an After abortion

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Friday, January 21, 2005

In an hour or two, I'm hopping on a bus to head to Washington, DC so I can be Silent No More. At our state event, it was so heart-wrenching to listen to women breaking their silence for the first time. It isn't easy, but it's the right thing to do.

Our movement has very mixed views about breaking one's silence. People in post-abortion ministry, rightly, refrain from suggesting to a person that she speak out about her experience. One reason for that is the desire to avoid having an agenda other than her recovery. Another reason is that speaking out can be very emotionally tumultuous.

I'd like to see more of a recognition that speaking out can be an important part of recovery. This is especially the case where the abortion occurred under conditions of enforced silence--such as the parents ordering their teenage daughter NEVER to tell anyone, or a man in a position of authority (a boss, pastor, much older boyfriend) threatening the woman he impregnated with reprisals if she ever tells anyone.

Another reason it can be important to speak out comes from a sense that it's the right thing to do. There's a social expectation or hope that victims of domestic violence will cooperate with prosecutors and that rape victims will be willing to go into court to go over every detail of what happened to them. This undoubtedly stirs up great turmoil in the rape victim, but she is buoyed in doing this by people around who encourage her in the conviction that it's the right thing to do.

Why is it the right thing to do, in her case? Because if it puts her perpetrator behind bars, it protects other women from what happened to her.

In the case of abortion, it's the right thing to do because it helps our society understand that abortion hurts women, or at least that abortion hurts some women.

How will parents who would otherwise be inclined to insist on an abortion learn that this act might create profound emotional scars unless women who have experienced this speak out?

Why should abortion clinic workers and providers change their "pre-abortion counseling" practices to be much more scrupulous and respectful of the whole health of abortion-vulnerable women unless they really come to understand that abortion hurts, and doesn't help women? (Or some women.)

The fact that it may be very difficult to speak out has nothing to do with whether or not it's the right thing. Whether or not it's the right thing has to do with whether, by speaking out, we can help other women avoid what we have lived through. That's why we have a moral burden to speak out, even if it brings up a lot of emotional turmoil.

Most women who have been hurt by abortion understand this on some level. Most women who have been hurt by abortion also view themselves as someone who did the wrong thing because it was convenient in the short-term. When we offer such women blank and neutral platitudes about speaking out, such as "only after much careful discernment" and "only if it's right for you", are we doing them any favors? By offering guidelines that are based on a view about their short-term emotional comfort and not on a discussion of the moral rights or wrongs, aren't we saying, "Your short-term comfort is more important than doing the right thing?"

I'm not saying that I know what is right or wrong here. My claim, rather, is that when women want to discuss the idea of speaking out with us, our discussion should encourage them to focus on discerning moral duties and obligations, rather than on how difficult this might be.

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