A Time to Listen
Featured Rightgrrl November 1998
January 10, 1999
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7B
For too long, both sides of the abortion debate have been defending their respective views with an unbridled passion and more than a little contempt for their opponents. Too many times, attempts at debate have disintegrated into name-calling and stereotypes with no hope of real communication. I suppose it is easier for both sides to stereotype each other than it would be to dialogue. After all, it's convenient for us to cut abortion supporters out to be anti-male baby-hating radical feminists with no compassion, just as it is for abortion supporters to paint right-to-life people as anti-woman men who swing Bibles like clubs...
Wait a minute. Do I detect some right-to-life people getting offended at the stereotype and insisting that we are not anything like that? I hope so! I hope you might also stop and think that our stereotypes of them may be wrong as well. People on both sides of the issue have done plenty of talking; unfortunately, most of it has been right past each other. Maybe we should stop the nonsense and take the radical step of being silent long enough to listen. I'm not talking about the insults or the bogus arguments, for we've heard it all. We need to listen to the living people most affected by abortion, the ones who have undergone the procedure. What are their real stories, once we get past the protests and the tiffs? Do our sterotypes always mesh with their reality? Will we end up surprised?
"I didn't want the abortion, but my boyfriend said he would leave me." "My boss said he would fire me if I had the baby." "My dad said he would throw me out and I had nowhere to go." "I was in an abusive relationship and couldn't bring a child into it." "My abuser took me to get an abortion after he had raped me." "Four doctors told me my little boy was suffering and would not survive birth."
The reasons I have heard for abortions are many, but an underlying problem was behind every one. I've never heard a woman say she had a "convenience" abortion, no matter what pro-lifers say. Instead, every reason had behind it the idea that the mother had no choice except abortion. Oh sure, we sit in our comfy chairs in judgment and know all about CPCs and other forms of assistance; but many women do not know and end up getting all of their "information" from someone only interested in selling abortion. Many women have had abortions, not out of free choice, but out of fear because they were given no other choice.
For many women, the abortion was not a great pro-feminist experience. Many times, they aborted under the pressure of an irresponsible boyfriend, an embarrassed father, an abuser, or an inflexible employer. These women ended up giving in to the demands of abortion-supporting males who couldn't care less about women's freedom or feminist ideology. These men just wanted their own hides covered, with no thought to the suffering of the woman or her child."I didn't want to abort, and I wish things had been different." "I miss my baby." "I didn't want my baby to die." "I didn't know what abortion did to my baby." "If I had only known..." "What have I done?" "I still wonder what my child would have been like." "Will my baby forgive me?" "I'll hold you in Heaven." "I feel terrible every year when the baby's abortion date and due date come around."
I have seen versions of all of these comments about abortion, and they have come from women on both sides of the debate. These are not the words of women who aborted and never thought about it again. Abortion leaves a deep impact on the lives of the mothers that lasts for many years, if not a lifetime. After the initial relief of the abortion, many women become haunted by the memory of the child they never got to know."After the abortion, I had hemorrhages instead of periods." "My endometriosis got worse." "When I miscarried, I thought God was punishing me for my earlier abortion." "I had an ecoptic pregnancy because scars blocked my Fallopian tubes." "Now I can never have a baby." "Nobody told me that abortions could have complications." "Why can't I sleep without the nightmares?" "I can't hear vacuum cleaners without remembering the abortion."
Sometimes, the aftermath of abortion is not purely psychological. Many woman have suffered medical complications ranging from changes in the menstrual cycle to post-traumatic stress disorder to sterility, and some women have even died from legal abortion. These women have said that they were never told about the health risks or that the risks were extremely downplayed. As a result, every menstrual period, abdominal pain, or view of the hysterectomy scar in the shower serves as a reminder of the abortion.
So what are we really facing when we listen to the living survivors of abortion? We certainly do not find the proud radical feminists that the abortion-supporting leaders want us to see. Instead, we see many women suffering incredibly from a decision they really did not choose freely to make, grieving their lost children, and often enduring the pain of post-abortion medical complications. We do the post-aborted women no service to push them aside and condemn them for an unchangeable past action. Instead, we have to focus on both helping other women in crisis pregnancies find real alternatives to abortion and offering assistance and compassion to those women already wounded by its snare.
It is now time to listen instead of fight; and only after we listen and hear the needs can we know how best to act.
This article copyright © 1999 by Lara Ray, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.