A response to ‘Are post-abortive pro-lifers hypocrites?’

I’ve posted a variation of the following as a comment on the post titled Are post-abortive Pro-Lifers hypocrites?

You are brave for sharing your story. Women who choose abortion or don’t choose abortion should always and continue to share their stories. But her story is your own, her experiences do not speak to the experiences of others. For the thousands of women that regret their choice, there are thousands that do not, there are thousands that felt relief afterwards. There are women who were already parents who chose to have abortions to keep their families out of poverty, to be able to provide children the love and care that they need. Contrary to what the author believes based on studies by the disgraced Priscilla Coleman, women who have abortions do not become abusive or bad parents.

I come from a country where abortion is illegal and I have seen first hand the horror and disastrous effects of not having abortion legal. There are women in this country as well who will speak to the consequences of having abortion illegal.

Further more, many organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN Women and others have documented, researched, and stated how a lack of access of healthcare and abortion for women puts women at a great disadvantage. Not being able to control when we become mothers puts women in a vulnerable position and effects them negatively, not just in the United States, but all over the world. This isn’t a liberal conspiracy to make money off of abortion – it’s a fact, proven over and over again. Look at studies from all over the world. Human Rights Watch reports are free to download on their website. Read them.

The fact that you were uninformed about abortion is a tragedy that too many prolife and prochoice women are victims of. People simply aren’t educated about their options. We need to educate men and women on all the choices available and provide accurate information. You mention forced abortion but fail to acknowledge that forced abortions are in direct opposition to what any informed prochoice woman believes in. I know women, as I’m sure most people do, who were in abusive relationships and marriages, some of those women chose abortions when they needed to because it was right for them, others chose to keep the pregnancy. Those that are forced to do either had their rights violated and were abused. Forcing women to keep or terminate a pregnancy is abuse. Forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy she didn’t want to terminate is the antithesis of “choice”. Outlawing abortion because there are some who abuse and coerce is not an answer or solution.

In 2004 Eleanor Cooney wrote a piece that described what the United States was like for women prior to Roe v Wade called “The Way It Was” (it’s definitely worth reading, if you google the name of it it’ll come up, it’s a piece in Mother Jones). Cooney very accurately says “Women of all kinds seek and have always sought abortion: married, single, in their twenties, thirties, and forties, teenagers. Some have no children, some have several already. Some never want children, some want children later. They are churchgoers, atheists, agnostics. They are morally upright pillars of the community, they are prostitutes. They’re promiscuous, they’re monogamous, they’re recent virgins. They get pregnant under all kinds of circumstances: consensual sex, nonconsensual sex, sex that falls somewhere between consensual and nonconsensual. Some are drunk or using drugs, some never even touch an aspirin. Some use no birth control, some use birth control that fails.”

(I want to add here that Cooney wrote that piece I mentioned above in defense of late-term abortions. I don’t think any one denies that late-term abortions are horrible and I address this below)

Outlawing abortion simply creates a dangerous environment for women. This isn’t something that needs to be debated, this nation’s history pre-Roe v Wade is testimony in itself.

When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, she will go to any means to terminate it. Take Ireland for example where abortion is and has been illegal, that doesn’t and hasn’t stopped women from getting abortions. Cooney goes on to add:

“A society that does not accept the facts is a childish society, and a society that makes abortion illegal—and I believe that the PBAB is a calculated step in exactly that direction—is a cruel and backward society that makes being female a crime. It works in partnership with the illegal abortionist. It puts him in business, sends him his customers, and employs him to dispense crude, dirty, barbaric, savage punishment to those who break the law. And the ones who are punished by the illegal abortionist are always women: mothers, sisters, daughters, wives.”

Simplifying your experiences or others experiences to the entire experience of abortion is wrong. From what you’re implying all women regret abortion which is false. You say you have spoken with women who regret their abortions, along those same lines, I’ve spoken with women who have not. I’m talking about some women who had abortions 20-25 years ago and others who had theirs within the last decade. Again, you cannot apply the experience of some (and when talking about abortions, 10,000 is a low percentage when you consider how many women per year get abortions. This does not mean I’m dismissing their experiences) and make it a definitive overall experience.

Regarding Post Abortion Traumatic Syndrome, I’m not going to get into a debate about what exists or what doesn’t exist when it comes to what women experience. However, I will say that if you’re going to talk about it you cannot ignore that the same hand there are also millions who suffer from Post-Partum Depression as well (post-partum and perinatal depression are the most common complications of pregnancy). If you are going to argue that abortion is violent and hurtful to women you must also acknowledge that along those very same lines so is pregnancy— physically and mentally.

You speak of women who regret their abortions, have you ever spoken to a woman who was forced to carry a pregnancy to term?

Have you ever met a woman who had children she didn’t want but had no choice in the matter? There are thousands of these women to match the thousands that regret their abortions and the millions that do not. For example, in Pakistan (which is where I am from), I’ve met women who have been forced to have 10-15 children that they didn’t want and couldn’t afford. I’ve spoken with women in the United States who were forced to keep children of rape because they couldn’t afford an abortion (also, you should note that forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy is not only emotionally damaging to her but also has serious impacts on the fetus).

You say that women who get abortions are more likely to abuse their children. This is something that I’m hearing for the first time and in all honesty, I’d like to see these studies, who conducted them, the history of the subjects—for example, were they abusive before they had abortions? Were they abused themselves as children? These are all things that must be considered and often aren’t by people who want to get specific results. Take Priscilla Coleman, for example. In 2009 she published a study that said abortion causes depression. Upon closer inspection by the Journal of Psychiatric Research though it was discovered not only were there statistical problems with the study but also “ the original researchers included mental health ailments not only after abortion, but all across the life span, making it impossible to know whether the psychological problems came before or after the procedure.”

“This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data,” study researcher Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor in the University of California, San Francisco’s department of psychiatry, said in a statement. “The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors.”

On that token, there are indeed studies that show that women who get abortions are more likely to be victims of domestic violence which makes sense when you consider that abused women have a higher risk of unintended pregnancies.

What it comes down to is that abortion isn’t the problem here, it’s a society where women are at a disadvantage, where women are abused, where women don’t have access to contraception, where women aren’t given a choice over their bodies and motherhood. You can strive to help these women and change these circumstances without eliminating abortion as an option and forcing women to lose control over their own bodies.

As far as poverty is concerned, I have never said that abortion gets women out of poverty but it surely keeps many from falling below the poverty line. A personal example of one of the many women I know who have had abortions: I know a woman who was in an abusive relationship from which she had one child. She was able to leave her abusive husband and was living on her own and supporting her child. She made just enough to put a roof over her child’s head and food in its belly (I’m using it here to keep the sex of the child confidential). Shortly after leaving her abusive marriage she found out she was pregnant. From the very moment she discovered she was pregnant she knew did not want another child nor could she afford to have another child. If abortion had been illegal she would have fallen below the poverty line and would have had to give up her apartment. She had no health insurance and couldn’t afford prenatal care. It’s very likely, she says, that she would have had to gone back to her abusive husband for financial support and that with two children, it’s unlikely she would have been able to leave again. Luckily, she lives in a country where abortion is legal and several years later she has a great job, her child is doing great (in the 90% percentile of its age, very smart, and very loved) and she still says she has absolutely no regrets.

You asked me to show you organizations where women speak of their positive experiences with abortion — there are numerous websites dedicated to women speaking about their abortions (see links below) one of which is Thanks Abortion. There are articles and comments as well. People don’t go around saying “abortions are awesome” because women who get abortions are often treated with contempt. We’ve been taught that it’s shameful and that these women are sluts. But trust me, there are hundreds of thousands of women that are relieved and glad that they had abortions when they did. There are also women who chose not to, which they are grateful for. This is precisely what being pro-choice is about. Choosing motherhood when it’s right for you.

As Abortion Gang states:

“Some women mourn either their abortion or the fact that their circumstances meant that they had to have an abortion. Some women do not mourn their abortion or their circumstances. Some women experience deep gratitude for their abortion, and even a gratitude to the child they didn’t have for never being born. And some people who have abortions are not women.

There are strategic narratives deployed over which a multitude of gorgeous, fractured, layered, desperate, joyous and despairing real lived experiences cannot be easily laid. People are still reaching for them, because they are accessible to us; these narratives tell us how to tell our own stories. “When you tell about your abortion, tell them you are so sorry it had to happen.” Yes, if you feel that way, do. Tell me everything. I am listening to you with all of my heart. But don’t make your story everyone’s story. So few of us have a platform from which we can be heard, please be generous and say, “Here is my story, now tell me yours.” Allow us to belong to one another.”

And finally, late-term abortion. As you and I both know, late-term abortions take place in the third trimester. When a woman has reached the third trimester she isn’t getting an abortion because she suddenly decided that she didn’t want to keep the pregnancy but because there have been serious complications endangering her own health or the fetuses.  I don’t think ANYONE ANYWHERE denies that it is a traumatic experience and if there are those that say so, shame on them- these are pregnancies that were wanted and were aborted because of circumstances out of anyone’s hands. I think it’s very irresponsible to use third trimester abortions as a way of demonstrating how awful and hurtful abortion is. If a third trimester abortion is dangerous and painful so it giving birth to a child only to watch it die. I don’t know how anyone would want to sell a woman that option either. But unfortunately these are times we live in—pregnancy has always been dangerous for women and it still is in the United States. Sometimes wanted pregnancies need to be aborted very late (these are women who were setting up nurseries and having baby showers) and sometimes those women choose to give birth and then stay with the baby as it dies. Either way, it’s mental anguish and either way it’s none of our business.

The reason why I posted Cooney’s article wasn’t to debate about late-term abortion (even though it’s 8 years old) it’s because she explains very clearly that a world without abortion is a dangerous world for women. She also acknowledges that many, if not most, women had okay experiences with illegal abortions—that is they were done and there were no complications. BUT if you’re going to count the women that have regretted their abortion, then it is imperative to count  the women that did suffer or die from illegal abortions prior to Roe v Wade. If legal abortion is dangerous for some women, illegal abortion is dangerous for some as well—cherry picking one or the other for the sake of arguments and opinion is equally dangerous for women because it continues to spread misinformation. Every woman’s experience with pregnancy and with abortion is different; taking away our choice for either is taking away our autonomy.

Some reading:


Follow me on Twitter and Tumblr!

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Join the Conversation