Jennifer Morgan was a pregnant single mom working as a manager for a fast food chain when she went into preterm labor at 20 weeks. Placed on hospital bedrest, she delivered her son prematurely at 29 weeks.Jennifer used money from her 401K funds, accrued sick and vacation pay but ran out of income 6 weeks into her bed rest. Hear how this once self sufficient mother has gone from manager to money-less in just a few short months.
I recently read a blog post in response to a blog post on RH Reality Check entitled, “Breaking the Bank for Bed Rest” which insinuates that the reason women are prescribed bed rest is because they have had previous abortions and now are having high risk pregnancies as a result. Because of this association pregnant women, and high risk pregnant women in particular, should not be entitled to paid maternity leave and the U.S. Government should do nothing to financially assist women and their families during maternity leave. Instead, we should be doing more to prevent abortion and then many of these problems would be avoided.
The author, Jill Stanek, RN, is a conservative pro-life blogger who wrote the blog post, “Liberal feminists want paid leave for pregnant moms on bed rest but not prevention of need.” While I completely respect Ms. Stanek’s pro-choice position and appreciate that there is a link between previous abortion and pregnancy complications as demonstrated by the literature, the literature in no way states that women who go on bed rest are on bed rest as a result of a prior abortion or pelvic infection.
Women who have had prior abortions are at increased risk of pregnancy complications. But women go on bed rest for a variety of reasons and most certainly not all women who go on bed rest have had abortions or pelvic infections. Currently there is no study documenting that all women who go on prescribed bed rest have had prior abortions or previous pelvic infections. Until such definitive data exists, I think it is not only accusatory but irresponsible to make it a woman’s fault that she is on bed rest.
Women who go on prescribed bed rest already feel a tremendous amount of anxiety and guilt. “Is it something that I have done?” “Is there anything that I can do to make this situation better?” “How can I help my baby?” Additionally, in the United States women have the additional stress of worrying about what prolonged absence from their jobs will do to their family’s finances as well as to their jobs. Stress of this nature has been linked to preterm labor, yet Ms. Stanek seems to disregard this association.
In my literature search I found that Brent Rooney, MD and Byron Calhoun, MD, have extensively researched the association between induced or elective abortion and preterm births. They have found that induced abortion does increase the risk of preterm birth and the risk increases with each induced abortion a woman has. In addition to their own research, they have extensively reviewed the work of several large studies done in Germany, Denmark and Australia. I found additional studies performed in India which substantiate the claims that induced or elective abortions, especially those performed after 8 weeks, do increase the risk of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies. However, an Oxford study showed that induced abortion is not a cause of preterm delivery in subsequent pregnancies in teenagers. Dhaliwal, Gupta and Gopolan also noted their study cohort consisted mostly of married women 21-30 years of age. These women were having complications but noted that this contrasted with younger, unmarried, low income teens in the West who had abortions and didn’t seem to have complications with subsequent pregnancies.
What I didn’t find is a definitive study which shows that all or even the majority high risk pregnancies can be traced back to a prior abortion. Ms. Stanek and others also point out that promiscuity and Sexually transmitted diseases are also a major cause of pregnancy complications and preterm birth. There is the association, but again, this has not been substantiated as “the leading causes” of pregnancy complications. As Ms. Stanek herself pointed out in her blog post, there are a number of reasons that women are prescribed bed rest during their pregnancies. The link between an incompetent cervix and an abortion can’t be ignored. But that is only one reason that women are placed on bed rest. What about Pre-eclampsia? What about multiple gestations? What about uterine and placental issues? Is Ms. Stanek trying to say that all these complications are a result of abortion or pelvic inflammatory disease?
Ms. Stanek then makes a startling leap stating, “Abortion and promiscuous sex are also implicated in the rising number of mothers pregnant with multiples, another reason for bed rest.” While multiple gestation is a risk factor for preterm birth, I can’t see how she made the leap from promiscuity to multiple pregnancy. One thing that we do know is that women who undergo fertility treatments are at increased risk of having a multiple pregnancy. But according to Ms. Stanek, women undergo fertility treatments because they were promiscuous as younger women and had abortions so that they could delay pregnancy. Young (promiscuous) women also contract STD’s that lead to pelvic infections damaging their reproductive organs. When these same women later decide to get pregnant over age 35-after pursuing careers- they need help conceiving and undergo fertility treatments which lead to the multiple gestation and high risk pregnancy. In one fell swoop Ms. Stanek has labeled young women promiscuous, states that all women with fertility issues have them because they had abortions or pelvic infections as a result of being promiscuous, she criticizes women for pursuing careers instead of marriage and family and finally implies that if you have a high risk pregnancy, It’s your own damned fault! (my words not hers.) Ms. Stanek goes on to report that African American Women have a disproportionately higher number of preterm births because they have a disproportionately higher number of abortions.
As an African American woman who had 2 high risk pregnancies and 2 miscarriages, yet never had an abortion or pelvic infection (i.e. STD due to being promiscuous) to say that I was offended is clearly an understatement. Yes, I married later, not because I was pursuing a career but because my husband and I dated in college, broke up and reconnected 10 years later. It happens. But I am going to put my own feelings aside and deal with the issues in Ms. Stanek’s post specifically.
Rooney, Calhoun and other researchers showed that women who have elective induced abortions need to be strongly counseled about the increased risk of pregnancy complications in subsequent pregnancies. They found that instrumentation for Dilation and Curettage significantly increased the risk of cervical damage leading to the increased risk of incompetent cervix in subsequent pregnancies and recommend suction evacuation be used. All researchers found that induced or elective abortions performed after 8 weeks lead to increased risk of preterm labor and pregnancy complications. So Ms. Stanek is correct. Having an abortion does increase a women’s risk of having pregnancy complications. But again, Pregnancy complications are not only the result of a prior abortion or pelvic infection. It is not due to solely to promiscuity.
What concerns me the most about Ms. Stanek’s post is not just the inflammatory nature of her comments but also her blatant disregard for working women of the United States in general. Some of the current employment rules and regulations were put into place as much as 50 years ago. At that time few if any women worked outside the home once they got married. Husbands worked and women stayed home so the issue of maternity benefits was not an issue at all. This is not the case today where nearly 50% of our nation’s workforce is women. Despite progress in the working world, women still bear the brunt of the responsibility for taking care of the family and the full responsibility for bearing children. Even in the best of circumstances, and that being a stable married relationship according to Ms. Stanek’s and others stated standards, many women make more money than their husbands and are the principle wage earners for the family. So how is the family to fare when the principle wage earner is earning no wages? Even if women are not the principle wage earners, many families simply cannot survive on one salary. Is Ms. Stanek and her like-minded supporters willing to deny all working women paid maternity leave benefits because they believe that high risk pregnant women seeking benefits need them because they caused their own situations?
This is a very slippery slope. If Ms. Stanek and others get their way, not only will women never receive any sort of paid medical leave when they have children, women will be forced to leave the workforce entirely when they start their families. All that women have fought for over the years; the right to vote, equal opportunity to participate in team sports in schools and universities, equal pay for equal work…it will all be for naught. What’s more, some of the brightest minds and innovations in this country will be silenced. At a time when the United States of America is lagging woefully behind other countries in maternal and infant mortality, education, science and technology I have to ask Ms. Stanek and her associates, can the United States really afford not to support working women with paid maternity leave?
“Breaking the Bank for Bedrest” by Amie Newman, RH Reality Check.
“Induced Abortion and Risk of Later Preterm Birth” Brent Rooney, Byron Calhoun, MD. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 8 Number 2 Summer 2003
“Induced Abortion and Subsequent Pregnancy Outcome” L.K. Dhaliwal, K.R. Gupta, S. Gopalan. The Journal of Family Welfare, Vol 49, No. 1. June 2003
“Induced Abortions is not a cause of subsequent preterm delivery in teenage pregnancy” T.T Lao and L.F Ho. Oxford Journals, Medicine, Human Reproduction, Issue 3 Volume 13 Pgs 758-761
The goal of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is to provide high risk pregnant mamas tools, support, information and resources so that Mama can have an empowered and positively memorable (despite being complicated) pregnancy and childbirth, and give birth to healthy, happy babies. That is what I blog, podcast and talk (incessantly) about.
But every now and then I read or see something that is so powerful, that even though is doesn’t immediately pertain to Mamas on Bedrest, I have to publish it because even though Mamas on Bedrest may not need or consider the information relevant to their lives at the moment, I hope that they will tuck the information in the back of their mind and call it up when the timing is more appropriate.
So it is with this current blog post. When I read What a 4 Year Old Should Know I was immediately caught because my son is 4 1/2. As I read down the list, I asked myself if (I thought) he knows these things. I know that my husband and I do our best to give both our children a secure and loving home. But I found this post to be a fantastic reminder of what is really important to children. So I offer a wholehearted thanks to Alicia of A Magical Childhood for this wonderfully thought provoking post.
What a 4 year old Should Know.
- She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
- He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
- She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
- He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
- She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.
But more important, here’s what parents need to know.
- That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.
- That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.
- That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
- That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.
- That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.