Monday 16 February 2009

Pro-choice Post-abortion Counselling

Nothing makes me crazier than the preposterous claim from anti-feminists that feminists don't care about women. Forbye the facts that feminists pioneered voting rights, pay equity, quality childcare, abused women's shelters, rape crisis centres, etc., etc., you know, actual rights and services for women, these misogynist maroons not only make this claim but try to have it both ways. According to them, feminists are heartless, power-mad bitches who don't care about women, and/or we are whining, helpless victims.

The current fundy meme 'abortion hurts women' got a (demented) twist recently by Naomi Lakritz writing in the Calgary Herald. Not only do feminists not care about women who have had abortions, according to the title of this piece of dreck 'Women's real oppressors are those who say abortion doesn't hurt them'.

Natch, SHE parrots this idiocy.
There countless women who've been negatively affected by abortion. Feminists toss these women aside as nutjobs, and tell everyone to ignore them.

This is among the reasons why I say feminism is not about women. Feminism is about an ideology.

I've read numerous accounts of women who've had abortions-- even on pro-abortion websites.

And even on these websites, the women express regret and pain.

But the feminists brush this under the carpet.

Because it's an inconvenient truth. They never address the pain of abortion.

Well, you see, SHE is lying again.

It is true that the pro-choice movement was late to this party. Last summer, The American Prospect ran a piece on The Abortion Counselling Conundrum.
"I had a previous abortion at age 21, and it wasn't this hard. It didn't seem like a 'baby' to me at that age. But after raising two children I know now that I really did lose a living being inside me." – An anonymous participant in Emerge, a pro-choice support group for women who've had abortions

Those sentiments would raise the eyebrows of many a pro-choice activist. After all, the feminist movement is built upon the cornerstone of women controlling their reproductive destinies -- on the imperative of valuing women’s lives over the potential for life represented by a pregnancy. In the past, that often meant not talking at all about post-abortive women’s feelings about the fetus.

Well, that and the small matter of the stigma of abortion loudly and persistently upheld by the Religious Reich shouting 'baby killers' at workers and clients of abortion clinics.
But that is changing. The anti-abortion rights movement has become more sophisticated in recent years, co-opting themes of female empowerment to argue that women are abortion's central victims -- a line of reasoning that reached the Supreme Court in last year's Gonzales v. Carhart decision. In response, some reproductive health advocates have decided to deal head-on with the psychological aftermath of abortion. And though they're winning over skeptical elements of the pro-choice movement, these younger activists are having trouble convincing donors to fund their cause.

While most doctors agree so-called "Post Abortion Syndrome" is a myth, there is no doubt that dealing with an unplanned pregnancy can lead to anxiety and depression for some women. "It's about the relationship they were in when they got pregnant, or the fact they're currently financially dependent, or the relationship they had with their mother or father," says Nikki Madsen, associate director of Pro-Choice Resources, a Minneapolis-based non-profit that works to increase access to abortion and other reproductive health services. "An unplanned pregnancy elevates those things in our lives."

So in 2006, Pro-Choice Resources began hosting Emerge, a six-week secular support group for women who'd had abortions -- the first pro-choice after-abortion support group in the nation. And in San Francisco eight years ago, five women in their twenties and thirties who'd had abortions launched Exhale*, a national telephone hotline offering non-ideological counseling to post-abortive women. Both groups are treading uncharted ground; nationwide, almost every support group and talk line for post-abortive women is sponsored by religious groups that oppose abortion rights.

The article discusses aspects of the 'conundrum'. An interesting problem is terminology. Exhale calls itself 'pro-voice', not 'pro-choice'.
Exhale's reasoning, Baker explains, is that women from across the political spectrum choose abortion, and that carrying a highly politicized label such as "pro-choice" would turn off potential clients. Forty percent of women who have abortions identify as Christian or Catholic, for example, and may also consider themselves pro-life. Few women want to talk about politics when they call Exhale, Baker says; many just want to tell someone they've had an abortion, and talk through feelings ranging from relief to grief.

Then there's the funding problem. Foundations are concerned with the controversy and traditional pro-choice supporters are wary.

The piece winds up with two quotes that sum up the conundrum nicely:
"It has a lot to do with how younger women think and feel about abortion these days," says Arons of the Center for American Progress. "That it's important to have legal access, but it's not the same fight that it was for the Second Wave generation of feminists. Abortion doesn't symbolize women's liberation to the same extent as it did."

The Moriah Fund's Saperstein is even blunter. "If you've been in the women's rights arena for decades fighting the same battle over and over and over again, it's easy to feel defensive," she says. "But everyone knows abortion is a complicated experience."

Yes. Everyone does know that. And nobody knows better than those of us who have had abortions.

Here is a link to pro-choice post-abortion counselling programs and one to Project Voice, an oral history project.

Anybody know of Canadian initiatives in this area?

*I blogged about Exhale back at Birth Pangs in March 2007.


deBeauxOs said...

Blob Blogging Wingnut a.k.a. SAINTE-NITOUCHE is lying again?!?!?. What a surprise. Not.

the regina mom said...

Haven't been reading a whole lot online as of late, but I'm very glad I read this one. Thanks so much, fern hill, for this excellent piece!

Beijing York said...

Excellent entry fern. I think I'm probably in the wary camp.

I feel that with the continued empowerment of social conservatives, especially in the US, the pro-choice movement finds itself increasingly on quicksand, losing ground on all the gains made in past decades.

The post-abortion pain and regret angle, and even the more detached post-abortion care movement in public health, have my antennae twitching. I strongly believe it's still a matter between a woman and her physician, including dealing with any psychological or physical pain resulting from an abortion (similarly for post-pregnancy related issues).

But what also scares me is that it makes women victims. Choice is about empowerment, not victimization. It's bad enough that there is so much stigma surrounding abortion that many women feel shame or guilt. And I have no problem with women finding ways to deal with those feelings - we have been for three decades now. Still, in addition to improving access, there are other issues that we don't get much chance to discuss.

Some questions that we could be asking if the public discourse was focused on improvements rather than abolishment: Should physicians be better trained to deal with the psychological dimensions? You betcha. Should society treat abortion as a matter of fact procedure so as to reduce shame and guilt. For sure. Should we be more open about reproductive health period and better equip the next generation? Definitely.

fern hill said...

Yeah, Beijing, I'm wary too. Or maybe ambivalent.

For me, my two abortion were not complicated at all. They were welcome solutions and great relief. But knowing all the possible circumstances women find themselves in, I can't deny that for lots of women abortion is indeed a complicated experience.

So, of course they should be able to talk about it and talk it through with non-judgemental people. And if these groups can offer that, great.

But at the same time, I'm constantly mystified by all the psychobabble that ordinary people indulge -- and I think that's the right word -- in nowadays. All the 'healing' and 'closure' that people seem now to require.

Just now I had to hop up and turn off the radio as they were going on about a memorial service for the plane crash in Buffalo and a woman was prattling on about looking up at the sky and seeing airplanes and it would always be some kinda painful. I dunno.

Maybe we all want our 15 minutes and we'll do anything, including exploit ourselves, to get it.

I say again: I'm mystified.

But if we can steal some ground from the fundies, that's all good too.

Patrick Ross said...

You should be much less concerned with "stealing ground from the fundies" and more concerned with helping women who've chosen to have abortions through the experience.

The research conducted on this idea of "post-abortion syndrome" seems to suggest that the longer a woman waits to have an abortion the more likely she is to suffer from depressive symptoms afterward.

I would dare suggest that the pro-abortion lobby should place a premium on enouraging women facing unplanned pregnancies to make their decision as soon as possible, then (naturally) have the procedure performed under the safest possible conditions.

But it's good to see someone in the pro-abortion lobby recognize that there seems to be a cause for concern. I applaud you for that.

fern hill said...

*Swoon.* Twatsy applauds us. Wot next?

Beijing York said...

The majority of women who decide on an abortion would like to have it performed like yesterday Patrick. Why don't you let the government of New Brunswick for example or the many US States that place impediments to accessing safe and early abortions your concern.

Gawd knows that us uncaring, selfish feminists have been struggling to reverse bad policies that prevent early abortions from being performed universally and at no cost to the patient for decades. Even with the waiting lines and/or need to travel elsewhere for the procedure, the majority of abortions take place in the first trimester.

Perhaps if the anti-abortion zealots actually supported moves to improve access, we would reduce the 1% late term abortions to like .01%. (Of course, we all know that concern over late term abortions is just "concern" propaganda at best and a ruse to roll back our rights at worst.)

Beijing York said...

That's KNOW your concern.

deBeauxOs said...

I dunno fern hill. I don't we've hit the big league until we get assaulted by a prayer campaign.

Patrick Ross said...

I agree with you that there should be no impediments to access to early abortion. The research clearly supports this as a harm reduction strategy.

I would happily support legislation that legally entrenches a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. However, I would insist that such legislation require medical need for abortions after fetal viability.

...Oh, wait! I forgot that every doctor who exists refuses to perform post-viability abortions... all on your own say-so, naturally.

Oemissions said...

What about postpartum depression: there is lots of that.?
i have never forgotten some of the stories: woman drowns her kids. Psychologist leaps into TO subway with baby..
So many children with parents unprepared to know how to raise them. Child poverty increasing each year.
And the young mother with her octuplets!?

CC said...

And, curiously, no one here takes Twatsy to task for his use of the deliberately offensive qualifier "pro-abortion" rather than the more correct "pro-choice." You're slipping, ladies -- you can't even recognize when you're being insulted anymore.

fern hill said...

CC, insults roll off us. And, seriously, tackle Twatsy on language? There isn't enough coffee certainly in this apartment, maybe the planet, for that.

CC said...

If you truly want to know what Twats thinks of womens' reproductive rights, here's a little experiment. Pop over to his web site -- no, seriously, take a deep breath, put on your HAZMAT outfit and zip over there -- and search on the phrase pro-abortion to see how Twatsy loves to use the propagandist language of the fetishists.

I just tried that and I gave up after counting 50 occurrences while the scrollbar told me I wasn't even halfway through.

Now, by way of contrast, start at the top and search for the phrase pro-choice. Notice the difference?

Frank Frink said...

Twatsy: ...Oh, wait! I forgot that every doctor who exists refuses to perform post-viability abortions... all on your own say-so, naturally.

Umm... dis ingenuity thy name is personified by a mullet.

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