Birds of a Feather?

I was going to do a whole blog post about abortion and depression and the fact that there is no such thing as Post Abortion Trauma Syndrome.  I was going to talk about the research review by the American Psychological Association that shows that most women experience relief and happiness after their abortion.  I was going to cite some data and talk about the factors that contribute to risk for psychological problems after abortion.

I wanted to start with a video of Donna saying this line she uses.  I’ve quoted it here before ~ it is one of my very favorite “most horrible lines I’ve heard.”

So I was delighted when the escort who took this video gave permission to use it here.  It does, indeed feature Donna, and she says her line right away, as if she had agreed to perform for the blog.

But then she goes on to say so many other things, by the time you get to the end, you may have forgotten the beginning.  It’s a long video ~ 3:45 ~ which shows you the reality of the sidewalk.  Periods of silence broken by Donna talking at the door of the clinic or lecturing the silent escort videotaping her.

Do you remember the beginning?  At the very beginning, Donna is talking to the client ~ or to the door the clients have gone through.  She says:

“Honey, they only want your money.  They’ll take your money, kill your child, and turn you loose to a lifetime of regret.”

Sweet, huh?  And here’s the kicker.  One of the four risk factors for experiencing emotional distress after an abortion is exposure to anti-abortion picketers.  Big shock, right?

I always thought that might be the case.  That these so-called sidewalk counselors were actually causing harm ~ and they are.  Not just in my opinion, not just from what we know intuitively, but also based on the data.

Let me back up ~ actually, the best predictor of whether or not someone will have psychological problems after an abortion is how they were doing before the abortion.  If you already had mental health problems before, you’re more likely to have them afterwards.

The research shows that most people are relieved and happy after an abortion, with a minority who experience depression and guilt afterwards.    And there are four significant risk factors for that ~ I’ll just mention them here, because when I learn something, I like to make sure everyone else knows it too.  According to the APA,  ” …the most methodologically strong studies…showed that

~  interpersonal concerns, including feelings of stigma,

~  perceived need for secrecy,

~  exposure to antiabortion picketing, and

~  low perceived or anticipated social support for the abortion decision

negatively affected women’s postabortion psychological experiences.”1(p. 92)

And really, those things are all common sense.  But it’s still nice to know that the data supports what seems likely.

Donna, of course, doesn’t stop with her first line in the video.  She goes on to have a little chat with the escort who’s doing the video.  Wait, not really a chat with her, more like a chat at her, if you know what I mean.  But in a soft voice, as if it is an intimate chat, Donna says:

“Remember when I told you how your persona would change?  You’ll be looking like these old women.  You’re young, honey.  Think for yourself.”

Right.  Listen to Donna – that’s thinking for yourself.  And what old women is our young escort going to look like?  I’m a bit offended ~ was she talking about me???

But Donna goes on:

“Don’t give in to this culture of death.  Use your brain.”

Then she talks about the fetus dolls and the picture of the supposedly ten week fetus.  “Is your heart so hard already that you can’t even think straight?” she asks.

There is a silence ~ that’s how it is on the sidewalk after most of the clients are in on weekdays~ long silences  punctuated by one of the antis talking at the escorts or at the wall.

The video moves to Camera Joe, who is taking pictures of the escort taking pictures.

Donna says, “You don’t have to ever come back here again.  Is this what you do for socializing?  Is this the “birds of a feather?”

“You don’t have to waste your time or your film on me.  There’s enough film existing on me to do a two hour movie.”

Now there’s a thought, right?  A two hour movie of Donna on the sidewalk.  What would we call that?  But she goes on.

She says, “Think for yourself.  Don’t buy into this culture of death.”

“Look at this little baby at ten weeks,” and she holds up the fetus doll.”  “How can you deny that these are children being murdered in here today?  And you’re a party to it.  You are aiding and abetting the death of unborn children.   It’s very sad.  Think for yourself.”

The video ends on that note, although I’m sure Donna went on.  There are all kinds of things I could say ~ funny commentary on her little lecture, speculation about the title of a 2 hour movie featuring her ~ but I won’t.

Instead, I want to go back to the beginning of the video, and the risk factors for psychological problems after abortion.   It’s clear that the protesters on the sidewalk are actually causing harm to people seeking abortion.  But it’s also clear how we can help.

Every time we publicly express our support for abortion access, we reduce the stigma.  By stepping forward to say we’re in favor of women making their own decisions about reproductive health, we can actually increase the perception of support, and by doing that, reduce the risk of psychological difficulty afterwards.  Our willingness to speak out can make a difference to the 1 in 3 women who will access abortion in their lifetime.