- Nov 2005
The Only Moral Abortion Is My AbortionAlthough few studies have been made of this phenomenon, a study done in 1981 found that 24% of women who had abortions considered the procedure morally wrong, and 7% of women who'd had abortions disagreed with the statement, "Any woman who wants an abortion should be permitted to obtain it legally." A 1994/95 survey[2,3] of nearly 10,000 abortion patients showed 18% of women having abortions are born-again or Evangelical Christians. Many of these women are likely anti-choice. The survey also showed that Catholic women have an abortion rate 29% higher than Protestant women. A Planned Parenthood handbook on abortion notes that nearly half of all abortions are for women who describe themselves as born-again Christian, Evangelical Christian, or Catholic.
According to a 1987 article, Abortion Clinics' Toughest Cases,"Physicians and clinics frequently terminate pregnancies for women who believe abortion is 'murder' and 'a sin' but who are not anti-abortion activists. Demonstrators, organizers, and leaders in the [anti-abortion] movement are seen less frequently, ranging from perhaps once or twice a month to a few times in the course of a professional career." The article contained the following anecdotes:
An administrator at a Missouri clinic recalled a woman blurting out in the recovery room, "It should be illegal." The other women's mouths fell open, said the administrator. "They couldn't believe it."
The medical director of an Indianapolis clinic recalled one prospective patient who phoned to ask whether the clinic had a back door. He said no. How, she asked, could she get inside without being seen by fellow picketers outside? Pointing out that two orthopedists practiced with him, the doctor told the woman "she could limp and say she was coming to see the orthopods."
The medical director at a Dallas abortion clinic told this story: A white woman from an affluent north Dallas neighborhood brought her black maid in for an abortion and paid for it. While the maid was in a counseling session, a commotion was heard in the waiting room outside. The maid's employer was handing out anti-abortion leaflets to other women waiting for abortions.
From a clinic director in a mid-western state: "One of the most remarkable cases was a woman who came [from another part of the state] and said she was the Right-to-Life president in her county. 'But,' she said, she 'had become pregnant and had to have an abortion.'"
From a counselor in Virginia: "[The patient] was disturbed and upset and insisted she couldn't carry the pregnancy to term. She opposed abortion -- and in fact had picketed this very clinic -- [but] felt the abortion was something she had to do."
Many anti-choice women are convinced that their need for abortion is unique -- not like those "other" women -- even though they have abortions for the same sorts of reasons. Anti-choice women often expect special treatment from clinic staff. Some demand an abortion immediately, wanting to skip important preliminaries such as taking a history or waiting for blood test results. Frequently, anti-abortion women will refuse counseling (such women are generally turned away or referred to an outside counselor because counseling at clinics is mandatory). Some women insist on sneaking in the back door and hiding in a room away from other patients. Others refuse to sit in the waiting room with women they call "sluts" and "trash." Or if they do, they get angry when other patients in the waiting room talk or laugh, because it proves to them that women get abortions casually, for "convenience".
A few behave in a very hostile manner, such as calling clinic staff "murderers." Years ago, a clinic counselor in British Columbia told me that one of her patients went into the procedure room apparently fine with her decision to have an abortion. During the abortion, at a stage when it was too late to stop the procedure, the woman started screaming "You murderers!" and other invectives at everyone in the room.
A few doctors actually refuse to provide abortions to anti-choice women for liability reasons. In the words of a Kansas physician:
"Early in my career, I thought I was obligated to provide an abortion for every woman who arrived at my doorstep requesting an abortion. My experience in general medicine, surgery, and abortion has led me to believe differently. Not inadvertently, women give either me or my staff an uneasy feeling about their ambivalence or their anxiety about the abortion process. Since I have never been sued for an abortion I did not perform, my policy is to acknowledge my gut feeling, which is more often right than wrong."
This comes as no surprise to me.
It's a sad side-effect that in times of improved privacy for patients that such hypocrisy is prevented from being documented.