The American Left often insists that no one is actually “pro-abortion.” Rather, we’re told, they’re “pro-choice.” Favoring abortion rights isn’t about liking abortion. It’s a matter of supporting every woman’s right to choose for herself.
Perhaps they’re partially right. Perhaps — and ideally — no one really likes abortion. But it would be a mistake to believe that the pro-choice movement is truly about choice as such. Consider, for example, the dismissive attitude of pro-choice people toward those who choose to be pro-life. Consider, too, how readily ignored are those women who decide only under duress to get an abortion.
A recent study published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons — “Women Who Suffered Emotionally from Abortion: A Qualitative Synthesis of Their Experiences” — shines a light on this under-researched and under-discussed aspect of the abortion debate. The survey compiles the responses of nearly 1,000 women, all of whom received at least one abortion and later sought care as the result of emotional distress stemming from that event.
What the study uncovered is shocking. Nearly 75 percent of women surveyed said their decision to abort was subject to at least subtle pressure from others. Even more distressing, more than 58 percent of the women reported aborting their baby to make others happy, and almost 30 percent said they aborted out of fear of losing their partner if they did not.
Abortion is supposedly an essential component of women having the power to freely choose their future, in the absence of coercion. These disturbingly high figures tell a different, very concerning story.
Flying in the face of modern feminist rhetoric, women who reported positive outcomes after having an abortion “generally did not speak of empowerment, the ability to control their reproductive destinies, liberation from abusive partners, [or] the need for abortion in order to be competitive in the work place.” Almost 32 percent of women said they experienced no positive effects from their abortions.
What’s more, these women experienced deep feelings of loss and a decline in quality of life, as well as “regret, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, compromised self-appraisals, and self-destructive behaviors.”
Of course, it is important to note that the women in this survey all self-reported as having experienced negative emotions after their abortions. As a result, these data don’t offer insight into emotional suffering relative to all post-abortive women as a group. But they clearly show that many women do in fact suffer terribly as a result of undergoing an abortion, and they are often ignored instead of supported.
Activists often go out of their way to downplay or even discredit stories of coerced abortion.
For an ideology supposedly founded on the inviolability of choice, the abortion-rights movement pays very little attention to the possibility — indeed, the reality — that many women are coerced into obtaining abortions, whether by physical force or otherwise. In fact, the most radical activists often go out of their way to downplay or even discredit these stories.
Consider, for instance, this article from pro-abortion site Rewire News. Speaking of coerced abortion, it cites health experts who claim that “there is not enough data to show it being a pervasive problem.” The piece also attempts to cast doubt on the personal experience of Brittany Wilson, whose harrowing personal story inspired an anti-coerced-abortion law in South Dakota.
It is impossible to find instances of Democratic politicians, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the Center for Reproductive Rights, or similar abortion-rights groups condemning or even acknowledging coerced abortion. If they were truly pro-choice, this surely would be an issue of utmost concern.
Instead, they overcompensate hard in the other direction, insisting that we must not only accept and tolerate abortion but also celebrate it. Women who have aborted are instructed by the radical Left to “Shout Their Abortion,” a movement that urges post-abortive women to proudly cheer about their decision to abort. There is the obvious implication that, if they aren’t proud of their decision, they’re betraying the progressive push for women’s rights.
This theme is everywhere. Last year, Teen Vogue published an article suggesting gift ideas for friends who had gotten an abortion (“pins, poetry, and more”).The piece lamented society’s “false stigma” against having an abortion and insisted that your friend “shouldn’t have to feel ashamed, because she made the right choice for her situation,” and she needs your support for having chosen abortion, “not because the act itself is so terrible, but because sometimes the world can be.”
Meanwhile, when an undocumented immigrant minor in Texas obtained an abortion against the wishes of the federal government last fall, the pro-abortion movement celebrated, cheering over the death of Jane Doe’s baby, even having the audacity to call it “justice.”
Celebrating abortions in this way is intensely harmful to women who regret their choice to abort. Even if a woman chooses abortion absent coercion, it is rarely an unambiguous decision. In this survey, 49 percent of women said they believed at the time of the abortion that the fetus was a human being. Sixty-six percent said they knew that they were making a mistake when they underwent the abortion, 67 percent said the decision was one of the hardest of their lives, and 33 percent felt emotionally connected to the fetus before the abortion.
These women said, too, that they believed “society fails to understand the psychological impact of abortion on women.” It’s easy to understand why they would think so. All too often, women’s post-abortion regrets are dismissed as being the result of “stigma” perpetuated by the intolerance of the religious right rather than a natural consequence of having suffered substantial loss.
If the pro-choice movement cared about choice, it wouldn’t be difficult to also acknowledge the right to choose life.
The pro-choice movement ought to consider how detrimental its own assumptions and increasingly celebratory attitudes are to post-abortive women who, for whatever reason, feel deep loss and live in intense pain as a result. A truly pro-choice movement would be quick to denounce coerced abortion. If it cared about choice, it wouldn’t be difficult to also acknowledge the right to choose life.
But the increasingly radical Left can’t do that, because it is, in fact, pro-abortion and not pro-choice. Denouncing coerced abortion and acknowledging the right to choose life undercuts the premise that abortion is a fundamental good. It would be tantamount to admitting that life has value — at least sometimes. Only a pro-choice movement could admit that. A pro-abortion movement never can.
As a result, the pro-abortion movement can never support the rights of all women. It isn’t about women’s choice or women’s rights. It’s about protecting the right to choose abortion, even at the expense of women coerced into aborting, and to the detriment of all women who suffer as the result of losing a child to abortion.