Proponents of the heartbeat bill have two goals. 1) To reduce abortion rates and 2) To challenge Roe v. Wade through the court system.
Anti-abortion legislators expect legal challenges to the heartbeat bill because they know it’s unconstitutional. They hope for a reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court.
But what about that first goal? Georgia’s heartbeat bill doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2020. If a judge blocks it for being unconstitutional, then it won’t take effect until after a long legal battle, if at all. Until then, what can Georgia legislators and Georgia citizens do to reduce abortion rates in the state?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 80 million women worldwide have an unintended pregnancy. Sixty percent of those unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Abortion rates for unintended pregnancies in the United States are slightly better. A 2016 study found that in 2011, 45 percent of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States were unintended, down from 51 percent in 2008. Forty-two percent of those unintended pregnancies in 2011 ended in abortion.
When unintended pregnancy rates drop, abortion rates drop. Thus, if Georgia wants to prevent abortions, we should work to reduce unintended pregnancies.
Multiple studies indicate that unintended pregnancies drop with increased access to contraception, particularly long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) devices like IUDs and implants. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies must cover all forms of contraception without requiring a co-pay. This has led to a statistically-significant increase in women choosing LARC devices as their primary method of contraception.
However, not all women have health insurance. About 12.9 percent of Georgia residents are uninsured. About 240,000 Georgians are stuck in the “coverage gap,” meaning they don’t qualify for Medicaid nor do they qualify for subsidies to buy insurance through the Marketplace. Georgia should remedy this by expanding Medicaid coverage.
More women with health coverage means more women with access to contraception means less unintended pregnancies means less abortions. This is the single best way to reduce abortion, but some women will still have unintended pregnancies. How can we convince them to keep their pregnancies?
To prevent abortion, we first need to understand who seeks an abortion and why. What’s the difference between women who continue their unintended pregnancies, and women who abort their unintended pregnancies?
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2014, about 75 percent of abortion patients nationwide were poor or low-income. The three most common reasons given for abortion — each cited by three-fourths of patients — were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school, or the ability to care for dependents. All of these reasons have one thing in common: a lack of outside support for the pregnant woman.
It takes a village to raise a child. Women who choose abortion are often missing that village. How can we be that village? How can we support struggling parents and pregnant women and convince them to choose life?
There are concrete steps that Georgia’s citizens, businesses and state legislature can all take to support pregnant women. When women don’t face these barriers, they’re more likely to continue with their unintended pregnancy.
First, what can you and I do to support pregnant women and single parents? We have many options. In the short term, let low-income parents know they’re not alone. Host a baby shower. Offer to baby-sit. Organize a meal train. Instead of selling your used nice kids’ clothes or baby furniture, donate it to a family in need. In the long term, help parents help themselves. Volunteer to look over a resume or share interview tips. Share opportunities for continuing education. Research scholarships and grants for low-income students.
Second, how can Georgia employers support pregnant women and single parents? Businesses can offer paid maternity leave, private space for nursing/pumping, flexible schedules and childcare assistance – even for part-time employees. They can also pay employees better overall, offer full-time hours to interested employees and promote from within.
Third, how can the state of Georgia support pregnant women and single parents? Georgia can expand eligibility requirements for the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program, allowing more families to receive financial assistance for child care. Georgia can update its zoning laws to guarantee space for affordable housing, such as multi-family dwellings.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it’s going to take a village to stop abortion. If you sincerely care about reducing abortion in Georgia, then you need to step up. It’s time for evidence-based action to reduce abortion. That means improving access to contraception to decrease unintended pregnancies and supporting both pregnant women and low-income parents.
Brita Long is a blogger and freelance writer who sees the world through rose-colored glasses. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.