Sunday, March 29, 2009

Man regrets his involvement in an abortion

A man recounts the story of driving his friend that friend's girlfriend to have an abortion.

The event sat in my stomach like boiling water in a pot. The casualness of it, the unremarkable way the other patients talked and the quickness with which it was over, done with, seemingly forgotten ... I felt shriveled like a raisin. As time passed, I thought about it less. Periodically, the memory reemerges and I feel sad, though not as much as in the beginning. It is a mental marking, faded by the
elements of time.


But my view has changed over the years. I have come to relate more to the idea that what we are talking about at the most basic level is ending a life before it ever has a chance to begin. And I’m not sure
anymore if that should be legal. But I don’t feel so strongly about it that I want to stand on street corners and hold signs or lead a fight to overturn Roe v. Wade.

What I feel most is the residual effect of a choice. For all the ideology I had on the issue, my small part in the event impacted me deeply. I can only imagine how it affected the girl who actually had the abortion. And I wonder if she regrets it. But mostly I think that if she were to tell me her position on abortion, I would listen.


Abortion is not an issue to be discussed by people who are cloaked in the
armor of ideology; it is something to be commented on by those who know. People who have gone through with it understand something the rest of us don’t, as do those who refrained after serious consideration. (...)The opinions of those without personal experience on this issue carry almost no weight at all. They are opinions devoid of substance, light as air and as easily stirred.

This is another version of "you can't have an abortion/you've never been pregnant/you've never had an abortion" so you don't know.

Facts matter.

Rationality matters.

People who have never had an abortion have insight divorced from the emotion of the experience.

That can be useful.

The idea that only knowledge gained from experience is dangerous. Dispassionate examination can lead one to some insight. If your judgement is heavily influenced by your unique experience of abortion, you may blind yourself to realities that you cannot see due to the hurt and the emotions that you underwent during the situation.

If you decided for an abortion based on the authority of a doctor who told you that a fetus is a blob, and then you have to re-examine the issue, you may be fairly invested in that opinion. To admit that it is not a blob, and to acknowledge that you were, in some sense, tricked, leads to more pain.

You cannot allow personal experience to be the sole judge of a phenomenon.

Abortion is not an ideological issue. It is a personal one.

Ideologies lead to judgments. Judgments can be valid or invalid, regardless of an individual's unique experience.

What if one person has a very positive experience, and one person has a very negative experience.

Those two cancel each other out.

If one person says "based on my experience, abortion should be legal" and another says "based on my experience, abortion should be illegal" you are back to square one.

There is room for value judgments, but we don't like those. Because value judgments implicitly assign responsibility and, ultimately, blame.

I think this is what the author is trying to avoid: the blame game. He doesn't want to be judgemental or harsh. On the other hand, he's coming to the realization that the abortion he was involved in was a grave matter. He neither wants to deal with the pain of having to admit his guilt in the experience, or feel the pain of acknowledging that his friend and the girl killed their own baby.

But the only way to stop pain is to admit to reality. Lies and distortions only perpetuate pain. We live in a culture that says: if I only find the right thoughts *for me*, if only I drum up the correct sentiments, I will be okay.

As if by magical thinking.

It doesn't work that way.

Thinking alone cannot lead to healing. One's thinking must be concordant with reality.

Thoughts that do not correspond to reality will hit the brick wall of logic. Reality is inherently logical and self-consistent. If you think things that are not consistent with reality, you will have to confront those inconsistencies. This only prolongs the pain. The sooner you admit the truth, the sooner you can heal.

People believe that values are purely subjective and a matter of a fallible and unreliable perception of reality. They think value judgments are purely individual reactions to reality.

However, nobody actually lives that way, and you cannot live that way. Human beings cannot stand the dissonance between thought and reality. If you see black, you can try to convince yourself it's white, but you will not be at peace with it.

Facts matter when it comes to emotional healing. And if you've been involved in an abortion, you don't always know the facts. You just know the emotions.

People outside the experience can know facts that you don't. They can present information that can lead to healing.

That's why it's important to have people who've never had an abortion participate in the debate. Emotion and experience are not the only forms of knowledge. Self-talk, trying to reframe the experience to fit a desired emotional goal--without taking into account the facts-- just prolongs true healing. Facts are what lead to correct values. And when you have correct values, you can have an adequate perception of reality. And this is what leads people to recover from their painful abortion experiences. Not self-talk aimed at giving the experience a whole new spin. Spin doesn't work. Spin isn't reality. Facts are reality.