an After abortion

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Thursday, April 22, 2004

As promised, here are some highlights from "The Secret History," an article published in the May 2004 (now on your newstand) edition of Elle.

Before I begin, it's interesting that fashion magazines Elle, Vogue and Glamour have all published articles in the last few months painting an ambivalent picture about abortion, with particular focus on the negative emotional aftermath.

This is a new development in women's magazines.

"The Secret History" is by Susanna Sonnenberg, and starts on page 162.

Susanna and her husband chose an abortion for the first pregnancy that occured in their marriage. Susanna was then, and still is, pro-choice.

Some excerpts from the article:

"The pregnancy hurried us forward, beating to its own clock and the clinic's appointment schedule. We didn't have the luxury of time to contemplate all the implications with the solemnity the subject deserved. Andrew's need to not have a child became palpably valid. I didn't want to push him into a fatherhood he didn't want, couldn't handle. We agreed to have the abortion. Andrew seemed relieved. For a moment I liked myself as this new, mature woman who could also consider someone else's needs. How noble I was, how wifely!"

"My chart at Planned Parenthood would reflect only the quick, routine surgery the abortion was, with the brief note that 'pt. appears teary.'...The chart would say nothing about the lanky, stooped doctor who never spoke to me, how he entered the room with a quick step and pushed in the speculum without a word....That evening, Andrew's soft entreaties made me hate him. He sat down on the side of our bed and looked at me, waiting to hear what it had felt like. You can't know, I thought."

"Five months later, on a slow, summery drive through Yellowstone, my husband announced that he was ready....Andrew was touching my hand. 'If you get pregnant right away, when will we have the baby?' he asked. Wait: If he could want this now, how could he not have wanted it then? Why did he put me through this when without the abortion, we would be just eight weeks away from that baby's due date. He could only answer that he hadn't been ready until he was ready."

"Half a year after the surgery, I heard that the town's other abortion clinic was at last reopening after having been destroyed by arson two years earlier, and I applied for a job. I needed to get close to abortion, to recover something for myself and to accompany others through loneliness. I wanted to hear them say, 'I'm ready to do this,' because I had not been ready."

I'm glad that this woman has the courage to express these ambivalent feelings. I do recommend that people read her entire article which unfortunately is not available online.

I was certainly struck, as I'm sure many of my readers will be too, by how this abortion was not something she particularly wanted.

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