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Opinion

Pro-life groups don't really protect the unborn

Pro-life groups funnel tremendous resources into a legal war against abortion in the US without providing adequate practical support for women to maintain pregnancies. Yet not being able to afford a child is one of the main reasons women have abortions.

By Elizabeth JahrOp-ed contributor / September 4, 2013

Anti-abortion rights supporter Katherine Aguilar holds a crucifix and prays while opponents and supporters of abortion rights gather in the State Capitol rotunda in Austin, Texas, July 12. Op-ed contributor Elizabeth Jahr writes: 'It’s time the pro-life movement focuses its resources more on helping women and babies, not gaining legislative power that ultimately will do little to protect the unborn.'

Tamir Kalifa/AP

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Arlington, Va.

Religious and political groups that funnel tremendous resources into a legal war to limit and even ban abortion in America are at best, wasting time, and at worst, damaging efforts to protect the unborn. Texas’s new abortion law – one of the toughest in the country – is only the latest in a string of efforts to limit abortions in numerous states across the US.

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Members of the pro-life movement spend countless dollars and hours on rallies and lobbying without providing adequate financial and emotional support for women to actually maintain pregnancies. And the majority of women who have abortions cite not being able to afford a child as one of the main reasons for their decision.

Let’s look at, for example, the resources spent on one of the biggest spectacles of the pro-life movement, the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Supporters spend millions on the annual rally that draws hundreds of thousands to the American capital in January, around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

As a college junior at a private Catholic school in Arlington, Va., I’ve witnessed the March for Life three times. Each year students who wish to attend are excused from classes to travel as a group to nearby Washington, D.C., to attend the march and a mass that precedes it. I have witnessed firsthand how significant the event can be to the people who attend it, but I was still surprised when I found out some Catholic dioceses are already recruiting for the March for Life in 2014. People are willing to plan and fundraise for months to attend a political event that lasts a few hours.
 
The Diocese of Kansas City, for example, is currently charging $320 for adults and youth (the cost is much less for members of the clergy or religious life) to attend the march. Last year an estimated 650,000 people attended. For the sake of simple estimation, let’s say that even just a tenth of those attendees – 65,000 people – pay $320 to attend. That comes out to an estimated $20.8 million spent by individuals passionate enough to travel to Washington and protest the legality of abortion in the United States. All of this is, supposedly, to protect the life of the unborn.
 
According to figures on the websites ehow.com, webmd.com, and vitaminshoppe.com, the average cost of prenatal care alone for an uninsured woman in a healthy pregnancy is around $3,146. That’s $1,862 for regular visits to the doctor, $1,000 for routine tests, $200 for an ultrasound, and $84 dollars for nine months of prenatal vitamins. 

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