If you maybe want a baby—and you have the means—you have options these days. IVF. Donor eggs. Surrogates. Or if your parents have the means, would-be grandparents have started to pay for freezing of “just in case she gets too old” eggs for later use for their daughters, although this route remains untested for its long-term efficacy.
Fertility treatments aren’t just for the rich, though. While some states, like Massachusetts, provide insurance coverage for some fertility treatments, a new trend has emerged — crowdfunding for I.V.F. If you can shore up resources, somehow, to make a baby, you have an increasing number of options as to how to try. Reproductive technologies come without guarantees about the outcome or safety of fertility efforts, however. And without much regulation, some critics have likened the assisted reproduction industry to the Wild West. If you can pay, you can probably find some way to do almost anything. The industry of infertility is estimated at $2 billion. But only when an Octomom splashes across the headlines are there raised eyebrows—and perhaps censure of a lone doctor — when it comes to reproductive technology.
To say the least, it’s a complicated business.
If you don’t want to have a baby, however, the prospects are practically the inverse. Over the past couple of decades, there has been a staggering amount of regulation surrounding abortion. Along with barriers like parental consent laws and mandatory waiting periods, there are fewer clinics and providers. This means women have to travel further, wait longer and, even then, may not be able to find resources to help pay for the procedure. So, if you can’t afford not to make a baby, you find there are fewer and fewer choices.
Disproportionate numbers of poor women seek abortion services these days; there’s been an increase in poor women facing unintended pregnancies while the number for women not in poverty has dropped, most likely because those who can afford to travel will always have access to abortions. This isn’t a new trend; difficulties for poor women in need of abortion services began when federal funding for abortion all but disappeared in 1976 with the Hyde Amendment.
Lack of access makes unintended pregnancy messy and scary. No woman wants to be faced with a pregnancy she can’t continue without being able to consider all of her options. Abortion providers or anyone who has worked to support the 100+ abortion funds across the country—revolving “loan funds” that help women to pay for abortions when their choices are being able either to pay the rent or be able to have an abortion—can attest to this. Without access, even a simple decision of the “this isn’t the time to have a baby” variety becomes major drama.
Agency of our bodies is a tenet of women’s equality, and, not surprisingly, it’s made more complicated by economics.
Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser‘s has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine, Huffington Post, Babble and Bamboo Magazine, among others. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies including The Maternal is Political, in the e-book anthology Welcome to My World, and Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra. Find Sarah on Twitter at @standshadows and at her her blog Standing in the Shadows.