Millions of American Women Do Not Regret Their Abortions: You Cannot Erase Us

Normally, I just delete the trolly comments that come my way. Today, though, I received a pretty fantastic comment from one Jacqueline Dorman:

Have you ever had an abortion personally? It’s a horrible experience. I have worked with post abortive women for 10 years and they are physically, mentally and emotionally scarred by their “choice”. I’m not so much pro-life as I am pro-woman and I see them after they make their “choice” and 90% of them regret it and wish they would have known how it was going to affect them physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.. Every time they hear a baby cry, when their projected due date rolls around every year, when they become pregnant with a “wanted” child. A majority of them suffer from PTSD…you may only see them before the abortion and I can tell you the aftermath is very tragic. You seem to really care about women and I really encourage you to talk to some post abortive women 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years later and see what they have to say now. Let’s push contraception as much as we can because abortion is a choice that no woman should ever have to make.

[Emphasis mine.]

Jacqueline is probably oblivious to the fact that she is making a wonderful argument in favor of increasing Pro-Choice activism. The fact that many people actually wholeheartedly believe that most women who seek an abortion will suffer great psychological harm should serve as a reminder to those of us on this side who support women’s choices; that is, why projects such as My Abortion, My Life are so incredibly vital to preserving our right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason we deem sufficient. The majority of women who speak publicly of their abortion are indeed the women who have decided they regret their choice. Those of us who do not have regrets – the real majority – are very rarely ‘out’ about it, which paves the road for the anti-choice movement to exploit regretful women and erase all the rest. Leading people like Jacqueline to emphatically state with such confidence that of the approximately 50 million  women who have sought legal abortion(s) since 1973, 45 million of them do or will regret their decision.

This is, to put it gently, a vastly flawed conclusion to draw; especially so when you take into account the numerous neutral medical organizations that have long ago debunked this myth.

Says the American Psychological Association:

The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy. […] Across studies, prior mental health emerged as the strongest predictor of postabortion mental health. Many of these same factors also predict negative psychological reactions to other types of stressful life events, including childbirth, and, hence, are not uniquely predictive of psychological responses following abortion.

Interestingly, the APA identifies “Perceptions of stigma” as one of the primary reasons a post-abortive woman may experience negative feelings after her procedure. (See: rabidly angry old men waving fake fetus posters from the sidewalk – I mean, “sidewalk counselors”.) Quoting from the 2009 APA study, “The claim that observed associations between abortion history and a mental health problem are caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors, is not supported by the existing evidence.”

The American Medical Association has reached the same conclusion, and the Guttmacher Institute also has a vast array of sources discrediting this so-called “Post Abortion Syndrome”. Yet, the idea persists.

One of the reasons this myth is so disingenuous and malicious is the fact that women who carry to term are at risk of experiencing harmful mental health conditions such as postpartum depression (PPD). The Center For Disease Control recently found that “According to a recent CDC survey, 11% to 18% of women reported having frequent postpartum depressive symptoms.” So, why do the anti-choicers believe that the silly wommenz need to be protected from only one of their three pregnancy options because it might make them all sad and stuff, but they’re not the least bit concerned with women who actually carry to term only to experience anything from mild depression to actual psychosis? Why aren’t they out there warning women at fertility clinics of the risks of PPD? Or placenta previa? Gestational diabetes? Pre enclampsia? Even death?

The notion that the other side is only “concerned” for the health of women and children falls to pieces after a mere minute of close examination. It’s almost boringly easy to debunk their falsehoods and scare tactics. If their cause was so just, they wouldn’t feel the need to fabricate reasons for supporting it.

Now, my personal response to Jacqueline, which will from here on out be a universal reply to any troll who wanders over to this space to parrot harmful myths:

Dear Anti,

Don’t presume to speak for all women who have chosen abortion – in fact, don’t ever presume to speak for all women, period. Studies – actual, verified, peer reviewed studies – have proven that the most common emotion after an abortion is relief. Women who regret their abortions are a minority. The same cannot be said for women who are pressured, baited and outright lied to by assholes feeding them long ago debunked myths about abortion causing breast cancer, infertility, etc. (nope, not at all, not even a little bit true.), women that carry to term ONLY because they’re scared shitless of abortion, who end up giving the baby they spent fourty weeks of hard labor creating to strangers; strangers who have absolutely zero legal liability to honor ANY aspect of the adoption agreement they worked out with the birth mother.

I suppose you’d rather we return to the good ol’ days when the only options were: parenting a child that was never wanted; seeking an illegal and sometimes deadly abortion; or being hidden away in secret during pregnancy only to have their child taken from them without informed consent and spend the rest of their lives wondering where their child is and how they are doing.

While it is actually TRUE that more women regret adoption than those who regret abortion, unlike you, I advocate for a woman to have a choice, period. Adoption, abortion, parenting – there is no right or wrong choice. Only the women who owns that particular uterus and the contents therein deserves to decide what is right or moral. Not you, and certainly not I.

Which is why the clinic that I volunteer for not only offers abortion, but birth control and pregnancy tests, too; we also work directly with one particular adoption agency that has established itself as a strong advocate for the birth mother and who will inform her of all the legalities of an open or closed adoption, and minimize the chances of regret by giving her the love and support she needs through that process.

Normally, I wouldn’t have taken the time to respond to someone so clearly misinformed – at least, I assume you’re simply misinformed, as I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt here! – but you’re a little different than the usual anti-choice comment er in that you actually support contraceptive use to prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place. So I sure do hope you are investing volunteer time and money in Planned Parenthood, who’ve done more to prevent abortions in this country than ALL so-called “Pro-Life” organizations put together, as they object to contraceptive use entirely.

I have, indeed, had an abortion. Relief was, indeed, the strongest feeling afterwards. I’d rather kill a hundred non-sentient embryos than bring an unwanted child into this world – and NO, adoption was not an option for me. I’ll be damned if I risk health and my very life to create a new person with absolutely no payoff to myself. I can see you spitting “selfish!!” at your screen, and it’s ok. I make no apologies for placing value of myself above that of a zygote, embryo or even fetus when science has proven these life forms can not possibly even BEGIN to be self aware, or feel any pain, before the cerebral cortex is developed enough to receive those signals. It is biologically impossible. I, however, am an actual sentient person who can feel. Pain, love, joy, sadness, and everything else imaginable. I am worth more than coat hangers, rapey back alley (fake) “doctors”, worth more than mere chattel.

I have, indeed, spent time with many women before and after their abortions. That includes patients, of course; but it also includes my friends. One friend just had an abortion a few months ago. She is done raising children, and was not about to start all over again just because the asshole she slept with slipped the condom off. Thankfully, there was somewhere safe for her to go. Another friend had one back in 2003, and has experienced absolutely no regret. Thankfully, she, too had somewhere safe to go. And I have many more stories where that came from.

I don’t doubt that there are women who regret their abortions. However, I will not stand for the amount of these women being completely exaggerated and inflated on my site. You’d sound a lot more reasonable if you just presented the facts, and shared how exactly YOU plan to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in order to prevent the need for abortion. (Again, see Planned Parenthood.)

Women AND men make major life decisions and later regret it. This is called living life. People regret having children too young, they regret trusting an open adoption only to be burned by adoptive parents who cut off contact despite promises not to, they regret marrying the ‘wrong’ person and having to endure divorce, they regret smoking too many cigarettes and making their teeth yellow, they regret choosing adoption at all even if the adoptive parents do keep their agreement, they regret their major in college, they regret ever having children at all. The idea that the possibility of regret is a reason to paint something as bad, horrible awful always always wrong for EVERY ONE NO MATTER WHAT OMGWTFBBQ is therefore an invalid argument. If we as a society followed this line of thinking to it’s logical conclusion, there would be nothing left for anyone to regret.

Prevention First! Round 2

The petition to demand reasonable and swift action against misinformation in sexual education programs and lack of preventative care for survivors of assault has been re-launched. Instead of Change.org, this one is hosted on SignOn.org in the hopes that we get some promotion from the progressive action group MoveOn.org. Both bills are currently stuck in committee, and this petition not only targets all Ohio legislators to take action, it also sends separate individual email alerts to the House and Senate Committee Chairs in an effort to get these bills to the floor for a vote.

This isn’t the first time that these Prevention First bills have been introduced, as Sen. Turner and Rep. Antonio discuss in this February interview. In the past, Prevention was left to languish in committee without ever even receiving a vote. Considering the “concern” our Republican controlled legislature has demonstrated about our lady-parts, you’d think they’d be ecstatically enthusiastic about legislation that would not only reduce the number of Ohio’s unintended pregnancies (thereby reducing abortion) but would save taxpayers money in a time of economic hardship. It’s common knowledge now that every dollar invested in helping women avoid unintended pregnancies saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures, that otherwise would have been used for maternity care.

In order to hold our elected officials accountable, in order to force them to do their jobs of representing the best interest of Ohio residents, we need to push them. The Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act (SB 283/HB 419) and The Act for Our Children’s Future (SB 232/HB 338) will forever languish in committee if our officials feel they can get away with ignoring the needs of those most vulnerable in our society: our youth and our survivors of assault.

Please add your signature now, share this petition on your social networking accounts, and consider placing a phone call to the Committee Chairs, whose names can be found at the petition site. Or just use your zip code to find your Legislators, and give them a call.

Ohio deserves a fair shot at Prevention.

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Have you registered for the upcoming Lobby Day this Wednesday? NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio are working together to combat the War on Women!

If you can’t make it, don’t worry – you can still help Ohio women access their constitutional right to reproductive care by donating to the Cleveland Pro-Choice Escorts bowling team HERE.