On Abortion, Murder, and “Post-Abortion Trauma”

Have you noticed the emphasis anti-abortion advocates place on the horrible after effects women supposedly suffer after having an abortion? Growing up in the anti-abortion movement, I heard stories of women who had had abortions who couldn’t sleep for months, because they kept imagining they could hear a baby crying, their baby. I heard stories of women plummeting into depression and dropping out of school because they couldn’t bear up under the knowledge that they had murdered their own children. This argument that abortion was not only taking an innocent life, but was actually likely to ruin the woman’s life too, helps buttress the campaign to end legal abortion. But today I realized one eensy teensy problem with this line of reasoning.

I was reading this article about Rick Santorum’s views on abortion, and this section struck me:

Asked by CNN’s Piers Morgan what he would do if his own daughter approached him, begging for an abortion after having been raped, Santorum explained that he would counsel her to “accept this horribly created” baby, because it was still a gift from God, even if given in a “broken” way.

“Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice, I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or she doesn’t, it will always be her child, and she will always know that,” Santorum said.

My parents always taught me the same thing, and for the longest time I believed it. Then in college I was reading Our Bodies, Ourselves, desperate to learn about my own anatomy and understand my own biology, and I came upon an article in it by a woman talking about how grateful she was that she had an abortion, and how having an abortion had allowed her to continue on her studies and toward a rich and fulfilling life. And then I realized something. This woman suffered literally none of the post-abortion trauma I’d always been told she would, and why?  Because she honestly didn’t believe the pregnancy she terminated involved murdering a person.

When does personhood begin?

The truth is, those after affects Santorum speaks of are only suffered if you’ve spent your life believing that personhood begins at conception. If you honestly don’t believe a first trimester fetus is a person, then having an abortion won’t bother you at all. No trauma. No depression. No ruined life through the constant rememberence of the “child” you killed. Nada. You didn’t murder a human child, you simply ended a pregnancy that would have eventually resulted in the birth of a human child.

In the middle ages, even according to the church’s official teaching, abortion was legal until the moment of quickening, which occurs between 15 and 17 weeks. Before quickening, the church taught and society believed, it wasn’t a person at all. At quickening, it became a person, and after that you couldn’t kill it. Throughout human existence, abortion has been a fairly common practice, and for most of that time, people haven’t seen abortion during the early stages of pregnancy as problematic in the least. Women used a variety of methods – many of them dangerous – to “restore their monthly cycles,” and didn’t see that as out of the ordinary or problematic in the least. In fact, abortion was not made universally illegal in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century as part of a campaign to keep birth rates up.

Spreading the Trauma

What is my point in saying all this? My point is that this believe that even a first trimester abortion is “murder” is a relatively new one, as is the idea that personhood begins at conception which it is predicated on. It is also not an idea shared by most Americans today, or most Americans in the past. It is an idea, though, that the anti-abortion movement has worked hard to spread. And it is an idea that is necessary for all their talk of post-abortion trauma to prove true, for that trauma only occurs if a woman honestly believes she has committed murder.

And you know what? If they can get their message out loud and clear enough, maybe they can induce those women who don’t believe first trimester abortion is murder at all to feel guilty. Their claims of “post abortion trauma” are vindicated if they can put pictures of bloody fetuses in front of women on their way into abortion clinics, force those women to watch ultrasounds as doctors describe the body parts of the fetus, and require the doctor to inform the woman that she is about to end a human life (an actual requirement in my state). Anti-abortion activists aren’t stupid. They know that in order for their claim that abortion ruin women’s lives to be true, they have to make it ruin women’s lives. And that, quite simply, is what they are busily trying to do.

Why do I call it “personhood”?

First, I want to distinguish between saying something is “alive” and saying it is a “person.” No one disputes that an embryo and a fetus are “alive.” The thing is, so is cancer, so is bacteria, so are viruses, so is moss, and so on. Lots of things are alive that we don’t have problems terminating. The question revolves not around whether an embryo or a fetus is “alive” but rather around whether or not an embryo or a fetus is a “person.” This is the whole point behind the recent failed Mississippi personhood amendment attempt. If an embryo or a fetus is a “person,” it is entitled to the same rights of every other “person” in the country – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and of course, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The thing is, as I pointed out above, the point at which “personhood” begins has been disputed. Catholics in the middle ages believed it was at the moment of quickening, an idea shared by the Navajos. Jews have always believed that it’s at the moment of birth (with the entering of the “breath of life”). Ancient Romans believed that it was at the moment when the father picked up the newborn infant laid at his feet, accepting it into the family (he could instead choose to have it left outside to die if he refused to accept it).

Anyway, the point is that the moment when “personhood” begins is disputed, and that rather than yelling about how “it has a beating heart” we should actually be discussing when personhood begins, not as a given but as an open question. Currently, legally, personhood begins at birth. And that, quite simply, is what the Personhood Amendment people want to change.

Ending “legal” abortion or ending abortion?

Second, anti-abortion policy today seems more aimed toward ending “legal” abortion than toward ending abortion itself. After all, that’s what all the “personhood amendment” and “heartbeat bill” stuff would do. They add restrictions to how women can obtain abortions, wanting to make legal abortion as difficult as possible to get, with the final goal being making it illegal. The thing is, abortion was illegal in almost every state from the mid-nineteenth century until Roe v. Wade. And do you know what? It was still extremely widespread, though much more dangerous (thousands of women died – and still die in parts of the world where abortion is currently illegal – from unsafe abortions). The thing is, making abortion illegal doesn’t end abortion, it just makes it illegal. Do you know what really brings the abortion rate down? Comprehensive sex education and widespread use of birth control, two things the anti-abortion movement is against. Trying to make abortion illegal is like treating the symptom – women wanting abortions – rather than the cause – unintended and unwanted pregnancies. And this, quite simply, is why I say that anti-abortion policy today seems to be aimed at ending legal abortion, not at ending abortion itself.

Conclusion

The real point of this post when I started it was that in order for Santorum’s words to be true – in order for post abortion trauma to exist – the anti-abortion movement has to create it, either through raising its children to believe abortion is murder from the beginning or by convincing women who weren’t raised that way and have just had abortions that they’re murderers. This post abortion trauma stuff – this idea that having an abortion will ruin your life – is not simply the natural results of having an abortion. It is only the result of having an abortion if you believe that abortion is murder. And you know what? Most women throughout history, and most women today, don’t believe that abortion, or more especially first trimester abortion, is murder. It’s not about lying to yourself to justify murder. It’s about honestly and truly not believing it to be murder.

When I was growing up in the anti-abortion movement, I didn’t understand this. I thought that the idea that abortion was murder was natural – how could anyone not think abortion was murder? And so now, on the other side of the rabbit hole, I can look back down and say that yes, Santorum honestly means the words he says, and he honestly doesn’t realize how crazy he sounds to those not on his side of the rabbit hole.

Note: I use the term “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-life” because I believe it better represents the views of the movement. After all, most supposedly “pro-life” advocates also strongly support the death penalty and are very supportive of the military. What they oppose is not any ending of life, but rather abortion. Hence my calling them “anti-abortion,” which, quite simply, is what they are.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Here is an interesting link on the correlation between low abortion rates and liberal abortion laws, and high abortion rates and conservative abortion laws.

  • jose

    We should invent artificial pod-wombs. Maybe then conservatives would have their babies off their semen only and would let women fucking be.As for personhood, development is proggressive. Even conception isn't a magical instant but a process with several proggressive stages. When are you an adult? Where are you an old person? These are arbitrary, artificial boxes. We set the limits for adulthood, seniority, teen age. I don't see why we can't establish the first and last limits, too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00629727123135969063 Nome

    Good post. All this Santorum junk really is making perplexed. Babies at all costs with no sense of quality of life over quanity. I also think that the woman who had the womb should get to determine when she thinks it is a 'person' and what to do about it.

  • Anonymous

    Staying anonymous for obvious reasons. I was taught the same thing about post-abortion guilt/trauma. I bought it for the most part, for a long time.A few years ago, I had a medical abortion at 7 weeks. I feel no trauma, guilt, or regret, although it was obviously a very, very difficult decision and I regret having had to make it. But regretting my choices that led me to that situation is not the same as regretting the abortion. This distinction is often conflated in pro-life arguments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Thank you for commenting! I think you make a good point – there is natural stress involved in having an abortion, but it comes from the situation you find yourself in, not from the abortion itself, and would be there whether you had an abortion or not. Also, I respect you staying anonymous, but one in three women will have an abortion in their lives, and it seems to me that if more people were "out" about their abortions that might normalize it somehow – if you know your friend, or aunt, or neighbor has had an abortion and is doing great and is a wonderful person, I would imagine it would make the idea of abortion less scary. Unfortunately, given the efforts of the anti-abortion movement, having an abortion currently carries a stigma and is usually something that is kept secret and hidden away, when it really doesn't have to be that way.

  • ScottInOH

    (Sorry if this is a double post. Not familiar with the site yet.)I just found your site, and I think it is stunning–the substance, the writing, and the layout are all amazing. Much of what you write resonates deeply with me, as I am thinking about some of these issues a lot. I'm glad you are here talking about them.I'm sure you know this, but I wanted to point out that discussing when a fetus becomes a person–which is something I do, as well–leaves out the fact that there is another person involved: the woman. It is something the anti-abortion crowd does to frame the debate: Under what circumstances would you kill a baby? rather than Under what circumstances would you strap a woman to a table and make her give a blood transfusion to someone she has never met? or something like that. I don't know how to reconcile those positions, although the fact that the anti-abortion side is also against contraception, which would reduce the number of abortions (and the number of spontaneous abortions, many of which are undetected), means I am reluctant to take their arguments at face value.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Welcome, and thank you for making an excellent point! Even if we were to determine at a certain point that a fetus had personhood, is it ethical to force a woman against her will to support the existence of that person with her body? I've heard it phrased like this: Imagine if someone kidnapped you and then strapped your body to the body of a person in a coma, so that your vital statistics were keeping that person alive. Imagine if you were told you had to stay strapped to that other person for nine months, and then that other person would awake from the coma and you could go your merry way. Furthermore, you are the only person whose vital statistics can keep this person alive, so you can't just pass it off to someone else. Should you be forced to remain strapped to that person for nine months against your will, with it feeding off of you and impending your movement and making your life complicated (you might even have side effects of constant nausea, for instance), or can you ethically unstrap yourself and let the other person die? That example reveals that the ethical questions don't disappear even if you conclude that the fetus at some point, whether conception or quickening or what have you, has personhood. Thanks for bringing this to mind! It's something I didn't mention in my post, but should nevertheless be noted.

  • http://openid.aol.com/finam87 Fina

    Interestingly, an embryo actually ISN'T alive for the first few days after fertilization (until implantation occurs), because it lacks a metabolism. Something without a metabolism actually isn't defined as alive.Basically, until the embyro starts to receive nutrients from it's mother, it does not perform any metabolism.You might consider that a minor nitpick, but it just shows further how incredibly wrong a "personhood begins at conception"-argument is.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Interesting. Another thing to remember is that even once it IS alive, it's only alive because it's feeding off of the mother. It is, quite literally, a parasite. This is something that serious differentiates a embryo/fetus from an actual living baby – the baby may need a lot of care and attention, but it's not literally feeding off of the body of some other person.

  • blue duck

    Determining when 'personhood' or life begins is more or less a cultural question (at least 'personhood' is. Life began more than 3.5 billion years ago, and is still ongoing of course – in biology life doesn't come from dead cells!). In some earlier European cultures, it was believed the soul entered the body when an infant took its first breath. The soul or spirit was completely died to the breath. You can still see traces of this belief in English – words like spirit, respiration and inspiration share the same root.And yes, as numerous studies have found over and over again, the best way to reduce the number of abortions is education and availability of birth control. The extremists like lil' Ricky Santorum hate birth control. It allows women to much control over their own lives. The same, of course, could be said of sex ed. Self knowledge leads too to a desire for some autonomy – and patriarchal whackaloons can't stand that. They know that one key to controlling others is to control their access to information.And finally, these extreme righties ought to know that 'post abortion syndrome' is bunk. Statitically, something like 1 in 3 women have had an abortion at some point in their lives by the time they reach menopause. If this syndrome were real, one should expect this syndrome to be epidemic – and it obviously isn't.

  • Wendy

    My dear, dear Catholic cousin, mother of four, argues that making birth control available is equivalent to expecting people to act like animals. Sigh. So I discretely let her daughters know I'm available to talk. And then I try to keep my head from exploding while I don't mention her husband's vasectomy.Sometimes I think Catholicism is like a giant Zen riddle.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17223859994666636372 Cluisanna

    Another thing to remember is that around 80% of fertilized eggs don't implant at all or are spontaneously aborted (miscarried). So basically, god kills 80% of all persons before they are even born. Also, the body doesn't just randomly chose whether it miscarries or not, but certain birth defects and diseases of the fetus actually lead the body to abort it. If our body decides about abortions based on biological circumstances, why shouldn't we be able to decide to abort based on other circumstances?

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    I think that it all comes down to choice. Women who felt pressured to get pregnant or keep a pregnancy are not going to be very happy as parents and are probably going to suffer more from the lifestyle change. Women who are pressured into getting abortions are more likely to feel depressed about it afterwards. That's why I'm pro-choice. I don't think that women should be pressured in either direction.But you're right – to set abortion up as murder and then argue that people shouldn't get abortions because they'll feel bad is just… evil. It's like telling your kids every day that masturbation is dirty and wrong and then, when they express guilt that they masturbate, tell them that that's how they can know it's wrong…

  • http://carpescriptura.wordpress.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    Although we've gotten around that by defining "parasite" explicitly as NOT a parent/offspring relationship. Those biologists are tricky like that ;)I do think that the "feeding off" issue is central here. Let's say you have someone who needs a blood transfusion and you are a match. Even if you are the only possible match and this person will die without your help, our society still won't force you to donate your blood. Even though it's a minimal inconvenience to you and it means the difference between life and death for them, we still believe in body autonomy. The only exception to this that we make is when pregnancy is involved and the "donor" is the mother. That's why I don't like to think of abortions as killing the fetus, but rather as denying care to the fetus (ignoring for the sake of argument the euthanasia reason for abortion when serious defects are found). The problem is that the fetus cannot survive without its donor. If we had a way to safely remove the fetus without causing additional harm to the woman and implant it into a willing alternative donor, I'd be fully supportive of that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09371826731550331938 AztecQueen2000

    As a mother, I would rather know if my daughters were having "intimate relations" (since they're both under six, this is a non-issue–for now. I'm not that naive.) so that I could start them on birth control and teach them about disease prevention.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    If you're open and honest with them, so that they feel they can come to you about anything, that shouldn't be a problem! At least, that's my plan, though like you I have a while before I have to worry about that!

  • Arachne

    I grew up in a family with the same mindset. Abortion ruins women's lives, causes terrible depression, thoughts of suicide, constant guilt etc. Now, as an adult, not only do I recognize that many women w/ abortions in their past do not have these effects, but that these are symptoms of post-partum depression which many women have after they have had their child.Not only is this happening to a much larger percentage of women who have their child vs women with abortions, but women who have their child are shamed and ostracized if she says anything that would indicate that motherhood has not made her a happier person. I had a very hard time after my second child, and for all that people talk about how much respect mother's should get, I could not talk to a large number of women in my circle of acquaintances for a while because anything that was not positive about the baby was shut down with "Oh but babies are such a blessing they are so worth it" and that does NOT help with depression! It just made me feel more alone.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Bravo, Libby! This was an excellent post! I especially like this: "Anti-abortion activists aren't stupid. They know that in order for their claim that abortion ruin women's lives to be true, they have to make it ruin women's lives. And that, quite simply, is what they are busily trying to do."Well-put. I find this whole approach so disgusting in so many ways. "Well, maybe we can't stop women from having abortions, but we CAN make the experience as miserable as possible!" Ugh! I don't even have anything else to say about that, you said it all.Good points about the "life begins at conception" argument being relatively new too. There have been anti-abortion arguments for a long time, but they didn't have to do with the idea of the fetus or embryo having a right to life. Another thing that bothers me: I really don't like how some pro-choice advocates, maybe some desire to square their views with their opponents' views, have to make this big to-do about about how choosing abortion is this incredibly wrenching, tragic choice for a woman and we should pity her, not punish her. Besides being totally patronizing, like you say, a lot of women don't feel that way. If that IS how a woman feels, she's entitled to her feelings but that's not, for example, how I would feel. I know, and have known, that I would get an abortion if I were to get pregnant (highly, HIGHLY unlikely but it's still good to have an answer to that question). I'm not in a position to be a mom now. Would it be difficult? In some ways, yes. It's pretty heavy to have to choose between two futures, especially when there are parts of the one I would be rejecting that are appealing (because I want kids, just not right now). When I was with my ex, I wondered how it would make him feel if we were to get pregnant and have an abortion and I felt concern for his feelings. And of course there'd always be that little part of me that wonders something like "What if I get some rare disease that destroys me reproductive system and this is my one chance to have a biological child!" and other unlikely stuff like that. But see, all these concerns have to do with ME and for the guy. They don't have to do with qualms over the morality of abortion. If I had such qualms, I wouldn't have one. I can only say that I would have an abortion because I'm NOT troubled by the idea of terminating a pregnancy. If I were to end up with an unplanned pregnancy at the wrong time, any emotional difficulty in ending it would stem from concerns for my own life. I know it's taboo to some people for a woman to consider herself and not always just others. But when it comes to this, myself is who it's about, as far as I'm concerned.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Actually, I think that's an important point. Because it seems like the conception=fertilization thing is relatively new in the popular discourse. I'm sure there were people who believed that, but it's not something I ever remembered hearing a lot about when I was a kid. For the most part, most people, even the anti-abortion people, didn't seem to dispute that conception occurred at implantation.Because there was no reason to. There were no birth control methods on the market that prevented implantation but not fertilization. This was before the morning after pill went on the market, and before the new, safe, IUDs too. Once those things were available, then all of a sudden, once it became POSSIBLE to prevent implantation for most women, all of a sudden a zygote is a person. It seems like a lot of these people's definition of beginning of life is a moving target and that it seems move depending in a way that conveniently defines any form of birth control that comes out as murder. Which kind of makes you wonder about the motives of many of these people. Is it really about abortion or is it about birth control, women having control over their own fertility? I don't doubt that there are many people who genuinely oppose abortion on moral terms (I know some of them too) but I also think a lot of them are just driven nuts by the idea of women having any other choice but getting married ASAP and cranking out teh babieez. For these people, it really IS about controlling women first and foremost.

  • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com/ Christine (Dream-wind from LiveJournal)

    I, too, get thoroughly annoyed at the sob abortion story sites. A few years ago, when Australia was finally gearing up to repeal the ban on RU486 (the medical abortion drug) I was doing some personal research into its side-effects and effectiveness. My head was pratically exploding in rage as I came across site after site of anti-abortion messages dressed up as abortion testimonials (I suspect some of those stories are made up to maximise the heart-tugging).And then I came across http://www.imnotsorry.net/. It was set up as a specific counter to the aborton regret stories, and contains testimonials from women who've had an abortion and don't regret it. There are stories from women of all ages, who had the abortions for different reasons. The only regrets experienced are the choices that led to pregnancy, and all the women feel bringing a child they weren't ready for into the world would be a bigger regret.Plus, it contains a truly magnificent smackdown of pro-lifers.

  • http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com OneSmallStep

    **Have you noticed the emphasis anti-abortion advocates place on the horrible after effects women supposedly suffer after having an abortion?**Yes. And yet see nothing wrong with wanting the government to legally compel women to forcibly remain pregnant and give birth. Even though wanted pregnancies and births can come with some pretty big side effects. Some may even say "horrific."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    Love this post, Libby Anne! Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Libby said,"And you know what? Most women throughout history, and most women today, don't believe that abortion, or more especially first trimester abortion, is murder."I was curious, Libby, where you found this evidence of what "most women" believe about abortion?In my wondering if there were any recent research studies re: post abortion issues, I googled "abortion studies" and found there is a study that came out in September 2011 by the British Journal of Psychiatry. It is the largest study completed to date. The study was based on analysing 22 separate studies in 6 countries. In total, there were 877,181 participants of whom 163,831 had experienced an abortion. Apparently, this makes Dr. Coleman’s study the most comprehensive of its kind to date. The report stated abortion increases risk of severe mental health problems by 81%. The study also took into account pre-existing mental health problems prior to the abortion. Dr.Coleman's research revealed that abortion was associated with "a 34% increased risk for anxiety disorders; 37% greater risk of depression; 110% greater risk of alcohol abuse and 220% greater risk of marijuana use/abuse". Abortion was also linked with a 155% greater risk of attempting to commit suicide". Dr. Coleman stated in the report, “Given the methodological limitations of recently published qualitative reviews of abortion and mental health, a quantitative synthesis was deemed necessary to represent more accurately the published literature and to provide clarity to clinicians”. She said her research was focused on offering “the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world literature.” She believes her study would give health care practitioners “an accurate synopsis of the best available evidence in order to provide women with valid information in order to make informed health care decisions.”An abstract of the study I referred to is titled “Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995–2009”. It also includes links to the full text which is available on the British Journal of Psychiatry.Before making a life changing decision, as I believe abortion is, I think knowing what research information is available and reporting, is vital.As a registered nurse student in 1974, I made my decision about abortion after seeing a lifeless human, aborted baby. The baby I am referring to, was visibly perfectly formed in every way, naked, lying in a bowl situated next to the garbage can, in the hospital dirty utility room. I ask a question for you to consider, on exactly which day in gestation is the baby a person? Is it the 33rd day, the 45th day, or is it in the 8th hour of the 93rd day of the gestation period? I read last week the first baby delivered weighing only 9 ounces, went home after 5 months in the hospital. Forty years ago this was unheard of. Beverly

  • Meggie

    BE CAREFUL! Tricky thing about comparing past attitudes to todays attitudes on when life begins is that you must also compare past and present understanding of how pregnancy occurs. For example, for a long time people believed that there was male & female sperm and both had to ejaculate if pregnancy was to occur. Therefore, rape could not cause pregnancy. With limited understanding of biology, it is natural that their definition of when life begins will be different to ours. I imagine future generations will have even more knowledge and these definitions will continue to change.

  • Meggie

    As for the actual abortion issue; I terminated a pregnancy at nine weeks. Please note the wording. I terminated a pregnancy. I did not kill a child. I have never regretted that terminated. No depression. No hearing imaginary crying. No loss of sleep. Subsequent pregnancies and the children that resulted are the joy of my life.I guess this is just another case of people only hearing one side of an argument.

  • Rosa

    Beverly, once you're pregnant, you're making a life-changing decision anyway. You're having an abortion, a miscarriage, or a baby – any one of those is big.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I'm really busy right now and don't have time to get into a stats debate, but the problem with studies like these is that they confuse correlation with causation. Of COURSE the population of women who have abortions will have higher incidences of alcohol, depress, marijuana, etc, because it is THESE women who are most likely to have unintended pregnancies. Further, as several commenters have pointed out, these sorts of thinks most likely arise from the SITUATION – the unintended pregnancy – not the abortion, and would likely exist whether the pregnancy was terminated or carried to term. The problem also, of course, is that there are counter studies, such as this one in Denmark, which is in my understanding the most comprehensive because Denmark keeps public databases of every medical procedure, including abortion, and other countries don't, meaning that a study of Denmark can truly cover everyone in the country who had an abortion – and this study showed the opposite of the study you mention.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I just did some looking on the study you cited. Here is a blog article. (not by a scientist) that discusses some of the problems. Further, if you read the wikipedia article on Pricilla Coleman, you would find this: "The statistical methods Coleman and her co-authors use have been criticized by the American Psychological Association (APA).[3] A panel convened by the APA found that the studies by Coleman, and her co-authors have "inadequate or inappropriate" controls and don't adequately control "for women's mental health prior to the pregnancy and abortion." … Coleman, Cougle, Reardon and Rue have also been criticized by other researchers in the field. … Nancy Russo, a psychology professor and abortion researcher, examined two of Coleman and Reardon's articles, and found that when the methodological flaws in the studies were corrected, the supposed correlation between abortion and poor mental health disappeared. … According to a 2010 review of the group's analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey, an analysis which claimed that women who had abortions suffered from higher rates of depression and substance abuse, Coleman and her colleagues failed to control for pre-existing mental health problems and for other risk factors for mental health problems, such as sexual or physical violence. … Regarding Coleman's 2011 publication, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists responded that four previous reviews of all available material, three published and one by the RCOG guideline development group, had found that women who have abortions did not face an increased risk of mental health problems, and suggested that Coleman's results were due to her failure to control for previously existing problems."So no, it appears that Coleman's study isn't exactly scientific, and doesn't exactly hold up to the actual evidence.

  • McCthulhu

    Well written post. For a decent argument about when life begins or at least a smart alternative to the definition, Carl Sagan had a segment in one of his books (Demon Haunted World or Billions and Billions – someone reading them more recently can probably point you to which book and page(s)) dealing with the issue. His argument was a person isn't a person unless there's brain activity. I won't try to paraphrase here because we all know Sagan is a much better communicator than I could ever dream of being. It is well worth looking up if you want a decent argument about when life begins. The tactic of making women have negative feelings about their experience just builds more evidence against patriarchal belief systems, and those using them as a bludgeon against a necessary option for women. I don't think I have come across a single argument the anti-abortion crowd has made regarding the sex-partner's role in the pregnancy. Women can't make themselves pregnant. No guilt and remorse for the men, please. They might actually be required to show responsibility and use birth control, which wouldn't require anyone to feel remorseful or guilty.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Very well said. I feel the same.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Damnit, my cat deleted what I had written…One of the first things they teach us in Medicine Uni is that you can't trust 99% of the supposed scientific studies because a lot of them have flawed methodology or hidden economic or politic interests behind them. For example, the Uk study that created all the controversy about Vaccines and Autism (and that has damaged our society greatly and exposed our children to illnesses already erradicated) was financed by a lawyer of 7 families with children with autism who were suing a pharmceutical. Later nobody was able to replicate the results obtained by the study and they discovered he had manipulated the data, that doctor has even lost his license to work in the Uk at least because of this. Not all the studies are manipulated, some doctor may be good at Medicine but not so good at randomly selecting groups or individuals or in general they can suck at statistics and disingenously try to pass flawed studies as good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Also, to answer your last paragraph, Beverly: First, a baby aborted at the point you indicate the baby you saw was is only aborted for one of three reasons – the woman was made pregnant by rape or incest and because of her situation was not able to obtain an abortion earlier; the baby had some sort of abnormality, physical or neurological; or the life of the mother was in danger. Selective abortions for all other reasons occur in the first trimester, when the fetus does not look like a "perfectly formed baby," and most before it starts to look anything like a baby. An abortion at 7 weeks, for instance, will look like a blood clot, like an especially heavy period, nothing more. Second, as to your question, people answer that question differently. If you look below at McCthulhu's comment, it echoes many of my thoughts. I connect personhood to higher level brain function. If a person is "brain dead," even if their body is still technically alive, we consider that person dead. Therefore, I don't think a fetus is a person until it has higher level brain function, which occurs sometime in the third trimester. But this is just my perspective, and one thing I've learned is that there are no black and white answers. Life is complex and full of shades of gray. I could totally get on board with restricting abortion to the first trimester, when I see NO chance of any sort of personhood, with exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother, and fetal abnormalities, IF first trimester abortion were made easier to obtain (today, it's growing increasingly complicated to get one, and things like waiting periods and travel make it so women can't simply get abortions as soon as they know they're pregnant).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I've heard Sagan's argument before, and it's actually the argument I find most convincing. The only difficult part is that that brain function develops gradually, and that you have to note that "brain waves" (which start quite early) is not the same as "higher level brain function" (which comes quite late). The problem is that it's not just one day you have no higher level brain function and the next day you do. But this is just another reminder that life is not black and white. If there were easy and obvious answers, humans wouldn't have disagreed on this for millenia and continue to do so today. It just means that the lines of morality are often blurry, rather than obvious. But you know what? I'm okay with that. That's LIFE.As to your last point, I've actually seen men brought into the conversation, and here's how: The argument is that "fathers" whose zygotes/fetuses are aborted suffer from a sort of post abortion syndrome, with ruined lives and such as well, because they know their child was murdered, and they had no choice in the matter. This argument actually expands post abortion syndrome and turns the "choice" argument on its head by arguing that men should have to consent before an abortion. Which is bullshit.

  • ScottInOH

    Your approach, though, MrPopularSentiment (1/24, 12:30pm), would again leave the woman completely out of the discussion. If that approach were presented as an option, that would be one thing, but if it were a requirement, it would be denying her autonomy, regardless of how non-invasive or otherwise reasonable it seemed.I think your last paragraph is exactly right, Petticoat Philosopher (1/24, 4:46pm), and this is apparent from the fact that more and more anti-abortionists are openly opposing ANY form of birth control, not just types that MIGHT prevent implantation. (My understanding is that we're not really sure that the pill or morning-after pill prevents implantation; all we know is that it prevents ovulation.)I had not heard Fina's (1/24, 9:26am) point before. If it's right, that's even more reason that any contraception before implantation should be completely unrestricted for anything but medical reasons. For Catholics (at least for the last hundred years or so, although not before that), the argument that life begins at conception is based on the belief that the zygote receives a human soul at conception. In other words, it is a religious belief that shouldn't be the basis of policy.

    • Michelle A. Mead

      I have been told that every child conceived is meant to become a person, and that God gives a soul to each one of these creations. So, how do these same people justify my miscarriage? God got it wrong? I’ve been told I miscarried because I was being punished for something awful I’d done in the past. Punish a new life for the sins or faults of parent? That seems like a pretty harsh God, don’t you think? But thinking otherwise would open the possibility that not every fertized egg is meant to be carried to term, and those people can’t wrap their heads around that. Reducing a miscarriage to a medical problem or a flaw in the fetus flies in the face of people who see every child as perfection, and every pregnancy as ordained by God.

  • Anonymous

    I agree! I actually am learning to be much more open about it with friends and acquaintances, but family is a different matter. I'd just rather say it in person than risk an online discovery, as I use the same handle for many websites!

  • ScottInOH

    Anonymous/Beverly (1/25, 1:30am), how do you answer your own question (when does a fetus become a person), and why?If you're willing, I'd also be curious to know how you would answer it from the other direction: under what circumstances would you force a woman to provide life support for nine months to someone she didn't know?

  • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine (Dreamwind from LiveJournal)

    One other thing: the correct medical term for a miscarriage is… wait for it… ABORTION. It's qualified by being a "spontaneous abortion" but it's still abortion. And many women will have a D&C; after having a spontaneous abortion, and the ICD-MBSE codes indicate "Dilation and Curettage following spontaneous abortion" (there are a number of codes indicating the stage the pregnancy was at before the abortion occurred). ICD is an international medical coding standard of disease/surgical procedures.I've often wondered if the stats for abortions separate out the spontaneous abortions from the planned abortions (they use a different set of codes).

  • Anonymous

    I know first-hand how anti-abortion attitudes make abortion more traumatic than it has to be. When I was first married, my husband and I decided that we wanted a baby right away. I got pregnant, only to find out from a 15-week ultrasound that the baby was anencephalic. This is a condition where the brain and skull do not develop, it is untreatable and there is zero chance of survival. While this was devastating for us, the magnitude of the damage made the decision to end the pregnancy easy. I thought of it as the equivalent of a brain dead person on life support, myself being the life support system. Some women choose to stay pregnant under these circumstances (and if that is their genuine wish they should be supported in this) but I would have found doing so to be pointless suffering. I also did some research and found that my chances of having successful pregnancies in future would be higher if I terminated sooner rather than later. Problem was that the premier of the province I was living in then was a religious type who swore he would only allow abortions in provincial hospitals 'if the woman came bleeding to the door' or something like that. For a few days I didn't know what to do — would I have to go out of province? Or out of country? This was the last thing I needed at this point in my life. Fortunately he was overruled, and I was able to get a medically supervised abortion within a week. I now have four grown sons and no guilt about my experience — only anger that one man's attitudes made a painful time in my life even more so.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    You make another excellent point! Women who terminate pregnancies because of untreatable fetal abnoralities will OF COURSE experience some level of trauma, because it was a wanted baby who turned out not to be viable. It wasn't the abortion that caused you this pain though, it was the situation that necessitated the abortion – the fetal abnormality. This is actually something I've thought about. If, during a future pregnancy, I were to hear the same news as you, I would have a tough decision to make. I could either carry the baby to term (though I don't think I would want to), or I could have an abortion and hide it from my family (this could be tricky), or I could have an abortion and let that be open knowledge and then watch my parents condemn me as a murderer on top of the pain I was already suffering. This is NOT something I want to have to think about!

  • Anonymous

    Not all pro-life people are against birth control (or sex education for that matter). Some of us conservatives can be reasonable on some matters. We aren't all crazy quiverful people.

  • Anonymous

    If you kill a fetus you kill the baby, kill the child and kill the adult. You change the future for that human being and all those who would have develop relationships with and the kids he/she would have had. Look at China no females for males due to selective abortions. Look at Italy and other countries that pay couples to have children since their population is dwindling. What about all those 50,000,000 who would have been in the work force to help support the elderly. what about all those promises abortion advocates make about how society would become better? Does society better or worse? Of course we know it has gotten worse. It the pro choice people are so pro-choice why force Catholic Hospitals, pharmacists and others not perform abotions or given out abortafacients. What about choice?Hmmm Pro-lifers want to stop the slaugher of innocent human beings.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01412447819828301892 Dream

    How do you kill a baby which does not exist? How do you kill a child who does not exist? How do you kill an adult who does not exist? You seem to have some very odd ideas about time, the future doesn't actually exist until it happens you know.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    "If you kill a fetus you kill the baby, kill the child and kill the adult. You change the future for that human being and all those who would have develop relationships with and the kids he/she would have had."And when women spend the fertile days of their cycle doing anything but having as much unprotected, baby-making sex as possible, they are also denying the world more human beings (because 7 billion is not nearly enough!) for other human beings to have relationships with. Where do you draw the line?"Look at China no females for males due to selective abortions."Libby has addressed this in her blog. The fact that more female than male fetuses are aborted in countries like India and China does not have to do with the fact that abortion is available (as indicated by the fact that where there isn't abortion, there's infanticide), it's due to patriarchal cultures that devalue women. The fact that anybody can look at what's going on these countries and conclude that the problem is abortion blows my mind."Look at Italy and other countries that pay couples to have children since their population is dwindling."There are enough people in the world. Who cares what nationality they are? Nations want to protect their individual interests, so of course they're going to encourage their citizens to replace the population, but the time for thinking in those short-sighted terms instead of thinking about the global future and working together across national lines, is drawing to a close."What about all those 50,000,000 who would have been in the work force to help support the elderly."If we can support the banks and corporations, we can support the elderly. We just don't want to is all."what about all those promises abortion advocates make about how society would become better?"Pro-choicers did not promise to fix all of society. They advocated for abortion rights so women could have more choices, more control over their own bodies and fertility, and fewer tragic back-alley abortions. Now they do. What's your proposal to help make society better? "Does society better or worse? Of course we know it has gotten worse."Worse since what? Since black people couldn't even vote in the South? Since women could be legally raped by their husbands? Since gay people had to live secret lives? Yeah, the old days were much better."It the pro choice people are so pro-choice why force Catholic Hospitals, pharmacists and others not perform abotions or given out abortafacients."Catholic hospitals DON'T have to perform abortions. And pharmacists SHOULD have to give out abortifacents because that is their job. RU-486 is a legal drug in this country and it's a pharmacists job to make the drugs that doctors prescribe their patients available to them. If you don't like it, get another job.

  • http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com OneSmallStep

    **You change the future for that human being and all those who would have develop relationships with and the kids he/she would have had.**When you force a woman to remain pregnant and give birth, you change her future, and all those who could've developed future relationships with the woman. You also impact any future children she might have had. A twenty-two year old forced to give birth might never have children after that experience, whereas if she had an abortion, she might've gone on to be married and have three kids. She might've gone on to be a Doctor, saving many more lives. This was is frustrating about the pro-life movement. I remember reading a blog about anti-contraception, and how the fact that women could now control how many children we had meant that we were losing all our musicians like MOzart, who was a seventh child. This completely dismissed any contribution a woman could provide other than a functioning uterus. The fact that women can control their fertility means that they, too, can be a Mozart in our society. In that type of mind-set, it's like the cost of birth control means we lose any potential contributions men can provide, whereas the pro-choice is also celebrating what women can contribute.And the whole MOzart analogy ignores the fact that Mozart was only one of two children to survive infancy, which is why there were seven kids in the first place. ANd his sister was also a very accomplished musician, but we don't have anything from her, because her only job was to be a wife and uterus.

    • http://sheilacrosby.com Sheila

      And there’s nothing to say that the kids who aren’t conceived would have been musical geniuses. They might equally well turn out to be serial killers or vicious dictators.

  • praminthehall

    I agree. I think the idea of personhood winds up becoming a loud YES NO debate with no resolution. But I think the question of forced pregnancy is quite another. If we had compulsory blood, bone marrow or liver donations, compulsory pregnancy would at least be ethically consistent (I use those examples because all of those regenerate, so technically you would be "back to normal" after a certain period of time, as with pregnancy). However, while I'm sure many people who oppose a women's right to terminate a pregnancy would say that blood and organ donations are a good thing to do, few would compel anyone to do them, even if it meant saving someone's life.

  • Anonymous

    What is quickening? When the mother feels the baby kick? And so abortion could be okay up to 16 or 20 weeks for a first-time mother who doesn't know what she's feeling? But then it wouldn't be okay for 2nd time mothers until that point, because they would know that what they were feeling was the baby kicking earlier, so maybe then you can't have an abortion after week 14? Including "quickening" as part of your argument really lowers the integrity of your argument. We have much more scientific knowledge available to us now, as well as ultrasound. I first became pro-life because of scientific realities of pregnancy (as a biology major at a secular university), and the uncertainty of when an embryo or fetus suddenly turns into a real human being. Human beings are far too fallible, self-interested, and prone to convenience to be in charge of deciding that issue. Centuries' worth of slave owners managed to convince themselves that people of other races were less than human, yet now we decry it. Who is to say we won't decide that a 10-week-old fetus is not really a human being, but then magically during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, it's not okay to abort anymore? I don't see the logic of that argument.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I don't think Libby was arguing that "quickening" should be the standard by which we judge whether or not it's okay to abort. She was not citing that idea in support of her pro-choice position. She was just trying to point out that the question of when life begins has been handled differently by a lot of different cultures and that the answer is not obvious or self-evident like the anti-abortion crowd would have us believe. Many different standards have existed and the idea of personhood beginning at conception is actually pretty recent. That does not in itself make it invalid because, like you say, many ideas like the idea of slavery being wrong are also relatively recent. The actual rebuttals to the idea of personhood beginning at conception are a separate issue (and one which I think she dealt with pretty comprehensively). The point here is that history clearly demonstrates that there has never been one, instinctively obvious answer to the question of when personhood begins that pro-choicers must deny or repress to maintain their positions, and that is a key part of the anti-abortion narrative–that pro-choicers KNOW that abortion is murder because, well, duh, everyone has always known that, and they're just in denial about it.I also don't think Libby is trying to say that, because people disagree, there IS no right answer to when abortion becomes morally wrong. If you read her post carefully, she actually has a pretty strongly-stated position on this issue. The difference is that she defends it based on her belief that the arguments in support of it make the most sense. She does not try to put it forth as some kind of obvious conclusion that anybody would come to unless they're in denial. Why can't anti-abortion advocates do the same thing?As for why it is "magically" not okay to abort a fetus at a certain point: Well why is it "magically" not okay to terminate after fertilization or after implantation? What's so magic about an egg meeting a sperm, or a tiny cluster of cells embedding itself in a uterine lining? How does that make it a person? It's all a continuum. If you're going to draw the line somewhere, higher brain function seems to make the most sense to me.As for this: "Human beings are far too fallible, self-interested, and prone to convenience to be in charge of deciding that issue."I don't understand this at all. Who does decide on the issue if not humans? Are the people advocating for anti-abortion policies not humans? Do you really think they don't have their own interests? This doesn't make any sense.

  • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

    Ah, a paraphrase of the good old "that child you aborted might have found the cure for cancer" argument.So, right back at ya – "that child that wasn't aborted grew up to be Adolf Hitler/Ted Bundy/Charles Manson."

  • Anonymous

    Libby said,"..it appears that Coleman's study isn't exactly scientific, and doesn't exactly hold up to the actual evidence."I would not consider the blog you quoted as scientifically credible. Dr. Coleman's study, did in fact, take into account women's pre-existing mental health problems prior to abortion, as stated in the article I quoted above. There is also a video on u-tube that discusses the scientific processes of Dr. Coleman's study. Just as Dr. Coleman's research received criticism, the APA received criticism as well. A part of the criticism of the APA is seen below in quotes.“The APA could have used an objective approach like Dr. Coleman's. Instead, they deliberately obscured the clear trend in research findings by employing highly subjective reasons to dismiss, ignore, or obscure findings which did not mesh with their preconceived conclusions. This new review proves that when you use a standardized method of laying out the results of all the studies side by side, the trend is unmistakable. The reliability of the APA Task Force report is further called into question by the fact that the task force chair, Dr. Brenda Major, has refused to allow her own data on abortion and mental health to be reanalyzed by other researchers. This behavior is especially egregious since it violates the APA’s own ethics rules requiring data sharing,”.Libby said."There are counter studies, such as this one in Denmark,"The Danish study was shown to have inaccurate issues, a few of those follow:" The Danish study flies in the face of over 30 professional studies just in the past five years that conclude that there is a serious negative mental health impact on women who have abortions. The list of those studies is at the site of the Elliot Institute, TheUnChoice.com. Not one major media outlet reported this.2. The study was funded in part by the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which as the Associated Press reported, "supports abortion rights organizations and projects." The Los Angeles Times conveniently omitted this fact in its article.3. Matthew Cullinan Hoffman at LifeSiteNews.com has reported that the study has been found to have "major problems." Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University and an expert in the link between abortion and mental illness studied the report and concluded that the study's (Denmark) own data "indicate that rates of mental health problems are significantly higher after abortion compared to after childbirth (15.2% vs. 6.7%) and compared to not having been pregnant (8.2%)."Beverly

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Beverly, The blog article I cited was only an example, it was NOT meant to be scientific. I also cited wikipedia, which if you look below, each assertion (which I quoted in depth – I did not quote from the blog article) is backed up with sources. I don't know what happened to your comment where you questioned what I said about an abortion at seven weeks looking like a blood clot, but notice that I said the ABORTION would look like a blood clot, not the fetus itself. The fetus at that point is, from what I can gather on fetal development websites, half an inch long and starting to grow arm and leg buds. Here is a picture, and I have to say no, that does not look like a baby. As for an abortion looking like a blood clot, I gathered that from reading this blog post. The problem is that most pictures of aborted fetuses put up on signs and such are inaccurate – they're labeled as far earlier than they actually are. I figured this out when I started looking at the pictures of fetal parts by pennies and dimes, and looking up the diameter of pennies and dimes and then looking up the length and development of fetuses at the number of weeks listed with the pictures, and finding that the arms and finding that the fetus pictured was many times longer than a fetus actually is at that point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I think the problem we're having here, Beverly, is who we trust. I've seen this with my parents on the issue of evolution. They trust what Answers in Genesis says implicitly, and believe that scientists are involved in a massive cover up/lie campaign. Anything AiG says they take as true, anything actual scientists say they discount automatically. Personally, I don't listen to what pro-life activists say on these issues because I have found them to be highly dishonest. I'm not saying that I automatically believe everything a pro-choice activist says, but I do put much more stock by it because I haven't found them to be dishonest at the level pro-life activists are. You, I think, do the opposite. You seem to assume that anything a pro-choice activist says about fetal development, or "post abortion syndrome," etc, is an intentional lie, and the pro-choice activists are the ones who are being truthful. As such, I don't think we can come to any agreement on this. I will say this, though. I really don't care if a fetus at X or Y weeks "looks like" a baby. I don't see that as being the issue at all. I personally connect personhood to higher level brain function. We are human because we can think, love, interact, etc. If someone has no higher level brain function, but their body is still technically breathing, we consider that "person" to be gone. In that way a body can be alive without actually containing a person. I am aware that connecting when the fetus becomes a person to higher level brain function is just a judgement call on my part, but it has to be a judgement call, because there is no higher power from which to hear this – and even the Christian God is not clear, if you want to go there. I also understand that this definition makes the point where personhood begins blurry, but life is filled with shades of gray and wishing it weren't doesn't change that. My understanding is that higher level brain function happens sometime in the third trimester. This is why I have said, repeatedly, that I would support limiting second and third trimester abortions to cases like fetal deformity or the life of the mother being in danger, IF first trimester abortions are made easier to get. I don't see any danger of a first trimester fetus having personhood, and have absolutely no qualms about a first trimester abortion. It's only later that things get iffy. But there's a second issue to add to the one of personhood, and that is the one of the woman's bodily integrity. We don't force people to give blood transfusions or bone marrow transplants, even if they are the only match and without it the other person would die. We wouldn't think of forcing someone to give a kidney transplant in the same circumstances. And yet, pro-life activists believe we should force women to use their bodies to support another life/person even if they don't want to. I need to think on this argument more before I know exactly what I think about it, but I find it intriguing, and it makes the point that even beyond the issue of personhood there are still more moral qualms with making abortion illegal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01428093080664074715 Carolyn

    If you choose to not have sex on a specific night, or use a more effective form of birth control and don't get pregnant, you change the future in the same way. We can't use the growth Ponzi scheme forever. Global climate change exists, and if we want to solve it, we can't keep wanting each generation larger than the previous one. Those 50 million people that might exist (and would first need more schools, more hospitals, more housing, and more resources in general) would then need to have more children to keep up the growth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01428093080664074715 Carolyn

    I'll add another data point. I have had both an abortion (at 6 weeks) and a miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy (at 10-ish weeks). Emotionally, the experiences were nothing alike. The abortion upset me a little, mostly because I felt that I couldn't talk about it openly. The main thing I felt was relief, and a slight bit of embarrassment that I was so relieved. Even the miscarriage was not as great a trauma as some people talk about. I was upset, but over the loss of possibilities and a future I wanted for myself. I might have been more upset if the pregnancy was more advanced, maybe. I was angry that I'd spent two months with morning sickness for nothing. I didn't mourn a child. But it's this experience that makes hanging out with my young relatives a little bittersweet, not the abortion.

  • Anonymous

    Christine said:I've often wondered if the stats for abortions separate out the spontaneous abortions from the planned abortions (they use a different set of codes).Chrisine,Yes, they do. I worked for a physician who had an OB Gyn practice. The charting specified which type of abortion the patient had. From a few of the post abortion studies I read, it was differentiated there as well. The language you spoke of as "spontaneous abortion" existed prior to legalization of "planned" abortion in the US.Personally, I experienced a spontaneous abortion which is a miscarriage at 12-13 weeks gestation and I did have the D&C; which is the procedure that the physician does to dilate the cervix and remove the contents of the uterus. My miscarriage was partial, and it was important to remove the remaining contents in the uterus so infection would not set in. Yes, it is the same procedure abortionists use to remove the baby from the uterus.Beverly

  • Anonymous

    Libby said,"An abortion at 7 weeks, for instance, will look like a blood clot, like an especially heavy period, nothing more." The above statement you made Libby is absolutely false. People tend to feel better about abortion when describing the beginnings of the baby in the womb, as "only a blob of cells, or only a blood clot". Rather science has shown, at 7 weeks gestation, instead of just a blood clot, there is actually an upper lip on the baby's face, arms, lungs, nerves and muscles working together, circulatory system, heart beating and a conscious brain. The following are a few more science facts:"3 Weeks after Fertilization (5 weeks after LMP):The eyes and spinal cord are visible and the developing brain has two lobes.[39] [40]4 Weeks after Fertilization (6 weeks after LMP):The heart is beating and a circulatory system is in place.[41] The portion of the brain associated with consciousness (the cerebrum) and internal organs such as the lungs are beginning to develop and can be identified.[427 Weeks after Fertilization (9 weeks after LMP):Muscles and nerves begin working together. When the upper lip is tickled, the arms move backwards.[43] The portion of the brain associated with consciousness (the cerebrum) has divided into hemispheres.[44]"9 Weeks after Fertilization (11 weeks after LMP):More than 90% of the body structures found in a full-grown human are present. The medical classification changes from an embryo to a fetus. This dividing line was chosen by embryologists because from this point forward, most development involves growth in existing body structures instead of the formation of new ones.[46] [47] The preborn human moves body parts without any outside stimulation.[48]"The above facts are taken from the following.Abortion Facts." By James D. Agresti. Just Facts, September 24, 2008. Revised 11/5/10. http://justfacts.com/abortion.aspLibby, I understand we are not going to change each others opinions on abortion. This is not a debate on stats as you inferred. I am interested in scientific facts and it is concerning when I read false information. Beverly(This is a repeat comment, as my earlier one disappeared, according to Libby.)

  • Anonymous

    Libby said."I will say this, though. I really don't care if a fetus at X or Y weeks "looks like" a baby. I don't see that as being the issue at all. I personally connect personhood to higher level brain function. We are human because we can think, love, interact, etc. If someone has no higher level brain function, but their body is still technically breathing, we consider that "person" to be gone. In that way a body can be alive without actually containing a person."With this reasoning of whether a baby is a person or not, and at what point exactly the baby is a person, I ask what about a baby born prematurely? The baby is breathing yes, but the baby would not be interacting on a higher level brain function. I have been in the prenatal intensive care unit at the hospital. According to your definition none of those tiny babies are persons. How do you reconcile that?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    No, but they are wanted, and doctors keep them alive as their brains develop and eventually gain higher level brain function. They couldn't live without the medical machines and medications that keep them alive any more than any other baby could live without the support of the womb. However, I will say, in our society today the legal definition of when someone becomes a "person" is at birth. So a fetus delivered extremely prematurely that manages to live would legally be counted as a "person." I never said I had all the answers or that things were black and white. They aren't. I think that one thing involved in leaving religion, for me, was giving up the idea that things had to be black and white. They're just not.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Also, no baby in the neo-natal intensive care unit was delivered in the first trimester. Because that's impossible. At the current point of viability, a fetus has already entered the period of development that Libby herself has stated as her threshold past which abortion becomes more morally troubling. How many times does she need to repeat this? I notice you have no response to her indisputable statement that there is no way that the fetus you saw was at the state of development when most routine abortions are performed–it was at a stage when abortions are performed under circumstances of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or serious maternal health concerns. Upper lip or not, there is no way a few-week embryo is going to appear as a "perfectly formed baby," especially not to the naked eye.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I've had embriology class in which we had embrios and fetus in bottles from all gestational ages and it doesn't look human (at most it looks like an alien)until very further down the line, not that it matters if it looks human or not to me. For me, it's human from the moment it's born, not before. Also, the developmente of the telencephalum might start early but it doesn't acquire higher functions until well after the first trimester. It's like the leg, at first, you can call the arms or the "stomach", you can call them arms but they look nothing like that, nor have the function, until further down the line.As an aside, my mum has two abortions before having us and she is very proud of having had because she wanted to have us and not because she was forced by circumstance. She has never regretted her abortions and she talks about it like she would talk about what she did last week. I didn't want tos hare it because it isn't my story but some more cases of people not regretting abortions sounds like good right now.

  • Anonymous

    Petticoat Philosopher said:"I notice you have no response to her indisputable statement that there is no way that the fetus you saw was at the state of development when most routine abortions are performed–it was at a stage when abortions are performed under circumstances of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or serious maternal health concerns. Upper lip or not, there is no way a few-week embryo is going to appear as a "perfectly formed baby," especially not to the naked eye."Actually I did have a response to Libby. I am not sure what happened to it. Libby mentioned this morning some of my comment had disappeared and I reposted, maybe I didn't repost it all. In answer to your accusation of my silence, here is the comment I had made about that:"… Libby,I find it interesting you are diagnosing why a patient in the 70's aborted a perfectly formed baby. None of your explanations are correct. Remember this was 1974, any and all kinds of abortions, 1st, 2nd and yes, even 3rd trimester abortions were taking place. There were healthy full term babies being aborted and not for any of the reasons you explained. During passage of years and the public becoming more informed what was actually happening to babies in the abortion process, such as partial birth abortion and full term abortions, added laws have entered into the abortion picture. I don't know what measures are in place today, to verify what each and every abortion are, as you describe."I recognize some things have changed since 1974. My personal decision about abortion and explanation was from that time. I wrote a more detailed description of my experience in a comment on this blog and was accused of making the entire story up and the person commenting stated, she had read my story before. In actuality it was the first time I had told the story, other than to my husband. I am not an anti-abortion rally marcher, nor do I belong to a pro-life group. These are my own personal opinions from experience and reading. I did not lie, the aborted baby I saw in 1974 was very small and perfectly formed. I do not remember the gestation of the baby and will not make a guess here. As you accuse, I did not say it was only a few weeks in gestation, I know it was not. My argument to Libby was that the 7th week gestation abortion was NOT only a blood clot. I included in a later comment the facts of development at different first trimester stages of gestation, including the 7th week. What it is to the naked eye doesn't make a difference in actuality, as to the fact, of what is there. Science tells us what anatomy and physiology is present in the 7 week old baby, not pro-life supporters. Beverly

  • http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com OneSmallStep

    This is an image of an embryo at 7 weeks.http://www.babycenter.com/fetal-development-images-7-weeksThis is one at 9 weeks.http://www.babycenter.com/fetal-development-images-9-weeksThe size of the embryo itself, in relation to the woman, is the very reason why Libby is saying that the abortion looks like a blood clot — precisely because there is so little to see by the naked eye. SAme as a blood clot.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    The "blood clot" issue honestly seems like an issue of semantics. I understand, and I'm pretty sure Libby understands, that there is an actual difference between a blood clot and a human embryo. The point was that an aborted human embryo would APPEAR as not much more than a blood clot to a person observing it with the naked eye. This point was made in direct response to your story about observing an aborted late-term fetus with YOUR naked eye, to point out that what you observed could not possibly have been the result of the kind of abortion that Libby believes should be readily available to all women–FIRST TERM abortion. Libby herself has stated multiple times that she herself is not comfortable with late-term abortion except in drastic circumstances. So protesting her position by telling a sob story about a late-term abortion, or a supposed period where women got them willy-nilly (not an expert here, but I have a hard time believing this) does not make sense. This is a straw man.As for what a first-term embryo actually is, yes, science tells us what its anatomy is, but science does not tell us what a person is. That is a question for philosophy. You are operating on the premise that the presence of certain structures, which a first-term embryo possesses, makes a being a person. You, of course, have a right to that opinion but Libby, I, and many others here, do not share that premise. We have a different set of criteria by which we define personhood, and a first-term fetus does not possess that criteria. We are basing our opinions on the same science, we just interpret those scientific facts within different philosophical frameworks. Lots of others do too. I have several pro-choice healthcare professionals in both my family and my group of friends. Don't you think they learned fetal anatomy too? The basic scientific facts do not automatically lead a person to your particular moral position because science doesn't exist to answer moral questions. So you can't just simply state facts about the anatomy of an embryo and then say "Science proves that embryos are persons and that aborting them is wrong." You should not assume that we believe as we do simply because we don't have the facts.

  • Anonymous

    I used the phrase "prone to convenience" because that's so often how we think. Many women choose abortion because of the inconvenience of being pregnant for 9 months, when they could change someone's life by choosing adoption instead. (And I'm not talking about people who have a medical condition that makes pregnancy dangerous.) And I know women who've been brave and honest enough to admit that they aborted because of the embarassment of having gotten pregnant, in addition to the inconvenience of it. That's also why I used the word "self-centered." We usually admire someone who chooses to donate a kidney to someone else, and I see carrying a pregnancy to term and then helping create a family through adoption the same way.

  • http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com OneSmallStep

    **We usually admire someone who chooses to donate a kidney to someone else, and I see carrying a pregnancy to term and then helping create a family through adoption the same way.**But we don't demonize them if they decide not to donate a kidney, because donating a kidney is a huge deal with physical repercussions. Same with pregnancy and childbirth — also a huge deal, and the physical and emotional side effects go way beyond an "inconvenience." Yet those who choose to abort are in fact demonized by many circles.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Not to mention, a kidney is not a person. (I'm pretty sure that's something we can all agree on. lol) If you give someone your baby, you are connected to a person forever, even if you never see it again. You will know it. And it is emotionally wrenching for many women to give a baby up, even if they know they can't raise it or don't want to. Not so with a kidney. There's a certain amount of physical risk involved but that's not remotely comparable to allowing your body to be used to create a completely new human being which you then give away. Lots of women don't want to do that. I would never want to do that. And I don't think I should have to.

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com/ bramboniusinenglish

    I find the way Americans discuss this issue very confusing weirdly polarised. Firstly what is very strange is that 'all abortion is the same' approach, which is just weird. Late-term abortions (for any reason but saving the life of the mother) are something barbaric, especially if premature babies of the same age are being kept alive with great care and grown into complete humans… They should not at all be lumped together with a 7-weeks abortion. Belgium has a limit for legal abortions of 14 weeks, and an abortion can only be performed a certain days after the pregnancy is officially clinically affirmed. (Extreme cases to save the mother are not included here) This might be debatable from a pro-live view, but it's something completely different from third trimester abortions… I know though that when I saw my daughter on the echography for the first time (around 12 weeks, we found out pretty late…) my wife and me were both surprised by how alive that tiny human larvae was, clearly irritated by the doctors device, and later when she was born we still recognised the same way of moving. So something of the person she is now (she's 16 months) was already there in that early stage… I don't know when and how the human personality is formed, but something was already there, and is still growing now, and even adults are never complete and always growing…That some people do not experience the same trauma as others after an abortion does not negate the trauma of those who do have that problem. A debate should nuance one extreme side, not turn to another extreme side and deny all the other side says just for the sake of it. There can be a middle too sometimes… And denying the existence of post-abortion trauma might be very hurtful to women who do experience it… I do agree with your use of the word 'anto-abortion' instead of 'pro-life', someone who's genuinely pro-life would be against war, death penalty, the destruction of ecosystem and would be pro helping the poor. The american use of that word is quite an insult to life itself!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00171261359324942048 Common Destiny

    Libby Anne, thanks for this excellent post. I started to comment, then realized I had so much to say about my own positive abortion experience that I started my own blog! My first post is rather verbose, but if you or others want to check it out as a detailed, honest example of a non-traumatic abortion, I think my name will post with a hyperlink. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14829748862216338662 The Gender Offender

    Hey there – Wanted to share my two cents as someone who has worked in an abortion clinic. Our clients were young and old, married, single, divorced, of all races and religions. We had clients who were lawyers, doctors, in the military, working in the financial district, and others who were students, stay-at-home mothers and the homeless and underhoused. Our clients were refugees and asylum seekers. Some needed our services, as some of your respondents have indicated, not because of a decision they made, but because of a failed spontaneous miscarriage. Those making a decision did so for so many reasons, it would be nearly impossible to list them all: can't afford children, already has too much children, still in school, on particular medications that result in birth defects, suffering from particular disabilities that pregnancy is impossible, unable to negotiate birth control because of power dynamics in the relationship, failed tubal ligation… Because there are so many complex reasons that women choose or are faced with abortion, their experiences of that abortion are similarly unique. Also, whether the abortion was done in a hospital or clinic, whether the staff were supportive and open, as well as, as you indicated, the clients opinion of abortion going into the procedure. We had many anti-choice clients, who identified themselves as such, but who nevertheless obtained abortions – they were offered, and many received, post-abortion counselling. Most anti-choice clients we met were religious, and their post-abortion counselling involved finding forgiveness from themselves and from their Gods. On the other end of the spectrum, and in the vast majority, were clients who felt liberated, empowered, freed, thankful, grateful, justified and relieved by their abortions – we received thank you cards, and flowers more than a dozen times during my employment. I also wanted to add that "pro-life" holds the connotation that those who are "pro-choice" are somehow anti-life. Abortion providers are not against families, children, pregnancy, or the right to life. I am, for example, adamantly pro-choice, while at the same time, I adore children, want children, and only in particular circumstances do I see myself accessing abortion services. That being said, I'm also queer, so because I don't have sex with cisgender men, I'm not in a position to find myself unexpected and unwanted pregnant. Anyway, those are my two cents.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14829748862216338662 The Gender Offender

    Oh, and you are right. At six weeks, for example, the POC (Products of Conception) which includes the developing fetus and embryonic sac, is roughly one quarter of your pinky finger nail. I say this because I've seen a six week POC right after a procedure, not because I'm sourcing an anti-choice textbook that shows enlarged slides of older fetuses in order to scare people. Those gruesome images you see held my anti-choice protesters outside of clinics are unlike anything we ever saw or did at the clinic. Again, late-trimester abortions being, to some perhaps, morally problematic where first-trimester abortions may be less so.

  • Anonymous

    Why don't pro-abortion people be honest about what they are doing and not hide behind well phrased words? Just call it killing a baby and not deceived yourselves by using euphemisms. Why debate whether the fetus is life or not life. Just be honest and call your movement legalized murder for the sake of free sex. Being defensive about what you do to babies is proof of how your conscious is accusing you to stop abusing your children.Be honest about what Pro-Choice means: Pro-Our Way Only. Because you want to give up Religious Freedom (New law by the Federal Government last week forcing churches to kill or be fined) for the sake of Pro-Choice. How about those who don't want to kill babies and to work and live without you forcing your agendas on us. Do it our way or we will punish you by getting you fired or fined.Why are Pro-Abortion people rabid about their "Sacred Cow." I find them obsessed and guilty about what they do. At least I have a clear conscience on this issue. I have never had an abortion and never will. You have, I am sure, and will repeat the behavior. You support the killing of a human being and approve of the killing of the 50,000,000 human beings aborted in the US which makes you an accomplice in their deaths. Something you are ok about. When I go before God I won't have to answer to that many premeditated slaughters of innocent God-given children. Oh that is right you don't believe in God. If you are correct and there is no God then you don't have to answer for your part in the killings. If you are wrong you will be held accountable. I would not want to be in your shoes at that time. How do you tell your Maker they the baby you gave me was only a "blob of unliving goo." Please look at the horror you are bringing about in the name of Abortion. Check out: http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/emotions/affects.htm My abortion has left me with a empty place in my heart and life. My family feels somewhat incomplete, when we are all home together, I get the sense that someone is so definitely missing. I have felt a great deal of sorrow and regret over the effect this has had on all of us. As a mother, I struggle with the reality that I destroyed my child. — Teresa

    • Anat

      Teresa, I’m not debating whether a fetus is a ‘life’ or not, but whether a fetus deserves forcing a woman, someone who is a full-fledged human being with hopes, dreams, plans for the future, fears – to support with her body, at the potential expense of her present and future health, sometimes even her life.

  • clearstone

    Found this post after being continually harassed by some self-claimed Catholic Twitterer who just repeats life begins at fertilization, abortion is murder, blah blah. And the point you made about how abortion makes women feel miserable BECAUSE anti-abortionist activists/education enforces guilt on them was a real eye-opener. I live in a country that legally forbids abortion, although when overpopulation was an issue the government turned a blind eye and many gynecology clinics offered abortion services which were readily utilized by many women, particularly because it took a long time for condoms and pills to become legalized (especially the pill, which authorities worried would corrupt social morals) and widely available. Now with the low birth rate the government actively persecutes practicing physicians, just like the U.S. government did during the mid-19th century. Growing up in the 90s, sex ed at school consisted of a.bees and flowers biology and then suddenly skip to b.screenings of . It almost made me feel horrible about abortion as you did, but fortunately I had read Tolstoy's which basically showed how an unwanted pregnancy can utterly destroy a young woman's life, (Well that perhaps wasn't Tolstoy's intention-he was more interested in how the man who impregnated her atones for his past misgivings-but still it's a major part of the story) so I got to see both sides of the argument. It was much later that I found out that was basically a largely altered propaganda piece for the pro-life/anti-abortionist movement, and I sincerely hope that my old school is not showing it anymore. Young women shouldn't be manipulated by the guilt card and the murder card anymore!

  • clearstone

    just adding on, apparently the titles won't show–I meant during sex ed class we were shown The Silent Scream and I'd read Tolstoy's Resurrection which acted as a counterbalance.

  • Anonymous

    I find it interesting that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by whether large numbers of people feel guilty about it. The fact that some people have consciences so deadened that they do not feel they are killing when in fact they are does not prove a thing except that their consciences are numbed. I've also been around enough to know that just because somebody says that they feel no guilt doesn't mean that it's true. Denial is a powerful thing. There are plenty of things that I did in my past (not abortion. I'm not a particularly fertile person for some reason) that I didn't think anything of at the time but now that I am older and wiser, I really wish I hadn't done those things.

  • surprise

    Anonymous, wow! Bring it down a notch, for goodness sake. Please! We're never going to be able to talk with one another with hyberbole such as this."New law by the Federal Government last week forcing churches to kill or be fined." What are you talking about? Please, I need to know. When did our federal government force churches to kill? "Just be honest and call your movement legalized murder for the sake of free sex." I can't even reply to that one. Just make your arguments. No need to demonize those you disagree with. They seem to be good people on this blog. And as for facing God on judgement day for supporting abortion, this is the same God that ordered Abraham to slay Isaac, right?

  • Pamela

    I'll go ahead & be the one with the unpopular opinion. I did have two abortions, years ago, when I was in college. It seemed to be the best choice, under the circumstances. I told myself I had done the right thing. But I suffered from a tremendous burden of guilt & sadness afterwards (even moreso after the second one than the first one), and I carried that for YEARS afterwards. It led me to a LOT of self-destructive behavior, as I tried to self-medicate that pain away. I only was able to get rid of that load of negativity by doing a couple months of therapy. I'm not saying my case is typical, but I know I'm not the only one, either.Some women don't feel those negative, destructive thoughts/emotions after an abortion — I know some who didn't/don't — and I am GLAD for those that don't. Sincerely, wholeheartedly GLAD for them. However, some women are terribly affected by it — I know some who were/are. It would be an error to say that "Post Abortion Stress Syndrome" is made up and doesn't exist. Just as it is an error to say that all women who have an abortion WILL suffer from "PASS". It's not a "one size fits all" situation.


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