an After abortion

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Monday, September 19, 2005

On Saturday, the New York Times published an article, Under din of abortion debate, an experience shared quietly by reporter John Leland.

Leland travelled to an abortion clinic in Arkansas. He interviewed clinic staff and women who were there to get abortions.

Leland writes little vignettes from the abortion clinic and little snatches of conversation. The women who are there at the clinic that day to get abortions sound confused, odd and emotionally numb. This is very familiar to those of us who work in post-abortion counseling, because when women come to us years later, we hear them repeat exactly the kinds of things that John Leland captures in his article.

What is said at the clinic and the emotions experienced that day are just one snapshot. I'm glad that Leland wrote a piece about the real women who get abortions, but I'm sorry that he writes as if the snapshot of emotions expressed that day tells the whole story. That is extremely far from the truth. Life after abortion can't be captured in a Polaroid.

One blogger (I'm not linking because of graphic photos of aborted babies) is very angry at the women and the reasons they give for choosing abortion. Like John Leland, I think he assumes that the reasons given at the clinic that day are all these women will ever think or feel about what brought them there.

The charge was also made by this blogger that John Leland was trying to write a piece about abortion choices that was sympathetic to the women involved, but failed...that the women actually come across as unsympathetic women who deserve judgment.

I agree that the women come across badly (although I chalk this up to the fact that they are in a state of profound emotional shock), but I don't agree that Leland tried, but failed, to make them appear sympathetic. What I think comes through in the article is a tone of cold detachment toward these women, and that Leland actually is exposing in that tone that on some level, he felt cold and uncomfortable about these women.

In addition to the many quotes from women getting abortions, two paragraphs stood out for me:

"My oldest son won't let me see my grandchildren," said Sherry Steele, 57, a surgical assistant who started working at the clinic after her daughter had two abortions. The New York Times agreed to anonymity to encourage candor and to get a representative sample of women. (Those who volunteer their full names are by nature an unrepresentative minority.)
Interesting--does this mean that women who are part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign are also unrepresentative? I believe we are--the women who regret their abortions but aren't in a place to address this in public are by and large in a state of considerably rawer emotion, shame, and unhealed trauma than those who are speaking out without the benefit of anonymity.

At the Little Rock clinic, few patients chose the pills rather than surgery. "With medical termination, the discomfort is significant because they have to go through mini-labor," Dr. Tvedten said. "There's a lot of hard cramps and usually significant bleeding. It's cheaper, safer and less painful to have a surgical termination."
Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but this is the first time I can recall someone in the abortion rights/abortion provision movement speaking with such a marked lack of enthusiasm for chemical abortions.

Some other bloggers comment on the New York Times article here and here.

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