If women stopped conceiving, birthing, and raising children, the human race would die out. And just in case you think that’s a good idea, consider that long before the end, countries would age and wither and old people would have no one to talk to but cats and robots, as in Japan. You would think sensible societies would make everything connected with reproduction rewarding and safe for women. But no, when it comes to childbearing around the world, there’s way more stick than carrot. Consider:
In Argentina, as in the United States, most women who have abortions are low-income mothers trying to do right by the kids they already have. Despite a huge grassroots feminist movement, a vigorous campaign, and victory in the Chamber of Deputies, the Argentine Senate (42 men and 30 women) voted 37-31 in July against legalizing abortion, currently a crime except for rape and to save the woman’s life. There are over 354,000 illegal abortions in Argentina each year, causing more than 70,000 hospitalizations. (As The Washington Post points out, the Argentine Senate, like our own, gives the same number of senators to underpopulated rural states, which tend to be conservative, as it does to the more progressive urban parts where most people live.)
This defeat isn’t the end, though: The women’s movement vows to press forward next session. Meanwhile, thousands of Argentinians have formally disavowed the Catholic Church, which receives state funding based on membership—over $682 million last year, not counting tax reductions. And a mother of two has died of sepsis after attempting a self-abortion using parsley. You can thank that nice Argentinian Pope Francis for that.
Speaking of the pope, in the United States, the Catholic Church now controls one in six hospital beds, thanks to mergers with and closings of secular hospitals. In some rural areas, the Catholic hospital is the only one for miles around. This means that procedures banned by the church are unavailable to patients: birth control, sterilization, abortion, IVF, and, most disturbingly, standard ways of managing miscarriage. Several women have nearly died because the Catholic-hospital ER refused to complete a miscarriage in progress (the same rules that killed Savita Halappanavar in Ireland and jump-started the Yes campaign to overturn that country’s abortion ban). And if you want a tubal ligation after giving birth, which many women do, you’re out of luck. The worst of it is the church makes no effort to inform people of their policies; in fact, they don’t always even acknowledge that a hospital is Catholic.
Abortion opponents, and most governments, portray having a baby as good, natural, and socially important. But once you’re pregnant, don’t expect to advance in your profession, or even keep your job. Up and down the income scale, and despite laws that supposedly protect them, pregnancy discrimination is rampant in the United States and around the world, with women being denied reasonable accommodations (carrying a water bottle, extra bathroom breaks, a bulletproof vest that fits) and basically being told their career is over.