There are a lot of reasons why unplanned pregnancies are stressful and costly on both a micro and macro level to a society. Statistical data currently outlines the cost of unplanned pregnancies on the cost of healthcare, no matter how the pregnancy gets resolved. What has always amazed me about the “abortion” debate is how lawmakers and others cast aside the thoughts and feelings of those who are going through the process of deciding how to handle an unplanned pregnancy on a macro level with the aim of pushing the interests of their more influential voting constituents.
I was reading a few articles recently talking about a surge here in the US to curtail late-term TOPs (termination of pregnancy, or abortions). Currently, the cutoff for a TOP may vary from state to state – New York has it at about 24 weeks. However, certain states are looking drop this to 20 weeks and there is a real possibility of the overall cutoff being dropped to 22 weeks. Two weeks may not seem a lot, but in the case of a late-term TOP, it matters. This push has been made more visible on large part due to the recent revelations during the trial and conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
This is a real problem in deciding what the cutoff age is because a good portion of the women seeking late-term TOPs often have to drive to different states to d so because their home state may have an early cutoff period. Of course the pregnancy doesn’t pause while the woman or couple goes searching for this service. There are some women who are forced to continue with an unplanned pregnancy knowing that it can and will lead to a lower quality life for both parent and child.
Doing pregnancy counseling for the past few years has given me some insight into the struggles of facing an unplanned pregnancy. While I do not claim to be an expert on this topic by ANY MEANS, my own beliefs on this issue are now as complex as the issue itself. One of the things that often get swept aside in the macro level policy battles is the difficult emotions people grapple with when deciding how to resolve an unplanned pregnancy.
Make no mistake that there is always stuff left behind from this situation, and depending on the relationship, both parties are affected. I had a 19 y.o. college couple walk in my office recently dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. While I laid out their options and was walking them through the steps for each option, I could feel the weight of their decision start to sink in for both. I reminded both of the ongoing emotional support available in the clinic, primarily in the form of social workers.
As they were about to leave, the young man asked to speak to me privately (his partner was the patient). We ended up having a long discussion where we talked at length his feelings about their decision and laid out the scope of his role in the process. While he left still feeling the weight of the decision, one could see that he now more clarity on what lies ahead.
I’ve thought about how I would handle being in that young man’s shoes and appreciate the fact that I do have my professional experience to draw on. It doesn’t make things easier though.
An unplanned pregnancy is one of those things that can really test the strength of the connection two people have, since it does still take elements from both create a pregnancy. Sometimes even the most even keeled and highly communicative relationships get shattered due to what gets revealed underlying with an unplanned pregnancy. So how do we address this issue and take some of the teeth of the difficulty of this situation?
The scope of this issue is so vast that in order to address it what may need to happen is to streamline the existing elements on a macro and micro level. I will leave the lawmakers and advocacy groups on both sides of the issue to hammer out legislation on cutoff limits and accessibility for TOPs. What should be protected on a macro level is the right to have a TOP on the table as an option for resolving an unplanned pregnancy. TOP clinics need to continue to be properly regulated to reduce the chances of having more cases like Dr. Gosnell.
Also, education is essential in the form or a unified message of support and empathy from the community about the difficulties of this situation. Both people – sometimes just the woman only – have much to consider as they decide how to resolve the pregnancy. You can talk preventative measures all you want, but ostracizing folks in this situation doesn’t help either. Until we normalize the fact that unplanned pregnancies happen and address providing the need options on the table on a communal level, there will be more people walking around with additional guilt and baggage that they don’t need to carry.