January 23, 2007

"Because I am not mentally stable, you should not be allowed to have an abortion"

That's what this article should have been titled.

It's a terrible shame that this woman has suffered a life of misery starting with sexual abuse by a sibling and being raped at the age of 14, if that was truly the onset and not some earlier horrors left untold in the article. That she regrets having several abortions is clear, as is her long struggle with mental illness.

None of those things have an iota to do with the truth about the relationship between abortion and depression (there isn't one) or the autonomy women have to control their fertillity.

To Arias, that means helping women at the prison who have had abortions to understand how that procedure has stained them, and how it explains what has gone wrong in their lives.


But after the procedure, she says, strange feelings washed over her. "I remember having evil thoughts, about hurting children," she said. "It was like I'd done the worst thing I could possibly do. A piece of evil had entered me."


"In America we have a big drug problem, and we don’t realize it’s because of abortion."

At some level it feels mean to criticize this woman who has suffered so much, and so much at the hands of the patriarchal system she now works to perpetuate. Clearly she has suffered great pain. However her personal pain is no excuse for spreading outright falsehoods.

[T]he idea that abortion is at the root of women’s psychological ills is not supported by the bulk of the research. Instead, the scientific evidence strongly shows that abortion does not increase the risk of depression, drug abuse or any other psychological problem any more than having an unwanted pregnancy or giving birth.

To repeat: "not supported."

Almost 3 million of the 6 million pregnancies that occur each year in the United States are unplanned; about 1.3 million end in abortion. At the current rate, about one-third of women nationally will undergo the procedure by age 45. The number of women who go to abortion-recovery counseling is probably in the tens of thousands, and the number who become dedicated activists is at most a few hundred. And yet they and their cause are emerging as a political force.

No evidence that 1.3 million women believe that something evil entered them. Lots of evidence that women make many decisions about their fertility and autonomy, including pregnancy and abortion.

A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.


One percent of them met the criteria for post-traumatic stress and attributed that stress to their abortions. The rate of clinical depression among post-abortive women was 20 percent, the same as the national rate for all women ages 15 to 35, Major says. Another researcher, Nancy Adler, found that up to 10 percent of women have symptoms of depression or other psychological distress after an abortion — the same rates experienced by women after childbirth.

It's not the abortion that causes the problems. It's the (pre-abortion) problems that are the (post-abortion) problems. There is no generalizable causal relationship.

What strikes me most about the woman at the beginning of the article is that her suffering stems from others' violation of her rights, most specifically to bodily integrity and personal safety, but also to self-empowerment and autonomy. The women she draws into her program have suffered as well.

[P]articipants talk about their views of God and of the men in their lives. They fill out an “emotion time line” to chart their lives. They explore the circumstances of their abortions. They’re encouraged to think about whether they were pressured into ending their pregnancies and to connect this with other experiences of feeling powerless. Often, Arias says, they are victims of physical or sexual abuse.

And what she argues for, to end the right on women to have autonomy over their own bodies and act as free human beings, is to do the same to millions of women across the United States.

That's a hell of a case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Rather than go through the whole article (although the end paragraph sounds a key note "You can’t repent depressive symptoms. But you can repent an action."), I'm going to provide a sampling of excellent posts from "Blogging for Choice," which I didn't do this year due to being on the road. As always, my old post about Planned Parenthood including some links to Lemieux's work at LGM.

At Feministe, five postsfrom Jill Blogging for Choice Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, plus one each from Zuzu and Piny.

Jessica Valenti at the Huffington Post.

Scott Lemieux at LGM.

Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.

Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise.

Shark Fu at Angry Black Bitch.

Lists at both Blog for choice and Feministing.

And last but not least, Bitch PhD.

Posted by binky at January 23, 2007 06:15 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Crunchy Nutbars | El Infierno de kansas | Extremism | Gender and Politics | Health | Religion | Reproductive Autonomy | Sperm Worship | You Can't Make This Stuff Up


I couldn't even get through that whole article. But you're spot on about Stockholm syndrome. What people won't do or say to apple-polish for their gods.

Posted by: kcb at January 23, 2007 08:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's also just really sad. On one level my reaction is "that poor woman." On the other, what she's advocating makes my blood boil.

Also, a belated and specific link to Redneck Mother's blog for choice. I should have known you'd be in on it. :)

Posted by: binky at January 23, 2007 08:44 PM | PERMALINK
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