Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (92), July 26, 1989

If You Oppose Abortion …

On Independence Day, I read both in the Times and morning Globe about the latest Supreme Court decision opening the path to limiting access and right to abortion. I felt a great sadness. As a social worker who has spent 20 years working in mental health and protective services, I wonder if those who so adamantly seek to protect the life of the unborn child have really considered the added responsibility that goes with such a position. Here is what I would ask of those who seek to limit and perhaps eliminate a woman’s right to choose abortion.

If you oppose abortion, you must actively support universal health insurance so that all these unborn fetuses can be assured of the highest quality prenatal care and early childhood medical care. The insurance must guarantee the right to preventive, as well as acute, care. We know very clearly that fetal development and the first few years of life are the most important in determining the physical, emotional and intellectual potential of the child.

If you oppose abortion you must advocate for and be willing to pay taxes to support a federal and state housing program that would guarantee that none of these young children will grow up in welfare motels, shelters, or sleep in the streets, because their parents cannot afford adequate housing. Presently, it is estimated that as many as 200,000 children are sleeping on the streets nightly in this country.

If you oppose abortion, you must lobby for dramatically increases in funding for the expansion of fay care resources that can be made available to anyone regardless of ability to pay. Too many children live in poverty because their parents are unable to work because they cannot find day care. Too many children are left home alone or caring for younger children in unsafe and unsupervised settings because of the lack of availability of affordable daycare.

If you oppose abortion, you should open your home to an adopted child; nit a cute cuddly infant, but a five year old who has spent three years in foster homes because of abuse and neglect. Or you should open your home to a foster child who’s parents are desperately trying to reclaim their own lives so that they cannot be reunited with their children. Or, at least you should nit turn your back on your neighbor’s child who has unexplained bruises all the time or cringes when an adult enters the room. At the very least, when you recognize that your neighbor or relative is under stress and not coping well you should ask, “What can I do to help you right now?”

If you oppose abortion, you must be willing to support a level of Public Assistance payments that are realistic for today’s economy. Do you know how painful it is for a welfare mother to have to tell her children that they cannot stop for MacDonald’s hamburgers because she doesn’t have the few dollars that would cost and it is another week before her next check will arrive?

If you oppose abortion, you must be willing to adequately fund our schools where our children spend so many ours of their day. These schools must be safe and nurturing and stimulating because a child’s mind and creativity are too precious to waste.

If you oppose abortion, you must be willing to support funding for police, courts, rehabilitation programs and prisons so that these children can grow up in safe neighborhoods where they can walk down their streets without being offered drugs or be hit by a stray bullet.

If you oppose abortion, you must support mental health programs that offer counseling to parents, children and troubled families. These programs must be available in each community on demand, regardless of ability to pay.

If you oppose abortion, you must support family life education programs beginning in elementary school and, as these children reach adolescence, you must provide them with realistic information about sexual development and reproduction so that they can make informed choices that will eliminate the need for abortion.

I do not envy the members of the Supreme Court who have to decide these painful choices. I don’ claim to have any special medical or spiritual knowledge about the moment at which human life “begins.” I don’t claim to have an answer to who’s rights should take precedence: mother, child, or even father. But I do know a great deal about what it takes to assure that a child grows up healthy and happy. And I very strongly believe that if we are going to protect the right to “life,” we must also demonstrate our commitment to the quality of that life.

Carol S. Yenawine, LICSW, 5 John Wise Ave., Essex