Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The pregnant woman's dilemma

by Eva Marie Wash

Taking advantage of our vacation time from school and work, my family took our first road trip in years to Detroit, Michigan in order to visit my father’s relatives. Each day consisted of small reunions with aunts, uncles, cousins—people I hardly remembered or had never met.

During one particular visit, I had the chance to speak to a distant cousin, a 31-year-old mother of two girls: a precocious (almost) thirteen-year-old and a year-old baby. When she was 18, she became pregnant and chose to have the child, despite pressure from the father and the sacrifice of her schooling. Apparently, the university she was to attend was not equipped to handle a pregnant student, especially one with mild learning disabilities. Within the supportive network that her parents and family members have created for her, she seems to be a happy and able mother. However, if it hadn’t been for the devotion and acceptance of her parents, having that first daughter would have seemed so impossible: with a boyfriend who wanted to avoid any responsibility, a school unable (perhaps even unwilling) to accommodate her, the fear, uncertainty, and shame of being an unwed mother—all these factors probably would have made abortion seem like the only feasible option, even if she deeply wanted to accept her motherhood.

Meanwhile, a close family friend, a high-powered attorney whose marriage is on the brink of divorce, just had an abortion because her husband had explicitly said “absolutely not” to the potential child-to-support and because her job implicitly discouraged pregnancy. Regardless of pro- or anti-abortion stances, we can all at least agree that in cases like these, society does not make the choice to have a child very easy. Similar stories in which women are pressured by employers to avoid or terminate their pregnancies, or in which young pregnant women feel that it’s impossible to continue their education and have a child, seem unfortunately common; instead of limiting us only to our role as mothers, society is now asking women to deny that natural and amazing capacity. Furthermore, these attitudes that hold active, devoted parenthood as so incompatible with a successful career affects mothers as well as fathers: they help to perpetuate the age-old bias that the “bread-winning” man will be necessarily less involved in the family, rather than encouraging attitudes of cooperation and compromise on the side of both parents.

One could argue that abortion has been the fundamental right in attaining equality in the work force, but yet, it is hard to deny that so many are still being treated unjustly. In the face of these impediments, the majority of women choose not to end their pregnancies, and thus more focus needs to be placed on ensuring that society—the government, employers, healthcare, their partners, families, etc—facilitate their choice and its consequences.

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