Writer-Counselor-Wellbeing Coach

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.


  1. Laurie

    Hi Debbie 🙂
    I’m so pleased you and N. could talk like this and hope much good comes from it. I too have noticed on FB that the comments are all founded on the belief that every woman who has had an abortion is fully responsible for that choice. Someone (an Aussie) posted about praying for all the women who have had a termination and I commented requesting the same be done for all those surrounded by people who gave the woman no other choice. You are the only other person I have seen to mention coercion in this context. In the US anti-adoption groups I was surprised to see much pro-abortion, their reason being that more coerced relinquishment’s will occur now. It’s a volatile topic to discuss and few are able to keep a cool head and a warm heart while chatting – good on you :).

    • Debbie

      Thanks Laurie. I’ve worked for more than 2 decades educating about coercion related to abortion as well as the negative mental health impact for a significant percentage of women. I’ve also worked in the adoption sector and notice the same coercive factors (more so in the US) exist. I advocate for supporting the mother baby bond and working to meet the needs of women so that this is possible. I’ve written extensively on both issues both here and on http://www.realchoices.org.au

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