Why I Blame the Antis

21 May

Anti-choicers rejoiced when Kourtney Kardashian decided to continue her pregnancy last August. The reality-TV starlet cited online anecdotes of post-abortion emotional turmoil as her deciding factor, informally corroborating a medically- and scientifically-unsound “condition” which antis call “Post-Abortion Syndrome” or “Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome.” Here’s a quote from Kourtney to refresh your memory:

“I looked online, and I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories of people who felt so guilty from having an abortion,” she recalls. “I was reading these things of how many people are traumatized by it afterwards.”

I’m guessing that most Abortion Gang passers-through know of so-called PAS or PASS. Many of you likely also realize that countless studies evince its non-existence. So here’s my burning question: If we know that PAS is one big sham (and the APA is right there behind us), how can people like Kourtney Kardashian (and, undoubtedly, thousands of tuned-in pop-culture junkies) so easily gobble it up and make it seem true?

Because it’s not exactly untrue. At least that’s what I’ve come to believe. (Please, antis, do not quote me out of context. I’ll get to you soon).

In our never-ending battle against the forces of anti-choice evil, we inadvertently erase the negative lived experiences of female-bodied people who abort. Well-intentioned feminists clamor about feelings of relief and burdens lifted without proper mention of those “various other” emotional responses which lend superficial credence to the PAS imaginings of anti-choice pseudo-psychiatrists.

I would know. After aborting a pregnancy a couple of years ago, I plummeted into a state of emotional and psychological distress not unlike that which supposedly indicates PAS. While I fear this confession will be grossly misinterpreted by the anti-choice blogosphere, I believe that it’s important to validate the unspoken negative feelings of those who abort. (This is not to say that my experience is universal; however, there’s little doubt in my mind that it will resonate with many readers who’ve aborted).

I suppose the average anti-choice onlooker would’ve gladly diagnosed me with “Post-Abortion Syndrome.” BUT (and this is a big BUT): I’ve never associated the guilt, shame, isolation, anxiety, or depression that I endured in the wake of the procedure with the procedure itself. In my experience, PAS represents a flawed causal model which conflates abortion (the alleged cause) with aggressive anti-abortion sentiment, sexism, and pervasive cultural stigma (the actual cause).

Yes, antis, I blame you and the patriarchy for my post-abortion emotional upheaval.

And I’m fucking tired of the abhorrent anti-choice tendency to co-opt the unique emotions of those who abort in order to justify their eternal crusade to roll back women’s rights.

Okay, so this idea isn’t new. Yet, I rarely run across pieces of writing that expound on (what I consider to be) the true causes of so-called PAS via personal testimony. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read something like this. (If you know of blog post or article that meets these criteria, please let me know! I’d be interested to read it.)

When I aborted nearly three years ago, it was, indeed, a tremendous relief. I spent several hellish weeks before the procedure groaning in hormonal discomfort as I lumbered around my college campus. By the time I made it to the clinic, I was so miserable that I just wanted it over with and out of me. I had plans. I wanted to finish school. A baby was not an option. And my life-long Republican parents, astonishingly, supported, even encouraged, my decision.

But the stigma lingered. The few friends to whom I disclosed early on wept for me or told me that my “shocking” confession momentarily stopped their hearts. I recoiled each and every time the abortion debate surfaced on my television screen, in my inbox, in the overheard conversations of friends and acquaintances. I’d burst into tears at inappropriate moments for no apparent reason. I felt closeted, alone. Suicide crossed my mind on more than one occasion as I contemplated my “selfish” decision to abort a child. After all, I told myself, my mom and late grandma sacrificed everything for their children.

Consider a sexism-free society in which women aren’t shackled to essentialist notions of motherhood. Consider a society in which women aren’t accosted by screaming antis and gruesome, doctored images of seemingly-mangled fetuses outside of abortion clinics. Consider a society in which “abortion” isn’t a foul and unutterable word. Consider a society in which this safe and legal medical procedure is treated as normal and is readily available—a society in which abortion providers and their families aren’t subjected to threats of violence and heinous acts of murder.

In this society, there would be no such thing as “Post-Abortion Syndrome” (there isn’t now, but you know what I mean). And I’m quite sure that I never would’ve experienced the so-called symptoms that I experienced.

So, yes, antis, I blame you.

(Did I mention that this is my I-Had-an-Abortion World-Wide-Web Coming-Out Party? No? Okay, well now you know. Sorry, Mom and Dad. I realize that the Catholics in the extended family will be utterly ashamed.)


12 Responses to “Why I Blame the Antis”

  1. Michelle May 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Such crap. Just like any other decision, women respond in complex, different ways to abortion. My overwhelming response was intense relief.

  2. Jodi Jacobson May 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm #


    I am glad to read this for its own sake and in part because i have been writing a similar but different piece regarding the issue of unwanted pregnancy.

    First, I wanted to say that I fully support your writing on this subject, and completely agree with your thesis. Stigma, discrimination, shame and related discrimination are heaped on women for trying to live their lives in the best way possible for them by making reproductive choices good for themselves and their current or future families. These conditions lead to stress, self-blame, depression….all the things you suggested. Contrast the reactions by the right to women making sound, rational reproductive choices with the reaction for example just last week to Mark Souder’s sorry confession. “It can happen to anyone.” “He’s a good man, he just erred.” “Washington made him do it.” Just one example, but need i say more? Yes, I believe there are effects on all of us, which is why I refuse any more to be shamed. I like you never talked about my own experience with abortion until about 5 years ago, when i said “enough.” Someone has to speak; we all have to speak. If we did, we’d be a lot healthier.

    Second: don’t discount that some part of your reaction–with depths of despair, etc–also has to do with huge hormonal changes occurring in your body post-abortion. This is just real.

    And finally…you know what? women who have an abortion are ALLOWED to feel sad, if they do feel sad (I did not, but some may). They may have made a choice that was the best choice for them but still a sad choice or a hard choice. We make such choice ALL THE TIME. Do we work full-time or part-time? have day-care or stay home? undergo this medical or dental procedure or not? some men who have vasectomies regret it or feel sad about having a vasectomy but feel it was the right thing for them….are we outlawing those? People make hard choices about many, many things, including going to support your country in a war in which you don’t believe. The notion that no one has conflicted feelings about “the best” decision is just a crock. But it is a stick used only to beat women over the head to conform to the shaming and “in-your-face-stay-in-your place” politics of the fundamentalists.

    Sorry for the rant. Feel what you want. You deserve to be supported in the choice you made, and also respected as someone able to *make* that choice and handle the lack of black and white of the world in which we live.

    best, Jodi Jacobson

  3. TiG May 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    Megan – thanks for sharing this! I was never anything but terribly relieved after having an abortion 15 years ago, and have always known the antis have invented this PAS to scare women out of choice.

    I’m sorry for all the hassles you got. =(

  4. KushielsMoon May 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    It can be difficult for prochoicers to speak about the different feelings women have after an abortion. We are often trying to watch our speech so that the antichoicers can’t find a soundbite to use against it. And that’s too bad. Because we should be focusing on the women having abortions, not the antis.

    I have heard antis say that they want women to feel regret or sadness after an abortion. That if a woman isn’t currently feeling bad, they want to know what they can do to make that women feel bad. How awful is that?

    No one should have to suffer in silence because of the fear of what other people will say. Abortion is healthcare, and should be treated as such.

  5. S.L May 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    I thought the Kardashians were idiots long before this happened. Can someone tell me why are those people famous again?

  6. Shayna May 23, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    It’s confounding to me that someone as obviously moronic as Kourtney Kardashian would be able to influence women considering such a big decision — and yet she does. I applaud your bravery in writing this – you are so right on all points!

  7. lisa May 24, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    I had three abortions. I was not aware of “anti’s” or an agenda to shame me, I was ashamed, depressed, suicidal and reeling after my abortions all by my own accord. Three people total knew about all/one of the abortions, and none of them ever so much as mentioned it to me afterward. Ever. No outside force threw shame on me. So, in my own experience, and no doubt other women also, the new problems I faced after my abortion were not a reaction to someone elses opinion of me and what I had done, but instead my own realization of what I had done and my own regret of it.

  8. Emily May 26, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    Lisa, I call bull. If you were able to get pregnant at least 3 times, you obviously weren’t living under a rock on a planet outside this galaxy your entire life, which is the only way you could have not experienced the politics surrounding abortion in one way or another. You’ve heard of abortion before having one, and you’ve thought about what you would do if you had an unplanned or unhealthy pregnancy before becoming pregnant. That’s simply the natural progression of thought that one has before deciding what to do about an unplanned or unhealthy pregnancy.

    In regards to this post, it’s sexist to take the experiences of a few women who have chosen abortion and claim that it is the experience of all women. People only make these wide generalizations on oppressed groups to satisfy their own agenda, which is to keep the power to themselves.

  9. Liza May 27, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    YES, thank you for writing this! I had no guilt after my abortion, until I made the mistake of attending a Catholic college because it was good for my major. I asked an admissions officer if it mattered that I wasn’t Christian, and he claimed the university was only “historically” Catholic. What a bold lie to get my parents’ money! For the next two years, teachers openly tried to convert me after class (because when nonsense was presented as education, I challenged it as a student … imagine that), and I had anti-abortion propaganda shoved down my throat constantly (something I wasn’t used to after growing up agnostic in a socially liberal community).

    I became depressed and started seeing a campus counselor. She brought up the subject of abortion, I said I had one, and she said that explained my “obsession” with children (she actually used that word; I was apparently obsessed because I told her I didn’t want kids AFTER she asked me if I did). She said we needed to “discuss” it, which turned out to mean crap like naming it, and designing a faux funeral. It’s a very popular school around here, because I guess if you are in no way political you’ll just blend into the wallpaper and not mind it. I will never attend a religious school again, no matter how good it looks on paper … I needed therapy for years afterward, and I was fairly “normal” before, ha. I ended up dropping out, and now I’m a returning adult learner at age 26.

  10. Colleen June 11, 2010 at 6:27 am #

    I am curious as to why you are so sure that the truthful-telling of the post-abortive women Kourtney encountered would be suspect? One of the mantras of the pro-choice crowd is that we should “trust women to make their own decisions about abortion.” Should we not also “trust” the honest negative responses/testimonies of these same women? If a women were to have breast reduction surgery to remove excess tissue from her mammary glands because she was experiencing “medical or emotional” complications from said excess tissue, would you only want her to read rave reviews about the procedure or would you advise her to research the pros and cons equally to find out what “potential” risks/benefits were in store for her?

    I appreciate you telling your abortion aftermath story but I find it sad that you have to temper your “truthful-telling” with a sniveling parenthetical apology to the other gangers. (Please don’t quote me out of context).

    You are correct in stating that pro-choicers exalt the relief and burden-lifting experienced after an abortion while simultaneously minimizing the other “boots on the ground” emotional and sometimes physical aftermath of the sacred abortion cow. The party line is typically that “nothing about abortion should appear harmful or troubling to those considering it”, lest they begin to question the wisdom of the “choice.”

    After validating your own struggles post-abortion,you seemingly offer an apology to your peers for pointing out the “pink elephant” in the room. Are you bowing to peer pressure and rejecting your own “experienced truth” so your buddies will still play with you? Do you not trust yourself?

    You were quick to say you “don’t associate your guilt, shame, isolation, anxiety, depression, with your choice.” So what, pray tell, do you chalk those feeling up to? Because your support of choice is a deeply held belief and you are a strong woman, why would you allow anyone else’s “aggressive anti-abortion sentiment, sexism or pervasive cultural stigma” to bother you? Maybe, just maybe, you were grieving?

    I, like you, aborted and felt great relief. The problem was removed; I could get on with my life. Well that did not happen. I experienced two more abortions (now don’t judge me here, because if one abortion is ok why not, two or three or 10 if I want to exercise my choice?)

    Could it be that the “stigma” you refer to was in part your own heart and conscience recoiling from the “choice”? I experienced all the emotions you have listed and denied for years that they had anything to do with my “choices.” When I became pregnant a fourth time, I chose open adoption instead of abortion and came face to face with my choice. He is a tremendous 28 year old man today with a family of his own. He is not a choice, he is my child. I still grieve for his siblings even though I went on to marry and have two more children.

    Consider that women are created with wombs to nurture life, that is not sexist, that is biology. Consider that women who chose abortion should be given the facts about fetal development and be “trusted” to draw their own conclusions, again not sexist, just biology. Consider the women who die today from this “safe and legal” medical procedure or by their own hand when their conscience convicts them of their “choice” and they succeed in suicide (both you and I considered it). Consider a society in which the word “adoption” is the antidote for an unplanned pregnancy. Consider a society where abortion providers and their families offer life affirming support, shelter, free medical care, diapers and other practical supports for women in need. There may be women who “need” abortions in the rarest of instances for true “emergencies” but according to Planned Parenthood researchers 98% of all abortions are for reasons other then emergencies.

    There will always be PAS because no matter how you alter society’s perceptions, verbiage and norms you will never be able to keep the heart of a woman from grieving for her dead baby.

    So, as you blame the antis, I will say to you, as one post abortive woman to another: we both made the choice, we both live with the consequences. We have to find a way to “put on our big girl panties and deal with it.” I found a way through my relationship with Christ, I will pray that you might consider that “choice” as well.
    ef it is only tissue, whey are we grieving?

  11. Megan June 11, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    Hi Colleen,

    I told myself upon writing this post that I wasn’t going to engage with commenters for personal reasons. However, you seem like a very smart lady, and your comment was written quite eloquently, thoughtfully, and civilly. One of the best things about this forum is that it allows anti-choicers to express their views publicly in response to posts when said views are expressed respectfully.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with abortion. Evidently, I disagree on a number of your points, and I’d like to address those here.

    First of all, although I have no way of knowing Kourtney Kardashian’s specific source of PAS (mis)information, I suspect that it was not the “truthful-telling” of post-abortive women. The wonderful websites that compile women’s anonymous post-abortive “truthful-tellings” speak to a spectrum of emotions. Some women who submit their abortion stories are relieved and unremorseful, others are more like us. The website that Kourtney visited, I believe, was an “UNtruthful-telling” of skewed and distorted PAS “facts” created by anti-choicers. There is a difference.

    Secondly, my parenthetical interpolation was not intended to appease my peers. Actually, it was an earnest attempt to dissuade anti-choice passers-through from excising a sound byte from my post and appropriating it for their own misguided purposes. When I submitted this post, I knew, implicitly, that I would receive the heartfelt support of this community of bloggers. They appreciate “truthful-telling” just as much as you do.

    On to my next point: You asked why I “allowed” pervasive cultural stigma to bother me. I’m peeved by your use of the word “allow,” as if women are in possession of the remarkable super-human ability to CHOOSE how deeply-embedded societal norms affect them. I think I’ve unintentionally internalized some misogyny in my (almost) 24 years on this planet. Perhaps this explains things, no?

    Since I’m tackling your comment point-by-point in the order said points were received, I’d also like to say this: I do not judge you for your multiple abortions. I’m happy you were able to access the resources required to make this kind of reproductive health decision.
    Whew, your next paragraph is a doozy, although I applaud your rhetorical strategy. I was all like, “Hey, she’s totally copying me here!” But I disagree with you for the following reasons: (a) biological determinism, (b) abortion is legal to PREVENT injury and death, (c) Do you have some numbers on the post-abortion suicide thing? And, if your numbers are compelling, do you think this might have more to do with pre-existing mental health issues? , (d) adoption carries the possibility of some serious emotional side effects, too, so it’s not much of an “antidote” to “PAS,” (e) feminists and abortion providers also care about mothers, and services exist to help women with the needs you mentioned, and (f) BIOLOGICAL DETERMINISM.

    Finally, I put my big-girl panties on some time ago, like, maybe the day I decided to make a difficult decision about my reproductive health and future. Also, in case you’re wondering, I’m doing quite well! I no longer experience the “symptoms” listed in my post. They lasted for about six months, and then…I re-discovered feminism. Kind of like you found Christ. Did I just compare feminism to God? OH YES I DID.

  12. Colleen June 12, 2010 at 1:51 am #

    Hi Megan,

    Thanks for responding! i was hoping you would but sometimes I get disappointed when the conversations devolve into name calling and unpleasent questioning of one another’s ancestry!

    I still contend that the individiual truth of each woman’s abortion experience is hers to tell and can be informative to others coming along behind as they consider what to do. Silentnomore.org could have been a place that the K girl looked for information or she could have gone to afterabortion.com where women from all backgrounds and experiences share the aftermath of thier abortions. Either way she found info that resonated on some level with her and then she made her choice. I only want anyone considering abortion to SLOW DOWN AND THINK before they do something that can not be reversed.

    Wow, I have not heard the term “parenthetical interpolation” before – NICE! I was just curious because I often find choicers to be intolerant of conversations that impune abortion in any way. I figured you could handle yourself, but one never knows!

    I used the term “allow” intentionally because if an individual “feels” the choice they made was “right” for them, then they can boldly stand on the choice. You know the Helen Reddy song, “woman hear me roar. . .”

    I am not sure I understand what you mean when you say you have “unintentionally internalized some misogyny”? Are you saying on some level you hate women or yourself in particular? Help? You might find that when you are fifty the opinions you hold now will seem very odd . . . Just a thought.

    I requested no judgement for my three terminations becasue when I was at the March for Life in Washington a couple of years ago I had an encounter with a choicer who saw my “I Regret My Abortion” sign and when I revealed that I had done it three times, she accosted me for being so stupid. I pointed out that she was judging me for my choice when she wanted others not to judge her for her right to choose.

    With hindsight,I am not happy that I had access to the resources required to make those desicions. My fear of the pregnancy led me think only of myself and not of the developing tissue inside me. After the fact, my life spiraled out of control as I struggled to deal with the internal quilt and shame. More abortions, more guilt and shame,all because I “did not want to be pregnant.” I new that what I was choosing was not right fo me. But I wanted to be free of the “problem” more then I wanted to think about that developing tissue.

    Rhetorical strategy? I have never heard that phrase beofre either, but thanks, I think?

    Here we go:

    Biological determinism? please explain?

    Abortions are primarily done for 3 main reasons: don’t want to be pregnant right now; relationship issues;financial issues. I don’t know where you live but in Minnesota where I am, those are the stats from the legislative reoport of 2008-09. I know you ae not going to like this but here goes: every abortion terminates someone’s future.

    Are you implying that women who commit suicide after abortion would have had to have been unbalanced before hand? This thinking is eactly what I am talking about shen I say that choicers cannot bear to consider that abortion might have any negitive impact.

    This “blameshifting” to protect the sacred cow discounts the true grief of an aborted woman. Now I’m peeved! (ha, ha!)

    Numbers on the post-abortion suicide thing? Well, you and I both considered it, whatever our reasons. I don’t know about you but prior to my first abortion I had not ever considered it, had you? I had not mental imbalaces prior to the proceedure.

    To read and consider . . .

    Can you tell me what you think the long term emotional problems accosiated with making an adoption plan might be? I have been a labor compnion for more then 40 women (for free) who have made adoption plans for thier offspring and only one of them has suffered long term issues related to it.

    I think it is well to consider that on the one hand choicers want woman to be free of any consideration of regret when they abort thier tissue, saying its NOT a person, but on the other hand when it comes to adoption, they wave a flag of caution: “Be caeful, you might regret releasing your ? into adoption!”

    If getting rid of the tissue is not something to regret before birth, why would a woman suddenly regret it after birth,its the same tissue,only bigger and more work! I am being a bit facitious when I say that, but I think it is interesting to consider.

    The antidote to PAS would be not having the regret of “what if?” and also having the realization that you were willing to put someone else’s future in front of your own for nine months. Sacrificing your desires for another’s good CAN make you feel pretty good about yourself! Adoption is not perfect, but through it a person can gain some insghts into just how strong they can be. I know I sure learned that lesson.

    If you could show me some abortion providers that provide the prctical things I listed, I would be happy to know about it. I am sure there are feminists who do this alredy within thier communities because they help one another. The abortion clinics in my city refer women who need help with these items to the pro-lifers. I don’t know abortion providers who work for free, do you? I know there is funding for abortions when women are poor, but if those funds were not there, do you think the abotion provider would do the proceedure for free? It is an honest question, I would really like your opinion?

    I am glad you are doing well and what do you mean by re-discovering feminism? Did you lose it along the way and is feminism your spirituality/God?

    Sorry this is so long, very interesting interations!

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