Pregnancy and Poverty


Where I come from, homes aren’t typically built on happiness, financial stability and mutual trust. Families are centered around desperation, jealousy and poverty. People barely graduate high school or they receive GEDs. They work minimum wage jobs and default to depending on the government for grocery money and health insurance. Generations are brought up into these conditions and they create their families in the same environment. The poverty cycle continues. 

This merciless repeat of life does not happen because people are inept or lazy or incapable. This rotation continues because it is incredibly difficult to break the pattern. It is nearly impossible to find guidance out of these situations. We emulate what we see, and if all we see are unhealthy relationships perpetuated by fear and jealousy, that is what we create. My mother did not grow up wealthy. She was the product of a strong single mother. Her parents were no example of a healthy and loving relationship. Moreover, my father was verbally abusive to my mother.  They were not hopelessly in love. They were not married before I was born. They didn’t set out with the intention of growing old together. They did not intend to create me. I happened to them. 

Many years later, my father told me the story about how he really wanted my mom to have an abortion. He was young at the time, he was on several different drugs, and it was inconvenient for him to be a father. He did not want the responsibility. 

My mother did not have an abortion. Fortunately, she was in a position where, should she so choose, termination of the pregnancy was legal. She would not be shunned or denied access to safe healthcare. However, she chose to continue on with the pregnancy. Her decision was a conscious one, rooted in what she truly wanted instead of what someone forced upon her. She knew the ramifications of continuing on with her pregnancy. She knew that it might mean many more years in poverty and a daily struggle for money. She recognized that choosing to parent me would mean many late nights, rough days and an uphill battle.  

Some women are not given this same choice, this same freedom. Many women are forced into pregnancies, whether it be by their partners, the stigma surrounding abortion, the unavailability of comprehensive abortion access, or the antiquated laws of some states. These women suffer implications of a situation they did not choose for themselves. The anti-choice, anti-abortion rhetoric is one that unfairly condemns women of a lower socioeconomic class. This rhetoric is inherently anti-poor and serves the upper middle class and wealthy to selfishly perpetuate the cycle of poverty. 

Women who are denied the right to choose are coerced into pregnancy. 

Forcing women in poverty to bear children dispossesses them not only of their bodily autonomy, but of their chances to improve their lives. Women who become responsible for children for whom they are not prepared are typically coerced into defaulting on their partners for financial support. They are more likely to fall victim to domestic violence situations. They suffer from depression and anxiety. These women face sometimes insurmountable challenges and barriers completing college degrees or achieving skilled careers. These unwilling women are oppressed into motherhood. These women are robbed. 

Supporting women, like my mother and so many of my friends, means supporting their right to choose whether or not to become parents and their right to their own bodily autonomy. Comprehensive abortion access for all female identifying people of all socioeconomic statuses is so incredibly important.  As long as I am able, I will never stop fighting for the right to choose. 

Emma Halker is a senior studying biology and Spanish at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When she’s not doing research or working on her Spanish language proficiency, she’s volunteering with the Compass Center for Women and Families in Orange County.

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