Where is the Woman’s Voice really in the Abortion Debate? / 'Just a simple medical procedure?'
By Catherine Toomey, Managing Director, Priceless House
Yes. The abortion debate should be “based on fact and reason.” I agree with Jackie Trad MPon this but I wonder why so many pushing these bills forward are actually ignoring fact and reason.
And while on the ‘other side’ lots of people talk about ‘the baby’ (i.e. the right he/she has to live, the pain it feels in the varying abortive procedures etc.,) abortions don’t need to be framed as women vs the unborn, as Jane Fynes-Clinton wrote a few months back.
Indeed, we need not even mention babies in the current debate about proposed new legislation around abortion in Queensland.
Science tells us abortion often has a devastating enough impact on the majority of the 1 in 3 women in our community who access them readily under our current law (as mentioned by Dr Caroline de Costa).
In my role as the Managing Director of an independent, apolitical, crisis pregnancy support centre, I’ve been following the dialogue around the bills since May of last year and have been dismayed that much of the coverage has sought to oversimplify the complexities of empirical evidence and the stories many of our clients share.
In fact, women are often the secret victims of abortion.
Perhaps we could frame the debate as “The Abortion Industry vs Women.”
If we are really worried about women’s wellbeing then we shouldn’t we be looking at legislation that provides them with independent counselling and support when facing a difficult pregnancy?
Post-termination trauma is a very real thing and we at Priceless House spend a great proportion of our professional counselling and programsassisting women who are suffering from this.
As again, Jane noted in her piece a few months ago: “No matter how it is presented, abortion is a physical, hormonal, emotional and medical trauma that no woman who enters into comes out unaffected.”
And the “crowning insult”, as Germaine Greer, the mother of modern feminism puts it, “is that this ordeal is represented to her as some kind of privilege: her sad and onerous duty is garbed in the rhetoric of a civil right.”
So many of the women we work with tell us that their abortion provider, or associated counselling agency, did not present them with the opportunity for informed consent, this being consent which is freely given after the relevant information has been received and understood. This is simply unacceptable and is an issue that needs to be addressed well in advance of considering the issue of access to abortion.
One of our clients, Emma, had 8 terminations under current law and says it was so easy for her.
She says it wasn’t until she began grappling with the underlying reason for her multiple abortions that she discovered a documented post-abortive pathology can include the desire to 'replace the baby' and then self harm again. But she says it angers her now that when she presented her history to the clinic “not one person picked up on this fact and asked me whether there was an underlying reason for this devastating repeat behaviour.”
Emma wasn’t informed of the range of risks associated with whichever abortion procedure she was about to undergo (medical or surgical.) She, like many women we work with, was never given information regarding the development of her baby and felt the abortion provider wasn’t prepared to provide support or counselling regarding concerns post-abortion. Many, like her, are even subjected to undue pressure to undergo an abortion.
This is the antithesis of the federal government’s guidelines for informed consent in healthcare practices.
Another illustration of this is the five RU486 abortion pill reversals that we have been involved with just recently. These women were often pressured to decide quickly - at only 5 weeks gestation - and not informed they had until 9 weeks for this procedure to “work.” Upon taking the first pill they instantly regretted their decision but were told - incorrectly - by their providers that “nothing could be done.”
One woman noted that her clinic said sorry but they received “about 10 of these calls a week.”
At no stage were any of these women offered their right to access the basic progesterone protocols developed to block the effects of that first pill and thus save the life of their baby.
A further example involves Priceless House clients who discovered a potential abnormality in their pregnancies at a later term scan and were encouraged to abort by doctors “just in case”. They were not offered any genetic counselling, a second opinion or simply more time to think about it.
And time is key. The less haste the better and it’s usually undue haste. Another medical opinion also often opens up new pathways of thought we find.
But it’s around this later term abortion where Jackie Trad is incorrect is her statement that “decisions around late term abortions are inevitably made because the life of the mother is in danger or the foetus is not viable.”
At 27 weeks gestation, one young teen sent us a text message from an abortion clinic where her mother was trying to force her to terminate against her will.** The clinic had been willing to continue with the later term procedure and pass it off as a “botched abortion.” And we know how those turn out in this state (See this ABC Article.)
The pressure is not just from family, partners or medicos.
We’ve had clients from overseas on Student or Bridging Visas threatened by government-funded Legal Services to “abort or end up in detention.” [One of these such cases is happily and healthily repatriated in India post the birth of her daughter here.]
My concern with a change in law that considers abortion as “just another medical procedure,” that this week’s article claims, is that the very real trauma suffered by women who have had abortions will be minimised and support for alternative pathways will be cut off to them. This is particularly so in a context where informed consent is so grossly lacking.
Since many abortions are motivated by a lack of emotional, social or material support, this suggests that our society is not doing enough to support pregnant women and single mothers.
If we really care about the health and wellbeing of women experiencing an unplanned or problematic pregnancy, then we need to do better than just more abortion.
Priceless House is based at Woolloongabba and offers specialist, holistic support services for those experiencing issues around ‘problem’ pregnancy, including counselling, mentoring and practical assistance. All counsellors have qualifications and mentors work under a reputable framework developed by Mission Australia.
**In the story of the young teen, that baby is one year of age now and the family are doting. We often see this occur when those originally doing the pressuring cannot imagine their lives without the new familial addition.