One of the biggest arguments against providing equal and affordable access to women’s health care, including birth control, has consistently been that it’s just too expensive, and that it’s not the responsibility of the government. That if low-income women don’t want to have children, they shouldn’t have sex. And if they do have sex and get pregnant, there will be adoptive parents waiting with open arms. But those arguments doesn’t consider one giant, heartbreaking sector of the population who are being given the short end of the stick in about a million ways: children who are born to addicts of meth and other drugs, who are difficult to adopt, who are born with a landslide of problems, who, too often, are left in the care of unfit parents, and who are anything but inexpensive.
Each year, more than half a million women give birth to children who were exposed to illicit drugs during pregnancy. That puts estimates around 11% of all babies. In some states, where meth is rampant, the majority of children in the system are there because they were born to addicted parents. Across the country, child welfare groups are overrun with children who show all the symptoms of meth addiction or exposure, including spinal abnormalities, delayed speech, depression, learning disabilities, anxiety, difficulty eating and sleeping, and even neurological damage.
Adoption is always touted as the loving alternative to abortion. And while it is an option in many cases, and while many loving foster and adoptive parents are more than willing to bring a child with these particular sets of difficulties into their home, it’s not enough to combat the epidemic of children being born addicted or with exposure-related problems.
These behavioral and health problems can also be expensive and time-consuming to treat and manage–much more so than, say, spending some money on distributing birth control in addict-heavy neighborhoods.
Though it may seem crass to say, if the argument that “it’s expensive” is the best one that anti-women’s health advocates can come up with, they don’t have a leg to stand on. Preventing the birth of children born addicted to methamphetamine is a cost-saving measure, plain and simple. Which isn’t to say that children born addicted to illicit drugs are bad children, or that they don’t deserve to be born–but the deck is stacked against them, and that it takes very special, caring parents to provide the kind of stability and reinforcement they need to become healthy, productive members of society.