My favorite story—apocryphal, I’m sure—has to do with the intake procedure of a small mental hospital with many referrals and little space. In deciding if they could assist a prospective patient—if someone really needed help—hospital personnel had devised a unique test. The prospective patient was placed in a room, equipped only with a faucet with water running and a mop, and was left to cope. Those who mopped and kept mopping were institutionalized; those who coped by turning off the faucet passed the test.

The faucets are on all over our country and the mops futilely are being wielded. Burgeoning population, unbalanceable budgets and the multiplication of poverty are inescapable facts.

Yet pregnant women who are poor, ill and disadvantaged continue to be denied the abortions they seek, indeed, plead for. They are passing the sanity test; they are attempting to control their lives. Their government keeps mopping away.

In the United States today there probably is no arena of social service where the victimization of the poor is more apparent than in the treatment of women living in poverty who want and need abortions. Obviously, if a woman is too poor to afford an abortion, she is much too poor to afford a child. She becomes trapped in the welfare cycle. Denied the abortion she wants and needs, her own life will be changed irrevocably Her opportunity to be anything but a welfare mother may be gone forever.

An early abortion, up to 10 weeks gestation, costs about $250-$300. A typical delivery costs ten times that amount. If there are complications in childbirth, more apt to occur among low income women, the costs may be 40 times the cost of an abortion for a Caesarean section and its accompanying lengthier hospitalization. Children born to welfare families must be supported by the public, frequently to maturity, often for life.

To put costs in perspective, consider the woman living in poverty who is told the fetus she is carrying is abnormal—an undeveloped brain stem, for example, or intestines developing outside the body. In most of our states even gross fetal abnormality does not qualify the pregnant woman for an abortion. Hospitalization costs for two or three of these doomed infants can exceed the costs of paying for all the poor women needing abortions in a state for a whole year.

To deny any pregnant woman the abortion she seeks is morally unacceptable. It can be fiscal insanity as well.

Our country is at a saturation point. We not only are deeper in debt than we ever have been as a nation, we have more poor people than we ever have had. To deny the choice of abortion to women trying to control their reproductive lives is intolerable folly. It is discrimination; it is inhumane.

This booklet is my personal plea that women who are poor have the same opportunity to control their lives that women of means now have. I am trying through this booklet to make the truly heartrending stories that I have dealt with over and over again for so many years known to the general public, at least in some small way The myth of abortion-for-convenience needs to be put to rest. The pro-natalist mindset should be challenged.

The moral and legal right of any woman to control her own reproductive life must be affirmed.

Anne Nicol Gaylor
Women’s Medical Fund, Inc.
Madison, Wisconsin
April, 1993

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Freedom From Religion Foundation