By Sarah Terzo
Editor’s note. This book reviewed appeared at Ms. Terzo’s “Clinic Quotes” site. She does an amazing job compiling quotes from material related to abortion going back decades.
In the book “The Ambivalence of Abortion,” Linda Bird Francke tells the stories of women who have had abortions, the men who are their partners, and the clinic workers and who deal with abortion on a day to day basis.
She gives an inside look at what women go through when contemplating abortion, then deciding to abort, going through the procedure, and dealing with the aftermath.
The first thing to consider is that this book was written some time ago, in the late 1970s. Many people, knowing this, would not give it a second look. However, I feel that the book is still relevant today, as the emotional make-up of women and the abortion experience has not changed much in the past thirty years. Women still have abortions for many of the same reasons- wanting to preserve an education, conflict with their baby’s father, financial pressure, etc. People still consider abortion to be controversial – some people oppose it and others accept it. It is still an emotional decision, now as well as in the 1970s.
Francke reveals in the beginning of the book that she had an abortion herself, and compiling the stories of other women may have been her way of coming to terms with it. She maintains that she feels she made the right choice, but does express some grief over the baby that might have been. In her interviews, she explores the grief that many women, even pro-choice women, feel about their pregnancies and abortions. Her book describes how ambivalent women are about ending their pregnancies and how complex their emotions are. She touches on the ambivalence of society as well- a society that decrees that abortion should be legal and available but that it is still a ‘wrong’ thing to do carrying stigma. Few women want the world to know they have had abortions- either in 1970 or today. All of the women Francke interviews use fake names.
Their reactions run the gamut- some are mainly relieved, others sad, some guilt-stricken, many are a combination of all three. The providers she interviews express their own ambivalence. Many of them speak of helping women, but also of their disgust when the same women come back for abortions five times. Some are sure that they are doing the right thing, but are upset by the remains from late term abortions, were the aborted fetuses may have hands and feet and look like babies. Francke also has a chapter where she talks about men and their feeling towards their partner’s abortions. She lets the women and men speak for themselves, often quoting much of what they say word for word.
Overall, “The Ambivalence of Abortion” is a powerful book, and despite the fact that it is old, it gives great insights into the minds and hearts of women who choose abortion as well as the women and men who provide abortions. It should be read by anyone who is interested in the abortion issue.