An Australian woman, identified as Genevieve, went to an abortion clinic still unsure about having an abortion. Driven to the point of desperation by her pregnancy, she nevertheless hesitated to go through with an abortion. Deep down, she knew that an abortion meant killing her child, and yet she felt helpless and overwhelmed with fear at the thought of having the baby.
For hours, she lingered in front of the clinic, unsure whether to go back inside. After hours of crying, she did go back into the clinic.
Genevieve describes how the abortion ‘counselor’ then treated her…
I collapsed in sheer exhaustion. I told her that I had been outside for hours. I cried hysterically, curled over with my head in my hands on my knees. I said that “I feel that I’m depriving my child of life.” I stopped crying in disbelief when the counselor told me that if I was going to abort that I would have to do it right now. The counselor said, “Look, I’ll give you five minutes to think about it when I come back, I want your answer.” I couldn’t believe it. Now I was going into a state of panic and shock. I could now barely speak… The counselor glared at me, sighed a deep sigh, and impatiently said, “Look, they’re all waiting for you, you know…” They seemed angry at me. They were sick of me and in the end I weakly obeyed their commands.(1)
The clinic worker pressured a deeply troubled and ambivalent woman to have an abortion she didn’t really want. Forced to make a life-changing decision immediately and pressured by an annoyed clinic staff, she gave in and had the abortion.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize Genevieve would have a terrible time coping after her abortion. The clinic staff showed complete indifference to her well-being. Perhaps they saw her as just another dollar sign. Perhaps they were angry at her because she pricked their consciences by talking about how abortion would kill her baby. Or maybe they were just frustrated because she was slowing down the clinic’s work for the day. Regardless of the reason, their behavior toward her was appalling.
Pro-choice activists often claim that abortion clinics send ambivalent women home to think about their decision if they do not seem ready to abort. For example, the book Abortion Counseling: A Clinician’s Guide to Psychology, Legislation, Politics, and Competency, which is intended as a guide for mental health workers whose patients are considering abortion, says the following:
Most abortion centers will not go ahead with the procedure until it is clear that this is the woman’s own choice, that she has not been pressured by anyone to make this decision, and that she has some emotional support afterward.
And yet women talk about being pressured by clinic workers all the time. In one survey of post-abortive women who experienced trama, 83% said it was very likely that they would’ve chosen differently if they had not been so strongly encouraged to abort by others, including their abortion counselors.
Perhaps the saddest thing about this story is that if sidewalk counselors had been in front of the clinic that day, the abortion might never have happened. This is why it’s so important for pro-lifers to maintain a presence in front of these clinics. It’s true that a situation like Genevieve’s, with a woman sobbing in front of a clinic, doesn’t happen every day – but when it does, a sidewalk counselor should be there to help and direct the woman to a crisis pregnancy center where she can get real help.
If you take anything away from this tragedy, please let it be that it is so important for pro-lifers to be there for women like Genevieve – and not just to help them heal after her abortion (as important as that is).
- Melinda Tankard Reist Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s Stories of Grief after Abortion (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2007) 181-182
- Rachel B Needle, Lenore EA Walker Abortion Counseling: A Clinician’s Guide to Psychology, Legislation, Politics, and Competency (New York: New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2008) 144