The increasing cost of living continues to have a very real effect on people in Ireland and across the world. Given that there’s no chance of a market-driven reversal in prices to more affordable levels, and in the absence of measures like price controls, people can only hope for a levelling-off of across-the-board price increases, which have been spiralling since 2021.
Material conditions affecting families and having children
For the objective of reducing the number of abortions, it is important to fully appreciate the significance of people’s material conditions for their ‘choice’ to have an abortion. Economic insecurity or poverty on the part of pregnant women (and their families), leading casual factors in many abortions, make people’s material conditions a necessary focus of the pro-life movement and indeed anyone who would wish that there be fewer abortions. This is a point that we and others have stressed before, but it is a point that cannot be stressed enough.
Earlier this year Newstalk highlighted that 61 per cent of young parents it surveyed are deterred from having another child by the rising costs of childcare. That is not to mention all the costs of essentials like food, clothes and a place to live, which with each new child obviously increase overall costs for families.
As far back as 2014, a survey by the Guardian found that a third of families in Britain ‘with one child said they would love to have more [children], but “life is too expensive” – despite more than 88% having a partner who works full-time, or who works part-time and shares childcare.’ Commenting on that survey and financial pressures facing families and those hoping to be parents, economist Dr Jonathan Cave said, ‘if you have more than one child, you can expect to struggle.’
The gruelling struggles of young families unable to obtain relief from mounting financial pressures, in relation to everything from housing, transport and education to clothes, food and children’s participation in sports and other activities, often receive media coverage, but with little apparent resulting alleviation of people’s plights. Instead, pressures on families remain or even worsen. Through no fault of their own, many parents or aspiring parents, can see little chance of improvement in their position, with many already spending nearly every waking hour working to bring home wages that are being eaten alive by the inflation that abounds. In Ireland today there are families who must decide between eating, heating their home, or paying the rent/mortgage.
Economics – undeniable root causes of abortion
In a context as outlined above, and in cases where people are, or feel themselves to be, already on the brink, it is clear to see how the prospect of another mouth to feed, another human being to care for, can be too much to bear. Adding an abortion-without-restriction-for-the-first-twelve-weeks regime into the mix, as is the case across Ireland, makes for lethal results.
Due to the intentional lack of recording of relevant abortion data in Ireland by the state, including the reason(s) a woman seeks an abortion, it is not possible to point to the annual reports on the number of abortions and highlight the casual factors of abortion as identified by the women involved. However, it is clear from international research that socio-economic factors are central to driving ‘demand’ for abortions (for example see: Reasons why women have induced abortions: a synthesis of findings from 14 countries, Abortion Patients More Likely to be Poor in 2014 than in 2008, Does access to abortion vary across the UK?, and Understanding trends in use of abortion services in England: an exploratory briefing).
If the authorities do not want to recognise the reasons that underpin demand for abortion, unsurprisingly they will be much less able to tackle the root causes. But root causes are only tackled when the thing which they cause is acknowledged as something undesirable. If an act is held to be value-neutral or even positive, then why would its causes be identified as if either they or what they result in are problems at all?
Living under ideology: abortion as freedom, profits before all else
The ideological dominance of hyper-individualism that pervades most of the world, including of course this globalised island, creates the conditions that pressure people towards actions they would otherwise not take. Simultaneously, the same ideology, which envelopes our society, stubbornly insists that those actions it generates are a pure, free choice organically decided by each of us as free individuals. It is gaslighting on a macro and global level, undertaken on behalf of the massive financial interests that depend critically on maintaining the façade of the supremacy of each person in the decisions he or she makes, marketing that inversion of freedom as liberation, and acts in its name as acts of rebellion, defiance and self-actualisation.
From the point of view of those whose interests are baked into maintaining and strengthening the hyper-individualised, supernormal profits-seeking structures encasing our lives, the widespread provision of abortion is a necessary pressure valve, a security mechanism to safeguard the status quo and the making of super-normal profits. The urgency with which companies in the US rushed to provide funding for their women workers to travel for abortions in the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade last summer was a clear illustration of companies acting rationally in their own interests.
Many of the same companies have gone to huge lengths, for years, to prevent their workers from joining trade unions. Companies are fully consistent in adopting ‘pro-choice’ and anti-union positions, their drives for super-normal profits reign supreme over everything they do. People and families are harmed and suffer when the purpose of our lives is dictated to be pliable tools in the insatiable quest for profits, with each worker to be kept in service only at the lowest possible cost and truly believing in the individual ‘freedoms’ he/she has been bestowed.
The Pro Life Campaign 2023 Budget Submission
In the context of the spiralling cost of living, the Pro-Life Campaign’s 2023 Budget Submission, showing a clear appreciation of the connection between economics and abortion, was particularly welcome. Calling for pro-family economic policies, the Pro Life Campaign (PLC) says, ‘the state should ensure that families, particularly expectant mothers, feel sufficiently supported and empowered to raise children.’ The submission is worth reading in full and it’s not a long read.
Among the proposals is a ‘state-issued, zero-interest loan, initially proposed at approximately €25,000 (rate to be reviewed annually in the budget to be adjusted for inflation and other factors), to be provided to all new parents who are expecting their first child.’ It sets out that such loans ‘would be subject to review upon the birth of future children; if a second child is born, the loan would be remitted by thirty per cent; if a third child is born, the loan would be fully remitted.’
The PLC points out that the measure ‘would act as a considerable boon for new parents and could make an important contribution toward securing a deposit on a home, finding secure and tenable long-term rental accommodation, or making other positive impacts on the life of the new family elsewhere.’ This policy is admirably rooted in the idea that the well-being of each person is a matter for all of us and that families in need of loans should be supported by the state, not left abandoned to exploitation by the private market.
Also a standout proposal of the submission, in addition to the paying of child benefit before the birth of a child (a policy proposal which we have highlighted before), is a new childcare benefit ‘which would provide a guaranteed rate of income equivalent to one parent to stay at home and raise the child for the first three years of the child’s life. Payment would be the equivalent to a state pension, based on average PRSI contributions to date in the case of a contributory pension.’ The submission further states that the benefit should be continued to a stay-at-home parent of three or more children, from age 3 to 8 (of the youngest child)’.
In seeking to ensure that women in unplanned pregnancies are not channelled towards abortion and left without little alternative, the submission calls for ‘greater resources [to] be made available to providing alternative options to abortion. State-backed organisations should be properly resourced and staff should be adequately trained to provide positive options to women in unplanned pregnancies, particularly those who have expressed uncertainty about whether they wish to proceed with an abortion.’
It is very positive to see rooted and relevant policy proposals such as the PLC’s being made. Hopefully more people are made aware of them. The submission illustrates a strong recognition of the economic base of abortion. Abortions will not be reduced or ended by a sole focus on the undoubtedly crucial matter of the law that explicitly permits and regulates abortion. Causal factors of abortion, the multidimensional problems of our society rooted in economics and mystified by ideology, must be tackled too.