Many people assume that if a woman or girl goes to an abortion facility, she wants an abortion. But many women and girls who have been there say that they were looking for information and help — often help to continue a pregnancy or stop someone seeking to pressure or force them to abort — rather than abortion.
Sadly, this is not what they usually get. A survey of women who had abortions found that 79 percent of American respondents said that they were not given information on alternatives to abortion, 84 percent said they did not receive adequate counseling and 67 percent said they received no counseling before abortion.
As women’s rights advocate Melinda Tankard Reist pointed out in Giving Sorrow Words,
Concealing information relevant to a woman’s decision-making and future health should be recognized as an act of coercion. Deceptive information presented as fact; for example, that post-abortion trauma is a “myth,” also acts coercively on a client. If a woman chooses abortion without having been apprised of the facts about potential harm and suffering, she has not chosen freely: the decision-making process has been rendered defective. (p. 167)
The United Nations has stated that, “Coerced abortion is explicitly recognized as a violation of basic rights and principles.” The women below are just some of the many whose basic rights were violated by coercion.
I Said That I Wanted to Keep the Baby
I called [an abortion facility], and they told me what to do to prepare myself. I didn’t even know what abortion really was. So I went up there the next day — it all happened really fast — and the woman at the reception desk asked me the reason for terminating the baby. I said that “I would like to keep it, but I can’t.” She said, “Well then, you don’t want it, do you?” I said, “No, I want it, but I can’t keep it.” I had no support from anyone at that time. She wrote down anyway that I didn’t want the fetus. That hurt me really bad at the time, because I did want my baby. –Alice1
The Counselor Had No Right to Put Me Down Like That
During the pre-abortion group counseling, each girl was asked to tell the others whose choice it was to have the abortion. All the girls had said it was their choice, but I said that I wanted to have my baby but my boyfriend wanted me to have the abortion. … The counselor seemed quite upset with me and plainly told me that I was being “romantic,” while my boyfriend was being “realistic.” How could wanting to give birth to my baby be romantic? I knew it wouldn’t be peaces and roses, but the counselor had no right to put me down like that, either. It seems to me that these people are so involved in fighting for abortions that they forget to look at young girls’ and their babies’ needs. — Jeri1
They Never Told Me I Would Be Eligible for Help
The counselor [at Planned Parenthood] painted a bleak picture of parenting alone, and never told me that I would be eligible for WIC, food stamps, welfare and medical aid should I carry my baby to term. Instead, the counselor told me that I had to explore my career goals before having a baby. –Karen1
The Counselor Said I Shouldn’t Tell My Parents
[The counselor seemed so] sympathetic and understanding. He felt there was no need to worry my family [I was 14]. He also explained about having a child, how tough it would be on me and that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do. He said the child would suffer because I was much too young to be a parent. He pointed out that the best thing for me to do was to abort the fetus as this stage so no one would be hurt. No mention was made of talking to my parents about this or or carrying my baby to term. He indicated that adoption would be difficult and not an option for me. The cost (thanks to Planned Parenthood) was only $35, as opposed to thousands of dollars for raising a child. He said he would even pay the $35 if I couldn’t. –Gaylene1
I Was Spoken To Like I Was A Piece of Dirt
I was sent to the Family Planning Center for Help; well, they helped me all right, so much so they had me booked in for an abortion the next day. Their reasons were I could not take care of myself, let alone a baby. I had no permanent home, and to even think of keeping “it” was totally selfish on my part. They gave me no options and no information; my rights as a human being were not valid because of who I was, just another stupid teenager who got pregnant. I wanted so much to talk to someone, maybe someone would say, “Don’t do it; I will help you through,” or maybe, “You can keep your baby; there is help available and there are people who care,” but instead I was herded into a room with about ten other girls like cattle and spoken to like I was a piece of dirt and treated as such. –Sue2
I Certainly Did Not Make An Informed Decision
I had to stumble through a system that was not supportive of my emotional needs, and I certainly did not make an informed decision. At no stage did they discuss the alternatives, or the procedure, or the possible effects or how I felt for that matter. … This wasn’t really counseling at all, and my guess was it was to satisfy some legal requirement. … No professional created an opportunity for me discuss anything, really … –Sam2
There Was No Counseling Offered
I was nine weeks pregnant. There was no counseling offered, just a leaflet telling me that I might feel a little upset, but that it was hormonal and would pass … –Jasmine2
I Would Not Have Gone Ahead With It
I was not prepared for what I would feel. There was no information on the emotional effect of abortion. There was some clinical explanation and the whole process was presented as not as complex as it should have been. Given what I know now, I would not have gone ahead with it … –Winnie2
I Had More Counseling Before I Had Breast Implants Than I Did Before Abortion
I had more “counseling” when I went to have breast implants than when I went to have an abortion. (At least the plastic surgeon had me fill out a personality and family history questionnaire to determine “suitability” for the procedure.) … There were no warnings of possible risks, i.e. perforated uterus, hemorrhaging, sterility, breast cancer, depression. I was told that an abortion was safer than carrying a child full term. I was totally unprepared for the pain, both physical and emotional, that I would endure.–Anonymous3
The Doctor Lied to Me About Fetal Development
The doctor told me abortion was safe, easy, and painless. … I asked whether the baby would feel any pain. He said that at this stage (8 weeks) it wasn’t a baby, but a cluster of cells, unable to feel anything. … It was when I went through nurse’s training that the reality of what I had done became clear to me. While studying fetal development, I realized that I had been lied to. At eight weeks, those “clusters of cells” had a remarkable resemblance to a baby. They had hands and feet, a heartbeat and brain waves. … –Debbie3
She Told Me Adoption Was Cruel
[My boyfriend and I were told we couldn’t have a baby because] you’re too young, you have no money, you aren’t married. They said we couldn’t tell our parents because it would disappoint them. I said I would consider placing the baby for adoption. The counselor’s response was, “Oh, my God, you could never do that. That’s the cruelest thing you could ever do to a baby.” I started crying and said, “I’m adopted.” Her response was, “I don’t care; that’s still the cruelest thing to do to a child.” –Darlene4
The Counselor Said She Would Give Me Five Minutes to Think About It
I collapsed in sheer exhaustion. I told [the counselor] that I had been outside for hours. I cried curled over with my head in my hands on my knees. I said that “I feel like I’m depriving my child of life.” … Our conversation was cut short by the doctor. The pressure was on. I stopped crying in disbelief when the counselor told me that if I was going to abort then I would have to do it right now. The counselor said, “Look, I’ll give you five minutes to think about it and 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 obeyed their commands. –Genevieve2
Find Help: If you or someone you know is pregnant or struggling after abortion, help is available. Find information and resources in our Help and Healing Guide.
1. From Aborted Women, Silent No More, by David C. Reardon (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 1987, 2002).
2. From Giving Sorrow Words, Women’s Stories of Grief After Abortion by Melinda Tankard Reist (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books 2007).
3. From testimonies sent to the Elliot Institute.
4. From “Woman Silenced at New Jersey Senate Hearing Shares Her Story,” posted here.