Being on the front lines as we are, and talking to real women every day, counselors get to meet with and hear the stories of women and families who have been directly affected by the mortgage crisis, the closing of businesses and factories, the downturn in the economy. For them, these are not just stories in the news. Historically, one of the major reasons women give for choosing an abortion is financial insecurity. Now, more than ever in my many years of doing this work, I am talking to women who are essentially homeless. I mean women who are actually living in shelters alone or with their children, or women who stay with friends a few weeks here, a few days there, hoping that they can find a job that will allow them to move out on their own before they, too, are forced into the shelters or the streets.
Myra, whom I remember from last month, was staying temporarily with her sister, but could not remain there much longer because there was no room for her. Her boyfriend was sleeping on a friend's couch but that too could only be for a short while longer. Her children were boarded out with family members. Little more than sixty days earlier, her boyfriend had a good job and they rented a nice house. When his employer suddenly closed the business, in very short order they lost their house, then their car. Although they were both looking for work when she came for her abortion, they had not been able to find anything that would pay enough for them to again cover rent, utilities and support their kids. Needless to say, abortion was her only option.
There have been several other similar stories in just a few months time. Yesterday I saw a woman who lost not only her house but her kids when her husband was murdered. She went into shock and then became so depressed her children were put into foster care. She is again on track, but still living in a shelter. Having found a responsible job, and now able to fend in the world again, she is on the verge of getting into an apartment, which will allow her to get her kids back. But if she had another baby right now, she said she feared that she might not get her other kids out of "the system". That had to be her priority, she said.
Another woman, Linda, who lives in a rural county said that the only employer who had jobs for college educated people had recently lost their grant to operate so she had been out of work for nearly six months, is in the middle of a divorce, and cannot even sell her house because there are no buyers in her area since there is nothing to attract people to move into the area. So although she had never imagined herself choosing abortion in the past, suddenly saw no way out since her own future is so unclear.
Our experiences with women make the stories from the newspapers and tv so much more real. We can see how frightening it is for women to not be able to care for their kids because of economic factors. It tears them apart, they worry every day about those kids, miss them and plot how to get them back living under the same roof. But as the number of foreclosures increases, sadly I expect that we will see ever more women who have exhausted their welcome with friends and family and who are forced to live in the shelters. The only option for them is abortion.
Louisa, whom I spoke with recently, told me that she works two full time jobs in order to be able to pay her rent, utilities and car payment. She said she was looking to move to a less expensive apartment because even with the two jobs, she was just barely making ends meet. Louisa was very sad and weepy as she told me how she would love to have a baby and wondered if the time would ever be right financially. Her boy friend does not make enough money to live on his own so he still lives with his mom whom he helps to support. None of them has enough room for anyone else; none makes enough to live differently and none sees any hope for things to be different.
Lest you think that all of our work is sad and depressing, it is not so! A sizable number of women who choose abortion are actually hopeful that the future will be better for them. They are going to school, have just gotten a promotion or are content with the family they now have. While there may be some sadness for them, they still see life getting better. But I want to point out to readers what may be a mini-trend in our patients' lives, so I am calling it out. Telling their stories to us, the women we see are not just statistics. They are real!