Some months ago, I had the pleasure of having an article from ESM picked up by She Who Shall Not Be Named and the other one who likes to run around investigating child sexual abuse at abortion clinics, but never Catholic Churches. Against better advice, I slipped on over to both sites to read exactly what they thought of me and my opinions. It doesn’t matter what they said. Most of it has dissolved into a blur of useless stupidity that floats through my mind once in awhile.
One thing that was said, and I will admit imagining her making this comment in a snotty, high-pitched superior voice, was that when the great fall out comes and a woman finds herself pregnant or a man or woman regret an abortion they KNOW they won’t come to us pro-aborts. They will of course throw themselves on the mercy of those blessed saints at CPCs who will guide them through a healing process, even though they don’t have any legit counseling credentials. Now, not that you need these to run a peer support group. If these people were up front about this being peer counseling the same way AA is then I wouldn’t criticize them. OK, I wouldn’t criticize them as much.
But, back to the topic at hand. Most antis seem to think that the second a friend confides in an unwanted pregnancy we tie her up and drag her off to the nearest abortion clinic when we all know this simply isn’t true. I have had many people, close friends and not close friends, come to me with “crisis” pregnancies (many of which were carried to term with exactly no help from the local CPC even when asked),.I wanted to share a few of the things I have learned from this process, as well as what I have learned for those who deal with regret after an abortion
When talking about an unexpected pregnancy, these are things I learned:
- Find out if this is a wanted pregnancy right away. Some women know they want an abortion the second that test shows two lines. Ask her directly. Reassure her that you care and want to help regardless. Tell her you are not there to judge but you are there to help as little or much as she wants.
- Let her take the lead. It is her body, her pregnancy and her life. Maybe she needs some time to think before she talks anymore. If she reaches out to you for a hug or wants to cry on your shoulder, let her.
- If she tells you right off the bat she doesn’t want to be pregnant, start helping her look for resources. Realize, especially in a rural area, this may be more difficult than a quick walk down the street. Start looking for a clinic right then. Familiarize yourself with restrictions because they vary from state to state. Talk about how she is going to meet other obligations while she is away and not feeling well a few days.
- Encourage her to read about the procedure from a legitimate medical site so she knows what to expect. There are several sites on the Internet that give accurate, nonjudgmental information about pregnancy and/or abortion. Three sites are: Web Md with separate sections about pregnancy and abortion facts; Planned Parenthood that also has separate sections on pregnancy and abortion facts; and Backline that lists resources for more information and provides all options, anonymous counseling over the phone. Sources from most educational institutions should be accurate. Avoid any websites that link to a CPC, describe what “the baby is doing” at any one gestation period, or mention health risks that have been proven untrue, such as the link between abortion and breast cancer. If the clinic has a website or escorts have a site, encourage her to read it.
- Make the appointment as soon as possible
It is quite possible that she does not want to be pregnant, but is not comfortable with abortion. Tell her this is OK as well. In fact, she may be sad about the pregnancy but has already decided to carry to term. If this is the case:
- Congratulate her. Offer to help in any way you possibly can. We all have our limits. Don’t make false promises.
- Start looking for resources right now. If she doesn’t have health insurance, tell her she needs to get down to her local Medicaid/Passport office the next day. In some places there is a lengthy wait to see an OB/GYN and you want her to have a healthy pregnancy.
- Encourage her but be realistic. You don’t have to do this all at once. You have nine months, but it is best to start the planning early. After medical care, other things to think about are adequate housing, adequate transportation (sorry, car seat ain’t going in the back of that Mustang).
- Talk to her about realistic support services. If she is going to depend on her mother to watch the baby while she works, she needs to ask her mother and clear this up right now instead of the day after the baby is born. If she is going to need money from her parents/family/church, she needs to let them know now, not 2 weeks before the hatchling emerges. That is unfair to the people in her life.
- Make her aware that not everyone can do everything she may need. Know your own limits. Tell her she must accept the limits of everyone else without anger or entitlement. Offer to do what you can and be upfront about what you can’t. For example, I am not a person who would be comfortable or competent babysitting. It’s OK for me to be this way and it is OK for me to tell her upfront.
- Throw her a kick-ass baby shower, as much a finances allow. Do encouraging things during the pregnancy, especially if the sperm donor is not around. Be happy to feel when the baby kicks even if it grosses you out. Send her cards or e-mails that are encouraging. Celebrate just as you would a wanted, planned and expected pregnancy because she may not be getting much support from family, friends or church. They may view her as an evil, single whore who shamed everyone she knows (shockingly, some of these will be the same people who protest abortion outside clinics or “counsel” on the sidewalk).
- Reassure her when she feels down. This is a hard thing she is facing. If you haven’t been through it, don’t make pointless statements like “I understand,” because you don’t.
- Most important, LISTEN when she talks. This is the problem with CPCs. They don’t listen. They are on a mission to save the fetus. Period. Make sure you always let her know she is most important, even late in the pregnancy.
- If she changes her mind and decides to terminate, support that as well
- Don’t take her to a CPC. They don’t care about the woman in spite of what they spew. The sole goal of a CPC is to get that baby born. Once they realize she isn’t having an abortion, most help will vanish.
What to say when she regrets an abortion:
- Tell her you are sorry she is hurting. Listen to her. Let her take the lead in how much she wants to share, how much physical comfort she needs and how much she needs to cry. Let her know that this is about her.
- Encourage her to speak to a licensed psychologist and a psychiatrist because this may not be about abortion at all. It may be about a medical condition that needs to be treated with medication. It may partially be about the abortion, but there may be many other issues that need to be dealt with by a professional. If she simply MUST go to one of those healing religious retreats that never seem to heal, then encourage her to get checked out for other conditions before it’s off to the guilt classes.
- If she wants to go back and talk about how she could have had the baby, remind her that it is easy to forget just how hard her situation was when the decision was made. Ask her to talk or think about how she would have handled all the issues that would have come with going to term.
- Listen! Listen! Listen! and remind her that she is not a bad person for taking care of her own health care needs. Remind her that even if she really, honestly regrets the abortion that very few of us get through our lives without regretting major life decisions. It’s part of the human condition.
- Let her talk as much as she needs to and as much as you have time to listen. Also remind her that many people don’t regret the abortion, but regret the events that led up to the abortion (like going home with that dude from the bar that night and failing to use a condom).
No, no I have not forgotten about men.
I know there are men who regret that their pregnant partner had an abortion or that they participated in it. Yes, I have actually had these conversations with male friends, although I admit my knowledge is less than dealing with women. Mostly my advice is the same here.
- Tell him you are sorry he is hurting. Listen to him. Let him take the lead in how much he wants to share.
- Remind them of the things that were going on in their life at the time that would have made having a baby an unwise idea.
- Tell them that there is no such thing as a “they” who are pregnant, only a she. While he may have been stuck with child support, he doesn’t do anything when it comes to gestating and birth. This means that the ultimate decision belongs to the person who has to do the actual work.
- Listen to them as much as they need. Again, encourage them to see a licensed psychologist and a psychiatrist. It may not be the abortion they are mourning. They may have other medical issues that need to be addressed with medication, or they may have other issues along with the abortion regret that need to be dealt with by a professional, not some other dude working out his own guilt by leading a group where more guilt can be heaped on the man.
- Encourage them in the future to discuss this issue with their potential partner ahead of time. Is it awkward? Yup. It was for me and I was a silly 19 year-old college student who had to initiate this conversation with a grown man years older than me. Both the man and woman should be honest. If abortion is not acceptable to a man then he needs to say so up front and not have sex with this woman. Same thing for the woman. On the other hand, if the conversation goes like mine did, which basically consisted of me telling him there was no way I would jeopardize my future with a baby when I probably didn’t want kids at all, then you also don’t have sex. If one party can’t accept the other’s choice, it’s time to go home and masturbate because there is either an abortion or a baby when a pregnancy occurs. There is no compromise.
- Remind the man to use birth control-EVERY SINGLE TIME-until he is at a point where he and a woman have agreed it is time to have a baby. This will help him avoid the situation in the future. It is perfectly fine to be sympathetic and honest at the same time.
- Remind him that regardless of what is said, promised or agreed, it is always her choice. Always. If he can’t accept this fact then he needs to not have sex.
I make no claims of having any sort of professional credentials. My advice is nothing but my free advice, which means it is probably worth what most free things are. Nothing. I’m sure the antis will froth and moan because my answer to every unplanned pregnancy is not to rush them to a CPC. I’m sorry. I think those places prey on women. I think they barrage them with guilt and religion when what they really need is somebody to listen and help them reflect.
The (almost) last thing I will say is, and this is just a personal thing for me, I never answer the question “what would you do if it was you” with what I would do. I am not them. I will never be them. I will never live their lives. I will never have their problems. It doesn’t matter one rat’s ass what I would do for the above reasons. Helping somebody work out a solution is a great thing, but trying to tell them what to do, or what you would do, or what your great aunt’s cousin’s dog did is not helpful.
The only person that any of us should be concerned about when they come to us with an unwanted pregnancy or abortion regret is that person. They are the only ones who have to live their lives, and no, I don’t think religion-based guilt trips are the answer to any of the above problems.
Pearl-clutch away antis. You aren’t the only people with answers to unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. You aren’t the only people who are sought out for advice. In fact, I think most of the time you don’t have any answers besides just have the baby and feel guilt for the rest of your life if you have an abortion.