Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm prochoice but...

I am adamantly pro-choice or pro-abortion rights. I have also struggled with how I personally feel about late term abortion of physically viable pregnancies. At one point I even decided that personally I was against it. I continued to help women obtain late term abortion even though I had personal judgments. The primary role of an abortioneer is to be objective. I didn't feel the need to inhibit women from doing what they decided they needed even if personally it didn't quite sit right with me.

There were times when I would go above and beyond to help a woman obtain a late term abortion because her story was tragic, maybe she was child or an adult who had been traumatized, maybe she just stuck out to me but for whatever reason it seemed more OK in her circumstance. I have come to realize that even when I could not comprehend why a woman waited so long it did not negate the fact that she and only she can make decisions for herself and any point in her pregnancy. I would talk to a woman when she was 8 weeks pregnant and hear back from her when she was 22 weeks pregnant and sometimes I would not understand why she let it go so long. I had to consistently remind myself that I was not living in her shoes. She had to make her life choices on her own time not mine.

Over the years I continued to struggle with my feelings about late term abortion. When a friend of mine had a baby prematurely I thought about what that meant about late term abortions. I realized that it had nothing to do with them because my friend was pregnant with a wanted child, an invited guest into her body and family. This is a completely different situation than an unwanted pregnancy.

I'm sharing these struggles here because over the years I have come to strongly believe in trusting women. Now when I'm in the clinic and a woman is too far along to have a procedure where I work I go above and beyond every time to get her whatever information and resources I might be gate keeping. Abortion is a matter of the heart and matters of the heart are never simplistic. I challenge all abortioneers to identify what judgments you might carry and to constantly be aware of how those judgments may affect the work you do each day. We all have them and if we are going to be completely objective we have to be able to identify where we carry personal judgments.


  1. I would personally suspect in the U.S. that it is a money issue or an inability to meet all the ridiculous criteria for getting an abortion. In most parts of Canada, women can walk into a clinic, present their government healthcare card and get their abortion. Easy peesy. Women in Canada do not wait until the fetus is viable because there are no roadblocks that make an early abortion difficult to get. In Canada, late-term abortions are generally limited to non-viable fetuses and danger to the mother's life.

  2. This post makes me glad I'm not a medical professional, because I think I would have a hard time being objective.

    I am pro-choice, pro-abortion rights. Abortion should be legal, and up to the woman. For me, it's about the LAW -- like free speech. I don't agree with what the neo-Nazis have to say, but I defend their right to say it.

    I can sympathize with late-term abortions for medical problems, and for general confused life problems, but I don't understand why a woman more than halfway through a healthy pregnancy can simply change her mind. But I know my devout Catholic friends simply don't understand why I say I would abort a healthy pregnancy if I were raped, so I know that lack of empathy is meaningless.

    I'm not a professional counselor, so I wouldn't have to be objective if a pregnant friend ever asked me for advice about an elective late-term abortion. I think I would say, it's your body, but you gestated this other developing potential person for so many months that it could probably live outside you now -- why not give it a shot at life, since you've come this far, and a less risky early abortion is no longer an option for you, anyway?

    Being pro-choice, for me, means keeping abortion legal -- it doesn't mean I have to agree with every choice another person makes. And sometimes, I am going to shake my head and disagree.

  3. NotGuilty - "In most parts of Canada, women can walk into a clinic, present their government healthcare card and get their abortion. Easy peesy." Truer than in the US, at least, but we've heard a number of stories of women who couldn't get an appointment in their province (or couldn't get an appointment early enough, in some cases), then had to come up with money for travel and lodging, and that's what delayed them. Or sometimes the nearest clinic was in the US and then their provincial insurance couldn't cover it. Etc.

    L. - I'd suggest that even if you're talking with a close friend, the most helpful way to listen is usually to ask what SHE wants to do. Like you said, ability to empathize is not the key - ability to love is the key. The vast majority of women seeking second-trimester abortions did NOT just "change their minds halfway through pregnancy," but even if your friend did, why use guilt-type words to persuade her into a situation that she may already feel would be more difficult and heartbreaking? (i.e., either unhappily childrearing or unhappily going through an adoption. They're not mutually exclusive!)


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.