Hushed secrets

Sarah Beth Jones (site, blog), who’s N&R column alternates with mine on Wednesdays, hit the abortion issue nail square on the head today.  Her column is posted at her place.

She argues, by relating a familial story of her great aunt’s death, that neither adamant pro-lifers nor earnest pro-choicers will ever gain the moral high-ground because neither really takes into account what goes on in the heads and lives of women who undergo abortions; both before and after the operation.  She concludes with this…

“Perhaps if pro-lifers could express their opposition without degrading the women involved and pro-choicers could admit that the decision is painful and long-lasting, we could start to communicate.”

Perhaps we could.

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  1. Posted June 28, 2006 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Sarah Beth’s opinion is young; there are very few, IME, pro-choice advocates who don’t recognize that it’s an intensely PERSONAL decision and it’s not an easy one; therefore, it’s best left with the woman who has to deal with the consequences – all of them. By polarizing pro-choice advocates as unable to “…admit that the decision is painful and long-lasting,” she discounts all the literature, research, and advocacy position of pro-choice groups. A woman’s right to choose is not a simple, two-sided logical argument. It’s intensely personal, fraught with implications and consequences. Every woman should have all options freely provided and she should make the decision — because she has to live with it — after weighing all research and educated advice provided NEUTRALLY to her.

    Demonizing the “other side” must stop for us to get anywhere, but creating two clear-cut sides to this very gray matter just doesn’t cut it. Her writing sounds idealistic, simplified and very very young.

    Prepare for the onslaught. I’m going to DC.

  2. David Wharton
    Posted June 28, 2006 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Amazing — I agree with Sue about this column. Choicers have long been admitting that abortion is a painful decision for women (Hillary Clinton most prominently among them in the recent past); Lifers have likewise been using pro-woman strategies for at least a decade, which I think largely explains why they’ve steadily gained public support in the past several years.

    Apart from the touching story of Sara Beth’s great aunt, her column is weirdly out of touch with how the abortion debate has unfolded in the past several years.

    And Sue — sorry, I can’t not say something about this — it is simply and objectively untenable to reduce the decision to abort to the sphere of the purely personal. Even if you don’t admit that someone always dies in an abortion (the baby), at least one other person is always affected by the decision, namely, the father. If the woman chooses not to abort, the father has paternal responsibilities. And if the father desired to BE a father, the decision to abort denies that possibility.

    Furthermore, as I’m sure you know, issues like using abortion for sex selection, or for selecting for or against other heritable qualities of the baby, have serious public policy ramifications.

    Abortion isn’t just personal.

  3. Posted June 28, 2006 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    There are definitely women who are flippant about the whole thing. These are the pro-choicers I imagnine SBJ is addressing. I knew one personally very well several years ago. Maybe it was an act, maybe not, but at the time she was 18 and had had 4 abortions and would tell you quickly she’d have another if conditions warranted. Abortion for her was an available tool to be used. End of story. No great philosophical debate.

    Maybe a majority of women feel conflicted and distraught about the whole thing, but a significant number see it as nothing more consequential than a visit to the dentist.

    Some of it has to do with cultural norms as in Russia:

    For Soviet women like Svetlana and her friend, abortion was the chief birth control method. Though the abortion rate has almost halved since the USSR collapsed and other forms of birth control became available, Russia still has one of the world’s highest rates. For every baby born, two are aborted, according to official statistics.

    Although, as the article points out, Russia is now restricting abortions due to the very real possibility of their running out of people in 50 years.


    …with abortions outnumbering live births nearly 2 to 1, if you’re a Russian woman and never had one, you’re a statistical non-entity.

    The women I spoke to — stoic, intelligent matrons obviously with other things on their minds besides talking their husbands into using condoms — took it for granted that they had friends who’d chide them with “I’ve had thirty abortions already, what’s the big deal?� when they had to make that trip to the clinic.

    Closer to home, Planned Parenthood doesn’t seem fully on board with there being much of any negative consequences, Sue.

    How will I feel after an abortion?

    Most women feel relief. Some women feel anger, regret, guilt, or sadness for a little while. Sudden hormonal changes may intensify these feelings.

    Some people who oppose women’s right to make their own decisions claim that abortion often causes long-lasting emotional problems, or “post-abortion syndrome.” There is no scientific proof for these claims.

    Emotional Problems After Abortion?

    Serious, long-term emotional problems after abortion are extremely rare and less common than they are after childbirth.

  4. Posted June 29, 2006 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Boyd1: “I knew one personally very well”
    Boyd2: “a significant number see it as nothing more consequential than a visit to the dentist.”

    This is what’s wrong with the arguing process about this issue and why I tend to stay out of it. I know a Baptist who drinks. I know a Jewish family who has a Christmas Tree. Ergo, Baptists are alcoholics and Jews celebrate Christmas. You can’t leap from “I know one who…” to “therefore a signhificant number must feel this way.”

    Wharton: In those cases where there’s a father around, I’m guessing but am a little confident he’s involved in the decision; guys are generally taking more responsibility that way. In those cases where fathers are not around, then father’s opinion is of little consequence because he’s not going to support the child either.

    These are old arguments. My point is that a woman lives with the difficult decision singuarly and in a way that fathers don’t. Ultimately, as I said, after reading, talking, learning and considering, it is an intensely personal decision that no law and no religio-political body, should inflict on women.

  5. Posted June 29, 2006 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Interesting article I just read about what may be behind the “contraception” movement. I’ve been saying this for years.

    “I tore into the article hoping it would unearth and expose the true reproductive rights battle lines. This is a struggle often masquerading as a moral controversy. At its roots, however, it’s about sex and power; whether women will be allowed to keep striving for an equal place in society or confined, as much as possible, to the nursery….

    My high hopes for Shorto’s article plummeted when he failed to discuss the underlying, almost primal, opposition to women’s equality inherent in both the abstinence-only movement and the attacks on birth-control access.

    Birth control frees women to forge their own paths by separating sex from procreation. This strikes fear into those who, underneath it all, oppose the increased social power women attain from expanded equality and justice. Proof of this?”

    Read the article.

  6. Posted June 29, 2006 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    The details about Russia and Planned Parenthood lend support to the use of the ‘many’ as a valid characterization.

    My point is that not all women see this as a difficult decision. A significant number do not. Correct?

    Your argument seems to be that because women give the issue a great deal of thought, everyone else has no say. A valid base from which to argue I suppose, but how do you account for women who don’t treat the decision with gravity? As far as I know, no one who performs abortions accepts or doesn’t accept patients based on how much or how long they’ve agonized over the choice.