Friday, October 8, 2010

40 Days, and the illusion of choice

I saw this website this morning via one of my Facebook friends. It's an interesting new look at abortion, heavily backed up with statistics and studies and footnotes to research.

And what that research shows is that, quite a lot of the time, abortion isn't a "woman's choice" at all.

It's a "choice" she makes when she's threatened by her husband or partner. It's a "choice" she makes under duress, from the child's father or her parents or other controlling voices in her life. It's a "choice" she makes when she's given misinformation and total lies about the baby's gestational development. It's a "choice" she makes under threat of losing her job or her place to live.

Take a look at this example from the website's available ad materials (click on the image to see it larger):

Did you know that women are six times more likely to commit suicide in the year following an abortion? That's not a statistic we hear much about, is it?

The volunteers at the 40 Days for Life events are probably not that surprised by that statistic. They've encountered women in tears, women looking to be forgiven, women who years after an abortion still mourn on the anniversary of their child's death--or on the date he or she would have been born--each year.

Some of those women are praying beside them. Some are even brave enough to put the message that they regret their abortions out there to help the women suffering the terrible, unvoiced pain of having participated in the killing of their own unborn child.

Because, of course, the illusion of "choice" means that every woman has to pretend, to herself and everyone else, that the abortion was her idea, that she made "her choice" calmly and rationally and without any pressure from a boyfriend threatening abandonment or parents threatening to throw her out; that she decided only after weighing all the facts, viewing relevant images of embryonic or fetal development, seeking guidance from her spiritual support network whatever that might be, etc. She then has to pretend that of course the abortion was the only thing to be done, and really it ought to be something she should celebrate for the freedom it gave her, and the idea that she should suffer in any way from it is just silly, and that odd flutter in her chest the day she heard that newborn fussing in the grocery store is just nothing, and the fact that every time she uses the vacuum she has to go vomit is because of her dreadful allergies, and the fact that she broke up with her boyfriend anyway has nothing to do with the abortion--or the fact that lately she hates her parents with a fierce fiery rage and took delight in spoiling their plans for a "family Christmas" at the last minute by announcing that she had to work is just proof that she's finally growing up...

...and the fact that it was a hell of a lot easier to volunteer to work on Christmas than to deal with seeing her cousin's baby all decked out in "Baby's First Christmas!" gear has nothing to do with the abortion, either...

The abortion industry has to keep maintaining its illusion of "Over 52 Million Happy Customers!" in order to keep women streaming through their chop-shop doors. "Over 52 Million Killed!" would be a more accurate slogan, if we add the suicide deaths of post-abortive women to the number of babies who have lost their lives in those places since 1973 (not to mention the number of women who have died from "safe, legal" abortion, which is a topic for another time). And, tragically, the women already victimized by abortion, the ones already suffering the pain and anguish that it is highly politically incorrect for them to suffer, are victimized again by society's demand to them to keep up the pretense.


Anonymous said...

Heartbreaking. What else is there to say?

Barbara C. said...

Feminists for Life talk about this a lot in their literature...that's why they target college campuses for their work since most college students who find themselves pregnant feel like their only choices are abortion or drop out of school.

I've had people say, "Well, no one can force a woman to get an abortion. It's her choice." But so many women are so scared and feel so much pressure (real or imagined) during a time when they're being overwhelmed by the physical changes going in their bodies. Is that really a way to make an informed choice?

Rebecca in CA said...

The very fact that it is legal seems to me like a horrible occasion of pressure. If it's legal, then it must be a perfectly okay thing to do, and if it's a perfectly okay thing to do, then you're practically obligated to think of it as an option, and once you go there, you might be being selfish or unreasonable to want to keep the baby. I can see the same sort of thing coming up the pike with euthanasia...once it becomes perfectly okay to ask your doctor to kill you as soon as you have become useless to society, then folks are going to feel the pressure of not wanting to be a burden, etc. etc...they're going to feel the obligation to deliberate about it.

priest's wife said...

Another amazing post!

Rebecca in CA- I SO agree with you

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Rebecca, I also agree with you, but I look to another solution. We need to recognize that "It's legal" is no reason at all to do anything. That does require a huge sea change in attitude.

There were sound arguments for Prohibition of alcohol. But the experiment was a legal and moral disaster. Still, just because its legal doesn't mean I have to drink alcoholic beverages, and I don't. (I may have to rethink that, given the evidence that those who don't drink have shorter life expectancies).

I favor decriminalization of most currently banned drugs. That means, you won't go to prison for having or taking them. It means the price will fall to actual cost of production, cutting off the cash to finance the arsenals of drug gangs. But, that does not mean that its OK to indulge, or that it won't hurt you to shoot up heroin.

The illegality can be a useful tool against peer pressure. The best argument for drug testing of high school athletes is that it give unwilling individuals a basis to resist peer pressure: "Oh know, I couldn't risk it, I want to go out for the team next month." But that can be done even if there are no criminal penalties.

Male pressure (or even maternal pressure, from the pregnant woman's mother) can be a serious infringement on a woman's "free choice." I don't doubt the many stories I've read about that. But "we don't want some women to be intimidated" does not add up to "therefore let's intimidate ALL women into not having one." Intimidating males and relatives will find ways to be intimidating. Men beat up pregnant women to destroy a fetus when abortion was illegal, precisely because abortion was not an option.

In extremis, perhaps we need neutral shelters where women can find safe haven to stop and think about what they really want to do. It wouldn't be much different than a battered women's shelter.

Rebecca in CA said...

Siarlys I'm not saying that the pressure of the legality of it is *the* reason to outlaw abortion. Abortion is wrong because it's the murder of an unborn child. But nevertheless, legalizing it, normalizing it, is crazymaking for women. It is a little like someone who is verbally/emotionally abused and is continually told that what was said and what happened was really no big deal. They shouldn't be upset; they're too sensitive, etc. To legalize abortion and act as though the *normal* thing to do when you get pregnant in less than ideal circumstances is to deliberate about whether to terminate the child, makes a woman, who naturally would revolt at such an idea, feel as though she is crazy. She's told by her school counselor, etc., that she now needs to "make a decision", she needs to consider her future, the difficulties involved, etc...whereas naturally, rightly, the process of deliberation needs to involve people coming to her assistance with compassion and material assistance, and truly helping her and her child.
Now, if the verbal and emotional abuse is not actually abuse but is really just a way of choosing words, a "style" of acting, then yeah, it's better to tell the "victim" that she's maybe a little oversensitive. If abortion is really just a "choice" about something which sort of looks human but isn't really because you can't call it cute yet--just a "product of conception"--then yeah, this should all be presented as a "choice to make". Women who are horrified at terminating the life within them, who call that bump in their tummy "my baby" etc., really are being just too sensitive and need to have their thoughts and feelings re-programmed.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Rebecca, now you are reminding me of a conversation in a recent episode of "Gray's Anatomy" in which a bunch of sexually sophisticated doctors were exchanging stories about their "first time" and teasing a young female surgeon "You're a virgin." She was. I don't have to favor criminal penalties for fornication to believe that, yes, there are sound reasons to wait until marriage. One reason I recently thought should be added to the list is, if you're married, you don't have to worry about whether "this time" is "good," it is one of many things you are committed to spending your life together working out. Morality, and even pragmatism, can dictate a choice that the law does not require.

Guidance counsellors no doubt put pressure on many women to "make a choice" when a good number of those women wouldn't even have considered abortion. That's wrong. They might at least begin with "I don't know whether you are committed to having this baby, or whether you are considering not doing so. I can help you either way."

I won't take up paragraphs recounting Greg Boyd's account of a pro-choice voter named Dorothy assisting her best friend's unmarried pregnant daughter by providing the space and support for HER to make up her mind -- she chose to have the baby. But as Boyd observed "Dorothy is more pro-life than I am."

Rebecca in CA said...

Siarlys it all boils down to whether abortion is or is not in itself an act of violence against child and mother which is intrinsically injurious. If it is injurious, then to suggest that someone needs "room" to "make a decision" or to ask them if they're "committed" to keeping the baby is crazy-making. Any confused teen who hasn't experienced feelings of committment is going to tend to be led to think that she wasn't meant to have this child--because it is being seriously suggested to her! Yes, similar to teens constantly being told that virginity is one among many choices, and if they happen to be "committed" to virginity until marriage, well then great for them, but if they're not, here is a condom. But the consequences are deeper here. What I am arguing is that if abortion is wrong and hurtful both to child and mother, then legalizing it is confusing and misguiding. What if it became legal for women to get rid of their babies in the postpartum period? What if counselors were called in when they felt terribly depressed, and the counselors said, "I'm not sure if you're committed to keeping this baby, but whether you keep it, or if you may not be feeling up to taking on motherhood just yet, I'll be here...I know some expert medical men who can have the child exposed on a hillside, if you need me to contact them." It is just *not an option* to kill an infant, so it would be ridiculous and damaging to present it as a viable option. Perhaps you don't see many women taking up the exposure option even if it were legal, but would you say the same about end of life issues? About counselors telling old people that if they feel their life is burdensome to themselves or others around them, they know people who can put them to sleep without pain?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

If a woman who has given birth does not want her baby, any willing adult could take that baby and raise it.

If a woman truly wants to abort her pregnancy, no other human being can carry it for her, although I have heard from pro-life men who have said that if they could, they would accept that baby into their own abdomen.

As long as a coercive law is telling the pregnant woman "WE decree that YOU must carry this pregnancy to term," your argument doesn't move me.

Once the baby is born, there is no excuse for destroying it -- there are safe haven laws in most states. She can leave it at the nearest hospital or police station, no questions asked.

I do wonder, though, every time I read the cumulative statistics about how many abortions are performed every year... are there really enough pro-life people willing and able to adopt to have found placements for all of them? I sort of doubt it.

Rebecca in CA said...'re saying abortion should be legal because the baby until viability happens to be completely dependent upon one other person? If a woman were stuck on a desert island with an infant who depends on her for nutrition, should she have the right to abandon the baby?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

In extremis, a woman may do many things she would not do otherwise. There was a case some years ago of a plane that crashed in the Andes. In order to survive, the passengers who lived were reduced to eating the passengers who had died in the crash. They did not, noted, kill anyone for the purpose of eating them. If a woman were stuck on a desert island, ran out of food, and stopped caring for the baby, or rationed the limited food supply for herself, letting the baby starve, or killed the baby to spare it slowly starving to death, I suspect she would get off for temporary insanity or unavoidable necessity. But in most circumstances, those defences would not apply.

Accordingly, I don't see the analogy to to what a woman should be required to do with what is growing INSIDE her own body, and CANNOT be turned over to anyone else. I am saying that so long as what is growing inside her IS growing INSIDE her, that is a very powerful argument for society to keep our collective hands off of her decision. On the other hand, if she waits seven or eight months, too bad lady, what's growing inside you is far too developed to decide NOW what you easily could have decided five months ago, in which case, nothing would have been growing inside you all this time.

Metabolic independence and mentation are indeed the standards I would apply. Together they provide a sound basis for drawing a line.