David Hart: The unintended consequences of limits on abortion rights

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) State Street was filled with hundreds during the SLC Women's March for reproductive rights and access to safe abortions, Oct. 2, 2021.

Even before a potential Supreme Court ruling, many states are already passing laws that will increase restrictions on a woman’s choice about having an abortion.

As a teacher/school counselor/social worker/family counselor and parenting class teacher for more than 40 years, I have seen families at every level of success. Most parents that I met wanted to have their children but I met some parents who were not happy being parents and the negative effects on their children were serious.

Most women who will be forced to have children because of lack of access to readily obtained abortion will likely be poor because more well-off women will travel to have the procedure. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that an average family earning $60,000 a year will spend about $277,000 to raise a child to the age of 18. This is mostly for housing, food and child care.

There are those who will say that adoption is an answer, but there are already more than 400,000 children in foster care. Data shows that about 1 in 50, or almost 1.5 million children, will be homeless for at least a short time each year. Also, as of February this year, we have about 3.4 million children living in poverty.

Do we really want women who do not want a child to be forced to have that child and then deal with the emotional and economic challenges for the next 18 years? As one of the main reasons that a woman may want an abortion is because she is single, this will add to the challenges of single parenting to both the mother and society.

It is sad that those who want to put limits on abortion, forcing an unwanted child into the world, are not willing to support that child once it is born. These same people are usually opposed to the child tax credit, supporting child care, pre-kindergarten education and giving the public educational system of kindergarten through 12th grade the resources it needs to do a better job.

It is not only the parents of these kids who will pay the price, but also our society at large in child protective services, welfare, policing, the judicial and the penal system (as unwanted children are more likely to end up in our legal system), more challenges for our already stressed educational system, a host of resources like water, electricity, food and many other material resources that are already adding to our consumption issues. Not to mention that overpopulation in general is already adding to resource conflicts, both hot and cold, (like Utah’s fight for water). As individuals and as a society we need parents who want children and as a society to support them adequately.

The moral dimensions in these choices are real. Abortion is seen by many as killing a person, but is it moral to force a woman to have an unwanted child and then not give that mother and child adequate support? Do we care more for the unborn than the living?

Anyone who thinks that these choices and challenges are easy is not paying attention. An unwanted pregnancy followed by an abortion or raising an unwanted child are both difficult for the parents and society.

For those who want to limit a woman’s choice, it is time to step up and improve the safety net for all parents. Whatever decision the Supreme Court makes this summer will not eliminate the difficult choices that have to be made.

David Hart

David Hart, Torrey, is a former physics teacher at Skyline High School and former middle school counselor. He has degrees in physics, sociology, psychology and masters degrees in education and social work. He now is retired and lives near Capital Reef National Park.