Letter: Dealing with the ugly truth of abortion

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The Independent Online
Sir: To say women "choose" to have abortions for "social reasons" is to put sweet words to a much more bitter reality. Women are forced to have abortions for economic reasons. They can't afford the loss of essential earnings that having a child entails.

A viable family unit presently needs two adult incomes to be solvent; bringing up children requires more time than two parents going out to work full-time have available. To add to an already impossible situation, a good many male partners take themselves, and the major part of their incomes, away to a less stressful environment.

There will have to be many changes in society before women will be free to "choose" to have children once again. The most important, and one that hasn't been talked about since Eleanor Rathbone's pre-war fight for mothers and family allowances, is that women must be fully compensated for the enormous loss of earnings and hard emotional and physical work that rearing children entails.

Eleanor Rathbone was heeded, and a rudimentary child benefit was introduced, because society, then as now, was worried by a catastrophic fall in the birth rate. The post-war baby boom pushed the whole idea of "wages for mothers" off the political agenda, and since the 1960s Thomas Malthus's anti-human, nasty right wing ideas about population growth have prevailed, to such an extent that, at the end of the 20th century, we are beginning to see a decline in population, and the horrific prospect of the "greying" of Britain.

Society needs babies, lots of them every year, filling up the place with beauty, novelty and hope. But society must pay for them, not individual women.

EILEEN LAVIN

London NW2

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