Ending Abortion: Learning the Truth, Telling the Truth
By David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
A HALF WON BATTLE
Abortion in the United States, and throughout the world, has been legalized because of two basic lies. The first lie is that abortion only destroys an inconsequential “bunch of cells,” not a human life. The second lie is that abortion is safe, and it helps women control and improve their lives.
During the last two decades, the pro-life movement has concentrated its efforts on dispelling this first lie. Millions of dollars have been spent on advertising campaigns, books, brochures, and films such as the powerful “Silent Scream,” to educate the public about the humanity of the unborn child.
These educational efforts have achieved great success. Public opinion polls show that 65 percent, or more, of Americans feel that abortion is morally wrong, even though many in this group believe it should be legal. Studies show that even among women undergoing abortions, approximately 70 percent believe abortion is morally wrong or is, at least, “deviant” behavior. These women seek abortions not because they believe it is right to abort, but because they feel they have no other choice.
Clearly, the vast majority of the public understands that abortion involves the taking of a human life. Even many abortion advocates admit this truth. So, in large part, they have now abandoned their first lie in favor of a primary claim: “The needs and rights of a woman are more important than those of a fetus.”
DEVELOPING A NEW STRATEGY
There is an important lesson we should learn from this. While efforts to educate the public about the unborn’s humanity may help to motivate pro-lifers, such efforts will have no effect on those who support abortion. These people have hardened their hearts to the “fetus.” It may be human – biology forces them to admit that much – but they believe the unborn child is less important than the woman. End of argument. Nothing we can say will sway them from this position.
Their concern is focused totally on the woman. Therefore, the only way to reach them is for us, too, to focus on the woman. This point is absolutely critical for pro-lifers to understand. We must change the abortion debate so that we are arguing with our opponents on their own turf, on the issue of defending the interests of women.
To do this we must begin to concentrate our efforts on exposing the second lie behind legal abortion. That lie, which is the backbone of legalized abortion, says: “Abortion is safe.”
The truth is the exact opposite. Abortion hurts women. It frequently causes irreparable damage to a woman’s reproductive health. And perhaps more importantly, as research from the last ten years has shown, abortion almost always causes psychological and emotional damage. In many cases, this post-abortion trauma is psychologically devastating. It can literally cripple a woman’s ability to function in normal relationships, with family, friends, or even at work.
UNDERSTANDING THE ABORTION MINDSET
Psychologists describe three levels of moral development. At the lowest level is concern only for oneself. The second level is concern only for those close to you: family, friends, or even anyone whom you are able to tangibly see. The third level is concern for all others, even in the abstract, even if they are unknown, unseen – or unborn.
It is at this third level that pro-lifers are operating. Arguments on behalf of the unborn are very effective with people at the third level of moral development.
To appeal to the concerns of those at the first and second levels of moral development, however, we must educate them about the risks abortion poses to teenagers and adult women. We must appeal to their concern for their daughters, wives, sisters, and girlfriends. In the case of the woman considering abortion, we must appeal to her concern for herself.
When faced with the turmoil of a problem pregnancy, otherwise compassionate people often revert to the second or first level of moral decision making. For example, the father of a pregnant fourteen year old girl is likely to focus his concern on his daughter more than on his unborn granddaughter, whom to him is only an abstraction. All he can see is this pregnancy “destroying” his dreams for his daughter’s future, stealing from her all the opportunities of life that young teens deserve to explore. Even if his daughter wants to keep the child, he may well insist on the abortion “for her own good” because he thinks her desire to keep the child is just a juvenile fantasy.
FACTS THAT CAN OPEN MINDS
To reach such parents, it is not enough to give them facts about fetal development. It is more important to give them facts about the destructive effects of abortion on teenage girls. They must be educated about the risks of permanent reproductive damage. Even more importantly, they need to be educated about the impact of abortion trauma on a young girl’s psychological development.
Families of pregnant teens need to be told that over 90 percent of women having abortions suffer damage to their self-esteem. Nearly 50 percent of post-abortion women begin or increase drug and alcohol abuse. In the years to follow, 60 percent experience suicidal tendencies, with up to 28 percent actually attempting suicide. Other problems include promiscuity, depression, flashbacks, concentration problems, and dramatic personality changes. Recent studies show that approximately 20 percent of women having abortions will suffer full-blown, clinically diagnosable, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and over 50% will have some PTSD symptoms.
Clearly, once a young woman is pregnant, it is no longer a choice between having a baby or not having a baby. It is a choice between having a baby or having an abortion; it is a choice between having a baby or having a traumatic experience.
Since 52 percent of women who suffer post-abortion trauma report that they were “forced by others” into unwanted abortions, it is absolutely critical to educate these “others” about abortion’s risks. By encouraging abortion, these “significant others” are actually hurting the loved ones whom they are trying to help. Unless we educate the parents, boyfriends, counselors, and medical community, women will continue to be pressured into dangerous abortions “for their own good.”
PRO-ABORTIONISTS FEAR THIS ISSUE
Pro-abortionists have been concealing the truth about abortion’s aftereffects for many years. They know that once the truth is known, the arguments for legalized abortion will quickly unravel. They are deathly afraid that this issue will capture the public’s attention and so they consistently refuse public debate with post-abortion researchers.
The only way to break this issue open, then, is to continue doing topnotch post-abortion research, like that conducted at the Elliot Institute. Sooner or later, as the evidence accumulates, we will force them into a public debate on abortion’s aftereffects. Sooner or later, it will become a major political and media issue, and once the debate begins, we will already have won.
Both sides already know the truth. A recently disclosed document, purportedly leaked by a Planned Parenthood Federation of America worker, states that PPFA is now developing programs to deal with post-abortion trauma. This “3-Year Plan for 1990-1993,” a “draft” document identified as being issued by PPFA’s Department of Education, states the need for post-abortion counseling exists because:
A number of anti-choice studies and surveys (including the Reardon Study [conducted by the director of the Elliot Institute] and the Grant Survey) have shown that the incidence of post-procedural trauma for abortion clients may be as high as 91 percent of all cases. [R]ecent unpublished reports from the Alan Guttmacher Institute [PPFA’s research group] indicate that the scope of the problem may have been accurately tabulated in these studies.” [Emphasis added]
After this report was published in the national magazine “New Dimensions,” PPFA issued a statement claiming that this document is an “anti-choice” fabrication created by doctoring-up their 1980 three year plan. But a comparative analysis of the two plans shows that the new document was changed in over 120 places.
These changes include many minor changes and editorial corrections, 26 substantive changes, and 4 new programs: promotion of school based clinics, promotion of new birth control technologies such as Norplant, development of more AIDS education, and development of methods to address post-abortion trauma.
All these new programs address issues which were not of concern prior to 1980. It has also failed to explain why “anti-choice” forgers would go to so much trouble to update the document with extensive materials simply to insert one embarrassing sentence about an unpublished Alan Guttmacher study. A forged memo would have been much easier.
Whether this is truly a leaked document, or an elaborate 29 page fraud, we may never know for sure. But the fact remains that PPFA has publicly opposed long-range followup studies of abortion patients on the grounds that such studies are a violation of privacy concerning a sensitive issue. Pro-life researchers believe this opposition to research exists because pro-abortionists already know the findings will only hurt their cause. After all, if there are no aftereffects, what is the harm of interviewing a woman ten years after her abortion?
ONE STRATEGY – MANY VICTORIES
Our strategy is simple. We must do whatever research and education is needed to convince the public about the dangers of abortion. This strategy will have many effects.
1) Knowledge of abortion’s risks will decrease abortions. Family members, friends, and boyfriends will become less likely to pressure a young woman into an unwanted abortion “for her own good.”
2) Increased knowledge about the risks of abortion will increase the malpractice liability of abortionists. As the aftereffects of abortion become better documented, women who suffer post-abortion trauma will be better able to sue abortion clinics for inadequate screening and counseling. Even if abortion remained legal, the abortion industry can be shut down by malpractice suits alone — but only if post-abortion research is done to empower women to successfully sue their abortionists.
3) As the dangers of abortion become better publicized, more post-abortion women will begin to recognize the underlying cause of their psychological problems. These women will finally enter post-abortion treatment programs and begin the process of psychological and spiritual recovery. This will not only benefit them, but it will benefit the pro-life movement as more and more post-abortion women begin to join us in speaking out about the negative effects of abortion.
4) Once average citizens realize that women are being hurt by abortion, they will finally begin to question why we are allowing abortions at all. Until now, much of the public has been convinced by pro-abortionists that “abortion helps women.” But once this myth is called into question, once the public begins to wonder if abortion is actually hurting women, then the tragedy of killing unborn babies for nothing becomes more apparent. If abortion doesn’t help women, it doesn’t make sense.
5) A new pro-life emphasis on the dangers of abortion will help to reshape the political debate over abortion. By demanding legal protection for women forced into unwanted abortions and greater rights for women to sue for post-abortion trauma, we force our opponents to either side with us in defending women’s rights or be exposed as defending the abortion industry at the expense of women.
6) The political reality is that many politicians have chosen to be on the “pro-choice” side and once a position is taken, it is often very difficult to change sides. It is therefore critical to present politicians with information about the dangers of abortion, so that previously “pro-choice” politicians have a face-saving way to shift their votes toward restricting abortion on the grounds that “new studies have shown that abortions are dangerous to women.” 7) In the courts, also, the “right to abortion” rests on the presumption that abortion is safe. As the dangers of abortion are documented, the courts will be compelled to recognize the state’s interest in restricting abortions in order to protect both women and their children.
MAKING ABORTION UNTHINKABLE
We must never forget that our long term goal is not to make abortion simply illegal, but also unthinkable. To achieve this goal, we must change the public perception about “safe and legal” abortions. We must convince the public that even if abortion is legal, it is never safe. Future generations must recognize abortion for what it is, “medical” butchery of both the mother and the child.
Our dream is that years from now, no compassionate person would ever encourage a young girl to seek out an illegal abortion because everyone will know of its physical, psychological, and spiritual dangers. Only then will the lessons of our present generation truly have been learned. Our victory lies in the creation of a society where the intimate unity of mother and child is universally recognized and reverenced.
We seek to awaken in the common mind the fundamental truth that whenever one hurts a child, one hurts its mother as well. And conversely, whenever one helps a mother, one helps her child. Therefore, the solution to problem pregnancies is not abortion; it is compassion.
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Copyright 1992 Elliot Institute