an After abortion

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Monday, March 3, 2003

I agree with the charming young women of Diotima and also with Katha Pollitt of The Nation that the question of whether abortion has adverse consequences for women who obtain abortions has become unhelpfully politicized.

The question of the moral status of the fetus should be kept quite separate from the question of how an abortion hurts, or doesn't hurt, parents who obtain abortions.

Some pro-life groups hold up the anguished post-abortive woman as an example of what can happen if you tarry inside the clinic. Ms. Pollitt reports that she finds the campaign Women Deserve Better particularly irksome in this regard.

It's certainly true that some pro-life groups relish the public relations value of focusing on women who regret their abortions. The pro-life groups I cherish are those that have been at the forefront of supporting effective post-abortion support groups. Women who suffer after abortion would have very few serious opportunities for recovery and healing without groups like Rachel's Vineyard and the support groups sponsored by crisis pregnancy centers throughout the country. I love these groups but I do not love those groups who put a weeping, tortured post-abortive woman on stage or in front of the camera, let her sob, and then send her back to her own purgatory.

On the other hand, one reason the broader prolife movement embraces post-abortion support (when it does) is because the pro-choice community has turned a blind eye to those who experience abortion as a traumatic emotional event or who later come to recognize not only that abortion is a grave moral wrong that destroys a child, but that it destroyed their very own child.

The reluctance of the pro-choice community to admit that many women experience a profound change of heart about abortion, their lack of empathy and support for those who experience serious emotional pain after abortion, their staunch opposition to any efforts to provide informed consent, all undermine their credibility as people capable of seeing beyond a cast-in-stone ideological agenda.

Often, when the prolife community talks about the negative physical and emotional consequences of abortion for the woman, it does this not because it is confused about where the moral focus should be, but in order to shine a spotlight on this particular dark side of the pro-choice movement. The implication is that if we can't trust the pro-choice movement in its treatment of women, which is supposed to be its strong suit, how much less can their moral sentiments and behavior be trusted elsewhere?

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