“I’m relieved that I had an abortion”
First. This is not a political post. Second. This is not a religious post. Third. Take a deep breath, this is a charged conversation. Fourth, I put on my armor for this one for sure.
Okay, soooo, what does this bring up for you? What are your immediate assumptions about this person? Does this make you livid? Do you feel like celebrating her? Where does this hit home for you…and how do you act upon it in the world with others? What is your investment in telling her that she is “wrong” or “right” for this? How do you shame or lift up people who make these decisions?
To be honest, I want to just address the stigma and talk about being compassionate toward others, but I can’t. Because a decision or forced choice like abortion touches on religious views, political views, family views and pressure, relationship pressures, moral, ethical and legal arguments, patriarchy, feminism and so many more things. It’s complicated to say the very least.
I can’t get into all of the nooks and crannies of this issue, it’s vast and unending. This post is more about shining a light on the pressures and conflict that women, birthing persons and families have to struggle through. For a framework, I’ll offer the definition of Stigma: A mark of shame or discredit. Whoa, that’s deep. The stigma I see that most often comes with abortion is that a person SHOULD feel ashamed or less than for not “keeping the baby”…regardless of the baby’s condition, the mothers condition, the life that a child would come into or even how the pregnancy was conceived.
The short-hand stereotype assumption about abortion is – Some woman just got pregnant and she doesn’t want the responsibility of having a child. How often have we heard this narrative? It does happen that way sometimes, but it’s not at all the full spectrum of experience. Here are some other phrases or words to use in addition to abortion…termination, therapeutic termination, pregnancy release, selective termination, selective reduction. There may be others. Abortion is not one thing.
To highlight this, here are just a *couple* of real situations…
*Parents cannot provide for a child.
*Ultrasound shows severe genetic abnormality, fetus is sure to die in the womb. She can’t bear to wait for her child’s death or for the fetus to suffer.
*Pregnancy from rape
*Mother is so ill during pregnancy that she might die if the pregnancy continues.
*One of a set of twins has a diagnosis incompatible with life. There is danger to the other twin and the mother.
*Parents do not want another child.
There are many other situations. What are the assumptions that you make about these situations? I’ve seen people suffer, debate, have heartache, consult many people, cry, be conflicted and confused about what to do…it is often a difficult decision. Sometimes there’s regret or guilt. Sometimes there’s relief.
Again, I’m not here to say what any one should or shouldn’t do with their body or their life. What I really want to get at is the way in which we treat people who may have had to make one of the hardest decisions of their life. OR, if and when the decision was easy, how we shame them.
I’m suggesting compassion first. Period.
Can we muster compassion for the person going through a termination? Can we take the political, religious, legal definitions away for a moment and see the human experience? I’d like to think we can. I surely hope we can.
Even for me writing about this, I debated quite a bit because the potential backlash is always there…that’s how charged this is…someone might tear me down because I’m addressing the stigma. This force of stigma and shame is what keeps many of us from speaking up and speaking out about so many issues. It get’s in the way of having connection, sharing stories, feeling seen and heard. Stigma takes humanity out of the equation and diminishes our experiences.
Anyhow, for those of you who are faced with a termination or abortion… for those of you who feel shame, guilt, relief or all of that…I see you. It’s okay to feel however you feel.
For more discussions and topics on perinatal mental health, go to the Mom & Mind Podcast page.