Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Achieving Peace, More of Chapter 5

We've started to read and discuss Rachel McNair's Achieving Peace in the Abortion War. So far we've read chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4. Yesterday we started Chapter 5, When Ideas Don't Fit. We'll continue with that chapter today. (Links added to Dr. McNair's work are my own.)
The boldest incongruity with the idea of choice is when women are pushed unwillingly into the clinic, or when they change their minds once there and their pregnancies are aborted anyway. Accusations of this have been made in malpractice suits all over the country. Having a lack of choice this blatant is a very small portion of cases, but having it happen is troubling.

I think this may be troubling for rank-and-file prochoice citizens, but I've not seen a shred of evidence that professionals, be they activists or clinic workers, really care if the woman is being forced or coerced.

When Joy Davis, former employee of Dr. Tucker, said women were sometimes held down after trying to back out. "We would medicate the patient before the doctor ever came in the room. I have seen cases where, when the doctor came in the room, the patient would scream, 'I can't do this. I can't murder my baby. Don't do this. I can't.' And I have actually seen Dr. Tucker slap that patient and tell her to lie down and shut up, and order the nurse to give her more medication and knock her out. I've certainly seen it more than twenty times."

Perhaps the reasoning in that kind of case would be that the woman had actually made a decision, but was getting cold feet, and therefore needed a firm hand to go through with the commitment to the plan. In the case where the abortion was clearly someone else's idea, and she was being literally pushed to the clinic, possible reasoning could be that she was deciding to go along with her current relationships, and that was her choice. ....

Again, total denial from activists and staff. I've actually had a Planned Parenthood administrator defend behavior like this by saying, "If she doesn't already know she wants an abortion, she has no business walking into a Planned Parenthood." A prochoice co-worker, when told of my how my babysitter had been coerced and tricked into an abortion, kept saying, "But she was able to get an abortion." The fact that she didn't want the abortion didn't strike them as relevant. That the abortion was obtained was all that mattered. I realize that this attitude isn't universal among prochoice citizens, but it's prevalent enough that I'm not taken the least bit aback to encounter it.
Planned Parenthood put out The Complete Guide to Pregnancy Testing and Counseling in 1985. One section (pp 24-25) presents the hypothetical situation of a married woman who has agreed to have an abortion, but is having difficulty accepting the decision. The suggested responses included:

Tell her that no one makes the decision to have an abortion easily or ever feels really "good" about it. Acknowledge that feelings of discomfort and sadness are normal. Ask about the reasons for which she and her husband decided on an abortion. Help her to reaffirm that this is the best decision for them right now. (Italics mine -- CED) Remind her that feelings of guilt, sadness or loss do not mean that a wrong decision was made.

Note the striking absence of responding with the possibility that they may wish to change their minds. It is the counselor's job to "help her reaffirm," not work it through any further. ....

Again, the PP administrator, when pushed into a corner about unwanted abortions taking place at PP, told me, "If she doesn't already know she wants an abortion, she has no business walking into a Planned Parenthood." That attitude seems common: Facilities advertise "options counseling" but operate on the assumption that if she calls, she wants to go through with the abortion regardless of any doubts or reservations she's expressing.
Consider the bringing together of these two cognitive elements: choice, and ignorance about what is chosen. Or another set: women's ability to control their own destiny, and a patronizing attitude about what information they should be given, and who should decide if they get it.

There's more to Chapter 5, but it's meaty so we'll pick up the rest tomorrow.

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