Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 20, 2004
Give her the gift of counsel
Some candidates in last June's federal election argued that it is patronizing to suggest that women undergo counselling before an abortion. While one might have taken that view seriously in the 1960s before abortion and its effects were widespread in society, no one should buy it today.
It's an ostrich-headed approach to believe "choice" about abortion is really one woman's choice, unaffected by outside influences. There are too many women - and girls - who've been pressured to go to the abortion clinic by parents who fear the shame of their daughter having an unwanted pregnancy, boyfriends who refuse to take responsibility for what they've helped to create and friends who counsel that abortion is the only choice.
Then there is the shame of the young women themselves, who find themselves suddenly caught with a secret that they want no one to know.
What is patronizing is a society that makes the decision for young women by failing to provide alternatives to abortion - places where a woman can carry her child to term without feeling that she is a cause of public scandal and where she can find the support she needs.
Then there is the false and misleading attitude that the unborn child is just a blob of tissue and getting rid of that blob will give you relief, not a lifetime of guilt.
"They tell you it's a relief," one woman said in a radio ad promoting Project Rachel, a post-abortion counselling service.
"It was a relief for a while. . . . But now it's been years . . . years of this. I wanted a quick solution. But this isn't a solution."
Theresa Burke, founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, says many women who have had abortions suffer symptoms of trauma. Those symptoms can include depression, drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal urges, guilt, anxiety and panic attacks, bouts of crying and multiple abortions.
The first time Jeannette Nixon was pregnant, her father called her a whore and didn't talk to her for three years. Her mother broke down and cried. They gave her one option - have an abortion.
The abortion itself was traumatizing enough for Nixon. The after-effect was worse. "Support was non-existent," Nixon told a workshop in Edmonton a few years ago.
"I had no one to talk to. I was told to keep it a secret; I was not to talk about it. And believe it or not, my parents never mentioned it again.
"I felt that my guts were ripped out, the pain was immense. I never once asked for help nor did I receive it. I walked around like a wounded animal."
Luz Marina Tomayo, who was part of a counter-demonstration at the pro-choice March for Women's Lives in Washington in April, said her husband coerced her into an abortion 15 months ago. "I've been depressed ever since."
She and her husband "almost split" because of the abortion, but have reconciled. Her 11-year-old son still resents her not caring for him and his four-year-old brother as a result of her depression.
"I abandoned them for many months. I couldn't take care of them," she said.
Tomayo said she considered suicide, "but I realized if I did I would never hold my baby in heaven."
If abortion advocates were serious about choice, they would want it to be an informed choice. True choice can only occur if someone helps that young woman move out of her whirlwind of emotions and pressures and gives her a safe space to think about what abortion really means.
But the knee-jerk reaction against counselling shows that abortion advocates are not listening to the voices of women who have had an abortion and regretted it.
If they cared about these women, they would want them spared the anguish that comes after abortion.
Wouldn't it make so much more sense to provide counselling before an abortion rather than have women walking around wounded for the rest of their lives?
(Edmonton area women considering an abortion can receive counselling from the Pregnancy Crisis Centre at 482-5111 or Birthright at 488-0681. Women across Alberta who want counselling for a previous abortion can call Project Rachel at 1-877-597-3223.)
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.