Post Roe Practice: Is This an Improvement?
In other sections, we've looked at pre-legalization numbers, the state of abortion practice before legalization, and some of the factors affecting safety in the post-Roe era. Let's take some time now to look at post-Roe abortion practice and ask ourselves, "Is this really an improvement?"
The problem the pro-choice movement won't admit exists.
We were assured, first of all, that legalization would not increase the number of women subjected to the risks and trauma of abortion. Legalization supposedly would just change the conditions under which abortions were performed. But proponents of legalization knew that this was not true. Evidence from other countries that legalized abortion before we did in the United States is that legalization creates an entirely new clientele for abortionists.
Nancy Howell Lee's ground breaking research found that for the most part, women who sought abortions before legalization were very firm in their decisions. They utterly rejected the pregnancy and wanted no part of it. That's not the situation post-Roe. We find abortions being sold not only to ambivalent women, but to women who are being coerced.
David Reardon's poll of post-abortion women shows only 6% considered their abortion decision very well thought-out. Only 2% thought that they really had all the information they needed to make a decision. Thirty percent said that they were not at all firm in the decision to have the abortion when they went to the facility, and 44% were still looking for other options. Fifty-eight percent said that the mere fact of abortion being legal strongly influenced them.
If we listen to what the women have to say, in their own words, a story comes out very different from the stories told by advocates of abortions. Women's Stories provides links to those words. Let's look at what a few women had to say:
"On December 10, 1998 I found myself sitting in a local Planned Parenthood clinic .... It all felt so wrong but still I decided to go through with it. ... It wasn't very painful, just extremely uncomfortable. I was then taken into a recovery room where I was given antibiotics and sent home. I ran out of the clinic, my boyfriend followed, and just cried and cried. Ever since that moment I've been miserable. I've tried committing suicide twice since December. The last time I tried killing myself they put me in a psychiatric hospital. I was there for almost five days. I still think about my baby everyday. I ask myself if it were a boy or a girl ... every night I get down on my knees and ask God for forgiveness. I think he's forgiven me, but I haven't been able to forgive myself for what I have done. I hate myself more than ever and am very depressed. I cry myself to sleep every night."
"I remember the ride, all kinds of thoughts running through my mind, but somehow this seemed to be "the easy way out", It wasn't. I knew when I went in to have the procedure done I didn't want to do it. I cried through the entire thing knowing I wanted to get up and run away, and now I wish I had. ... It was the worst pain physically and mentally, and now each day I live with this haunting me."
"I did not want to kill my baby, and I feel so guilty now. ... The only person that knew was my boyfriend and he made me feel like I had to kill my baby. He said that if I didn't have the abortion he would tell my mother..and I know that if my mom had known then she would make me have an abortion. ... I feel like my life is empty and I want to get pregnant again."
This isn't a picture of women who were sure that an abortion was really the right thing, and certainly not a picture of women abortion helped. But these are the fortunate ones. For many women, abortion turns into an even greater nightmare. These are the victims of malpractice.
Abortion proponents will argue that every type of medical procedure can be botched by a bad doctor, and this is true. But most medical procedures are at least necessary; the person is undergoing treatment to treat a disease or to heal an injury. And most doctors are competent; they're not quacks. But abortion is different, and abortionists are different.
First, abortion isn't prescribed to treat an illness or injury. Contrary to all the "woman and her doctor" rhetoric, most women who are sold abortions never even see the doctor until they are prepped and in stirrups -- hardly a position for "consultation with her doctor." She's fortunate indeed if he even introduces himself or says more than a few perfunctory words before he starts sticking sharp instruments into her body. Abortion is sold by "counselors," some of whom are paid on a commission basis, to healthy women whose chief complaint is that they are ambivalent and/or frightened.
Guess what? This is normal in early pregnancy. Lynn Johnston's book of cartoons about pregnancy and birth (David, We're Pregnant! 1992) even features a cartoon of a wild-eyed woman putting down the phone and thinking, "It's true! I'm pregnant. And I think my first reaction is panic!" What makes the cartoon funny is how universal the feeling is. A friend of mine who has nine children said that the ninth pregnancy generated just as much panic and uncertainty as the first eight pregnancies had. Every single pregnancy produced panic. Every single child was welcomed with joy. Surely something that's sold unnecessarily to normal women should be held to an even higher standard.
At least the doctor setting a broken bone or installing a pace maker is trying to correct something wrong with the patient, is trying to heal the person and restore him or her to wholeness. The abortionist is at best offering a false solution (after all, an abortion won't make her husband stop beating her, or make her boss more reasonable, or fix her finances). More likely he is cashing in on her normal ambivalence and exploiting her for personal financial gain. He has absolutely no excuse for adding injury to insult.
The Changing Face of Abortion
Practices Before Legalization
Post Roe Practices
Safe-n-Legal in the 20th Century
Abortionists of the 20th Century
Dividing the Century
Then there is the simple, unavoidable fact that abortion tends to attract quacks. Further, even doctors that start out with the best of intentions tend to descend into quackery. The results of that quackery are every bit as tragic as the results of a criminal abortion: teenage girls needing hysterectomies, young women left in a vegetative state, children orphaned as their mothers die horrible deaths. Abortion isn't something doctors aspire to. The young medical student may dream of being a cardiologist or a brain surgeon, or pioneering new treatments for spinal cord injuries. Who goes to medical school with dreams of dismembering fetuses all day? At its best, abortion is boring. For that reason alone, entirely aside from its destructiveness, it tends to be where the dregs settle. If you don't believe that abortion attracts quacks, let's look at the cream of the crop: the National Abortion Federation. NAF is a study in Holier-Than-Thou language covering up quackery.
Supposedly safe-n-legal abortion stories rival the pre-legalization "back-alley butcher" tales:
The deplorable, disgusting conditions in some US abortion mills defy belief. Here are some examples from various documents we collected when investigating abortion for Lime 5:
At East Tennessee Women's Clinic inspectors found that the receptionist was assisting with procedures. Medical records were stored pell-mell in an upstairs closet. IV needles and packages of curette tips were in a box with dead bugs that was just sitting out on the floor. The waiting room and treatment room had dirty floors, there were cobwebs and dead bugs on the recovery room floor, and the floor in the instrument cleaning room was described as "blackened." Inspectors found no soap or paper towels in the lavatories. The beds in the recovery room had soiled sheets and blankets except for two reddish-stained beds with no covers on them at all.
Knoxville News-sentinel 2/17/85, 5/27/87
Behind Closed Doors
At Friendship Medical Clinic, abortionist Arnold Bickham, who had lost his license after the death of Sylvia Moore (see above), was arrested for practicing without a license. Police also arrested Julian Banzon, who had never been licensed in Illinois; they found him hiding in a closet. The police also found three hand guns and an unspecified quantity of drugs which were confiscated because the facility had no physician to legally dispense them. The board of health tried to close Friendship, but the owner successfully appealed to the Supreme Court and had city regulation ruled unconstitutional.
Chicago Tribune 3/3/73; Chicago Sun-Times 3/24/73 and Abortion Profiteers series
At Hedd Surgi-Center, inspectors found poor sanitation and infection control, unlicensed and unqualified staff, out of date medications, mold on the breathing tubes, and mouse droppings in the operating room. A revocation agreement barred Hedd from performing any procedures but abortions.
Chicago Tribune 2-8-91
Her Medical Clinic faced a formal complaint filed by local emergency room doctors due to the large number of abortion-injured women who were arriving by ambulance from Her. After the deaths of Michele Thames, Liliana Cortez, and Maria Soto, and in the wake of the complaint, the state moved to shut the facility down. The owner, Leo Kenneally, instead legally closed the facility and re-opened it as his private office, which would not have to be licensed by the state.
Los Angeles Times 1/31/93; Los Angeles Herald Examiner 2/22/88
What legalization gave us was a bunch of quacks being licensed to sell unnecessary surgery under the guise of medicine. And women have been paying a high price. Browse through Abortion Complications, and Abortion Mortality, and reflect on how much of an improvement these horrors are over the horrors of illegal abortion. The fact is, they are no improvement whatsoever. We are subjecting more women, who are less wary, to the same dangers as before -- and we are no longer set up to punish the men who hurt them. This hardly constitutes a service to women. And it's hardly a boon to public health.
"Confession of an Ex Abortionist"
"More on Illegal Abortion Myths"
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