Saturday, July 19, 2008

What if women did talk about their abortions?

Cate Cochran in Saturday's Globe and Mail explores why women don't talk about their abortion.

There are probably a lot of reasons why. But the main reason is that abortion is the fruit of shameful things.

Think about it. What is involved with getting an abortion? First you have to get pregnant. You get pregnant through sex. That in itself has a certain shame about it. Oh sure, people are open to saying they have sex. But even if you approve of pre-marital sex, it can easily fill a person with shame. Shame about a one-night stand. Shame about the contraception failing. Shame about having dated and slept with such a jerk who won't help support the baby. Etc.

If the circumstances surrounding the sexual act itself don't produce shame, the reasons for procuring an abortion can fill one with shame. Not having enough money (and having to admit to people you're not as rich as they think). Not wanting to admit you don't want kids. Not wanting to admit that you're killing off your baby because he has Down Syndrome (or dressing it up as "we're doing this for his own good"). Etc.

And if those two things don't produce shame, the act of abortion itself does. Many people know what an abortion is. It's the killing of a fetus. Not everyone believes the fetus is a person. But most people believe that the fetus counts for more than a fingernail, and procuring his death should only come about for sufficiently weighty reasons. Women who have had abortions don't want to reveal that they had abortions for "irresponsible" reasons.

Feminists would love to de-stigmatize abortion to the point that it gets treated like a trip to the dentist.

But I doubt it will ever be so. Even in societies where abortion is widely accepted and available-- such as Japan-- it is still stigmatized. Sure, there's no right to life movement in Japan, but women are sheepish about getting an abortion and admitting to having one. Why? Because people know it's about snuffing out human life. Sure, they dress it up in euphemisms, but we know what it does.

I believe that most people don't talk about abortion not only because they fear being judged, but because the whole episode is one of pain and disaster.

I believe that if more women spoke up about their abortions, you would get a lot of stories about how abortion caused them anguish and depression.

And I think that some of these women feared being judged by feminists and other like-minded individuals who deny that abortion really does cause distress (or if they do admit it, they attribute it to a pre-existing mental condition).

I don't think women will ever be open about their abortions. They don't want to open up an emotional can of worms.

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