Writer-Counselor-Wellbeing Coach

Category: Women (Page 1 of 10)

Important conversations

... and how to have them with respect.

This post in which I dissect some of the reasons people use to advocate for abortion has been the catalyst for a number of interactions, not all of them very kind toward me.

That isn't however always the case. On my facebook page someone I know offered this alternative:

N: This one really resonated for me. My reasons are none of anyone's business. (Although I do support giving women assistance to raise and care for children they choose to have!)

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What followed was an important conversation.

Me:  I think this is part of the problem. If we all made it our business to be outraged when women are coerced to abort by boyfriends, parents or employers or when they felt no choice because they had no maternity leave or no support, perhaps women wouldn’t feel so abandoned by those who prefer to turn a blind eye to such injustices.

N:  do you feel a need to know my reasons? Do you think I was coerced?

Me:  This isn’t a post about you. I have no idea if you were coerced. Do you think we should ignore it when women are coerced? We know abortion providers do while they also spout rhetoric of choice.

Do you think we should ignore the social inequities that drive abortion as none of our business?

N: I’m all for helping women and I love the work you do at Real Choices. But I don’t think it’s my business if a woman - with the resources she has available to her - makes a decision to terminate a pregnancy. That is her decision and it’s not for me to judge if she’s “legitimate” in her desire for an abortion. It’s up to her.

Me: I guess the point is if we don't engage about the reasons how do we identify coercion? Do we ignore the coerced because if we speak about them it might endanger the perceived rights of others? If we ignore the fact that the majority of women seeking abortion are doing so due to a lack of supports (whether economic or other) will we ever be compelled as a society to address such inequities?

By holding the 'right' of abortion as an ideal in higher regard than the actual rights of women to equal participation in society regardless of their decisions (ie, motherhood) we are ignoring the fact that rights are not enacted, but subjugated.

Hence my breaking down of the original post, most of which has nothing to do with 'choice' even though it is disguised as such.

If you had been coerced, I would want to understand that, how it impacted you, what factors would have made a difference to you, what you needed. Then I would do what I do and talk about those things in the public arena (not your story personally unless with permission) because I would want the things you say you needed to be highlighted to others. I would want others to know the harm being caused by us taking a 'none of my business' approach.

This means being maligned and discredited and often abused for my work. This alone tells me how important it is. Women everywhere are silenced for fear of such treatment.

N: And if I was not coerced, but I don’t want to come forward with my reasons and be judged?

Me: Who is asking you? Who is judging you? There isn't judgement in me talking about the existence of coercion or the prevalence of regret or grief after abortion. It isn't a comment on those for whom the experience is different. It isn't a demand for information from anyone, including those who may have been coerced but don't want to talk about it.

If you are asking whether women should provide a reason for abortion at the coalface of an abortion clinic, at this time I would say why bother.. it doesn't matter given abortion providers will do abortions regardless.

If in fact the same standards of informed consent, no coercion and assessment of risk/benefit that is the gold standard in other areas of healthcare were applied to abortion then many more women would be screened, supported and continue a pregnancy. I don't have a problem with identifying real needs of women or identifying coercion and acting to address those things with real help.

I am grateful for this conversation as it reminds me that it is possible, and in fact essential that we be able to discuss such important issues even if we disagree on some aspects of it. This is rare these days on so many things. When you find this ability in people, value it. When you manage to do it, remember it.

Our relationships should not be measured by those things with which we disagree, but with those things we choose to connect on. This begins with a basic respect for the knowledge, experience, and value of those with whom we both agree and disagree.

Thanks N.

Censorship, complaints and stepping up

Sneak Peak

On the day I completed the typesetting for my book, Alarmist Gatekeeping: Abortion, I recieved a phone call from a representatitve of the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) informing me of a complaint that had been raised against me.   As a Registered Nurse, I am required to be registered with AHPRA who have the power to determine whether I can maintain such registration or have restrictions placed on my practise.

The complaint was made by a person who claims no direct or even indirect knowledge of my professional practise, but is simply someone who appears to follow my social media and professional pages.   It seems she simply dislikes my professional view on matters I happen to have expertise in.  She also dislikes my title of 'Dr'.

While this complaint is pending (it took 8 months for me to be notified, so who knows how long it will take), others like Jereth Kok have been waiting years for a resolution, having had their careers destroyed.   The complaint against Jereth  has no foundation in his professional practise but was based on a concerted effort to dig up 'unpopular' views that were then deemed to put Jereth's patients at risk, in spite of the fact that in 15 years of practise there had never been a patient complaint about him.

Jereth is not the first health professional this has happened to.  Many have run the gauntlet and decided to remain quiet, even decided to withdraw from the pubic discourse on issues of real importance.  There is a huge danger to the general public in this consequence as the restriction of information becomes greater and people become subject to only one view.  I discuss this a LOT in my book.

Jereth makes the statement that,

"It's getting increasingly costly to hold unpopular religious beliefs."

I would argue that this is an issue far removed from religious beliefs, but is about a very narrow, very radical ideology that seeks to completely remove the right to any view that wavers from its narrow core, destroying all dissidents in its path.  It is such a destructive force that I wrote an entire PhD thesis about it, and now a book.

Which brings me back to the complaint pending in my case.  Just to be clear, none of the below is by way of defense... it is simply the provision of context with regard to the complaint.  I subscribe to the Jordan Peterson position that if you've done nothing wrong,  don't apologise.   The complainant appears to hold grave concerns for the safety of my clients because of my use of the title 'Dr'.  She claims that,

I understand that Debbie may hold a Doctorate degree or PhD, however she does not make it clear what profession she is therefore giving the impression she is a medical practitioner and therefore more highly qualified than she actually is. 

Not only do I actually have a PhD, but the title of Dr has its basis in academia, not medicine and in that regard I lay claim to its most original use.. not to mention the many years of study I engaged in for the end result of the title.  The strangest part of this aspect of the complaint is the idea that she believes I profess to be more qualified than a medical doctor and that I am not clear about my profession.

My twitter profile:

Twitter profile

Note my profession?  Nurse counselor, researcher, educator.....

My private consulting business web description which also rated a mention in the complaint:

web descriptionRegistered nurse.....

It is clear that I'm both entitled to the title.. in fact I worked hard for it, but I am also always very clear about my profession.  As to whether I give the impression that I'm more highly qualified than I actually am, I am wondering what the complainant would make of it if I listed my Master's Degree, my two Bachelor Degrees and the various Diplomas and post graduate diplomas that also line my walls?   There's an argument that perhaps I downplay my level of qualification.

As for whether I'm qualified to deal with this particular complaint, it is a prime example of exactly the field my Doctorate makes me THE expert in... the attempts to discredit and silence those who Dissent from the popular view.  In Australia today, and perhaps even more broadly this IS my area of expertise, so I recognise it very well.

What did I say that was so offensive to this person that she felt the need to draw it to the attention of my professional body?

Debbie made several public comments on a social media page managed by Bettina Arndt who is known for her controversial views on gender issues and defending men accused of violence against women.

We know what happened to Bettina for speaking truth and evidence on these issues. 

Debbie's public comments were made based on the relationship counselling sessions she conducts for couples in her practice. "when I see couples in my practice, I estimate 90% of the time it's the woman who
want to leave a relationship, and men genuinely want to know what they can do." "women can have unrealistic expectations that their partners are responsible for their emotional state. This can manifest as controlling behaviour" "we (women) are not the victims. We hold extraordinary power, and we often misuse it". I feel the care of her clients, conflicts with her own interests and beliefs.

My professional experience of course is exactly this.  My relationship counsellng practice precedes my nursing degree by almost a decade and is not subject to regulation by AHPRA.  My views are well known.. so much so that even this stranger was able to stumble across them.  I see all kinds of people in my practice, and I've even been listed on a 'kink friendly' counsellor list at one point by a lovely young gay couple who came to see me and thought I was amazing.   People can choose not to see me as a practitioner, yet my 30 years of consulting and counselling work would suggest that I must be doing something right, particularly given the major share of my clients for more than 25 years have been word of mouth referrals.

However, this wasn't enough concern for the complainant.. shock, horror... I also,

...openly voices her personal views about abortion...

Her example of my 'personal view' is that I said,

"Most of the general public continue to believe that late term abortions are only undertaken when women are seriously ill and their lives are threatened, or when their babies have no hope of survival and will die a more horrific death if allowed to come to term. Neither of these is true". "Most remain ignorant of the reality that women continue to be offered surgical solutions to their economic, social, relational, and mental health problems rather than positive solutions to address their circumstances, even when they are at a stage of pregnancy when their babies could be safely delivered alive.

These facts, and many more of them are also available in my book if more examples are needed.  This isn't a personal view, it is a statement of fact borne out of government collected statistical data,  more than 25 years of professional experience AND a Doctoral degree on this very topic.  The complainant feels that my 'views' have...

...the potential to impact on an individual's sense of safety or could lead to a patient/client feeling judged, intimidated or embarrassed.

This is where we are at.  Strangers who hold a personal view against what they determine is your personal view, even when it is a fact, can not only make complaints, but even have those complaints taken seriously enough that they destroy careers and livelihoods.  Such complainants only need to express their 'belief' or 'personal view' that the clients of a professional 'might' be harmed, even in the setting of a practice where NO complaints have ever been made by such clients.

This is very dangerous ground on which we tread.  I believe there are enough people in disagreement with such processes that if the consequences weren't so powerful, or we could harness the necessary courage, the strength would be in sheer numbers to stop these radicals from silencing us.   We, and they, would all be better off for it.  Step up. 

We are missing the point about Michelle

Michelle Williams speech at the 2020 Golden Globe awards has sparked much debate among abortion advocates and prolife communities, the former applauding her courage and decision making, and the latter vilifying and condemning her.

This condemnation and hostility is disappointing given the compassion and support toward women that could be extended, and is professed to be extended by prolife groups. Let's break down what Michelle says.

"To choose when to have my children and with whom, when I feel supported and able to balance our lives...'

Given what we know about the reasons women have abortion, this should have alerted those who understand the lives and decisions of women to the actual issue:

"When I feel supported"

Most women have abortions because they lack resources, whether financial, material, or relational, to continue a pregnancy.  They have abortions because they are taught from an early age that to be successful they must strive for education, career advancement and they must not under any circumstances allow unwanted children to interrupt the path they set before them.

When a woman experiences an unintended pregnancy she get messages such as 'it's YOUR decision' and 'you will have to choose' and 'if you have this baby you will pretty much be on your own'.

It is as though the pregnant woman is isolated from all potential supports or encouragement and isn't even allowed to consider the ways she might be helped to continue a pregnancy.  In fact, such help seeking would be a sign of weakness, a vulnerability at an already vulnerable time that can feel very unsafe.   Few women hear the ways in which they can continue a pregnancy and NOT be alone, but be supported to still pursue other paths, achieve great things, and not carry the burden alone. Worse in some ways are the messages I still see among many prolife groups that demonstrate concern only for the baby a woman carries and not for woman as they promote the removal of her baby after birth as a way to meet her needs.

They are not hearing it now from all those busy judging and condemning Michelle Williams and such hostility will be no encouragement for any woman to feel that she can share her grief or regret after abortion, a not uncommon, but largely silenced experience.

Another interesting and revealing statement by Michelle was this.

"...when it is time to vote please do so in your own self-interest. It's what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks much like them...'

This statement also typifies the largely negative attitudes that men live with today, that they are self-interested and without care and concern for women.  Interestingly the blame for how the world looks is laid at their feet instead of at the foot of the feminist movement that has driven the abortion discourse based on 'women have to be like men in order to achieve'.

The best and most efficient way to do that was to control women's bodies, their biology, so that they 'fit' the way society operated.  In doing so, they have perpetuated a society that just makes it harder for women to experience true choice.  The world looks much like men because feminists told women they had to BE like men.  They held men up as the ideal and said 'what do we need to do to be like that' instead of saying, 'how do we need to change society to meet women's needs'.

I wrote about this here

How did it happen that women led the charge to freedom by telling each other that there are no sacred ties; that the only way to have all that men had was to give up all that women had?    How is it that women attributed so much greater value to men’s worlds that they not only willingly gave up the value of their own, but now they encourage other women to do the same no matter what the cost?   How is it that we lost touch with the strength and value of ourselves as women and allowed these to be labelled and demeaned as weakness?

 Now we have a society where women are uninformed about the potential grief and trauma following abortion, yet still lack the structure that will support them in different decisions.  We live in a society dominated by one acceptable thought regarding the issue of abortion that denies women access to information, resources and supports to exercise any actual right they should have to their own free decision-making.

What are you doing to create actual change rather than sitting in judgement on all those women (and men) just doing what the dominant message tells them is 'best'?





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