Today’s post is a review of an article on Jezebel, in which a pro-choicer describes visiting a pregnancy help center, viewing her unborn baby on a sonogram, and then having an abortion. The author now rails against pregnancy centers.
What I see above all in this story is a deep-seated grief that has been transformed into misdirected anger as a psychological defense mechanism. I cannot emphasize enough that I do not intend to demonize this woman. We all experience misdirected anger at times. But I think it’s important for us to examine this closely, to try to understand the whirlwind of emotion, so that we can serve women in crisis pregnancies better.
The author was a 21-year-old pro-choicer who thought that she was only a couple weeks pregnant, and planned to take an abortion pill. But she learned from the pregnancy center that she was actually three and a half months along. They provided her with a sonogram, which confronted her with the humanity of her unborn baby:
Then she turned the monitor to me. I have so many little brothers and sisters. I was with my mother the first time she heard my younger siblings heartbeat. There was a heartbeat now, too.
. . .
I clutched my hand to my stomach and in the sonogram screen, an arm lifted. I took my arm away and the arm went back down. “Put your hand back up!” the older woman said. I did, and the tiny hand went up again. That’s the moment that I can’t get out of my head, to this day.
After speaking with a counselor, she was considering the possibility that she “could be a good mother.” But she was ambivalent, and didn’t make a follow-up appointment. She returned home, to a boyfriend who was eager to “take care of it.” He took the sonogram printout and hid it from her– but it was too late to undo her knowledge.
For me, the real anger didn’t come until later when I actually went through with the abortion. I’m not saying it’s ever easy for anyone, but all I could think about that day was the sonogram and that hand. There were tears streaming down my face when I was going under. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me, “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt,” and I remember thinking, That’s not what I’m crying about.
Of course, she was crying about the fact that her child– whose movements she watched, whose heartbeat she heard– was about to die.
But this self-insight is fleeting. She apparently thinks that if only she had been able to maintain her ignorance of human development, everything would have been fine. She blames the pregnancy center for allowing her to see the situation for what it really was. And now, she wants to impose her wished-for ignorance on other women by fighting sonogram laws.
Some things are just too much for the human heart to handle, and the knowledge that you’re responsible for the death of a real live human being is one of them. She initially felt that the pregnancy center volunteers were honest and kind. But she can no longer feel that way, not after making the decision she made. And so, she demonizes the pregnancy center movement in an effort to avoid her grief. It isn’t working, though: she says that “It’s taken me the two years since [the abortion] not to break down every time I think about it.”
This is the pain that thousands of women experience each year. This is why pro-lifers must be proactive in reaching out to women hurt by abortion, and it is why we must continue helping women choose life. Willful ignorance is not the answer.