When discussing whether women regret abortion, I think people are using different meanings of the word “regret.” Some mean feeling remorse over an event or wishing it had gone differently. Others mean feeling sorrow or otherwise suffering. The ideas are similar but not identical.
The distinction is important when we discuss whether women regret their abortions. Which meaning of “regret” are we using? Some people specifically mean women wish they hadn’t gotten abortions, while others more generally mean women suffer because of their abortions. Again, maybe the ideas are correlated, but they aren’t identical.
At Secular Pro-Life we’ve been touching on these ideas when we post testimonials from Shout Your Abortion (SYA) of women essentially saying they are experiencing deep grief, but still insisting they do not regret their abortions. Here is one such story along with some of the comments others left underneath it:
Our point in posting these stories is not necessarily to say these women are in denial. Some probably are, but others may be describing their emotional state (grief, not regret) as accurately as they can.
Grief and regret aren’t interchangeable. It’s possible to feel sorrow over an event but still believe it was for the best. And it’s possible to wish an event had gone differently without specifically feeling grief over it.
When the Turnaway Study and abortion activists claim virtually no women regret their abortions, I think they’re using “regret” to specifically mean “wish they hadn’t gotten abortions.” But even assuming their claims are true in that regard (and we are skeptical), those claims don’t negate the people saying women suffer from their abortions. Because you can both not regret and still suffer terribly, as many SYA testimonials suggest.
None of this is necessarily an argument for outlawing abortion. (Abortion should be illegal because it kills valuable human beings.) But it’s a separate (and still serious) problem if broad cultural messaging incorrectly tells women there are no significant mental, psychological, or emotional repercussions to abortion. It’s one thing to say “no one regrets it.” It’s another to imply “no one suffers for it.”