In honoring mothers this month, let us also honor the complexity of being a mother. “To become a mother or not to become a mother…” That is a question for half of the world’s population. This is an existential question, not a political one. A question that always should be answered without interference from others. It should be made freely, by the person who might become a mother.
Today, more and more people who might become pregnant have less and less of a free choice. State legislatures have become the battleground for passing one restriction after another. And these restrictions fall more heavily on Black/African American women, economically poor women, women struggling with substance use, abused women, and other marginalized women.
For every woman, the choice is based on many different factors. For all, the decision of whether or not to become a mother is a real-life decision about their own health and well-being. There are questions about completing an educational degree, about age and health safety, about already having a child or children. Some have jobs that would be difficult to fulfill as a mother.
The coronavirus complicates those decisions further. Many have recently lost their jobs. Many childcare facilities are currently closed. Extended families may be out of reach. Some people live in an area where it is not safe to raise a child. The current economic situation makes many deeply uncertain about their financial future.
In recent years, state legislatures have passed hundreds of laws to make it more difficult for women and girls to access abortion. As a result of this, many clinics have closed. And now with the COVID19 pandemic, forced-birthers are finding ways to attack access to abortion. Several states have moved to restrict abortion by categorizing it as nonessential during this time.
But it’s not only about abortion. Access to contraception has become more limited as well. Some women are having difficulty getting birth control because they have lost their employer-provided health insurance. Or because shelter-in-place orders may make it more difficult to get to a clinic. Or because the nearest clinic is hours away. Or they simply can’t afford it.
Becoming a mother is a life-changing experience. All women should have access to the resources which make it possible for them to decide whether to have a child or not. Motherhood does not fit onto a Hallmark card. It is a matter of Reproductive Justice: In honoring mothers this month, let us respect a woman’s choice to become a mother, or not to become a mother, and her right to bring up a child in a safe, healthy and sustainable environment.