an After abortion

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Monday, May 2, 2005

Here's an impassioned post from a pro-choice blogger on Why should abortion be rare?

There are pro-choice folks who say "but I would never have an abortion" and who generally fit into the "it should be legal but rare" category. And then there are pro-choice people, like this blogger, who disdain that for the various reasons she gives in her post. In some ways, at a gut level, I am more in sympathy with her than I am with "it should be legal but rare" or "it should be legal but I'd never do that" people.

If there is something wrong with abortion...the kind of wrongness that would lead us to think it should be rare, or that we ourselves would never do something so morally repugnant...what exactly is wrong with it? It's hard to say what's wrong with abortion unless the sense of wrongness has something to do with the destruction of an innocent life. And if that's what is happening in an abortion, then why should it be legal?

But I digress. This blogger (the Bionic Octopus) also suggests that if women feel regrets or trauma after an abortion, that may not be because of their authentic reaction to the abortion. It may be because of the social stigma:

While certainly for some (though certainly not all) women, having an abortion is indeed traumatic, isn't it likely that at least some of that trauma is rooted in society's insistence that abortion is in fact a traumatic event? If we are told often enough that we should be upset about something, it's very hard not to absorb that message to some degree and get upset. While absolutely remaining sensitive and supportive to women who do experience trauma from abortions, I think we owe it to women in general not to indoctrinate them preemptively with the notion that they will or should do so.While certainly for some (though certainly not all) women, having an abortion is indeed traumatic, isn't it likely that at least some of that trauma is rooted in society's insistence that abortion is in fact a traumatic event? If we are told often enough that we should be upset about something, it's very hard not to absorb that message to some degree and get upset. While absolutely remaining sensitive and supportive to women who do experience trauma from abortions, I think we owe it to women in general not to indoctrinate them preemptively with the notion that they will or should do so.
I wrote about this general point some time ago.

Some points that bear repeating:

As far as I know, slave-owners in the south did not experience emotional turmoil around their slave-owning behavior, even though they were well aware that many people were morally revolted by slavery. This suggests that the fact that a person knows that others are morally revolted does not, in and of itself, lead to anguish about one's conduct. Or, consider people who eat meat. There is no evidence that they experience anguish around this practice, even though they know of vegans who would want them to experience anguish.

However, we do sometimes feel uncomfortable when people claim that something we have done is bad. If Doug is involved in a secret adulterous affair, he might temporarily feel his shoes pinch if Karen two cubicles over expressed anti-adultery opinions, painting a picture of the pain she felt when she discovered her husband in an affair--although, if Doug did feel bad for a moment, would it be because he just found out that Karen would judge him if she knew or would it be because some part of Doug agrees with Karen?
Also:

The specific kinds of experiences and emotions reported by women who experience post-abortion distress are not the type of feeling you have when you learn that someone else disapproves of your conduct, or would disapprove, if they knew.

Flashbacks, chronic depression, triggers, nightmares, numbness, replacement babies, self-loathing, suicidality, hatred of the father, and more are quite different from the emotions we experience when we know that others socially disapprove of us.
As I read what Bionic Octopus had to say, I also thought of how odd it is to say that women are morally and emotionally strong enough and responsible enough to trust with the choice of whether to terminate a developing baby, but on the other hand, they are so vulnerable to psychological suggestion that they can't help but be traumatized by an abortion because society says they will be.

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