There is no greater disconnect between the public battle over legal abortion and the personal experience of women in abortion than this: What is demanded politically as a matter of a woman’s choice and what is demanded by others around the women in a pregnancy-related crisis making her feel, “I have no choice.” The ethical foundation of all medical treatment is informed consent. The reality of abortion experience is pressure from others. Psychiatrist and PTSD expert, Dr. Martha Shuping writes, “Studies show 11% to 64% of women experience coercion or pressure in [their] abortion decision. If 11% of abortions are coerced, that would mean that more than 6 million abortions in the U.S. have been coerced since 1973.”
In these cases, the woman is yielding her values and desires to others. It is understandable that anger, grief, regret, and depression will follow. As one woman expressed it, “My family would not support my decision to keep the baby. My boyfriend said he would give me no emotional or financial help whatsoever. All the people that mattered told me to abort. When I said I didn’t want to, they started listing reasons why I should. That it would have detrimental effects on my career, and my health, and that I would have no social life and no future with men…I’m so angry at myself for giving in to the pressure of others.”
Dr. Martha Shuping reports this week on intimate partner violence, writing, “The prevalence of IPV was nearly three times greater for women seeking an abortion compared with women who were continuing their pregnancies.”
Those of us doing pregnancy crisis intervention, witness this coercion routinely. In some cases, I had to call the police to provide safeguards for women being threatened by their partner, who demanded abortion. In one sad case, the mother was stabbed to death by the father of her baby just a week after delivery. In a few cases, I had men yell and threaten me as I pledged to protect their pregnant girl-friend, who, given the space to express her heart-felt values, wanted her baby. In the best cases, these men became doting fathers months later. But it means fighting for life and health, for mother and baby.
To learn what to say and do when it matters most, pick up a copy of Pregnancy Crisis Intervention.