majority of Americans who just don’t care that much.
While stalemate and apathy reign in the political arena the killings continue. We need a new approach, one that would appeal to liberals and to religious conservatives.
If poor mothers, who represent a disproportionate number of those seeking abortions, are facing Sophie’s Dilemma then the way to significantly reduce abortions is to address the dilemma.
Ironically, the left which supports and defends the mass killing of unborn children may through its economic policies have the key to resolving the dilemma that poor, pregnant mothers face. For example:
- a national health system would go a long way toward giving these mothers some hope that they can support their new child. Western European nations have national health care and lower abortion rates.
- increasing the minimum wage to a “living” minimum wage might also reduce abortions, as the Guttermacher study indicates. OK, how do we increase wages when the poor in the US are competing with lower paid foreign workers (and illegal immigrants): the preferred workforce of some corporate executives? One answer is to focus on highly profitable work that pays higher wages…solving global climate change and achieving energy independence, policies supported by the left, might provide these high wage jobs (certainly using our work force to sell each other junk made in China won’t provide many high wage jobs)
In addition to these liberal economic policies, the poor must recognize those behaviors that perpetuate poverty and change them. Having children out of wedlock, drug abuse, crime, the failure to take advantage of educational opportunities all pass poverty along from one generation to the next. An improving economic picture for the poor might encourage a movement away from these counter-prodcutive behaviors. It’s called, “Hope”.
Is the abortion problem worth turning our economic system into a Western European look alike? The mass killing of well over 40 million unborn children with 1.3 million more deaths added to the rolls annually is reason enough.
In the movie, A Raising in the Sun, a poor pregnant mother, Ruth, wrestles with what is bst for her family, having another child or killing her unborn child: the classic Sophie’s Dilemma. When her economic outlook changes she again has hope and the unborn child is saved.
Address poverty. Solve the dilemma. Reduce Abortions.