By Dave Andrusko
When there is even an ounce of honesty in them, any series of accounts of women who have undergone abortions will accomplish exactly the opposite of what proponents of “telling your story ”believe it will. That is, instead of “de-stigmatizing” abortion, what we learn makes the average person even more skeptical of abortion, even more convinced it is a horrible “choice.”
A perfect example is a story in New York magazine which provided thumbnail sketches of the reasons 26 women had their abortion or abortions.
The overwhelming takeaway from Meaghan Winter’s story for me was sorrow. Abortion’s ugly truth is everywhere.
I was very much impressed with Winter’s introduction. Take this paragraph, for example:
“And yet abortion is something we tend to be more comfortable discussing as an abstraction; the feelings it provokes are too complicated to face in all their particularities. Which is perhaps why, even in doggedly liberal parts of the country, very few people talk openly about the experience, leaving the reality of abortion, and the emotions that accompany it, a silent witness in our political discourse. Even now, four decades after Roe, some of the women we spoke with would talk only if we didn’t print their real names.”
Again, I completely understand that the whole point is that the more often women tell their stories, in theory, the less “stigma” will attach. But it’s not stigma that is running roughshod in many of their hearts but deep, DEEP regret. Which is why if you take the time to read all the stories, you come away aching for almost all of these women.
I will just cite three stories + a closing quotation from a fourth (but please read them all here.
Right out of the box is “Nicole, 19.”
Her story is so illustrative. She’s convinced herself that by aborting their baby, it will show her boyfriend how much she loved him. (It’s clear she doesn’t want the abortion.)
The boyfriend goes back and forth—and forth and back. Nicole describes herself as “hysterical, and he said, ‘Okay, you don’t have to go back’ [to the abortion clinic]. I was so happy. Then he said, ‘We drove all this way. Stop crying, act like a woman.’”
She’s tired and gives in. And then some of the most remarkable 62 words you are likely ever to read:
“When I had the ultrasound, I asked for the picture and a nurse said, ‘Seriously?’ A month later, he said he regretted it too. When I cry about it, I cry alone. He thinks it would make me sad to talk about, but I don’t want our baby to think we forgot. I’ve never heard of anybody else having an abortion here.”
“But I don’t want our baby to think we forgot.” My eyes welled up the first time I read this, and they are again, now.
Another woman (“Red, 30”) tells of not aborting her first unplanned pregnancy (“I decided I couldn’t abort a baby based on a stupid decision I made”).
The next time she does abort, even though the boyfriend wanted to get married. (She doesn’t want to be “tied” to him “forever.”) So she and her mother go to Planned Parenthood.
“I told them I already had a baby. The doctor acted like it was assembly-line work. I told Steve I miscarried. We dated another year. The secret was devastating. People might be more understanding if I’d had an abortion when I was living in a car in an abusive relationship. This time, I was on birth control, with a full-time job, a boyfriend. People might think I should’ve kept it, but I couldn’t.”
One other story (”Heather, 32”). She’d already had two unplanned pregnancies “and it never, ever, occurred to me to terminate those pregnancies.” Now she’s had two abortions. Heather writes of the first abortion that
“I just had to shut my conscience down. The doctor was grotesque. He whistled show tunes. I could hear the vacuum sucking out the fetus alongside his whistling. When I hear show tunes now, I shudder. Later, he lost his license.”
“A few months ago, I got pregnant again. My in-laws have been helping us out financially, so we have no choice but to involve them in our decisions. They gave us $500 cash to bring to the clinic. I felt very forced. I felt like I was required to have an abortion to provide for my current family. Money help is a manipulation. I’m crazy in love with my daughters—imagine if I did that to them? It’s almost too much to open the door of guilt and shame because it’ll all overcome me. In the waiting room, there was a dead silence that’s hard to describe. Everyone was holding in her emotions to a heartbreaking degree.”
“Truly pro-life people should go light on the judgment, because shame motivates abortions.”
Pro-lifers already do go “light on the judgment.” The pro-lifers I know—and I know many—are a tender-hearted lot. More than a few have experienced an abortion in their extended families.
But whether or not they have a personal experience, they have the same objective: to help a post-abortive woman heal, not to further hurt her. How could going “heavy” on the judgment possibly help anyone or accomplish anything?!
Over and over again, the stories weep with pain and regret and remorse.
Perhaps the most revealing comment of all came from “Alex, 24,” who began her story
“I’m pro-choice, but for some reason I still hold a stigma for people who’ve had multiple abortions, and yet I’ve had multiple.”