Caring for Women.

So I was reading this RealChoice blog post about a woman who went into a CPC by mistake, was shown her sonogram, and now, years after her abortion, still gets upset thinking of the images from the sonogram.  The RealChoice author had some insightful commentary and I recommend you read the article all the way through.  (You can also read SPL’s insightful commentary about the same woman here.)

However, I am struck by the way the two sides of the abortion debate view their own approaches and their opponents’ approaches toward women.
Pro-life view of CPC workers (from the RealChoice blog post)

They treated the pregnant woman “like a human being, like somebody important, with relationships and a capacity to be a good mother.”  They were “kind, honest, forthright, and trying to treat her like a complete human being with real needs and capabilities.”

Pro-choice view of CPC workers (from this Abortioneers blog post):

 CPCs “basically lie to women and say whatever to convince visitors not to have an abortion. They’ll tell you that you’ll get breast cancer, that you’ll become infertile, that God will not forgive you, that you’ll spend an eternity burning in Hell – if you get this abortion.”

Pro-life view of abortion clinic workers (from the RealChoice blog post)

The abortion facilities “feed you comfortable lies until they have your money, and then lose all interest in you.”  At Planned Parenthood the pregnant woman could expect to be “patronized, processed, and lied to.”

Abortion clinic worker’s perspective on assisting women in obtaining abortions (from another Abortioneers blog post)

Don’t **** with her about her relationship or question if she’s sure she doesn’t want to try a new birth control method (because, this one failed. Right?). If she sighs deep, looks like she hasn’t slept, seems distant: just ****ing hold her hand. Show her kindness. Let her breathe.” (Emphasis in original.)

It’s clear to me that there are people on both sides of the debate who care a great deal about women even while they have very different ideas of how best to show that care.  And while in the abortion debate—and nearly every other political debate—it’s simpler to vilify your ideological opponents and keep things black and white, I’m not sure how much that reflects reality.  I think it’s important to understand what our opposition thinks if we are to effectively communicate.

Abortion after sonogram

Today’s post is a review of an article on Jezebel, in which a pro-choicer describes visiting a pregnancy help center, viewing her unborn baby on a sonogram, and then having an abortion. The author now rails against pregnancy centers.

What I see above all in this story is a deep-seated grief that has been transformed into misdirected anger as a psychological defense mechanism. I cannot emphasize enough that I do not intend to demonize this woman. We all experience misdirected anger at times. But I think it’s important for us to examine this closely, to try to understand the whirlwind of emotion, so that we can serve women in crisis pregnancies better.

The author was a 21-year-old pro-choicer who thought that she was only a couple weeks pregnant, and planned to take an abortion pill. But she learned from the pregnancy center that she was actually three and a half months along. They provided her with a sonogram, which confronted her with the humanity of her unborn baby:

Then she turned the monitor to me. I have so many little brothers and sisters. I was with my mother the first time she heard my younger siblings heartbeat. There was a heartbeat now, too.

. . .

I clutched my hand to my stomach and in the sonogram screen, an arm lifted. I took my arm away and the arm went back down. “Put your hand back up!” the older woman said. I did, and the tiny hand went up again. That’s the moment that I can’t get out of my head, to this day.

After speaking with a counselor, she was considering the possibility that she “could be a good mother.” But she was ambivalent, and didn’t make a follow-up appointment. She returned home, to a boyfriend who was eager to “take care of it.” He took the sonogram printout and hid it from her– but it was too late to undo her knowledge.

For me, the real anger didn’t come until later when I actually went through with the abortion. I’m not saying it’s ever easy for anyone, but all I could think about that day was the sonogram and that hand. There were tears streaming down my face when I was going under. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me, “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt,” and I remember thinking, That’s not what I’m crying about.

Of course, she was crying about the fact that her child– whose movements she watched, whose heartbeat she heard– was about to die.

But this self-insight is fleeting. She apparently thinks that if only she had been able to maintain her ignorance of human development, everything would have been fine. She blames the pregnancy center for allowing her to see the situation for what it really was. And now, she wants to impose her wished-for ignorance on other women by fighting sonogram laws.

Some things are just too much for the human heart to handle, and the knowledge that you’re responsible for the death of a real live human being is one of them. She initially felt that the pregnancy center volunteers were honest and kind. But she can no longer feel that way, not after making the decision she made. And so, she demonizes the pregnancy center movement in an effort to avoid her grief. It isn’t working, though: she says that “It’s taken me the two years since [the abortion] not to break down every time I think about it.”

This is the pain that thousands of women experience each year. This is why pro-lifers must be proactive in reaching out to women hurt by abortion, and it is why we must continue helping women choose life. Willful ignorance is not the answer.