If there’s one word missing from our national dialogue on abortion, it’s “diapers.” Because people who need diapers for their families may also seek information about abortion care, having both available under one roof just makes sense.
We often think about those who have abortions and those who struggle to afford diapers as disparate communities, with different sets of needs and maybe even values. But the truth is that they’re often the same people, trying to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. In my role as Director of All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, I see firsthand every day how pregnant people and parents need a full spectrum of options. People come through our doors to access our diaper bank AND to access funding for abortion. These services coexist under the same roof.
This week marks both National Diaper Need Awareness Week in addition to United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action. And, significantly, these nationwide initiatives share an unexpected audience.
59 percent of Americans who obtain an abortion already have children and cite them as key factors in their decision-making. People with children who choose abortion tell us they want to provide for their little ones at home. The clients who call our Hoosier Abortion Fund seeking financial support for their abortions are sometimes simultaneously one of the 200 families enrolled in our diaper program. The overlap seems obvious, yet is curiously absent from conversations around reproductive rights and economic equity.
Unfortunately, the necessities of diapers and abortions share some of the same roadblocks. Indiana has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country and 93 percent of our counties lack an abortion clinic due to targeted regulations on providers. Pair these obstacles with the federal Hyde Amendment’s denial of public health insurance for abortion care, and the impact on pregnant Hoosiers is staggering. For low-income families, communities of color, immigrants, and undocumented people, the situation is graver still as they are denied the healthcare that is available to others.
Meanwhile, diaper need is one of the most prevalent forms of poverty hiding in plain sight. In Indiana, 27 percent of children under the age of five live below the federal poverty line, and one in three Hoosier families are unable to provide diapers for their children. Low wages and lack of government assistance programs like WIC and SNAP, which can’t be used to cover diapers, prevent even those work full-time from being able to supply an adequate amount diapers for their children.
Without the required amount of diapers, infants and children are in danger of developing health problems and aren’t welcomed into daycare. Without someone to watch their kids, parents often miss work, class, and have trouble finding employment. Lack of access to diapers perpetuates a tragic cycle that hurts single parent and low-income households most of all.
State and federal legislators claim the moral high ground on upholding family values, yet time and again they pass harmful legislation that is anti-family and demonstrates a lack of trust in Hoosiers to make decisions for themselves. In 2015, Governor Pence allocated $3.5 million in federal TANF funds (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) to crisis pregnancy centers, which provide a limited amount of diapers to parents, but refuse to provide clients these same clients with information on abortion services if asked. Meanwhile, All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center is ineligible for TANF funding because we won’t deny our clients comprehensive information or support on pregnancy, parenting, abortion, or adoption.
Parents need abortions, just as they need diapers for their children. Acknowledging that people’s experiences often include both is one step toward compassion and empathy for people who have abortions, including parents. Parenting with dignity and having access to the resources we need as Hoosiers includes the decision to affordable, or state-funded, diapers and safe abortion on-demand. These must be rights – not just privileges for those who can afford them.
All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, Bloomington, IN