Thursday, April 26, 2007

Opponents dismiss reality of post-abortion trauma

There is another constraint on their expression of grief. The politics surrounding abortion have drowned out the voices of women harmed by it. How free are women to share their anguish when advocates extol abortion as "an act of individual self- determination," and a "rite of passage into womanhood," a "positive moral good" for women, and "a source of fulfillment, transcendence, and growth?"

Women whose lives are shattered by the abortion experience and for whom abortion was not a "maturational milestone," and who did not feel it made them a "mistress of their own destiny," are cast aside as oversensitive, psychologically unstable, victims of socially constructed guilt. Their experience is trivialized.

When an article I wrote about women's negative experiences of abortion appeared in The Canberra Times in 1997, a family planning figure hastily wrote in to dismiss post-abortion trauma. Similar reactions surfaced in a feminist e-mail discussion about my book which lasted several days. The project was treated with contempt by all but two participants.

These women might have been told "there is nothing there," or that their fetuses look like "scraps of paper" (the description given to one woman by a Queensland abortion counselor). But to them, these were flesh and blood babies; for them, a baby died in an abortion.

"I do not think I terminated a 'bunch of cells' but a real human being," wrote Melbourne woman Marguerite, whose story appears in this book.

Their arms feel empty, they don't like looking at babies, they cry often. They ask: What would my baby have looked like? Was it a boy or a girl? Would-have-been birthdays are quietly marked year after year.


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