I recently read an account from a 17-year-old who was 24 weeks pregnant and was pressured by abortion clinic workers to abort her baby. The testimony appeared in the book Bitter Fruit: Women’s Experiences with Unplanned Pregnancy, Abortion, and Adoption. I did not find this book to be biased towards the pro-life position. The author seems to take, as far as is possible, a neutral stand. Nowhere in the book does she condemn abortion or claim that adoption or parenting are better options.
When 17-year-old Darla (last name not given) became pregnant, her mother wanted her to have an abortion. In Darla’s own words:
“I didn’t want to do it, but it was like I was being dragged. The first thing they did was an ultrasound, and I think I was 24 weeks pregnant. So I had a week legally left.”
At 24 weeks, the unborn baby was at the end of the 2nd trimester. At this time, the baby is fully formed. He or she reacts to sudden, loud noises, and, according to the Endowment for Human Development: “This response is very much like what adults and children exhibit in the same situation.” She can feel pain, and has a sense of taste. She breathes amniotic fluid. She also sleeps and dreams. REM sleep has been observed in unborn babies as early as 18 weeks.
33.6 % (over a third) of unborn babies born at 24 weeks survive. (Cara Acred The Abortion Debate (Independence Educational Publishers, 2012)
You can see pictures of babies aborted at 24 weeks here.
Darla goes on to say:
“I saw her [the baby] actually on the ultrasound, of course. I was 17 years old, I wasn’t going to say, “Turn the machine around; I don’t want to see.” And when I saw her, I knew that I wasn’t going to do it.”
Like many women considering abortion, seeing the baby on the ultrasound screen made her want to have her child. In many clinics, women are not allowed to look at the ultrasound for this very reason. (see also this, this, and this)
Darla says that her mother and the clinic workers argued with her about her decision to have her baby.
“So we spent the whole day over there, crying and arguing with the doctors and staff like that. When it came down to signing the piece of paper that said I could die during the procedure, I said no, I wouldn’t do it. We went all the way up to the director of the clinic. They were saying it was best for me, because I was young. My mom was really pushing for it too, so they stood by her. Maybe she was trying to get people to convince me. …They were trying to convince me that it was safe, that in years nobody had died or whatever, that it was relatively safe.”
The clinic workers persisted, but Darla held firm:
“I went in thinking that I was going to do it, but when I saw it on the ultrasound, I couldn’t do it.… So what ended up happening was that they wanted me to sit in on a group where they explained stuff. I guess they thought they were going to trick me and take me in and do it. I don’t know, I remember a lot of stuff that just doesn’t seem right now. So I sat through the group and they said, “Okay it’s your turn; the doctor’s waiting for you.” And I said, “No I’m sorry, I’m just sitting in on this group and I’m not going to go in.” And I asked where my mother was. They stalled for a minute, and I just got up and walked out and said, “I’m not going to do it.”
Still, the coercion did not end.
“So we sat outside for about an hour and a half, and three or four nurses came out at different times and said, “The doctor’s waiting, you’re ready, let’s go in, come on,” and they would take my hand and try to pull me in. And I said no, that I could not do it.”
Despite the clinic workers efforts, Darla held firm. She refused to abort her baby. Eventually, the clinic workers gave up and sent her home.
Clinic workers will say that they always carefully screen women to see if they truly want to have their abortions before they actually allow her to have the procedure. In some cases, this may well be true. But in some clinics, such as the one Darla went to (the book does not reveal the name of the clinic) coercion is definitely a part of the business. It is very easy to imagine a 17-year-old girl giving in to this kind of pressure. Darla showed incredible strength and courage in resisting the clinic workers. One has to wonder how many other women went to this clinic, had second thoughts, and were coerced into having their abortions.
So much for pro-choice.
Source: Rita Townsend, Ann Perkins Bitter Fruit: Women’s Experiences of Unplanned Pregnancy, Abortion and Adoption (Alameda, California: Hunter House Inc., 1991) 39-40