To the editors:

How kind of Mary Krane Derr and Feminists for Life [Letters, October 6] to advocate personal and social supports which would enable women with unplanned pregnancies to bear and raise their children. Pro-choice advocates, myself included, support such measures also, and it is dishonest of Derr to pretend otherwise.

During the late 1950’s when I was a high school student, girls who got pregnant either married in haste or were sent to homes for unwed mothers and forced to surrender their babies for adoption. I say “forced” because real choices did not exist then. Pregnant girls were not allowed to remain in school. Single motherhood was highly stigmatized. It was legal, and common, for employers to refuse to hire the mothers of young children, married or not.

Today’s situation is a modest improvement. Federal law mandates gender equality in education and this includes education for students who are parents. The high school my children attended has a special program of day care, parenting skills, support groups, and academic subjects for its teen parents. It is now illegal for employers to discriminate against women or parents. Day care services are expanding. Single parenthood is no longer considered deviant behavior. These developments are concurrent with and part of the demand for female equality throughout society. They occurred during the same time period that abortion has been legal and they are advocated by many of the same people who advocate legal abortion.

The decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy takes place in a social context involving the woman’s family situation, her age, her health, the circumstances of impregnation, her educational situation, her economic resources, and so on. These factors can make a given pregnancy an intolerable event or a joyful one. Those of us who are truly concerned about the well-being of all people owe it to ourselves and each other to work for a society in which the need for abortion is less likely to arise, while affirming each individual woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions.

Jean Peterman

Oak Park