It does not matter that abortion remains affordable. Well-meaning anti-choicers often try to “support” women considering abortion by offering them baby clothes, used cribs, and other inexpensive baby items. This gesture obscures the reality that pregnancy is one of the most costly events a woman will ever face. Yet the same people who claim to want to save fetuses at any cost often refuse to support any program that could support women who opt not to abort.
New figures from the Health Care Cost Institute bring the financial perils of an unexpected pregnancy into the fore of the abortion debate.
What Does it Really Cost to Have a Baby?
It’s insulting to think that baby clothes and a few bottles will convince women in dire financial straits to keep their babies. These small items are among the least expensive a pregnant woman will have to buy. No single figure can account for all costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth, especially since health care options and personal preferences vary greatly. But consider the following:
For a woman without insurance, the average cost of prenatal care is around $2,000. This doesn’t take into account ultrasound screenings, care for common complications, and the premium costs a woman can expect to pay for a well-respected provider.
An uncomplicated vaginal birth costs around $10,000, while C-sections can cost $23,000 or more.
Women facing unexpected pregnancies, particularly if they have unsupportive partners, are at a higher risk of postpartum depression and other pregnancy complications. Mental health treatment can cost several hundred dollars a month. Research shows that hiring a doula can prevent common pregnancy complications and reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Yet few poor women can afford this helpful luxury.
The first year of a baby’s life costs around $12,000. After taxes, this figure actually exceeds what a woman working full-time at minimum wage can expect to make each year.
The Rising Costs of Health Care
These expenses, though stunning, don’t reveal the full scale of the problem. Across the nation, health care costs are rising at a rate that far out-paces wages. Worse still, a woman may pay vastly different rates for the same procedure depending upon where she lives. Though the average ultrasound costs $268—roughly the amount a woman working minimum wage can expect to earn in a week—women living in states such as Alaska pay significantly more.
Women do not typically choose where they live, and for women facing financial problems, moving is rarely an option. When medical costs are rising so quickly that something as seemingly inconsequential as where a woman lives could push her to an abortion, something is wrong.
Abortion as a Financial Necessity
In the minds of anti-choicers, women who seek abortions are monsters who hate their babies. They get abortions for the fun of it, with little to no thought of the consequences. Abortion, to them, is a mystery; women’s reasons don’t make sense. Abortion must be caused by Satan.
Back here in reality, Satan has nothing to do with it. Women overwhelmingly seek abortions for financial reasons. And abortion continues to be a good deal. The average cost of an abortion is just $470—a small increase from the $175 women could expect to pay in the 1970s.
On some level, anti-choicers know this. Rather than making motherhood and health care affordable, though, they’ve responded by trying to drive up the costs of abortion. Requiring doctors to have hospital privileges, long waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements all increase the cost of abortion. These costs pale in comparison to the toll of motherhood, so women will likely continue to seek abortions. And Republican lawmakers will continue to attempt to penalize the poorest, most vulnerable women for doing so.
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