Anyone who has helped a student write a book report knows part of the assignment asks whether or not the reviewer would recommend the book to a friend. It’s part of human nature to want to share things we enjoy with the people we care about. Today, Web sites never lack the “share” and “like” buttons that make such recommendations as easy as a keystroke.
We had sharing in mind when we founded the Silent No More Awareness Campaign in 2003. We wanted to spread the truth that abortion hurts women, that the more than 14,000 people registered on our website regret their abortion experiences. We wanted to shed light on the brutality of the procedure, the callousness of the abortionists, the indifference of some men who would not father our children and the parents who couldn’t bear the shame of an unwed, pregnant daughter. We wanted people to know that a casual hook-up is not worth our children dying for, as these innocent unborn are doing in numbers too big to comprehend.
When we first started speaking out, some claimed that no one wanted to hear our stories – that we should keep our regret to ourselves. Abortion has become such a sacred entity in this country that even our grief was forbidden. But we would not be silenced, because more than 3,000 times a day in our country, a woman will have an abortion that she very likely will regret. So we stand outside abortion clinics, and we speak at fund-raisers and prayer vigils and pro-life marches. At the March for Life in D.C. on Jan. 22, dozens of us will tell our stories in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building; others will speak at the San Francisco Walk for Life and at scores of marches all over the country.
The stories we will share are horrific. Jenn Perry of Eugene, Oregon, will talk about the abortionist who didn’t notice she was pregnant with twins. He aborted one and the other survived. Tamah Warren of Nashville will recall the day she was held down by two clinic workers as she screamed in pain, and the decades of night terrors that followed her abortion. Amy Meyer of Topeka will somehow find the strength to talk about the three children she lost to abortion, and the daughter she did not abort, who died in a car crash at 8 years old.
Every year at the March for Life, a small but noisy group of pro-choice protesters will set up next to us to try to drown us out. They still don’t want to hear our stories.
But these are interesting times.
In a ground-breaking move, New York Magazine last year published first-person stories by 26 post-abortive women. When we read these stories, we realize they are striking in two ways. Many of them sound just like our stories – full of regret and sadness and musings about what if – only, instead of these women warning their sisters and daughters and friends away from abortion, they hit the “like” button.
But even with an incongruously happy ending tacked on, the truth about abortion leaks out. From New York Magazine: Janet, 48, was drugged and date raped at 18. “When I was actually at the facility, I thought, ‘my God, there’s a baby inside me.’ The staff was very matter of fact, no kindness. A nurse said, ‘it looks like it was a girl.’”
Heather, 32, on her first abortion: “My husband and I were having financial problems and were considering separating. I just had to shut my conscience down. The doctor was grotesque. He whistled show tunes.”
Anya, 36, on her 2003 abortion at a Planned Parenthood in New York: “… I was stuck in a waiting room for hours, with young girls, some flippant, some sad, and the doctor was dead-faced and didn’t make eye contact. I woke up on a gurney in the hallway, surrounded by chaos. No one checked on me.”
As these and thousands of other stories attest, the clean and comfy abortion clinics shown on television shows like “Girls” and “Parenthood” are a fantasy. When we accept that abortion is a business built on blood money and has nothing to do with health care or reproductive justice (whatever that is), we might take more care to keep ourselves and our loved ones away from these clinics. A first step toward that end might be to take a look at the truth about sex, and commitment, and parenthood.
The pervasive message of popular culture, with the seemingly enthusiastic backing of the United States government, is that there is nothing better than casual, consequence-free sex. But some inconvenient truths are showing up around that assertion as well. In November, the New York Times reported on two studies that found casual sex to be much less physically satisfying for women than the kind of intimacy achieved in a committed relationship.
Elsewhere, motherhood is back on top of the charts, after a survey from Great Britain, reported this week in the Telegraph, found that women with children “topped the list of those voicing overall happiness with life,” while childless women were the most unhappy.
Even Hollywood seems to be enjoying a resurgence of motherhood. The red carpet for the Golden Globes ceremony this week was baby bump to baby bump full of pregnant actresses in designer dresses. Juliana Margulies even pulled pregnant Planned Parenthood apologist Kerry Washington aside to say that having a baby was the best thing she had ever done. Just a few years ago, Natalie Portman was nearly run out of town for saying during an acceptance speech for her best actress Oscar that her impending motherhood was “the most important role” of her life.
Perhaps the study that validated our feelings about abortion more than any other had a very different outcome in mind. The “Turnaway Study” - undertaken as a way to push back against laws enacted in some states, and under discussion in Congress, to ban abortion after 20 weeks –set out to show just how dire a woman’s circumstances can get if she waits too long or has to drive too far or can’t have an abortion with public funding. But the study inadvertently highlighted a very different reality. As reported in June 2013 by the New York Times, only five percent of the women who had babies after being turned away wished they hadn't. The other 95 percent learned to “adjust.” Listen to how “S” adjusted to the birth of “Baby S.” after being turned away for an abortion.
Reporter Joshua Lang wrote: “S. now says that Baby S. is the best thing that ever happened to her. ‘She is more than my best friend, more than the love of my life,” S told me, glowingly. There were white spit-up stains on her green top. ‘She is just my whole world.’”
Life finds a way after all.
We look forward to a day when stories like those of “S” and her daughter are the kind of stories women will tell each other, experiences they will recommend and share with sisters and daughters and friends. But until that day, we will continue to tell the truth about abortion, with an increasing confidence that people are finally ready to listen.