At the March for Choice on April 24-25th, the abortion rights placards will be dusted off once again and raised high amidst loud demands for unfettered access to abortion and contraception. Also present will be organized speakers demanding more lenient child protection laws, rape penalties and parental notification laws.
The neo-feminist celebration of March for Choice will, no doubt, go on in traditional format: the usual unexamined platitudes about the so-called 'right to choose' and the assurance that dissenting voices do not get a hearing.
Woman who have been psychologically and physically devastated after abortion have no room in the 'pro-choice' club. Abortion is a cherished doctrine that is not to be questioned by anyone, whether by a boyfriend grieving the loss of his child or a mother damaged and tossed to the side in the name of ‘choice’.
Marchers and protesters will give little thought to the women who are not going to be marching; to the women who cannot take part in this collective salute to abortion as an absolute good because they lie in hospital beds sick, injured and dying, or in graves. These pro-abortion marchers will give no consideration, no mention, no prayer or remembrance to the millions of women who died in the womb, or died while killing a woman in the womb.
These are the women dismissed by the slogans, shut out of the contemporary discourse on abortion. These are the women who felt cheated that abortion was presented as something quick and easy and over with when the reality for them turned out to be very different.
Feminists say a lot about crediting women's experiences and listening to women's voices. Yet, this only applies if your voice accords with their orthodoxy: if you are a woman who questions abortion as a social benefit, then you cannot play their political game.
The more than 200 women who shared their experiences the book Giving Sorrow Words, felt ill-prepared for what they faced after abortion and abandoned by the very group that is supposed to help them.
These are women who have attempted suicide, engaged in drug abuse, developed eating disorders, experienced anxiety attacks and depression. They cry uncontrollably, dream about babies, have grief reactions on the date the baby would have been born and constantly wonder if the baby was a boy or girl. Many become pregnant again soon after the abortion, to try to make up for the loss they feel.
Nevertheless, women who have suffered irreparable harm after an abortion are written off as unstable, complainers, whiners, attention-seeking, over-sensitive, hysterical, dysfunctional, victims of socially/religiously constructed guilt. Post-abortion trauma is dismissed as "fictitious" or written with passing mockery[sic] after it by those who have a monetary or political interest in denying its existence.
The experience of damaged women has so far been ignored in the politics of the 'right to choose.' This ‘right’ to kill another woman or man is exulted over and above a woman's actual experience of abortion. If she has a bad time of it, she is quickly trivialised. Take for example, Evelyn Tsitas who wrote in the Herald Sun:
"Abortion can be an emotional subject — particularly for people who choose to get upset about it. There is a movement taking hold called: I'll always regret what I did and want to burn in hell for it."
Women whose lives are shattered by abortion cannot share their grief in an environment which celebrates abortion as "an act of individual self-determination", a "rite of passage into womanhood" "enhancing women's well being" and "prolife, profamily, moral and good" (the words of various abortion rights commentators).
Abortion is supposed to make us "mistresses of our destiny". It is meant to be a "maturational milestone." It is good for our self-esteem. For most abortion advocates, this is the only authentic experiential reality of abortion.
For many women who swallowed this lie, abortion delivered none of these supposed goods, but did leave behind lasting pain and anguish.
Michelle, a young woman from the Northern Territory:
"I have always regretted never knowing or even seeing the child that I conceived… Wherever my child is I hope that he understands that it didn't mean that I didn't love him. I did but I made a terrible mistake. I often think of how old he would be and what he would look like… I hope when I die that I will see him Anyway, there will always be an empty space in my heart for my baby that I never knew. But in that space there is a cradle surrounded by love, If only I could have touched him and held him."
Jane, a Melbourne teenager wrote:
"Looking back now, if I had known then what emotional torment I would go through as a result of having the abortion, I would never have gone through with it. I told her that I still didn't know whether I could go ahead with the abortion, but she just fobbed it off by convincing me that this was the best thing for everyone."
"We live with that regret till the day we die and for some we are wishing that we too could die," wrote a woman who signed her name 'Tortured.'
But there is no period of mourning for a woman suffering grief after an abortion. No grief teams, no body for her to cuddle and dress, no footprints or photographs to keep in an album, no ceremony, and no grave on which to lay flowers.
Jane from South Australia wrote:
"I…silently apologise to the child I lost. The pain and grief continues because there is no acknowledgment of death, except in my heart…The shadow of my lost little girl or boy will always follow me."
The 'right to choose' is too often the right not to know the potential psychological consequences which may be suffered afterwards. This patronising attitude holds that women are such poor decision makers, so lowly and stupid and so easily confused that they must be denied information relevant to their future health and their life.
The silence from so-called women's activists about the tragic plight of these women is deafening.
It is time the voices of women left desolate by their abortion experiences were heard. They have been locked into silence too long.
Wrote Lee from Sydney: "I wish someone had said: 'There would be losses having a baby, but don't underestimate the loss of having an abortion.'"
Of course a baby is for life. But so is abortion. And I bet you won't hear that at the March for Choice.