There are anti abortion activists who stand outside abortion clinics with the genuine belief that their presence helps women, that they are heroes in the war against abortion, and that their help will solve all of life’s little unwanted pregnancies. But their beliefs and women’s realities are, as the saying goes, a horse of a different color.

For the better part of eight years, I’ve come to realize that most anti abortion activists assume women choose abortion solely based on financial reasons. However, they are erroneous in making such a sweeping generalization. In other words, their beliefs don’t match the realities of women’s lives. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 74% of women chose abortion because having a child would interfere with her education, work or ability to care for dependents. As with many of the anti abortion activists, the difference between their beliefs and a woman’s realities never matters. For many who stand outside abortion clinics, their mission, to save babies and end abortion, is more important than a woman’s desires for her own life. These antis believe their pamphlets and offers of money, a free pregnancy test and a free ultrasound are enough to change an abortion-minded woman’s mind.  They find nothing odd with their invitation, as a stranger on the street, to get into their car for a ride to a prolife doctor’s office for a free prenatal visit. They assume that talking to strangers about the content of the uterus and traveling with strangers in their car to an unknown doctor’s office for free health care is perfectly normal.

But even with the questionable value of their freebies, there remains the reality of the emotional, physical and financial burdens of a pregnancy. The antis have difficulty accepting the reality that some women do not want to be pregnant, either now or ever. Their pro-natalist rhetoric leaves no room for the statistical evidence that early abortion is safer than childbirth, that post partum depression affects 10-15% of women, or that post partum psychosis occurs in 1 to 4 cases out of 1000 deliveries. Their optimistic rhetoric about adoption as an alternative leaves out the evidence that confirms that some women have a lifetime of regret and anger about giving up their child. They also fail to acknowledge well-documented, scholarly research that details resentful and angry adopted children, some with serious adaptive problems.

For a financial perspective, the government’s latest statistics reveal that they annual child-rearing expenses for the average middle-income, two-parent family range from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child. Imagine, a single parent of one child, pregnant with a second child, who is considering her options for raising a second child on a salary of $18,700. The annual expenses for the first child, according to the government’s calculator, are $7,410; the second is $7,188.  So, where does that leave the mother? What are her options for education, being promoted beyond her entry-level position, helping her children become first generation college students?  These are only a few of my questions for these folks who badger women with their maternal guilt trips. One year, two years, five years, ten years from now, where will these pronatalists be? Where will these “love the mom, love the baby” people be when the fetus they saved needs braces, a reading specialist, a counselor for an eating disorder, bail money for their fourth underage DUI or financial assistance for college?

From my perspective it comes down to a rather straightforward question: What is the antiabortion activist’s responsibility for each fetus they save? Does the responsibility include prenatal care or should it include food, shelter and housing? And how long should this commitment last? Should these antis’ commitment to the fetus continue after it’s born, like biological parents commitment to their offspring? Should antis ensure estate planning for not only their own children but to all those fetuses they save? Or does the commitment last only until birth?

It seems to me that most antis will do whatever it takes to stop an abortion including offering to pay for a pregnancy test, an ultrasound or a visit to a doctor. Some goes as far as throwing a baby shower, purchasing maternity clothes or buying diapers and formula.

But these piecemeal efforts are like giving a person a fish to eat for a day. What is really needed is an entirely different approach. Rather than give a woman a fish to eat for a day, as the old parable goes, it seems wiser to teach her to fish. In other words, it makes more sense to provide all that a woman would need for her lifetime (including access to her choice of family planning, parenting help, babysitting, job skill development, education and such) and for the lifetime of the fetus saved from abortion.

So, let’s be clear. Assuming that women choose abortion because of financial reasons doesn’t make it a fact.  Assuming offers of freebies are wanted is ignorant and demeaning. But assuming that women accept strangers on the street to invade their privacy AND to accept their offers of health care is a horse of a different color—more like the color of a jackass.