Treat Mothers-To-Be With the Same Legally Mandated Loving Care as Women Seeking Abortions—It's Only Fair


Crying Baby
Credit: Kiep: Dreamstime

in the Sunday Washington Post University of Wisconsin bioethicist R. Alta Charo solicitously suggests that legislators who have passed laws regulating abortion services out of their deep concern for the medical and psychological consequences of abortion should turn their attention to women who choose to carry their babies to term. She notes:

????Having an abortion is a momentous decision. And a growing number of states are expressing concern for women who are contemplating that choice.

Last month, Virginia — obviously in the interest of making abortion as safe as possible — required abortion clinics to be regulated like hospitals, even though that might put most of the state's clinics out of business. Meanwhile, Kansas — to ensure that women have full information — enhanced its abortion-counseling requirements to include warnings about even disproven risks of abortion, such as breast cancer. Elsewhere, protections have come in the form of extended waiting periods, mandatory interviews seeking evidence of coercion, and laws requiring women to have an ultrasound, and in some cases view or hear a description of the imagery, before they can have an abortion.

But while states give such solicitous attention to women planning to have an abortion, they ignore the needs of women planning to give birth. Bringing a child into the world is also a life-changing decision. Too many women have to make that choice without similar protections. It is time to demand equality and tell our legislatures to enact the Defense of Motherhood Act (DOMA).

Charo recommends, among other things, that legislators enact such DOMA provisions as:

In the interest of safety, DOMA would insist that all prenatal care be provided by licensed physicians (not nurses or midwives) in medical offices fully equipped to handle obstetric emergencies — even if that means having to wait longer for appointments, pay more or drive for hours.

To ensure that the decision to go through with a pregnancy is fully considered, there would be a 72-hour waiting period between the time a pregnant woman first sees a doctor and the time she can get prenatal care.

Physicians would have to inform pregnant women about the risks of childbirth and motherhood. They would have to note that childbirth, compared with abortion, is roughly 14 times more likely to result in maternal death and is more often associated with depression and other forms of mental illness. They would also have to emphasize that working women in the United States can expect to see their wages drop 9 percent to 16 percent for each child and that having a child makes it significantly less likely that an unmarried woman will ever marry.

To ensure that women are not being coerced by partners, family members or clergy into bearing a child, DOMA would require that all women be interviewed about the circumstances of conception and their motives for continuing with pregnancy. Did a husband sabotage birth control? Was a woman unable to afford contraception because her employer refused to comply with the Affordable Care Act?

Simple fairness, argues Charo, demands that legislators enact such additional protections as mandating that would-be mothers-to-be watch a two hour video featuring colicky babies and sulky teenagers before being given access to prenatal care. Futhermore, since many states have passed laws empowering parents to decide if their minor daughters can have an abortion, surely they should be legally required to acknowledge in writing the limited income and career prospects of teen mothers.

Whole Charo op-ed is worth contemplating. For more background see ReasonTV's recent, "Abortion & Libertarians" debate featuring Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Mollie Hemingway, and me below: