Back in time, over a decade ago abortion was my big issue. I was a one issue voter, meaning I cared about that issue more than everything else and I voted for candidates based on their stance on abortion alone, either aligning with mine or not. As a Christian you can probably guess that I wasn't fond of it. I'm writing about this again today because of the leak that said the Supreme Court might over turn Roe v. Wade. Maybe Citizens United will be overturned?
In 2010 when I was unemployed I started to get into economics. Economics are not politics, but economic policy is driven by politicians and laws. When I was unemployed in 2010 I saw how little of a safety net the United States really has. For example, since I was graduating into unemployment, I did not receive any unemployment income, because I had not really worked in the past. Fortunately I stayed on my parents health insurance. And fortunately between a little bit of savings, money from my family, a job from my family, living with family, and then a summer camp job I made it through the year, but I maxed out three credit cards and deferred my student loans for most of a year. Point being, tax payers put a ton of money into my education, and then I put in a whole lot more, but without my family I don't know what would have happened to me by the fall of 2010. I probably would have ended up making snow at a ski resort with one of my good friends for a little more than minimum wage and living in the mountains, which would have probably been fun for a season, but there too, that connection was a friend, an advantage I have over others. In other words, there was a significant economic inefficiency.
We focus on abortion because it's black and white, good and evil. But I've come to realize that if we focus on the letter of the law like the Pharisees in the Bible, we miss the point of loving our neighbor. My voting philosophy for most of the last decade has been based on Jesus's second commandment from Matthew 22:39 "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Every law I interpret through that lens, what would loving my neighbor more look like?
In the case of abortion it's about loving those little babies, which I think the vast majority of people can agree we want to. How can we do that better? It's easy to focus on the law of abortion itself, but holistically it's often the woman who will be making the decision, so how do we show her love?
First, let's start with child marriage, why is this still legal in the United States?! We should outlaw marriage under age 18 at the national level in the United States. Period. End of statement. For more information see this group.
Second, let's talk about the cost of just having a child. A lot of people don't like the idea of universal healthcare, they like adding to the profits of insurance companies and having the right to not have health insurance. However, if we as a country really cared about those little babies, we would fully fund maternity costs. It costs thousands of dollars simply have to have a kid according to WebMD. In we can't agree on universal healthcare, can we at least agree these direct costs of having a child should be paid for by us tax payers as a country? After all, that is a future little tax payer.
Third, let's talk about paid maternity, paternity and family leave. Once again we have no laws to pay new parents in those first weeks and months as they figure out how to raise a little baby. Retirees live on social security for years, but at the start of every person's life we can't give their parents 12 weeks to get that new human off on the right foot? There are a lot of benefits to paying new parents for just a couple months. This one seems so simple, and in light of the current economy with jobs everywhere but no one to fill them, if the government won't implement paid family leave I expect many employers to implement it to keep employees, even low wage employees.
Fourth, let's talk about daycare and preschool. I've had quite a few friends go through this, and day care is not cheap. Assuming a two parent household, both working before they have kids, it probably makes sense for each one to keep working after the first child. In Denver full time daycare costs about $1575 per month. With two kids in daycare, now you're talking over $3,000 per month! Yes it probably makes sense for a parent to stay home. After tax, with two kids in day care you're talking about close to $40,000 in expenses. Pretax you're in the neighborhood of $60,000 for a parent's income, so if you make less than that and have two young kids, yeah you might as well not work. In Japan it's even worse. Of the four things on this list so far I realize this is the most expensive by far and I can imagine that a woman making $40,000 a year who is single and finds out she is pregnant might not be ready to have that baby because if her partner isn't going to provide, and the government isn't going to provide for that baby, who is?
Fifth, and this isn't economics, but social stigma. Because of the four above reasons, or at least a subset of them, prospective mothers and parents aren't feeling loved systemically. Mental health is an issue and I can imagine that both before women become pregnant and then after having an abortion there are significant mental traumas to work through. If we aren't addressing mental health for mothers and for children we aren't setting families up for success. In the US the CDC says that about 40% of births are to unmarried mothers. Additionally, a whopping 86% of abortions are to unmarried single and cohabitating mothers. Which I think is what you would expect, that's it's harder to have a kid when you don't have a ring (commitment) on that finger from a partner to help share the financial load let alone the daily chores. Quick tangent, when I was growing up I didn't know anyone that had a nanny. As I've gotten older I've met a few friends that had nannies growing up. Now, I have several peers who have nannies and my partner and I have made it to a financial place where we could probably afford a nanny if we ever get to that stage, which is bonkers to me. And it speaks to the whole ridiculousness of childbearing and rearing in this country. There are a lot of unloved mothers in this country, and yet because my partner and I have a certain skill set that financially pays well we can access this luxury. To phrase that another way, we're not better than anyone else, but we can have a service that is better than the alternatives, which feels like a failure of society to care for all little babies.
To wrap up, yes I'm still against abortion, but does outlawing it show those babies and those mothers that we love them? No. Without addressing the five points above we as a society aren't actually serious about loving those babies and those mothers. In other words, right now for me it seems the most loving course of action is to say, 'do whatever you want'. Because for us to really say, 'do this because we believe it is best', requires us to back that up with economic muscle to cover the costs that new parents have. An analogy, we can drive 80 miles per hour on many highways because of the NHTSA requiring car makers to have seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones. We can drive on public roads without paying tolls because we pay taxes to fund those roads, earn drivers licenses to prove we are safe, and pay car insurance in case we damage another vehicle or injure a person. It's not just the seatbelt law that makes our value of easy transportation possible, it's because in that area we have a wide range of laws designed to love each other to continually make transportation safer for everyone. Similarly, I think we need a range of laws to show love to new humans and new parents.