Women who are considering abortion are at a very vulnerable time in their lives. Many of these women are ambivalent and uncertain, struggling to make the right decisions. It can be a scary and difficult time. It’s also a time when support from those around them can be very important. It is tragic for a woman to face the terrible decision of having an abortion alone.
Therefore, it is disturbing that some pro-choice activists and clinic workers encourage women to keep their abortion dilemmas is to themselves, and, particularly, not speak to people who might give them life-affirming alternatives.
In discussing how low-income women can raise funds for an abortion, The National Network of Abortion Funds site encourages them to lie to people in their lives in order to get the money they need:
Are there people who might not help me cover the cost of an abortion, but would help me cover other costs? Am I comfortable lying to a friend or family member, telling them that I had an unexpectedly high electric bill or gas bill due to heating or A/C costs?
This is not only very unfair towards the people the woman is tricking into paying for something they may be completely against, but it isolates the woman from those who can help her. Isolating a pregnant woman from her support system and urging her to be dishonest leaves her vulnerable to manipulation by abortion clinic workers and robs her of the support that loving family members and friends can give.
Friends and loved ones can help a woman talk through her doubts, worries, and fears. They can provide much-needed perspective. They can tell her about resources in the community that can help her. While it is true that some people in the woman’s life may urge abortion, keeping her dilemma to herself will only deny her any chance that someone could show her a way to have her baby. And if she does suffer grief and guilt after an abortion, whom does she go to for support? She can’t go to those she has deceived unless she admits lying to them.
Another website geared towards women considering abortion says the following:
First, don’t tell anyone. If you told someone you were going to have an abortion, lie! Yes, lie! Tell them you started bleeding and it was suddenly all gone. Cry a little, if you can, and say you feel better and don’t want to talk about it… Remember, you can’t trust anyone with this. If you really don’t want anyone else to know, you have to keep it from your closest friends and family. You might be able to trust them now, but over time, things will change. Your relationship with them might change… Don’t tell and no one will know!
This dishonesty can create a lifetime of denial and shame as the woman feels forced to hide her terrible secret from everyone in her life. It leads to women repressing their feelings while being forced to cope with their abortions alone, without any support or help. Such secrets can become toxic, generating guilt and regret that cannot be easily assuaged. Many women find abortion to be an extremely painful experience emotionally, and a great many women suffer regret afterward. Keeping an abortion a secret can be a terrible burden.
Abortion providers have also been known to urge women to keep their abortions to themselves and to lie if necessary.
One abortionist discusses how many women do not tell their partners, parents, or friends about their abortions, and come in for them alone:
…While lots of women involve loved ones in their decision and some even bring partners, parents or friends to the clinic, lots of women don’t. For most of these women, I think its [sic] about self-preservation. They don’t tell because they expect their parents or partner to be unsupportive, perhaps even try to prevent them from having an abortion. I think the majority probably tell them later, when the fear that the unsupportive loved one can block their choice is gone. These women sometimes express guilt for not telling, but it strikes me as smart. It makes sense to call only on people one can expect support from. It only makes me mad that some women can’t rely on their closest family and friends to support them, no matter what. (1)
Actually, many of these women can rely on their family and friends to support them – to support them to find alternatives that are life-affirming and positive. No one can legally stop a woman from having an abortion, but this abortion provider seems to feel that any effort on the part of a woman’s loved ones to offer resources, encouragement, and support is a violation of her rights – unless, of course, they are urging her to have an abortion. Only those who are pro-abortion should be asked for their opinion.
Another abortion clinic worker discusses how many women who come in for abortions have kept their abortions secret. Clinic worker “Sally” calls abortion “a woman’s biggest secret” (2). She describes how many women, when they get after-care instructions, will “just tip it in the garbage” so that there is no paper trail connecting them to the abortion clinic. None of the clinic workers comment on how seriously this jeopardizes a woman’s health, nor do they seem inclined to encourage women not to do it. The author of the article says that the clinic workers help women lie:
If she needs to pretend she had a miscarriage, they tell her what to say.
There is no need, according to these clinic workers, for a woman to tell the truth to anyone in her life – not her friends, not her family, not even the baby’s father.
Women who are encouraged to lie to their friends and family, both before and after their abortions, are being set up for a lifetime of secrets and shame. They are being denied alternatives and the healing which can come from opening up and getting help.
1. Lynne V. “What 1,000 Abortions Have Taught Me” Feminist Women’s Health Center
2. Margaret Wente “A Woman’s Biggest Secret” Globe and Mail July 15, 2000