Talking about Abortion

January 15, 2014 - 3:40 PM

Every life—born and preborn—has value and must be treated with dignity and respect. Abortion is the direct taking of a precious life—and an act that often destroys other lives as well. But abortion is not something to be silent about. We must talk. We must teach. We must listen, and most of all, we must forgive.

Shortly after the most recent study indicating that women who are seeking abortions are not moved to change their minds after they view an ultrasound, Slate’s Katy Waldman weighed in with her view.

Waldman writes that “anti-choicers”—people like me—believe that “when a woman glimpses her little bean during a sonogram, her maternal instinct awakens and prompts her to carry the pregnancy to term.”

Along the same lines, she later states, “I don’t buy the patronizing notion that patients seeking abortion ‘know not what they do’—that they have some false idea about the contents of their uteruses to be toppled by an ‘adorable,’ ‘precious,’ or ‘lifelike’ sonogram. I also doubt all women even have the maternal instinct right-wingers hope these images will fan to life.”

This could sound a whole lot like the language of an embittered, raging feminist, but from what I have seen lately among those promoting the “1 in 3” campaign, it could be that Waldman is reflecting a view held by many of those who have aborted their children and are comfortable with the decision that they made.

Such women have to intellectually and emotionally justify what they have done in order to move on, but at the same time, the stories provide us with insights we need to possess in order to move forward in the culture as it really is today.

New York magazine, for example, published stories told by women who, for a wide variety of reasons, aborted. Many of these women aborted more than one child. Upon reading these stories, one could get the impression that pain and agony must have been replaced by confidence in the choice they made, if only to provide these women with a modicum of normalcy in the lives they are now leading.

But the writer, Meaghan Winter, tells the reader “even now, four decades after Roe, some of the women we spoke with would talk only if we didn’t print their real names.”

Winter exposes what we know is true, saying “some feel so shamed that they will never tell their friends and family; others feel stronger for having gotten through the experience. The same woman can wake up one morning with regret, the next with relief—most have feelings too knotty for a picket sign.”

What is also clear, as one wades through these stories, is that many of these women honestly felt at the time that they did what they had to do. The decision to abort is, according to their own stories, conflicted, frightened, self-absorbed, short-sighted and, at times, nearly shattering to their self-image.

For many of them, aborting a child ruined their relationships with their family and the father of the child, and for others it cemented those relationships and made them stronger. Complex is one of the few words that adequately defines the sum of the 24 personal tales recounted.

Such stories, told by real women, underscore the theme of what the “1 in 3” campaign is all about—ending “the cultural stigma and shame women are made to feel around abortion.”

But there’s an even more salient truth to be gained from this new tactic. Addie Mena helps us see what it is we should take away from the pro-abortion rhetoric of 2014, writing:

We hear of stigma and suffering surrounding abortion, but not of the discrimination surrounding women who carried a pregnancy to term to the detriment of her career, of the girl who gave birth out of wedlock, or of the couple who faced judgment and hardship because they decided to give birth to a child with developmental or physical disabilities rather than kill it.

What these stories say, and what they don’t, offers us a window into the trends that define our whole society—a society of which both the pro-life and pro-choice movements are a part.

If we fail to learn how to talk about abortion and what it really is given the absence of common sense that is so prevalent today, we will have performed an enormous disservice to our fellow human beings—born and preborn.

I agree with Mena, who concludes: 

We who wish to protect the dignity of all persons born and unborn, mother, father, and child, “have got to believe that change is possible,” and we should act accordingly.

We have got to show and tell others that we can have “happy endings” in spite of mistakes and tragedy. And yes, the wrongs that we commit and the evil committed against us are not the end—because our life’s worth is more than the mere sum of actions or of their ramifications.