an After abortion

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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Mary Beth Bonacci writes:

"Whatever the reason, it occurs to me that whenever I write a series like this, it must be very difficult for women who have had abortions -- to open the paper and see the issue they're trying to forget staring them in the face yet again. Some of them, I'm sure, have come to grips with the enormity of that 'choice', and have forgiven themselves and moved on.
Others may still be grappling with it - or trying not to grapple with it. I know there are millions of women out there who are trying to justify their decision by self-identifying as 'pro-choice', trying to keep the pain at arms length, and trying desperately to keep themselves together. I realize that women like this take the abortion debate very personally.

Accusations, mud slinging, name-calling - this debate isn't often pretty. We're angry, and much of our anger is justified. But we forget that we're fighting this battle right in the midst of millions of women who have experienced abortion personally, and who still bear the scars. In our frustration over the issue, many of us say (or write) things that we don't intend to be hurtful, but wind up stinging anyway.

I also realize that many of these women read Catholic newspapers.

And no, I didn't receive a lot of letters - or even one letter - from post-abortive women or anyone else telling me this. These women don't tend to speak up. They keep it all inside."

I agree with much of what Bonacci writes, but I would stay away from the claim that self-identifying as a pro-choicer is something that women do in order to justify a personal abortion choice.

This claim is true to some extent--anyone who works in post-abortion support groups hears over and over again from women who report that they were once ardently pro-choice for this very reason. It may even be true to a very significant extent.

However, it is a bit paternalistic and offensive to psychologize people's arguments this way; to imply that no one could have a good argument for being pro-choice but is instead purely motivated by psychological demons from a prior abortion. I don't agree with pro-choice arguments but when they are made by women who are post-abortive, those arguments should be discussed as arguments, not as psychological defense mechanisms.

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