Saturday, October 30, 2010

"I had a slightly different experience . . . "

There is a bill now before the New York City Council that would require crisis pregnancy centers to disclose in their advertising -- which is seen mostly on the subway, and in bus shelters -- the services which they do and do not provide, the latter being abortion.  The bill was triggered by a recent study undertaken by NARAL, which aims to show that the pregnancy centers use deceptive advertising to lure young women in crisis and . . . not give them abortions.  Chris Slattery, a member of my old parish in the Bronx and the director of Expectant Mother Care, which runs pregnancy centers in some of New York's poorest neighborhoods, believes that this proposed legislation is an attack on the work that the centers do, because, while technically it doesn't seem like a bad idea to require businesses to be specific about what they do and don't offer, in the case of the emergency pregnancy centers, this forced disclosure could very likely lead to loss of life.  If an abortion-minded woman in a crisis pregnancy goes to an EMC center without knowing that abortion is not on the menu, it's easier for the staff to persuade her to change her mind.  This, NARAL says, is a very bad thing indeed.  The fact that a woman may be talked out of having an abortion apparently does grievous harm to her freedom of choice.

I was fascinated today to read this article in the New York Times, in which a pregnant newspaper reporter took herself on an investigative-journalistic tour of two crisis pregnancy centers and one Planned Parenthood clinic.  She went first to one of Chris Slattery's centers, and was overwhelmed by what she freely calls the love with which she was welcomed.  She also admits that Planned Parenthood was the only one of the three places that had "a financial stake" in the choice she made vis-à-vis her (in real life, non-crisis) pregnancy. 

But most salient for me in this story were the reader comments -- or, I should say, one of the reader comments, which twisted my heart (most of the other comments were just what you might expect):

I am a pro-choice woman educated at one of the seven sisters and one of the Ivies. My point in stating this is that I am a liberal who strongly believes in the importance of privacy in this decision. I had a slightly different experience.

It was in the early nineties, I was fresh out of grad school, newly married and looking for a job in the recession of the early 1990s. I used to go to a clinic on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for routine gynecologic care because I did not have health insurance. I occasionally saw people milling around saying prayers on the weekends (I lived in the area) outside the building.

Fast forward to when I found myself pregnant at 13 weeks in a crumbling relationship. I went there to ask about my options. Not once was I told about carrying the pregnancy to term. I went for an ultrasound and other than measuring the thickness of the uterine wall, the technician did not show me the fetus and as dumb as I was I honestly did not even think to ask. I think they assumed I was there for an abortion.

They told me to come in late on a weekday evening to have "something put in" to prepare for the procedure the next day
[This would have been a second-trimester abortion which requires a procedure that takes place over two days].  I was torn about doing it and when I asked the doctor questions before he put [in] the "seaweed extract," his exact words to me were, "we can sit here talking about it or we can just get it done. Do you want to do it or not? You need to make your mind up." So I went along.

It was only the next morning as I awoke with my warm cheek to the cold steel of the gurney after the procedure/abortion that I realized I was in an abortion mill. They rushed to get me off of the gurney even though I was groggy as anything to put others like me on the same gurneys while those of us who had gotten of the gurneys sat around on couches mostly with dazed looks in our eyes.

Fast forward 19 years, I have three wonderful children and a good life that I am thankful for yet I think of that fetus/baby every single day. For me this is not about politics, this is about the personal choice I made and that I have to live with every day of my life.

In my case I do think there is something to be said for the concept of post abortion depression. I am no psychologist, politician or religious person and I can only speak for myself. I really don't think this should be a political matter.
For myself I wonder if I might have made the same choice if I had the information I now think I should have asked for and received [emphasis added].

Hindsight is 20/20 and I take full responsibility for what I did all those years ago but not a day goes by that I don't think of the fetus/baby. So in response to your article about the "crisis pregnancy centers," my experience was that it went the other way as well. 

So heartbreaking.  And even more so because the writer appears to feel almost apologetic, as if she must qualify her experience as something peculiar to her:  "I had a slightly different experience  . . . For me this is not about politics . . . I can only speak for myself . . . In my case . . . dumb as I was . . .  I do think there is something [to] post abortion depression.  I am no psychologist . . . I can only speak for myself," etc.  This is hardly the language of empowered womanhood, and not exactly what one would expect from a self-proclaimed pro-choice liberal with an Ivy League graduate degree.  The pain of her choice -- a choice that was clearly coerced every step of the way, as so very many abortions are -- is only underscored by the fact that, in her circles, there are few, if any, socially-sanctioned ways to speak about the suffering and regret of abortion without facing scorn.

I pray not only for this woman's healing, but also that other readers of the article will read her comment with care, and perhaps might begin to understand that her story is not some anomaly, experienced only by women "dumb as [she] was" (what a sadly ironic self-descriptor from such a highly-educated woman).  If the New York City Council demands truth in advertising, then this woman's testimony should be included in all of Planned Parenthood's pro-abortion literature. And what a great day it will be when pro-choice women -- many if not most of whom in my experience have never had abortions themselves -- come to realize that what is good for one is good for all, and what is destructive to one woman is destructive to each and every one of us.


Anonymous said...

"This is hardly the language of empowered womanhood...." Isn't that the truth?

It makes my heart hurt, because the beautifully constructed, brilliantly marketed package that is "choice", wasn't really meant to offer one, was it? The hopelessness of abortion - and that's not a judgment, only a sadness - reminds me of the prickly, queasy grief I felt after a friend in college attempted suicide.

Such a thoughtful insight, Pentimento, thank you. I just keep thinking - even outside of the spiritual and religious contexts, just as people in the world - SURELY there is a better way.

Belfry Bat said...

Well, if *abortuists* are required to outline that they do not provide: funeral home services, catering, delievery, tax returns, auditing, plumbing, electrical, engineering, architecture, toxic waste disposal... you might find it's difficult to discern just what they *do*. Which would be a *good* thing.

Owen said...

I'm in the final hours of deciding whether or not to take a total repast from blog reading during the month of holy souls but am happy none the less to have stumbled on your blog, via Betty Duffy. I will plug the rss feed into the reader and check it out again come December (or earlier if I end up deciding differently than I think just now).

Peter and Nancy said...

I read through every comment, and was sad to see comments written by women who'd had abortions and then later had "wanted" children. (Their term, not mine.) My logical mind keeps screaming, "You're talking about the exact same entity!" The only thing that's different is that sometimes it's a "wanted" baby. I am an adoptive mother, and I cringed that adoption wasn't mentioned to the writer at the pregnancy centers . . .

Pentimento said...

Nancy, I hope to be an adoptive mother too before long; we are doing an adoption process as I write this.

Sadly, there was one comment that addressed adoption. It seems to have been written by a birth mother who felt coerced to place her child. These latter-day anti-adoption activists always suggest that abortion is the better way, and that post-abortive women don't grieve every day of their lives as coerced birth mothers do. From my own experience, I beg to differ.

Tragically, the abortion industry has contributed greatly to the contraction of adoption in America.

Pentimento said...

To clarify -- by "contraction" I meant "decrease."

MDiskin said...

What else is distressing is her being shown only the uterine wall. Even at the dentist they show you the x-ray of the actual tooth to be removed.

Gina said...

If you've not watched "Bloodmoney" yet, watch it. If you're pro-life, it will solidify your view. Very diabolical, this abortion industry.

From Mary's Pen said...

Amen, Sister. Keep on letting the truth be heard. I'm not against abortion for the babies, though my heart hurts for them as well. I'm against it because I've seen first-hand the pain left behind for the woman who regrets her choice.

I know there are those who go on and don't suffer regrets, but my sister is not one of them.

Women deserve compassion and complete information, things sadly lacking in most abortion clinics.

Rejoicing in the day,

Pentimento said...

Anonymous, I'm very sorry for your terrible pain and distress.

Nonetheless, your accusations of me are completely wrong, which you might have realized if you had read any further on this blog than one post.

For one thing, you would know that I am, in fact, a mother.

For another, you would know that I have made personal sacrifices in order to help unwed mothers keep their babies. One such baby is my goddaughter.

As for there being a special place in hell for me, that may well be true, but it's not for the reasons that you describe.

May you know peace.

Pentimento said...

I have accidentally deleted Anonymous's abusive comment. I thought I was deleting the email message that alerted me to it, but I clicked on the wrong "delete" button, and now the comment is gone forever (as some of you know, I have made this mistake before, perhaps with your own comments . . .)

Nonetheless, I think Anonymous deserves to have her point heard, because there is a tremendous amount of pain and grief around the way that agencies like Catholic Charities handled adoption in the era before legalized abortion (I'm assuming that Anonymous is a woman, but I may be wrong). And also, when someone expresses rage, hate, scorn, and abuse, I try to offer up that abuse as a prayer for the person who is expressing it, because it seems to me the spewing of that anger is a clear sign of the need for prayer. It seems to me Anonymous might be in need of prayer.

So I've copied the text of Anonymous's comment from my email and will post it here:

"Women who find themselves in crisis pregnancy situations are not breeders for those whom God has, in His infinite wisdom, precluded from natural parenthood.

You do not know what it was like when there were no choices for women and girls who found themselves in crisis pregnancy situations -- they often had no choice at all -- their children weren't just coerced from them, they were taken from them against their will.

Women like you who covet the fruit of other women's wombs are as evil as it gets.

To you, the woman who gave birth isn't even a human being -- she's a vessel, a breeder, someone who has something you covet and feel entitled to, so you prey on her poverty or her dire straits and tell her you'll take her baby to make her life easier -- you won't help her KEEP her baby, of course, because that would require sacrifice on YOUR part, but you'll take her child from her, leave her bleeding and in pain, suffering for the rest of her life because she has something you want and you're a greedy, selfish bitch.

Adoption is not the flip side of abortion. I suggest you read some of the stories of real mothers whose children were taken, who were locked away, beaten and then had their babies taken against their will, or who were thrown out in the streets by their oh-so-Catholic parents, or who were lied to and manipulated and coerced into thinking they had no choice but to "give" their babies up for adoption.

There is a special place in hell for women like you and the aidors and abettors of your covetousness. No wonder God didn't think you fit to be a mother."