Speaking Out About An Abortion Can Be Harder Than Getting One

Illustration for article titled Speaking Out About An Abortion Can Be Harder Than Getting One

Glamour's Liz Welch delves into the abortion issue in a way few ladymags would (and few women would agree to): she talks to women who have had them.

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According to statistics, abortions in this country are about as common as the anti-abortion groups scream that they are.

But in reality, one in three women will have at least one abortion by the time she is 45, and these women run the gamut of ages, races, backgrounds and beliefs. "I've seen every type of woman in my office, from Catholics to Muslims to mothers with three kids," says [Deborah Oyer, M.D., the owner and medical director of Aurora Medical Services]. "I've even treated someone I recognized-because I'd seen her before, protesting right outside my clinic."

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And yet, despite interviews with "more than two dozen women who have had the procedure," only 5 were quoted — and only 4 used their real first names.

"We've gone from doctors advertising abortion services in the 1900s and women openly demanding the right to abortion in the 1970s, to a time now when some women can't even admit to themselves that they're having an abortion, much less tell their loved ones," says Katharine O'Connell, M.D., an ob-gyn at Columbia University. Nearly all the women Glamour spoke to said they kept their abortion a secret.

Well, and why do they keep it a secret? Because despite the fact that we live in a country where the majority of people believe abortion should remain legal in most cases, women still feel judged negatively for having one regardless of the reason.

So, what's the switch? Why do women who choose to have a perfectly legal medical procedure generally adjure telling those closest to them? One answer might be in the list of things abortion counselor Anne Baker says that women should consider before having an abortion:

Do you believe that an abortion is equivalent to killing a child that is already born? "If a woman truly thinks having an abortion is the same as murdering a child you might see on the playground, she should strongly reconsider and seek counseling and other alternatives, such as adoption," Baker says.

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She also suggests that women who feel pressured to have an abortion and have mental health issues seriously consider whether to have one.

She adds, in fact, that having someone with whom to share one's feelings about abortion is really important:

"If you talk about your thoughts and feelings beforehand with a trusted confidant who supports you, you're more likely to cope well afterward," Baker says. Since 78 percent of women who've had an abortion say they are religious, she often recommends they use their spiritual beliefs as a source of strength and comfort rather than punishment. "Women are often amazed to hear that there are religious organizations that offer nonjudgmental spiritual counseling on the issue," Baker says.

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That is to say that, by not telling the people who love and care about you — or at least getting counseling — you are actually feeding your own perception that what you have done is wrong, or unforgivable or terrible. And it's not. Like too many things (rape, incest, domestic violence), the less people talk about what has happened to them, the more they feel stigmatized and alone in what happened to them or the decisions they made. And all that does is helps the anti-abortion forces organize against letting other women make the same decisions.

Abortion: The Serious Health Decision Women Aren't Talking About Until Now [Glamour]

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Related: Abortion and Birth Control [PollingReport]

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DISCUSSION

JerseyGrrrl
JerseyGrrrl

It seems to me that there are, for lack of a better term, tiers of social acceptability when it comes to abortions. In other words, not all abortions are equal when it comes to society's judgements. (I don't agree with this; I just want to put out my observation.)

If I'm raped and decide to have an abortion, I can be pretty sure most people won't judge me too badly if I tell them about it. If I'm not prepared for my pregnancy and don't know the father, I'd be judged a little more harshly by the general public and would be less comfortable talking about the abortion.

And, in my actual life case, my actual abortion was had with my husband (the knocker-upper) by my side, because we simply do not want children (though we have a three-bedroom house and a savings account). I feel like many people would have a hard time not judging that, because we were in a "good" situation, and I can't imagine telling my father-in-law that we deliberately removed the cells possibly destined to be his grandchild. I don't think I'd be quite as warmly welcomed at the dinner table after that revelation.

So yes, this article is really important, and I hope the day arrives when an abortion is a morally neutral decision, but circumstances will likely always dictate to some degree how "acceptable" the decision is to those around you. Am I making sense? Thoughts?