The Poor Cry Out for Justice, and We Respond with Legalized Abortion
by Graciela Olivarez, 1972
Commissioner appointed by US President Richard Nixon
from the “Separate Statement of Graciela Olivarez”
in Report of the President’s Commission on Population and the American Future
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972
To brush aside a separate statement on the issue of abortion on the grounds that it is based on religious or denominational “hang-ups” is to equate abortion—a matter of life and death—with simpler matters of religion such as observance of the Sabbath, dietary restrictions, abstention from coffee and alcoholic beverages, or other similar religious observances. I believe that even nonreligious persons should be concerned with the issue of life and death as it pertains to the unborn. . . .
Advocacy by women for legalized abortion on a national scale is so anti-women’s liberation that it flies in the face of what some of us are trying to accomplish through the women’s movement, namely, equality—equality means an equal sharing of responsibilities by and as men and women. With women already bearing the major burden for the reproductive process, men have never had it so good. Women alone must suffer the consequences of an imperfect contraceptive pill—the blood clots, severe headaches, nausea, edema, etc. Women alone endure the cramping and hemorrhaging from an intrauterine device. No man ever died from an abortion.
[What] kind of future [do] we all have to look forward to if men are excused either morally or legally from their responsibility for participation in the creation of life?
Women should be working to bring men into the camp of responsible parenthood, a responsibility that women have had to shoulder almost alone. Perhaps in our eagerness for equality, we have, in part, contributed to the existing irresponsible attitude some men have toward their relationship to women and to their offspring. Legalized abortion will free those men from worrying about whether they should bear some responsibility for the consequences of sexual experience. In the matter of divorce where children are involved, for instance, very few men fight or even ask for custody of their children. It is customary to measure male responsibility in terms of dollars and cents, rather than in terms of affection, attention, companionship, supervision and warmth.
And laymen are not the only ones who reflect this attitude. Blame must also be placed on churchmen, who throughout the tumult and controversy surrounding legalized abortion, have expressed their concern only as abortion affects the moral and psychological problems of women, adroitly avoiding the issue of man’s responsibility to decisions connected with his role in the reproductive process. . . .
To talk about the “wanted” and the “unwanted” child smacks too much of bigotry and prejudice. Many of us have experienced the sting of being “unwanted” by certain segments of our society. Blacks were “wanted” when they could be kept in slavery. When that ceased, blacks became “unwanted”—in white suburbia, in white schools, in employment. Mexican- American (Chicano) farm laborers were “wanted” when they could be exploited by agribusiness. One usually wants objects and if they turn out to be unsatisfactory, they are returnable. How often have ethnic minorities heard the statement: “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” Human beings are not returnable items. Every individual has his/her rights, not the least of which is the right to life, whether born or unborn. Those with power in our society cannot be allowed to “want” and “unwant” people at will.
I am not impressed or persuaded by those who express concern for the low-income woman who may find herself carrying an unplanned pregnancy and for the future of the unplanned child who may be deprived of the benefits of a full life as a result of the parents’ poverty, because the fact remains that in this affluent nation of ours, pregnant cattle and horses receive better health care than pregnant poor women.
The poor cry out for justice and we respond with legalized abortion. The Commission heard enough expert testimony to the effect that increased education and increased earnings result in lower fertility rates. In the developed countries of the world, declining fertility rates are correlated with growing prosperity, improved educational facilities, and, in general, overall improvement in the standard of living.
But it is not necessary to go beyond our own borders to verify this contention. Current data indicate that the same holds true for minority groups in this country. The higher the education attained by minorities and the broader the opportunities, the lower the fertility rate. . . .
Infant mortality rates are not reduced by killing an unborn child. How sad and incriminating that quality health facilities and services, denied to the poor for lack of money, are being used for performing abortions instead of being utilized for healing of the sick poor. But then, one represents a profit and the other an expense. It is all a matter of values. . . .