an After abortion

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

A breeze is blowing at the Washington Post.

On Tuesday, there was The Abortion Debate No One Wants to Have. Subtitle: "Prenatal testing is making your right to abort a disabled child more like 'your duty' to abort a disabled child."

This morning, Washington Post op-ed columnist Richard Cohen says Support Choice, Not Roe.

A very long time ago, I had a friend who had a girlfriend who became pregnant and did not want the child. By then my friend had disappeared and the young woman was alone -- she was in fact from Germany -- and asked me to arrange an abortion for her. With little thought, I did so. She went home to Germany and I never saw her again.

I would do things a bit differently now. I would give the matter much more thought. I no longer see abortion as directly related to sexual freedom or feminism, and I no longer see it strictly as a matter of personal privacy, either. It entails questions about life -- maybe more so at the end of the process than at the beginning, but life nonetheless.

This is not a fashionable view in some circles, but it is one that usually gets grudging acceptance when I mention it. I know of no one who has flipped on the abortion issue, but I do know of plenty of people who no longer think of it as a minor procedure that only prudes and right-wingers oppose. The antiabortion movement has made headway.
It's a startling admission to have Richard Cohen say that "the antiabortion movement has made headway" when it is clear that he is one of the people on whose thinking or heart the antiabortion movement has made a difference.

I wonder what, exactly, has changed in his thinking? He doesn't say. However, the fact that he starts out with an anecdote about a girl he arranged an abortion for makes me curious.

I know a lot of people who arranged abortions, or took friends or siblings to the clinic. Sometimes it is clear as I hear them speak that what bothers them about this in retrospect is the possibility that they have blood on their hands.

Other times it is clear that what bothers them is the possibility that the woman they thought they were helping was actually harmed. Their original vision of themselves as people who heroically intervened to ... what? make a woman's life safe for sexual freedom?...gradually changes over the years and they start to wonder whether, in fact, they helped that woman at all. They wonder if she is one of the women who lives, every day, with emotional struggle, pain and regret because of that abortion.

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