New Research: Unwanted Pregnancies Become Wanted Children


mother-child-laughingFrom the stage at the recent Women Deliver conference, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea revealed that her much-admired maternal grandmother was the child of unwed teenage parents who “did not have access to services that are so crucial that Planned Parenthood helps provide.”

Chelsea’s grandmother was born of an unintended pregnancy. And new research shows that her family is not alone in treasuring a person who – if Planned Parenthood had been successful – would not have been born.

“Every child a wanted child” is the rallying cry of family planning organizations that promote abortion as a way to achieve that goal. The New York Times Magazine recently described a study of women who were turned away from abortion clinics because their pregnancies were too far along. Researchers found that in the vast majority of cases – 95% – the mothers bonded with their babies. A significant percentage later denied having ever sought an abortion, despite the fact they were included in the study on that basis.

In a different long-term study, Dr. Rebecca Callahan observed a similar change in attitude among mothers with unwanted pregnancies in rural Bangladesh. Although 42% of the women initially labeled their pregnancies as unwanted, over half of them changed their views retrospectively. Over 60% of women who originally stated their intention to have no more children classified subsequent births as wanted or, at worst, mistimed. Callahan presented her findings at the 2013 meeting of the Population Association of America.

Instead of focusing on the positive finding that women’s initial aversion or ambivalence about pregnancy does not mean the child will be unwanted, Callahan expressed concern that “the rationalization of births as wanted distorts the true level of unintended pregnancy.”

While neither study examined why the women’s preliminary attitudes toward their pregnancies were negative, both were dismissive of the mothers’ eventual change of heart. “It’s psychologically in our interest to tell a positive story and move forward,” Dr. Katie Watson told The New York Times Magazine. “[I]t’s wonderfully functional for women who have children to be glad they have them,”

The fact that many wanted children result from unwanted pregnancies calls into question the very reason for organizations like Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund, whose mission statement seeks “to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted.”

The Guttmacher Institute, founded by Planned Parenthood, publishes articles warning of the dire consequences for “unwanted” children – implying that they would have been better off never being born. Despite current research demonstrating that an unplanned pregnancy does not necessarily predict an unwanted child, these findings are rarely used to develop interventions to encourage expectant mothers to embrace their unplanned offspring or consider placing them for adoption.

Experts have observed a tendency among researchers to make these recommendations reflective of the priorities of their organizations. The ongoing study by an abortion advocacy group examining women turned away from abortion tends to downplay the findings that characterize abortion or unnecessary or harmful. Gynecologist Dr. Byron Calhoun described how medical journals routinely downplay the link between abortion and preterm birth despite the evidence contained in the articles they published.


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