“I counted four movements, and she was gone.” – Dana, 42. New York Magazine recently compiled the personal abortion testimonies of 26 U.S. women in a November 10 piece entitled My Abortion. There is no blatant bias for- or against abortion in the author’s introduction, but a few telling trends ruminate throughout the women’s testimonies she compiled. Namely: many women felt coerced; most women admit that they regret the decision to abort; and in many cases the way women were treated by the abortionist and his staff stands out as a haunting memory. The few testimonies that do not chronicle feelings of regret or sadness (i.e., Anya, who said, “I never think about the abortions”), are told flippantly and without emotion, as if their authors feel defensive or have shut off their feelings about the memory.
Nicole, 19, recalls her boyfriend flip-flopping about the decision. He was on the football team and couldn’t settle the matter of his own willingness to step up and be a man for his girlfriend and child. Nicole desperately wanted the child, but ultimately her boyfriend told her: “We drove all this way. Stop crying, act like a woman.” Tired of fighting, Nicole went through with the abortion and is haunted by the fact that her would-have-been due date is approaching. Frances, 18, recalls her boyfriend insisting on sex right after the abortion, even though she told him that she was still hurting from the invasive procedure.
Lauren, 34, remembers that her boyfriend “terrorized” her. It was self-preservation from his abuse that prompted her abortion decision. Clio, 23, had two boyfriends and was unsure to which the baby belonged. One told her that if she kept the baby, she’d “have to be a mother forever”, and the other—a video game addict—wanted her to have an abortion. Receiving support from neither man, she sought an abortion.
Boyfriends are not the only culprits of coercion and manipulation, however. Heather, 32, recalled involving her in-laws in the decision, since they were helping her family out financially. “I felt very forced. I felt like I was required to have an abortion to provide for my current family.” Her in-laws gave her $500 for the abortion. “Money help is a manipulation”, she said.
Other women recall the haunting experience of the abortion itself, often exacerbated by the treatment of the doctors and staff. Red, 30, says, “the doctor acted like it was assembly-line work.” Heather remembers that the doctor was grotesque. “He whistled show tunes”, and in the waiting room, “there was a dead silence that’s hard to describe. Everyone was holding in her emotions to a heartbreaking degree.”
Dana, 42, sought an abortion after her daughter was prenatally diagnosed with a fetal abnormality: “They did a sonogram to find her heart and injected her with a long needle. I counted four movements, and she was gone… I felt my water break. I was alone in a hotel bathroom so far away from my home… I delivered her intact, sitting on the toilet, and I sat there until the doctor and nurse came and took her away properly.” Janet, 48, remembers, “the staff was very matter-of-fact, no kindness”, and Abby, 28, said “it was like a nightmare.”
Perhaps to cope with the heartbreaking reality of abortion, some women labeled their children with non-human terms. For example, Lauren, who had already decided to have an abortion at her routine sonogram, emphasized that she was not keeping the baby, saying, “it was a way of not acknowledging the life-form.” Mayah, 23, called her child “the amoeba”, and Frances recalled her child as “this thing you couldn’t even physically hold.”
These 26 abortion testimonies speak of a cruel reality that many American women face at some point in their lifetimes. However, it is disconcerting to hear that most of them did not believe there was a better option than abortion. Most of them did not believe that they themselves had a right to stand up to coercive forces. And all seem to have silently assented to the treatment they received at the hands of their abortionist, even when that treatment was unconscionable.
How did the abortion industry gain such a status quo that women who are disrespected and abused by abortionists and abortion workers walk away in silence? We report every other legal industry whose work is sub-standard to the proper authorities, and yet the legal abortion industry remains shrouded in silence when it comes to malpractice and mistreatment. These 26 testimonies may, on the surface, be testimonies about the personal and difficult choice of abortion, but under the surface they are also testimonies about the insidious nature of the abortion business and its control over women’s emotions and consciences.
In most cases these women were not offered a real alternative to abortion, or support in resources or relationship to be empowered to make a Life choice. This is why it is so important to advertise resources and your local pregnancy centers on campus, and to engage your group in the Pregnant on Campus initiative. So that women facing an unplanned crisis pregnancy will see that there are real alternatives and resources – and that they don’t have to choose between their child and their education.