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Aborting compassion


It’s sad that I even feel I’ve gotta say this, but I do. I support abortion on demand. Unconditionally. Even more unconditionally than most ‘model’ progressive abortion legislation does. My family carries intergenerational trauma from a fatal illegal abortion. I have no desire to see a return to the bad old days of backyard butchery.

That doesn’t mean I consider abortion a good thing. I think it’s a tragedy. For several reasons. Not least that a woman has lost control over her fertility to the point where abortion is even a consideration. There are worse tragedies though. Such as a woman losing control over her body to the point where she must endure an unwanted pregnancy and birth.

But sometimes pro-choicers make me wanna scream.

A case in point is a recent Guardian article in which a couple of US activists – both of whom make a living directly or indirectly from abortion – open their argument by claiming it’s a myth that patients regret abortions or feel coerced into having them. They call it a ‘falsehood’ that has led to increasingly restrictive abortion legislation in several US states.

Funny thing is that I’ve had three women tell me they regretted their abortions, with one saying she felt coerced into having it by her (soon to be ex-)fiancee’s family.

Now I’m not suggesting all or even most abortion patients regret their decision. Nor that coercive abortions are common. But I don’t consider myself a natural-born confidante for anguished women either. The fact that three have spoken to me about it suggests there must be quite a few in similar situations. If no-one with such misgivings has ever spoken to the authors about them you’ve really gotta wonder why not. And if they have, why the hell are they disregarding them?

The article holds up a named Florida woman as an exemplar. I sure hope they had explicit permission to name her in the media but I’m not certain enough to identify her here. She got pregnant in 2010 and immediately knew she wanted an abortion, but thanks to the pathetic US health system and her lousy health insurance she was unable to afford one. So she resorted to a mixture of orange juice and dong quai root, which just made her feel ill. Finally her relatives came through with the $500(!) for mifepristone and misoprostol. Problem solved. For a while.

Six years later she needed another abortion. This time things went more smoothly. Good for her. She now does voluntary work at an abortion clinic. She sounds like a happy customer. But I hope she got some information about effective contraception options along the way. Any contraceptive method can fail. Maybe she was unlucky. Or maybe she could do with more complex support on how to negotiate its use.

An anecdote with a happy ending is not evidence that no patients ever regret abortions. Abortion medication is not a panacea for all the problems that can lead to and flow from an unwanted pregnancy. Denying such problems exist is hardly likely to help those who suffer from them.

I know the abortion debate in the US is vicious and toxic – sometimes to the point of murder. I know partisans on both sides occupy entrenched positions that can be impervious to evidence, reason or compassion. But I’d have hoped pro-choicers might have made patients’ voices central to their activism, regardless of whether they fit a marketing stereotype of a completely satisfied abortion consumer.

From → gender, politics

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