Another Perspective

Let’s Pay Women Not to Abort

The conditions are ripe in America for such an experiment.

By 1.23.13

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After 40 years of abortion virtually on demand, we’re still looking for ways to significantly reduce the number of abortions. New ideas are needed, and here’s an intriguing one: let’s pay abortion-minded women to give birth.

Lack of finances is the reason women cite most often for aborting. According to a 2004 Guttmacher Institute survey, 74% of 1,200 abortion patients said they were aborting because having a child would interfere with their education, work or ability to care for dependents and 73% because they could not afford a baby.

Paying abortion-minded women to give birth is not a new idea. In 2010, Italy’s Lombardy region began providing $5,500 a year to poor women who changed their minds about having an abortion for economic reasons.

Texas State Senator Dan Patrick made a similar proposal in 2007. He suggested offering women at abortion centers $500 to bring their pregnancies to term, but with the requirement that they give up their babies for adoption. Patrick’s bill didn’t make it out of committee.

The conditions are ripe in America for such an experiment. There is a surplus of families wanting to adopt, and, because of legal abortion, a deficit of available children.

America’s birth rate is also dropping, and some experts are warning of an impending demographic crisis.

Genuine advocates of choice really couldn’t object. After all, the payment option would simply offer pregnant women one more choice, while in no way diminishing a woman’s right to abort.

In fact, such a plan might help pregnant women follow through on the choice many say they’d prefer to make, to give birth. The latest Pew Research Center poll finds that just 10 percent of women find abortion “morally acceptable.”

And as I cited above, three-quarters of women who abort identify their finances as the main reason for their decision. If the financial hurdle is lowered, perhaps many more women would bring their babies to term.

Of course, there would be a danger that women could “game” the system. Perhaps some pregnant women with no intention of aborting would claim they want to abort simply to collect a check. The amount paid would have to be large enough for abortion-minded women to choose life but not so large that they’d try it again.

Other questions include: Would participating women be required to give their babies up for adoption? How large of a payment would be needed to save lives? Would it be a lump sum or payments over the course of the child’s life?

If a participating woman gives up her baby for adoption, perhaps the payment she receives could come from donations from the adopting parents. As it is, families sometimes pay tens of thousands of dollars to adopt children, often from overseas.

In Italy, the payouts stopped after about one year, which doesn’t seem like much help. According to the U.S. government, the cost of raising a child is $235,000, or about $13,000 a year for 18 years. That’s a lot of money, and a more reasonable payment might be around $5,000. But then again, can we really put a price on life?

Other countries support new mothers much better than we do. Despite liberal abortion laws, Germany has an abortion rate one-third that of the U.S. Working women there get 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, a child allowance from the state while the child is in school, and other benefits we don’t offer here.

Sure, we could assist poor women by giving them larger child tax credits or doing other things through the tax code. But something tells me the promise of a large check would have a bigger impact on abortion rates.

We could keep the government out of it entirely. Perhaps a rich, enterprising pro-life activist could fund a pilot study at a pregnancy center to see if this proposal is viable.

Pro-life centers already help women financially. Unlike Planned Parenthood, which charges for many of its services, most pro-life centers offer all their services free of charge and give out free diapers, baby strollers, and many other goods and services new mothers need.

After so many abortions and shattered lives, we know a lot about what doesn’t work in the fight to end abortion. Perhaps paying abortion-minded women to give birth is something that would.

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About the Author

Daniel Allott is a writer in Washington, D.C.