Don’t push abortion

Many of us have been pushed towards abortion by well-meaning family, friends or medical professionals.

But for some of us, the abortion has been harder to get over than the rape. [1]

Miss C was brought to the UK by the Irish state for abortion when she became pregnant from rape at the age of 13. She told the Irish Independent in 2013 that the abortion ‘was harder to get over than the rape’.

One survivor, Jane, writes, “Instead (of support) I heard an abundance of ‘You have one year of college left’ and ‘You have a promising career ahead of you. Why would you want to give it all up for a baby?’ … According to those around me, I had to have an abortion.”

A study by Reardon et al analysed the attitudes of rape survivors who had chosen to terminate and those who carried their baby to term. 80% of those who chose to abort felt that they had made the wrong decision. [2]

43% of women who terminated said they had felt pressured or were strongly directed to abort by family members or health workers. [3] The survey also found that in almost every case where an incest victim had an abortion, it was the girl’s parents or the perpetrator who made the decision and arrangements for the abortion, not the girl herself.

Very often, enormous pressure is put on women in this situation to abort and frequently women are in the best to make such a decision. One survivor writes, “[The doctor] was very clear that by no means should I go through with the pregnancy. She said that if I did, there would be chances of my not living a normal life because the flashbacks from my terrible experience [of being raped] would continue. Finally a joint decision was made by the doctor, my parents and me and an abortion was performed.”

In their paper, Reardon et al report “Of the 133 women who carried their babies to term, more than 80 percent explicitly expressed happiness that they had chosen to give birth to their child.” [4] Additionally they report that none of the women who had chosen to give birth had stated that they did not want their child or wished that they had chosen abortion instead.

Rape can leave a woman with overwhelming feelings of anger, guilt, and depression. The emotional trauma can be severe and long lasting. However, encouraging or coercing a woman to choose abortion can compound these feelings and be felt to be another invasion. [5]

We should be helping women find positive solutions when faced with pregnancy under these terribly difficult circumstances and making sure the best possible care is given to them and to their children.

End the Stigma

We are made to feel that our children bear a stigma for a crime which they did not commit. We want this stigma to end.

Research from the United States has found that (of the rapes which take place annually) roughly 4.7% resulted in pregnancy. An estimated 25,000-32,000 women in the U.S. become pregnant each year as a result of rape and significant percentage of them choose to continue with their pregnancies and either raise their babies or place them up for adoption. [6]

Despite the many women who have children conceived in rape, there still exists a strong societal stigma against these mothers and their children. In Dr. Sandra Mahkorn’s study, she found the primary complaint of women who became pregnant by rape was how other people treated them. [7]

Joyce, a rape survivor and mother of a child conceived in rape, states, “I have met many women, including mothers who conceived in rape and their children, who have dealt with a society that judges them. Yet, they will tell you, their children are individuals, immensely loved, and wholly independent from the crimes of their fathers.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Bennett Rosner writes, “The most damaging results of a rape can be the covert or sometimes even overt rejection and accusing attitudes which are often seen on the part of family and friends.” [8]

Additionally Mary Meehan comments, “The situation of women who are pregnant by rape is like that of the physically handicapped. The reaction of others to the condition is often much harder to bear than the condition itself.” [9]

Rather than offer support and sympathy, many look askance at women for their decision and look at their children as if they were criminals. Society has projected an image that raped women must reject their unborn children and see their pregnancies as continuation of the rape experience, and, as a result, women who go through with their pregnancy are often viewed with suspicion.

This stigma is enormously painful to us as survivors of rape and to our children, and can unfairly influence how we are perceived by society as we attempt to establish our lives and legal protections for ourselves and our children.

Our children are not criminals. We who are mothers recognize this. They are our beautiful, precious, and innocent kids who should not be punished for the crimes of another.

It is necessary to work to change this dangerous stigma which perpetuates these stereotypes. The media must change the way in which they discuss these situations and, rather than perpetuate negative and hurtful characterizations, show us for what we are – innocent human beings who are the survivors of a violent and traumatic crime.

[1] O’Doherty, Gemma. “C-Case Mum: I Grieve for My Lost Baby Every Day.” The Irish Independent, May 5, 2013. http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/health/ccase-mum-i-grieve-for-my-lost-baby-every-day-29241584.html.
[2] Reardon et al., pg 12
[3] Reardon et al., pg 12
[4] Reardon et al, pg 12

[5] Fergusson DM et. al., “Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, (193: 444-451, 2008)

[6] Prewitt, pg. 829

[7] Mahkorn, pg. 65

[8] Mahkorn, pg. 66

[9] Meehan, Mary, “Rape and Abortion: Don’t Forget Robin,” Human Life Review XVI, Issue 1 (Winter 1990): pg 60.

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