A few readers have commented to me (via personal email) that Elizabeth Wurtzel’s abortion I wrote about in my previous post had no relationship to her addictions and depression. The trauma and loss in her childhood are the real reasons for her drug use and promiscuous, childless lifestyle…and that given her history and age at the time, abortion was a wise decision. The abortion would have only further complicated her already complicated life and any child born to her.
As one reader, shared:
“You’re just using her story to promote your anti-choice agenda!”
Let me respond to this common misunderstanding about the role of abortion in depression, addiction and other symptoms when there is a history of abuse and trauma prior to the abortion.
It is fair to say that Wurtzel had childhood issues that would likely have led to some level of depression and the other symptoms we see in her life regardless of the abortion. However look more closely at her background and you will find a powerful connection to that abortion experience and the public unfolding of her life story as a writer and journalist.
In Prozac Nation we learn that Wurtzel experienced a painful divorce as a child that led to a difficult life with her single mother after the loss of her father. She shares: “My mother sent me [to summer camp] for an eight week reprieve from single motherhood.” (Page 14 Prozac Nation) When she was only 10 years old, her father thought it helpful to share with Elizabeth that her mother “wanted to have an abortion, that she’d gotten as far as the gynecologist’s office and was all set to have a D and C, and that he physically restrained her to prevent the process. Later, when I told my mother about that conversation, she began to cry and said that the opposite was true.” (pg. 28). No child wants to feel unloved and rejected. We know this leaves a deep and damaging wound on the child’s soul and psyche.
Raised in such an environment, it is not surprising that we would later see the symptoms of relational instability, promiscuity and fear of commitment. In addition, we read of Wurtzel in college after her own personal abortion becoming a virtual counselor/escort for the area abortion business by accompanying countless friends to their abortion appointments…so much so that she comes to see “it’s practically a rite of passage” for her fellow classmates. (Pg.194)
So with that background from her book, let’s look again at the criticism that we are using her story and the abortion to advance an anti-choice agenda.
Those that support abortion rights would see Wurtzel’s childhood as confirming the necessity of “safe and legal abortion” for young woman with her background facing an unplanned pregnancy. However if you look at the life experience of many of these women years after the procedure you would see that there can be a very high price paid for their “choice.”
Peoples circumstances, emotions and the pressures they face when facing an unplanned pregnancy are much more complicated than the clever reductive slogans we use to package them into some ideological agenda like “choice.”
Wurtzel felt unwanted…her mother appears to have wanted to abort her well along in the pregnancy. Like many emotionally needy young women, wounded and vulnerable, she becomes sexually involved well before she has the maturity to handle the intensity this brings to a relationship without commitment.
As an innocent child she found herself unwanted, unloved, and almost aborted. When she has the abortion, she rejects the innocent, vulnerable unborn child in her womb. Wurtzel’s mother and father were unable to protect their daughter from the toxic emotional fallout from their divorce. Wurtzel was unable to protect her unborn son or daughter from an even more lethal rejection and abandonment. Worse Wurtzel is the vehicle of the child’s rejection and eventual destruction.
For men and women with trauma and abuse in their childhood, there is a powerful connection between their wounded inner child…and the innocent child that they abort. They can share powerful and confusing emotional connections with the vulnerability of that unborn child. But because they participate in the death of that child, the shame and pain of their own abuse become intensified in a kind of toxic synergy that often is turned inward and/or acted-out, leading to depression, drug abuse and other painful and self destructive symptoms and behaviors.
As with other trauma, abuse and loss, you need to work through the emotions and memories of an abortion experience. Otherwise women may repeat the themes of their childhood and abortion traumas in their relationships and experience repeat abortions (nearly half of all abortions are repeat procedures.) We can understand Wurtzel’s role after her abortion in becoming an abortion clinic escort for her friends as a type of re-enactment of her own abortion trauma. She is trying to understand and process her own emotional experience of abortion, not understanding its deep roots in her own aborted-childhood.
So yes there were many factors in Wurtzel’s life that contribute to some of the themes we found in her piece in The Atlantic. But if you think “pay no attention to Wurtzel’s abortion, it has nothing to do with her life story!” you would be way off the mark. Abortion is a powerful life changing event that intensified the pain and rejection of her childhood and young adulthood.
As the title of my earlier blog post suggested…once you understand the role of abortion in Wurtzel’s life (keeping in mind the over 50 million abortions since 1973) and prevalence of depression and anti depressant medication use, you might agree that rather than the Prozac Nation Wurtzel wrote of in the 90’s, we are more accurately, Abortion Nation.