By Valeria Gonzalez, Youth Organizer at Youth Rise Texas
Earlier this year in Argentina, an 11-year old referred to by her lawyers as “Lucia,” went viral online. Lucia was raped by her grandfather and was forced to give birth to an unviable pregnancy. Unfortunately, this situation is not an isolated incident. There have been other cases where young people have had their right to an abortion taken away from them. In Texas, young people are legally required to include a parent or legal guardian in their decision to have an abortion. Additionally, several Texas lawmakers attempted to make it more difficult for women and people who need an abortion to access their constitutional right in the 86th Legislative Session.
Teens deserve the right to safe, affordable abortion care without parental consent in Texas. Pregnancy before the age of 15 can lead to problems for the newborn like having a higher risk for low birth weight and infant mortality, as well as high blood pressure. Teens should not in any situation be forced to keep a pregnancy if they do not wish to. The newborn would have many health problems just by being born to a teen mother. Besides health issues, children born to mothers younger than 15 have lower levels of emotional support and cognitive stimulation and have higher rates of foster care placement.
Receiving a wanted abortion is not associated with any mental health harm when women feel that they made the right choice and feel good about it. On the other hand, women who were denied an abortion experience more symptoms of anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. Wanted abortions can be beneficial for a woman’s health, but not being able to have a needed abortion can have negative effects on a woman’s health. Abortion is health care and should be treated as such. When health care is denied to women it affects their emotional, physical, and socioeconomic well-being.
When women are denied a needed abortion, they come across serious economic consequences that last for years after birth. Having a child that they could not afford can lead to household poverty which leads to debt. Denying poor women needed abortions keeps them poor. Women who are forced to go through with a pregnancy they did not want or could not afford, have a reduction in full-time employment and an increase in public assistance that persists until they are timed out of those assistance programs. Denying a woman an abortion just creates more costs for the government. After women are timed out of assistance programs, they are left to figure out how to afford taking care of a child they should not have been forced to have.
Women have the right to any kind of reproductive health care they need. Being provided abortions when needed can allow women to stay out of poverty. When women are denied abortions, they are set on a track of health and economic problems and put their families and communities in an endless cycle of poverty and mental health problems. Safe and affordable abortions are a must in order for women to have a significant choice in their emotional health and economic success. This is why legislation that threatens access to abortion has no place in Texas or anywhere in the United States.