Rachel Berkson, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington
We’ve asked some of the lawmakers who represent us in the Washington State Legislature to share why, 42 years after Roe v Wade was decided, they continue to fight to pass laws that advance reproductive freedom. I’m very excited to hear what they have to say, but the staff at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington thought it’s only fair if I share what keeps me working for reproductive freedom and justice every day. So, to kick off a weekly blog series, here’s why I do what I do:
Roe v Wade was decided in 1973 and women like my mom can still remember thinking, “We’ve won! On to fight the next battle!” But reality check set in fast – at least you weren’t going to be thrown in jail for telling someone about birth control or need to use an underground network to get an abortion by a doctor not a butcher. Injustice remained in the form of laws that impose unfair barriers to accessing contraception and abortion. These barriers disproportionately affected young women, low-income women and women of color.
Maybe it’s not a popular thing to do as a mom, but I’m just going to say it: having a kid is expensive! I’m not just talking a little bit expensive. My wonderful, wouldn’t trade him for anything son Oliver is the most expensive investment I have ever made (and I’ve even bought a house – in Seattle!)
His birth, a complicated one, was expensive too and I was lucky to have a good insurance plan. Then, of course, there were the years using birth control before and after. I won’t even go into the cost of childcare. It seriously adds up to being pretty darn expensive to be in your childbearing years.
It also turns out to be pretty darn unpredictable. The other day I saw this chart that shows the likely rates of failure of different forms of contraception and your odds of becoming pregnant over time. That’s what stood out to me… the part that shows how over time your odds are increasing. Yeah. News flash- the childbearing years for the average woman start around age 12 and last until you are well into your forties.
All I’m saying is, the decision of when and if to be a parent or add to your family is already one of the most carefully thought-out and important events in your life. But too often the economic burden of ensuring that decision is made when a person or a couple is ready to parent, falls to a woman. Women – who already earn less than men, are more likely to work in jobs that don’t have benefits like paid sick leave and have their health care singled out for exclusion by insurance companies and hospital systems – must pay the cost of being of childbearing age.
That’s what gets me up and into work as the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington every day. It’s not true reproductive freedom if only people with the financial means to pay for their contraception, maternity care and abortion care out of pocket get to have it. I wake up to fight for gender equality every day because that’s the world I want my beautiful son to live in.