Monday, January 31, 2011

After the Choice

I was just over on Mark Shea's blog, reading about a new study which showed that abortions aren't linked to a higher level of mental health issues. A couple of links after, I got to an NPR story with the details:

"...Choosing to have an abortion is not an easy decision, and scientists have put a lot of effort into trying to find out whether women are harmed by that choice. This new study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, says they are not.

Robert Blum, an expert on reproductive health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, did not work on the study, but he has worked in the field for decades.
"This is an extremely, extremely well done study," he said. "There is no evidence that abortion predisposes a woman to psychiatric and mental health problems."...

Blum, a former president of the Guttmacher Institute, would like to say goodbye to the political buzz words.
"There is no post-abortion trauma, post-abortion syndrome, or anything of the like," he said..."

I'm sure for some women, this is true. Even many. But as I read the story, I thought of two young women I spoke to in the last week or so who shared with me the exact opposite.

The first, tall, thin and beautiful Janae*, told me of her experience two years ago. Enrolled in college, she had been making good grades and was heavily involved in groups on campus. She also had a boyfriend... and a very rocky relationship with him. "I had very low self-esteem. So I put up with- allowed many things to happen that I know now are just wrong."

A year into their romance, she was pregnant. She faced a range of emotions- fear, anger, shame, confusion- and turned to one of her group's faculty advisers for help. "My parents had already been through this with my older sister. She had three, all when she was young, and my mother pretty much stepped in to raise them. I felt like I was adding to their problems." Her adviser, always a second mom to her while she was away at college, quickly counseled her to terminate the pregnancy. "She told me I was young and dumb and a child would just hinder my college career, my relationship... my life. But I wanted my child." As she says this, she looks away, tears forming in her eyes.

"I knew my boyfriend was no good, but it wasn't the baby's fault. I know it sounds crazy, but I knew I could do it. I could have been a mom." But her adviser pressed her, telling her she's lose her financial grants, and finally, calling her mother to try to sway her. Janae recalls, "It worked. My mom took my adviser's side. She wanted me to abort, too. Only my dad was against it."

With no support from her boyfriend, Janae sat in her adviser's office and listened as she made the appointment for her at a clinic. "I went, thinking it would be no big deal, but God, it was. And the worse part was having to act like I hadn't gotten rid of my baby. I had to go back to school the next week, as if nothing happened." Determined to move forward, she jumped back in to her old routine, and wound up passed out in a ladies' room on campus, bleeding heavily. "I just started hemorrhaging. My roommate rushed me to the E.R., and they were able to stop the bleeding. The worse part was my adviser... my friend called her and told her and she was too busy to come see me. I felt so alone."

The physical pain caught Michelle* by surprise, too. Michelle, the second young woman I spoke with, was just 19 at the time she learned she was pregnant, and like Janae, was also in college. She was in a rough relationship, too, one that had taken her through most of high school and into her sophomore year. "He was my first love, my first everything," she said. Tall, pretty and athletic, Michelle has a "coke bottle shape" that catches many guys attention. Still, she felt the pain of low self-esteem, and believes it's what kept her going back to her now ex-boyfriend.

When she learned of her pregnancy, she initially decided to keep the baby. Raised in a Christian home, she didn't really believe abortion to be an option. But her man was dead-set against it, and spent weeks warning her of the detrimental effect a baby would be to them. Finally, he broke up with her, leaving her devastated. "I just didn't know what I would do. He was older than me, but he suddenly became childish. I knew I couldn't turn to my dad. He was not supportive of me when it came to college, so I knew a baby would cause him to flip."

So she reluctantly decided to abort. "I wanted my child. I was four and a half months along! I had gained all this weight, I wasn't a little pregnant." The first clinic she went to turned her away. "They did a sonogram, measured the baby, and said, 'We can't do this here.' They referred me to another place, an hour away, and I made the appointment. The day of the procedure, I was so scared. I went with my friend and she had to hold my hand. It wasn't until I got there I found out they would be dilating me. There were no pain meds during the first part. Just pain. I've never felt such pain in my life. I pretty much went through labor, but I knew there wouldn't be a baby at the end of it, which made it even harder."

She nervously played with her fingers as she retold the story, describing finally getting pain medication after hours, and after having cold metal forced inside her. "I'll never do it again, never. I don't care why or what the situation. It the worse thing I've been through in my life." She gazed up at a calendar hanging on the wall. "And you know, you don't forget. Every year, at my due date, I think about the baby, how he would be having a birthday. How they would be, playing and everything. I sometimes wonder, 'Will I always feel this hurt? Will I always remember?' It's a scar and it won't go away."

I feel deep sadness for these ladies. They made a choice, yet no one seems to really be there for them after it. Some pro-lifers view this women with an invisible "scarlet A" on them. Now some in the pro-choice camp would deny their feelings, emotions and deep regret after having had abortions. In this way, I can see why they feel alone. But as I told them both, they aren't. I'm here, and more importantly, God always will be.

*Not their real names. I have to protect their privacy!


Don said...

Excellent read.

So good, I had to read it twice.

There really isn't too much to add to the article except for the fact that I have encountered many women who found themselves in similar positions.

I cannot speak for these women, but I can imagine the thoughts which constantly fill their minds long after The Choice.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Thanks, Don.

I've never had an abortion, but my heart goes out to these young ladies and the others I know like them. They are hurting, but shame, loneliness, society.. pushes this pain deeper.

I don't know about that study, and I know many would dismiss Janae and Michelle's experiences as anecdotal, but I believe their pain is very real.

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

you are correct, that some have no sympathy for women who have come to regret their abortions. But there are a number of organizations that exist to help such women.

there's a blog that explores this (just found it via the google, haven't looked at all)

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