A 12-year-old girl walks into a clinic with her 7 month pregnant mother. An abortion clinic. She is 12 weeks pregnant and scared the abortion will hurt.
“Honey, it will not hurt as much as going into labour and giving birth. And not as much as having your life ruined by having a baby at 12” the doctor soothingly says.
And the mother chimes in “You are lucky the father gave you the $500 for the abortion or you would be having this baby like I did”.
It turns out the mother is about to give birth to her 7th child – she is 30 and had her first at 12 too.
This is just one story. How about the 14-year-old girl raped by her uncle seeking an abortion in a state where, if parental consent is not available, a judge can issue a by-pass that usually takes over 3 months to obtain. Incongruity of the law. A cousin drives her over the state line to have the abortion performed, thus risking a maximum sentence of 10 years for taking a minor out-of-state for the purpose of aborting.
I could go on. I am sure that each one of the 1,787 doctors that still legally perform abortions in this country has a million of these stories. You read right. Less than 2,000 practitioners will go on the payroll of a clinic that provides such services. We know they cross picket lines, they camouflage themselves, they have police escorts and, sometimes, they get killed. And as few as they are, they do not cover the entire map – in fact, 87% of all US counties lack an abortion provider and roughly 35% of women live in such counties.
Every year, 2% of American women age 15-44 will have an abortion. 40% of pregnancies among white women, 69% of blacks and 34% of Hispanics are unintended. How could we have failed so miserably at educating girls? If we break down the statistics even further, it becomes apparent that the rate of unwanted pregnancies increases as income and education decrease. We read in disbelief of Afghan girls being married off at the age of 12 to much older men, of vaginal mutilation but without looking that far we still have a long way to go in this country to give women the right to choose. Whether it is the freedom to obtain contraception, to abstain, to have or not have an abortion, to say no to peer pressure. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia make contraception available to minors while 90% of public funded family clinics counsel teen solely on abstinence.
I am in no position to suggest any answers but if a 12-year-old girl who most likely doesn’t even know what an abortion is or what having sex was all about has to worry that it will hurt rather than worry about what to wear on the week-end, something has gone terribly awry. Women of my generation have no doubt paved the road for those who came after but clearly there is a lot more asphalting to do.
All statistical data was sourced from the Alan Guttmacher Institute where more depressing figures can be found.
Thank you to my doctor friend who was willing to share his stories. And then go for a Scotch.