Abortion: Feel what you wanna feel

Warning: Sensitive, potentially triggering talk about abortion, adoption, and the loss of children

I have a confession. I’m not what you might call a radical pro-choicer,  and I suspect that most pro-choice people aren’t either.

I think there are times when abortion is the best choice and others when it is not. I feel that adoption and parenting are the best choices in some situations but not in others. As a Catholic, I’m not technically “allowed” to be pro-choice but as  a person mired in reality, I find the typical pro-life position unsustainable for a number of reasons. What a fine world it would be if:

  • There were no complications that could result from pregnancy and all women had equal access to quality obstetric care
  • All women and men planned for and wanted children and were prepared to care for them
  • If contraception were 100% effective and
  • If people, especially younger people, exercised better judgment about initiating sexual relationships
  • If rape and involuntary prostitution were not a fact of so many lives and abstinence were an option for all people
  • Et cetera
We don’t live in that ideal world.
Anyway, whether anyone likes it or not, abortion is here to stay and more women (and men) than we will ever know about have been touched by it.
Is there a right way to feel about it?
Pro-life advocates overstate or outright lie about the negative sequelae of abortion, most notably in their claims of post-abortion stress and breast cancer. Radical pro-choice advocates on the other hand might go out of their way to understate the impact of abortion. Few women feel regret or loss and it is no more traumatic than removing a tumor.
Neither of those positions, in my opinion, reflect the impact of abortion on people’s lives.
Most women do not exhibit what is commonly called post-abortion stress syndrome and that’s assuming the condition exists. When women do feel regret, it’s not always over the abortion itself, but over the circumstances surrounding the abortion, i.e. fetal defect or being forced into abortion by an abusive spouse.
This does not mean there is no loss or misgivings about the unknown. Anyone who makes a life-changing decision wonders about the unknown. What would my child have been like had I carried to term? Is the child I gave up looking for me right now? Could I have avoided this divorce if we had waited to have children?
Guess what! That’s okay! You  are not a bad parent for wishing that your pregnancy had not been so problematic or for wishing you had waited. If you have an abortion and aren’t ecstatic afterwards or wonder about the unknown, or if you choose to memorialize your child, that doesn’t make you a bad choice advocate who perpetuates the stereotype of a hysterical, rueful post-abortive woman. Whatever choice you make, you are entitled to feel what you want to feel about your own experience with that choice. It’s not an indictment of your agenda on a global level. Having complex feelings about your decision doesn’t mean that you regret the decision either. You can feel that this was a best choice you could have made and be positive about it overall, but still wish that something had come along that was a little bit better, i.e. a better partner.
If anything, your complex feelings imply that you are a complex person that thinks and cares about the decisions she makes. I’m not implying that people who truly feel no reservations about their decisions are UNthoughtful or UNcaring because it probably means that you knew exactly what would work for you and that was what happened. All I’m saying is that people are quick to judge others about their reproductive choices, especially if they choose to abort or adopt. Those options are seen as taking the easy way out and the people who utilize them are seen as not wanting to interrupt their lives and living happily ever after while the child pays the price. The fact that women are so impacted by their decisions years down the line shows otherwise.
That said, if you’re inclined to judge women who abort, let me tell you something about abortion.
It’s the one decision that you cannot fix.
If you are a parent, you will sometimes get time to yourself. Your children will grow increasingly independent (in most instances) and they will eventually be on their own. As time goes on, it will be easier to do things with your child that you both enjoy because of the gradual loss of age restrictions, i.e. being able to see R-rated movies.
With adoption, you can choose adoptions of varying openness. You can contact your child again someday.
There is no way to undo an abortion. Once an abortion has been performed, the child and the potential that came with that child is gone. You can have more children and lead a fulfilling life, but it will not be the same as having that one unique child. Women are aware of this and do not take it lightly.
I have yet to hear any woman say, “I can’t wait to have sex and get pregnant. To think…an abortion of my very own! I’m going to get a video of the abortion and if I’m lucky, I’ll get the fetal remains in a jar! Lookit, how CUTE!”
More likely, it’s “Shit! What do I do now? Okay, I’ll talk it over and work a few extra hours. I have some time to think…The other options aren’t cutting it for me, so maybe abortion is my best bet.”
Obviously, when we’re talking about finances and logistics, parenting is the hardest choice whereas abortion is the easiest. This does not mean that abortion and adoption have no financial or logistical impact, or that the *decision-making* process is any easier. The decision-making process for ALL decisions are equally difficult. All the same questions are asked and all the same emotions are felt.
  • Can I care for this child?
  • How attached am I to this child?
  • Do I have the money for abortion/prenatal care/childrearing?
  • Can I live with this?
  • How will my future be affected?
  • How will it affect my family/partner/friends?
Your emotions will probably include:
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Peace
  • Accomplishment
  • Sadness
  • Hope
This is not an exhaustive list.
Let’s focus on abortion for a minute. Generally, women don’t immediately hop to the abortion clinic once they find out they are pregnant, they don’t usually use abortion as birth control, and their lives ARE changed because of it. Having an abortion and essentially experiencing the loss of a child can cause women to have a greater appreciation of the children they have now. They might appreciate better what it takes to raise a child since they have faced what can happen if you become pregnant before your time. It can affect how you discuss sex and relationships with your teenage children. Instead of going right back to the club and having drunken sex, or so the anti-abortion stereotype goes, you might say to yourself: That was a close one.
You might start asking yourself what kind of future you want you and your children to have, if you really want to go through that again…and what can you change about your life to make that happen?
In any case, your child will always be there. You will always remember him or her and you might wonder what might have been. You might always feel a sense of loss and a sense of conviction that this was best…or not. Maybe you wish you had not done  it, but you made the decision that made sense at the time based on the information you have.
That’s okay.
Either way, you have a second chance. You have the chance to live your life the want you want to live it, to have children or otherwise be active in the lives of children. Whatever you’ve done, your life is valuable.
Take advantage of it.
Here is a great video about the subject. The speaker is pro-life and I’m not totally in agreement with the spin she put on it, but she captures what I am talking about.


  1. JeninCanada · June 4, 2011

    “Instead of going right back to the club and having drunken sex, you might say to yourself: That was a close one.”
    I’m so confused. You were doing great, a lovely post to read, I was nodding along, agreeing and appreciating everything you wrote and then that slammed me right out of awesometown. This sentence implies that women who get abortions are doing so because of (a) night(s) of drunken sex. Do you want to explain or reword that?

    • joannadeadwinter · June 4, 2011

      I actually can explain and I have since reworded that sentence. Thank you so much for pointing out my blunder.

      I wrote that comment the way I did because I was addressing misconceptions about abortion. One of the more popular ones is that all women who have abortions are hard-core party girls and choose abortion because they don’t want to interrupt their lifestyles. My point was that not all women are doing this and that even if they were, abortion can change this behavior rather than reinforce it. Abortion and adoption are not ways to escape the consequences of sex but rather are consequences in and of themselves. Most women would rather avoid them and if a woman DID get pregnant because of risk-taking behavior, she might by motivated to change that if she experienced the consequence that is abortion. Motherhood isn’t the only thing that can transform women’s lives and adoption and abortion are in essence slices of motherhood in any case.

      But upon reading it over, I can see where that could be a huge turn-off so I changed it.

      By the way, I have nothing against clubbing, drinking, or sex in moderation. Those are just the stereotypical behaviors that all women who have abortions engage in, obviously.:)

      • JeninCanada · June 5, 2011

        Aaah! I get it. 🙂 Thanks for clarifying, Joanna! And yeah, stereotypes SUCK. A lot of antichoice assholes on Twitter think that *obviously* any woman getting an abortion is just a responsibility-dodging sexpot, when actually a lot of women who get abortions have kids already and/or are in committed relationships. It makes me so frustrated that we can put a man on the moon but we dont’ have 100% effective birth control!

  2. Karen · June 14, 2011

    I’m also Catholic, and call myself a “respect-life” advocate. Believing on one side, that abortion does end a life, and knowing on the other hand that each situation is unique and I am in no way qualified to judge. I pray that more people take a “respect life” position, respecting their own bodies first and making better choices. Enjoyed your thoughts which felt compatible with mine.

    • joannadeadwinter · June 17, 2011

      Thank you so very much for your reply and I’m glad that other Catholics think the way I do. It’s a lonely world out there for people trying to balance their deeply-held faith with the ugly realities of this life. We cannot and in most cases should not tell people what to do, just provide them with options.

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