an After abortion

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CALL 1-888-510-BABY or click on the picture on the left, if you gave birth or are about to and can't care for your baby, to give your baby to a worker at a nearby hospital (some states also include police stations or fire stations), NO QUESTIONS ASKED. YOU WON'T GET IN ANY TROUBLE or even have to tell your name; Safehaven people will help the baby be adopted and cared for.

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Mailbox. Katha Pollitt responded at length. She brought up the infamous Koop report and her dislike of how post-abortion anguish has been politicized. I'll address those at some point. (I agree with much of what she says about the politicization but disagree about the Koop report.)

Pollitt also semi-softens her slam on women who blame an abortion for everything that goes wrong in their life:

"In my perhaps too quickly written, too compressed guest book entry, I was not denying that some women regret their abortions, although I suppose I do feel that a woman who is still mourning her abortion decades later may have deeper problems than that regret."

David Reardon of The Elliot Institute wrote back in the early 90s that ever since the public health problem of women experiencing emotional problems after abortion was raised, the pro-choice community "has been bent on marginalizing the affected women as a dysfunctional minority." We could interpret Ms. Pollitt's comment here as part of that spin. The implicit suggestion is that there is a statute of limitations on experiencing grief and that if you haven't recovered by a certain time, this is a sure sign that you have "deeper issues".

The implicit suggestion is: "If you keep yammering on about how sorry you are about that abortion, I'm going to undermine and diminish you by throwing stones at your general level of emotional health. My point will be to devalue the importance of what you are saying, by claiming that it is coming from someone who, well, is kind of a nutcase. When you get right down to it."

No doubt there are some people who adopt the "if you experience anguish after an abortion, you're mentally ill and no one should listen to you" position as a conscious strategy to marginalize these voices.

I don't think Ms. Pollitt is one of them, because she puts her argument in the context of a general discomfort with people who assume Permanent Victim Status and allow events from their past to define who they are. Ms. Pollitt and I are on the same page here.

However, in our current reality, most people who have a hard time after abortion have no idea that anyone else does. Every other possible human emotion and reaction has been dissected on Oprah, but not this one. There is no general knowledge that others might feel the same way. Those who are experiencing the most anguish don't talk about it with anyone and when they do, they very often don't feel safe in sharing their deepest feelings about it.

This situation can last for many years until they find out about effective and healing post-abortion support. In the meantime, as a matter of psychological reality, by and large people don't "get over" wounds from the past without sympathetic, compassionate, nonjudgmental support. This is no more and no less true for grief after abortion than it is for grief over any other loss.

Many parents who lose a child after it is born report many years later, "You never really get over it but if you are lucky you do learn how to live with this reality, accept it and move on." No one rolls their eyes at this and says, "Sheesh. Get over it already."

Ms. Pollitt is a fervent pro-choice advocate and as such, I assume that she does not agree with those post-abortive parents who have come to believe that when they terminated their pregnancy, they terminated their child. Since she doesn't believe that they lost a child, I don't expect her to enter into their grief with compassion. I do expect her to recognize, given the not unreasonable beliefs they have come to hold about the humanity and right-to-be-protected of very, very small children, that what they are experiencing is grief.

This grief may have been delayed, frozen, and forbidden for many years, and as often happens with frozen grief, it may have led to impaired functioning of one kind or another. But delayed grief is not evidence of mental illness or of having "deep issues".

It is just grief.

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