an After abortion: 02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003

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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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Friday, February 28, 2003

I realize I need to add perma-links to the recent journal articles about abortion and later adverse emotional events that I've blogged on before.

I haven't mentioned this one, from December 2002, in detail yet. It's an article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology which indicates that women with a prior history of abortion are twice as likely to use alcohol, five times more likely to use illicit drugs, and ten times more likely to use marijuana during the first pregnancy they carry to term compared to other women delivering their first pregnancies.

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In new testimony in the murder trial of actor Robert Blake, a retired detective says that Blake told him in 1999 that he had impregnated a woman during a one-night stand and he wanted her abducted to undergo an abortion, and if that failed, to have her killed. "He said, 'We're going to hire a doctor, we're going to abort her and if that doesn't work we're going to whack her,"' William Welch testified during a preliminary hearing to determine whether Blake must stand trial on charges of murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

"I said, 'Robert, you mean we're going to kidnap this girl, we're going to hire a doctor, we're going to abort her against her will, if that doesn't work we're going to kill her?'

"He said, 'Yeah, I've thought about it and that's what we're going to do."

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Mailbag later today. Katha Pollitt responds, and more.

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Early reports are that when the National Cancer Institute issues its March 3 report on the February 24-26 conference on whether there is an assocation between induced abortion and breast cancer, it will say there is no connection.

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Could someone please give Ashli a book contract?

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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Ashli (go read her) blogged on this a few days ago and so did ProLifeMensch.

There's a relatively new website called I'm Not Sorry, where women who do not experience negative feelings after abortion can share their stories.

Katha Pollitt, who writes for The Nation, contributed some comments to
the Guestbook
at "I'm Not Sorry".

What she writes is: "Very interesting stories, full of complexity and real life. They make a great counterweight to the much-hyped stories of women who regret having abortions, feel guilty about them and blame their abortion for whatever's gone wrong in their lives."

Well, that's a bit hostile and over-the-top.

For those who aren't familiar with the reality of abortions, the stories posted at "I'm Not Sorry" are important and eye-opening. Katha Pollitt says that the stories are full of "real life" and they are, indeed, expressive of the reality of life for many in our damaged and damaging culture.

Virtually all of the women who have posted stories there were already in very bad life situations by the time they experienced an abortion.

Some random examples:

"I was unemployed, uninsured, penniless, living with a good-for-nothing slacker, and still being actively stalked by my estranged husband."

"He quit his job as soon as he realized I was pregnant to deny me any support."

"[My boyfriend's children] would have been better off never being born. I lived with him and his junior delinquents for 4 years. I was so stupid, it took me that long to realize that I was nothing more than a maid, babysitter, sex partner and extra paycheck to this self-absorbed pothead."

There's a lot of anger here, and it is so legitimate. Often women in situations like these (regardless of whether an unwanted pregnancy and abortion happen) have also experienced earlier abuse, perhaps in childhood. That is to say, women raised in homes where they are honored and valued usually do not find themselves in relationships with abandoning, abusive, neglectful men.

Consider Katha Pollitt's attack on women who "blame their abortion for whatever's gone wrong in their lives" in light of the above. It can take a lot of work for an individual to sort out the areas in our lives that need to be looked at, grieved, and healed. One tremendous benefit of looking at and healing from the particular wound of abortion is that by freeing ourselves from this particular emotional morass we are able to confront other, earlier, areas of emotional damage. In other words, we are able to stop thinking "If I feel crummy, it must be that abortion" and are instead able to say "I've really healed a lot around my abortion and if I feel crummy, maybe it's time to look at these other areas in my life."

Quite a few of the people who signed the Guestbook at the "I'm Not Sorry" website report that they were referred to it by the Child Free section of the Living Journal website which is a community of people who write things like:

"The one good thing about working in a porn shop (okay, there's a few, but for the purposes of this anecdote, there is only one) kids" and

"I say we institute mandatory tubal ligation for all girls from the moment they start menstruating until at least age 25."

Having heard about "I'm Not Sorry" from that area of the 'net, many of the stories at "I'm Not Sorry" are tinged with an anti-child flavor that many people will not be able to relate to. One of the more moderate examples says:

"I am a high honors student in college, married to that wonderful man who drove me to the clinic on that day, and lead a wonderful childfree, kitten and ferret-filled life--none of which would be possible if I had had a kid."

My experience in post-abortion healing is that many men and women report that the reality of abortion as a child-loss experience did not hit home for them until they did have other, treasured, children.

Another trend in the stories at "I'm Not Sorry" and also in other abortion-positive stories that you can find on the NARAL Pro-Choice America website are stories from people who after their abortion became fully immersed in abortion-positive activism. One such story reads:

"What a relief to find this site, after all the endless antiabortion blather. I've never regretted my abortion, nor have any of the women I know who've had abortions. I work at an abortion clinic and know well that, while feelings after abortion run the gamut from joy to despair, the positive emotions are much more common."

This sounds angry--and judgmental--toward those women, like me, who sincerely regret our abortions and have identified this as an area of struggle in our lives.

I also note the discrepancy in her account, where she says on the one hand that some women experience despair after abortion and on the other hand, that she knows no one who has ever regretted an abortion. I wonder, as an abortion clinic worker who has a lot invested emotionally in the idea that abortion is something we don't regret, how she responds to those in despair at her clinic.

I know two women who told me that even at the clinic, in the recovery room, they sat and screamed, "I want my baby back." "Give me my baby back." I wonder how this woman would have responded to them.

[Update: I sent the above blog to Ms. Pollitt and look forward to her response.]

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Wednesday, February 26, 2003

My tuned-in readers have written to ask, "What's going on with the National Cancer Institute meeting on the link between abortion and breast cancer?"

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a meeting this week, from Monday, February 24 through today at noon. As they say in this statement which was just issued,

"This scientific Workshop was held to present and review the information available on the risk of breast cancer associated with pregnancy. The Workshop brought together a cross-section of experts to discuss the scientific data available regarding the reproductive events in a woman's life that may impact her subsequent risk of breast cancer. These top experts - epidemiologists, clinicians, laboratory scientists, as well as breast cancer advocates - came together to review the latest scientific data, to define what is known, to identify gaps in our knowledge, and to discuss what areas warrant further study."

The statement contains no information of any substance, except the news that the final report will be issued on March 3, 2003.

Go here for a list of participants in the meeting.

For a discussion of the medical and scientific issues from the perspective of a group that believes that induced abortion does increase the risk of breast cancer, go to this webpage, the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer. This group also has a perma-link on my blog, over on the left.

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Very big legal news today. The
U.S. Supreme Court
by a vote of 8-0 has overturned the Seventh Circuit on appeal in the combined cases of Scheidler v NOW (National Organization of Women) and Operation Rescue v NOW.

The court's decision overturns a $250,000 damages award that the National Organization for Women and two abortion clinics had won from an Illinois federal jury, as well as a nationwide ban imposed on the protests by a federal judge.

In a Washington Post story, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice says, "The decision removes a cloud that has been hanging over the pro-life movement for 15 years. The ruling clearly shuts the door on using RICO against the pro-life movement."

NOW originally filed RICO-based complaints against Scheidler and Operation Rescue to combat their aggressive clinic-blockading efforts that started in the mid to late 80s. For those who are too young to remember, Operation Rescue staged events where hundreds of pro-life activists would join together in human chains in front of abortion clinics so that, in some cases, clinics were unable to open.

Whether these events have become legal as a result of the Supreme Court ruling is doubtful, however, since Congress passed a separate law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) in 1994. FACE makes aggressive clinic blockades a federal offense.

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Another permanent link just went up to "The Mother", a poem by Harlem Renaissance poet Gwendolyn Brooks.

Some lines from the poem:

"Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried."

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Today I'll be adding some permanent links over on the left to stories and poems about abortion, starting with this link to Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants".

Some dialogue from that story:

"You've got to realize," he said, "that I don't want you to do it if you don't want to. I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you."

"Doesn't it mean anything to you? We could get along."

"Of course it does. But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want any one else. And I know it's perfectly simple."

"Yes, you know it's perfectly simple."

"It's all right for you to say that, but I do know it."

"Would you do something for me now?"

"I'd do anything for you."

"Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?"

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Tuesday, February 25, 2003

"It is only the women whose eyes have been washed clean with tears who get the broad vision that makes them little sisters to all the world."­­--Dorothy Dix

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In a previous entry, I complained that the official associations of Catholic/Christian mental health professionals haven't addressed the emotional aftermath of abortion in their conferences and journals. There are several such organizations.

Controversy has ensued.

Before getting to the mail, let's look at two bright spots.

Bright spot #1. Lumina is sponsoring a seminar for mental health professionals on March 21, 2003 in the New York area on the subject of post abortion trauma, with speakers David Reardon of The Elliot Institute and Theresa Burke, PhD, author of the 2002 book, "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion". Burke is a psychotherapist and the founder of Rachel's Vineyard. You can read more about the conference at the Catholic Therapists webpage. That page also identifies some practicing Catholic therapists who are familiar with post-abortion recovery.

Lumina is a post-abortion referral service. Their conference is a Good Thing! But it is not the same as an official Christian mental health organization offering general training in the emotional aftermath of abortion to all its members.

Bright Spot #2. ADEC, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, is a national, secular organization for grief counselors. Their 2003 Conference, which takes place March 19-23 in Cincinnati, includes a presentation on Post-Abortion Trauma and Unresolved Grief by Celia Ryan. Celia Ryan is a Christian mental health professional and grief counselor who facilitates the Rachel's Vineyard retreats in Washington, DC.

Now, on to the mailbag.

Thumb up from an official of one of the Christian mental health associations:

"I am in your corner."

Thumb sideways from someone with the (Catholic) Institute for Psychological Studies:

"Just because IPS does not have anything specific on our website addressing the issue of post-abortion stress or depression does NOT mean we are unaware of it or discount it."

That's good to know. I invite them to give this work a higher priority.

Thumb down from an official of one of the associations:

"You are really a one-issue writer at the moment. You are being pretty hard on a massive group of Christian therapists. While I sympathize that perhaps we Christian therapists don't have web links that satisfy you, there are a myriad of issues to which we attend daily, and post abortion grief and guilt is just one. How would you know [that the professional associations of Christian mental health providers have not addressed the emotional aftermath of abortion in their journals or conferences]? On what basis do you make such assertions, since you give no supporting data? I suppose you have poked around a bit and when you found nothing, you thought it would be a good thing to sound off to your audience about the inept Christian therapists. Such shabby treatment of folks who are on your side, is inexcusable."

From a Christian counseling journal editor in the same organization:

"I cannot think of any articles that deal specifically with post-abortion
distress or counseling."

Thumb up from another board representative of the same organization:

"What a grand website. Like war and executions, our civilization as a whole been or become desensitized to the issue of abortion and post-abortion grief...[private, harrowing story about a post-abortive client he saw recently]...Grieving has no boundaries. And however we, as a culture, much more the Catholic/Christian community, refuse to acknowledge the wound that remains the only (however muffled) sign that
a baby was once upon a time, then we become that much more reduced to complex machine-like consciousness. Carry on with your work."


"You are correct about the mental health field. I too am post-abortive and suffered for a great many years before I finally found someone who had any knowledge and was able to address my pain. My background is in addictions. I worked as a counselor and would always be horrified because so many of our clients had abortions in their past and no one would address this, so, they came in and out of treatment. I am convinced that a great many women would not be taking meds or would be addicted if someone had addressed this pain. The good news is, there is no way it can be ignored anymore because too many women are speaking out. I have also been speaking to therapists and am finding a willingness and desire to aquire the knowledge, so that is a good step."

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As a multi-purpose validator of feelings, today I will validate the feelings of introverts.

"Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts."

That's what Jonathan Rauch says in "Caring for Your Introvert" in the March Atlantic Monthly.


"How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Third, don't say anything else, either."

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In the issue just out of Marian Magazine, titled bodybuilder Vaughan Eckenrode writes about pressuring his girlfriend into an abortion.

"Once inside the clinic, thinking she was in good hands with all the professional-looking people in white coats, I found myself a seat and waited. Meanwhile, she filled out the papers and then sat next to me and also waited. We received no counseling, advice, or suggestion about the gravity of our decision. When they called her name after many hours, she looked at me and said words that I will never forget: "I don't want to do this."

I turned to her and said, "We've already talked about it. You've got to do this. Go!" I was relieved, thinking this would soon be over."

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Mailbag later today, with big thumbs up and big thumbs down for my post on professional associations of Christian/Catholic therapists.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down an appeal by abortion providers over a requirement in Indiana that women get in-person counseling before they have an abortion. The state legislature passed the law eight years ago. The law requires abortion providers to tell women about medical risks and alternatives to abortion at least 18 hours before the procedure.

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Monday, February 24, 2003

A pregnant woman throws acid on her lover in an abortion clinic in southern China when he tries to force her to get rid of their baby.

It's important to pay attention to what this means about the woman's assessment of the clinic, which is that she couldn't turn to them for protection, or even expect them to screen for whether pressure was being applied.

American clinics are all too similar to this clinic in southern China. They make no serious effort to screen for those women who are having pressure put on them to abort.

Shouldn't abortion clinics provide screening and counseling so that they can successfully determine whether a woman is under duress? In the course of a given month in a standard abortion facility, how many women walk back out of the door, baby intact, after the clinic successfully determined that the woman herself did not wish the abortion?

I'd like to see both federal and state governments fund research into this.

I'm not sure how many women are sent home by abortion a guess, I'd say less than 1%. If 20-30% later report that they were experiencing pressure to abort, which the clinic entirely failed to notice, there's something very wrong here.

Here's one quick and easy screening tool. If you ask the young woman who that older lady is with her, who just paid for the abortion, and the young lady says, "That's my boyfriend's mother", you've got a problem.

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Ashli at The S.I.C.L.E. Cell has new posts and is always worth reading.

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I'm so glad to welcome readers from two of my favorite bloggers, Kevin Miller and Mark Shea.

Maybe not the best day to experiment with my template, but I'm going to anyway.

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Sunday, February 23, 2003

Sad article in Saturday's Washington Post about the high rate of infertility in Russia:

"About 5 million -- or 13 percent -- of Russian married couples are infertile, and doctors report that diagnoses of infertility are on the rise. In nearly three out of four cases, infertility is attributed to the woman, typically because of complications from one or more abortions, according to Serov and other health experts."

In this lengthy article, no doctors are quoted who dispute the idea that "one or more abortions" can lead to infertility. No pro-choice activists are quoted claiming that this is a myth propounded by those bad anti-choice activists.

I went to the website of the National Abortion Federation which calls itself The Voice of Abortion Providers. I typed in "infertility" in their search engine and got back, "Sorry, no matches were found."

I went to Harvard's Global Reproductive Health Forum which has one link on this, to a website sponsored by the Religious Tolerance foundation. This page, last updated on October 10, 2002, concludes that "infertility arising from an abortion is a hoax, like the cancer and post abortion syndrome scares."

The Washington Post article features a young woman who had one abortion and now appears to be infertile:

"Now 30, she has all but given up her hopes of having a baby. "It is so terrible to wait every month and be disappointed," she said over a Greek salad in a downtown restaurant. "I was too young. I did not realize how big a problem an abortion could be."

Update A: The rate of abortion is much higher in Russia than in the United States. A Russian woman is much more likely to be multiply post-abortive than is an American woman. How would the abortion/infertility connection that we see in Russia carry over to what we might say about the infertility risk in general?

My best guess is that if multiply post-abortive women have a significantly higher infertility problem than do women who have never experienced an abortion, it is most likely the case that one (safe, legal, first trimester) abortion increases your odds of infertility by a small percentage. Let's say 2%. A second abortion would perhaps increase it by 4-5%, and a third, fourth, etc. abortion would increase your risk of infertility by perhaps 20-30%.

Pro-life groups might consider pushing for legislation to study this link, and they might also consider pushing for informed consent legislation that requires abortion doctors to provide information about this risk.

Update B: See lively discussion about this in a comment box on Mark Shea's blog.

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Five Rachel's Vineyard retreats conclude today and surely other post-abortion recovery programs -- that don't conveniently post their schedules on the web -- have recently concluded as well. A former Rachel's Vineyard participant wrote:

"I have been through 14 years of therapy and anti-depressants. I've confessed my abortion a hundred times. Just when I thought I could take the pain no longer, I found Rachel's Vineyard. This weekend literally saved my life."

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