Saturday, September 06, 2014

Abortion: A response to a recent Washington Post featured columnist

ThumbnailLeslie T. Dean is a guest writer on the topic of a Washington Post article by Janet Harris, "Stop calling abortion a 'difficult decision'," (August 15, 2014).

After reading Janet Harris’ opinion article in The Washington Post, I was profoundly moved to respond to her comments. Ms Harris transparently shared that she is a post-abortive woman, and her strong “pro-choice” advocacy helps me to understand her need to defend her platform. And that is a good thing, because now we are on level ground. Only first-hand experience gives someone the right to argue life and death issues with intelligence and knowledge.
Informed decision
In her comments regarding the use of the term “difficult decision,” Ms Harris states: “. . . it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning 'informed consent' laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it.” 

As an RN of 35 years who has stood at many bedsides reviewing huge packets of paper with patients before they have any invasive surgery, I fully understand the need for informed consent. It removes any surprises in patients' post-op care and prepares them for any side effects that may be unwanted, but unpreventable. It’s “fair-warning," as is almost every medicine ad we see on TV today. The possible side effects almost outweigh the good intentions of the drug. However, the patient is fully informed before they enter into the therapy—or the surgery.

Why should abortion—also an invasive surgery—be treated any differently? Could it be because it’s a hot political issue? Who is truly at risk? The baby’s fate has already been decided, but what about the welfare of the girl or woman?

Parental consent
Parental consent is an issue that goes hand-in-hand with informed consent. If a parent must give permission for an aspirin, why would they not be needed for a surgical procedure? Ms. Harris only addressed this issue briefly, yet I take this opportunity to say that teens are incapable of making a decision this complicated without a parent’s guidance. Cognitively, they are not ready.
Two studies prove the outcome of teen-abortion choices. 
  • Teens are at much higher risk of a suicide attempt after abortion. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found suicide attempts increased ten-fold for teens who were post-abortive in the preceding 6 months.
  • New Zealand researcher David Fergusson and colleagues found that 50% of post-abortive teens (15–18 years) had suicidal thoughts and behaviors, double the rate for teens who had become pregnant but never aborted and double the rate of never-pregnant teens

Moral decision respects two lives
Ms. Harris shared:  
“An unwanted pregnancy would have derailed my future, making it difficult for me to finish college and have the independent, productive life that I’d envisioned.” Ms. Harris candidly gives her opinion, and also shares, “women who have their first child out of wedlock get less education and are more likely to be unemployed and single—even many years later—compared with other women.” 

The blatant missing piece in these comments is the obvious: adoption as a consideration. Ms. Harris could have still finished college and gone on to live a productive life—with the knowledge that her baby was safe in the arms of a couple that was unable to have their own baby. All the women she refers to could have been educated, had a job, and married—after giving up their babies for adoption. 

How sad that adoption is rarely considered an option in an unplanned pregnancy. This issue became a place of introspection for me. Years ago, when asked why I didn’t choose adoption, my quick, pre-formulated answer was always the same, “I didn’t want strangers raising my baby!” But, I could abort my baby,and that was a better option?

Psychological research results
Ms. Harris quoted a study reported in the Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health journal, which found the vast majority of women seeking an abortion—87 percent—had high confidence in their decisions. The study was based on 5,000 women in only one clinic, and made before counseling. Here is the rest of that story: “Certain variables were negatively associated with abortions, being sought by women with high confidence: being younger than 20, being black, not having a high school diploma, having a history of depression, having a fetus with an anomaly, having general difficulty making decisions, having spiritual concerns, believing that abortion is killing and fearing not being forgiven by God.” (italics added) 

Let me offer another study: In 2011, a study conducted by Priscilla K. Coleman from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA, was based on 22 published studies. Only the strongest studies were included, with a combined number of participants totaling over 850,000 women, with research published from 1995-2009 in The British Journal of Psychiatry. In the largest study of its kind, researchers concluded that women having abortions experience an 81% increased risk of mental health problems.
"Years ago, when asked why I didn’t choose adoption, my quick, pre-formulated answer was always the same, 'I didn’t want strangers raising my baby!'”- Leslie Dean
The British Journal of Psychiatry also reported that almost 10% of all mental health problems are shown to be directly linked to abortion. The study is the first meta-analysis of research conducted on abortion’s impact on mental health.  It found that post-abortive women are 37% more likely to suffer depression, 110% more likely to engage in higher alcohol use, and 155% more likely to engage in suicidal behavior. The post-abortive women I have met over the past 22 years, have repeatedly shared these problematic issues. Present company included.

In the following statement, Ms. Harris makes the most crucial of arguments. Actually, she has laid bare the psychological truth of this “difficult decision.”  Here is what she says, “In fact, most women—even those who obtained abortions within the first six weeks of pregnancy—would have preferred to have their abortions earlier than they did.” 

She later states there is no moral or religious reasoning behind it; the reason women want to have an abortion as early as possible is the “mother-baby bond” phenomena. The earlier the pregnancy, the less form the baby has. The less form the baby has, the easier the justification—“It’s not a baby—just tissue.” It makes the abortion “easier.”

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in February 1983 that looked at the impact that ultrasound has upon the choice that a pregnant mother will make concerning abortion. (Please remember, this was way before the 3-D and 4-D sonograms we have now; they were much more rudimentary in the 80’s.) The article entitled "Maternal Bonding in Early Fetal Ultrasound Examinations" observed the following:
One of us pointed to the small, visibly moving fetal form on the screen and asked, 
How do you feel about seeing what is inside you?
She answered crisply, It certainly makes you think twice about abortion! 
....asked to say more, she told of the surprise she felt on viewing the fetal form,
especially on seeing it move:I feel that it is human. It belongs to me. I couldn't 
have an abortion now.

The mother was asked about her experience with ultrasound. She said:It really 
made a difference to see that it was alive.

Asked about her position on the moral choice she had to make, she said:  
I am going all the way with the baby, I believe it is human.

The physician/authors of this study concluded by saying:

Ultrasound examination is likely to increase the value of the early fetus for parents who already strongly desire a child. Viewing the fetal form in the late first or early mid-trimester of pregnancy, before movement is felt by the mother, may also influence the resolution of any ambivalence toward the pregnancy itself in favor of the fetus. Ultrasound examination may thus result in fewer abortions and more desired pregnancies.

“Humiliating evidence of failure in judgment”
There is one last issue Ms. Harris raised that I would like to address. She wrote, “An unplanned pregnancy is highly stressful, and for many it is humiliating evidence of a failure in judgment.” 
A humiliating failure in judgment?  As a woman who had two abortions, let me share a real-life failure in judgment:
In the past you have had an abortion. Then, you become pregnant with a baby you do want to keep. You go to the doctor, and he performs a sonogram so you can see your precious baby. (The doctor) is excited as he points out the parts of your baby. You see the baby's heartbeat and him moving inside you . . . and you catch your breath. You know. You know, without any doubts, what you did to your other baby. You know it was alive.

That is a failure you can never erase. You bought the lie, and you made the choice, That was my humiliating failure in judgment. Not once, but twice, and no one cared enough to tell me the truth. The truth allows informed decision. Sometimes the “difficult decision” doesn’t become difficult until years have brought wisdom, and wisdom has brought truth.

About the guest writer: Leslie T. Dean is the author of a published novel, Forgiven Much. She is part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign in Maryland, a Registered Nurse and licensed counselor. Ms Dean is in demand as a speaker on college campuses and other venues. Look for her on social networks, or comment below.

The Washington Post article that prompted this response has a link here.

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