Friday, May 19, 2006

What Abortion Really Looks Like


You have my total permission to re-print my story. If it helps stop any one from making this horrible mistake, or helps anyone who has made this mistake, I am all for it.

Hello whoever you are,

I guess I'm just reaching out to tell my story, or maybe get this off my chest, to warn other people. I am a " sinner, baby killer and whore". I was never told how much I would hurt after this. I was never told that I would re-live the event everyday. I was never told I could feel the life being sucked from my womb. They made it sound easy, simple, painless and made it sound all right.

It is regret. It is feeling dirty.

Had I known it would hurt so much emotionally. I would not have proceeded. Had some one told me, that this would be stuck with me forever. I would never have entered the clinic.
It has only been two days since my mistake.

Friday night my now ex boyfriend was arrested for domestic violence charges against me. He had hit me several times. I was six weeks pregnant. I was given council about what I could do and what not. I had spoken with a "friend" and she said " Get an abortion, you'll hate the kid forever"

Saturday morning I found myself outside of the planned parenthood facility. It was the day before mother's day. It was a fact that hit me moments before entering. There were many people trying to hand me literature. One with a rosary, one young lady yelled at me " It's ok, you can be a mother". Her words ran through me like electricity. It made the decision so much harder.

After being in the clinic for about two hours I was finally called in. I could not afford the anesthesia, so I was awake the entire procedure. They told me I would feel a little pressure. It felt as if someone was ripping me open. "You'll feel a little prick and numbness" I felt the needle, and still felt the pain. I screamed. I tried to hold the nurses hand, but she had pulled away. I felt every move that doctor made. I heard them vacuum the child from my womb. When it was all over, and too late, they just handed me a maxi pad and a damp cloth and walked out of the room. Having a bad reaction to the Novocain they injected into my cervix, cramping beyond no pain I've felt before, I put my clothes back on, silently. I was then escorted into a recovery room.

I was provided a pill that would shrink my cervix back to normal, and two extra strength Tylenol. Every other woman in the room was in shock. We laid there, heating pads over our stomachs, all regretting what we did. It was a common feeling in the air. Tears were shed. The nurses, they attempted to lighten the room. It made no difference. We killed our children. We gave into this horrible idea that it wasn't a person, that it was ok to murder.

I sit here today, incapable of going to work. I see people walking down the street, I know they have no way of knowing, but I still feel so awful.

If someone would of only gotten to me before I even was pregnant, before I even graduate high school. It would be different.

I wanted that child. It was never a mistake, a child is never a mistake. Getting rid of it was.

I wish I knew about your site before this.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pleading for Amnesty

Amnesty International is considering adopting a policy regarding reproductive freedom, which may include acceptance of abortion as such. In response, although I am not a member, but only an interested party, I sent the following letter. I urge my readers who are in accordance to do the same.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As an ordinary citizen who has heard nothing but positive things about the admirable work of Amnesty International, I read with trepidation about your proposal to formulate a policy regarding a woman's right to have access to abortion.

Oddly enough, I heard of this in the same week that I read the article entitled, "Running Out of the Darkness" in the May 1, 2006, issue of Time Magazine, which describes the efforts of an underground railroad to rescue individuals from oppression, forced imprisonment and torture in North Korea. The article begins with the story of Kim Myong Suk, a twenty-year old woman who was imprisoned while five months pregnant. Kim was tortured by means of abortion:

"Hwang [Myong Dong, a North Korean prison guard] referred repeatedly to the baby as 'the Chink,' because the father was a peasant from northeastern China, where Kim had fled earlier that year. As she lay on the prison floor, Hwang demanded that she abort the fetus herself. She refused, so the guard began kicking her in the stomach. Then he beat her and, as her sister screamed, continued beating Kim until she blacked out. When she regained consciousness, she says, she 'was taken to a clinic in the camp, and in the most blunt manner, they removed {the fetus} from my body.'"

The potential for oppressive governments to use abortion as a means to torture women should be of great concern to Amnesty International; and this abuse must take precedence over taking any stand to promote abortion by allegedly-free choice. While women's civil rights remain oppressed, we will never be able to guarantee each woman the right to choose birth and be free from this form of torture.

May I also mention that it is not just in oppressive countries where abortion is abused? I, myself, was forced to abort when I was a sixteen-year old girl who made the mistake of getting pregnant. Those who should have supported me used the legality of abortion to solve their own problem, and used the threat of abandonment to force me to do what I did not want to do. This is not reproductive freedom, and my right to choose was not protected. No one beat me, but that does happen to girls and women who do not want to comply with the coercion of others to abort their unwanted children, as evidenced by the fact, offered to us by the National Organization of Women, that homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women. From this, we see that violence against women who are with child is a serious problem.

I respectfully ask you to refrain from supporting abortion, a violent act that succeeds only in further enslaving women. Even in cases of rape and incest, abortion is not a solution for abused women. All too often, it is the one who has initially victimized the woman who uses abortion to hide his crime; this will happen more often than not in nations where women's rights are already suppressed. The best possible stance for Amnesty International to take, and the position that is most consistent with its goal to protect human rights and human life, is one that opposes the violence of abortion.

Thank you very much for your time and your consideration of my letter. It is my hope that AI will take the high road, and choose to protect women, and to protect life from its very beginnings.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Feel-Good Propaganda from the Guttmacher Institute

Everywhere someone’s getting over
Everybody cries, and sometimes
You can still lose even if you really try

Talking ‘bout the dream like the dream is over
Talk like that won’t get you no where
Everybody’s trusting in the heart
Like the heart don’t lie

~ “All I Need,” Matchbox Twenty

For most women…the time of greatest distress is likely to be before an abortion; after an abortion, women frequently report feeling “relief and happiness.”

~ “Abortion in Women’s Lives,” a report from the Guttmacher Institute, p. 24

The Guttmacher Report offers the survey results mentioned above as evidence against the development of post-abortion psychological problems, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (aka post-abortion stress). The authors of this report would like us to believe that these good feelings of relief and happiness are proof that abortion does no harm to us psychologically. But since we first defined the disorder, we’ve known that emotions after a traumatizing event do not, in and of themselves, tell us whether the victim has been traumatized to the point of illness and whether they can or will develop PTSD.

To understand the nature of how post-traumatic stress disorder develops and the criteria for its diagnosis, we will try to understand how trauma is defined within the context of the illness; what factors precipitate development of the disorder (emotional responses are not strict indicators); and some examples of other traumatizing events that can leave us suffering from PTSD right alongside feelings of relief and happiness.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), defines a traumatic event as follows: “The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others,” (Scaer, p. 1). As Dr. Scaer relates, that which is traumatizing has violated the boundaries of self:

“Violent physical assault in any form needs no rationalization to qualify as a survival-threatening event. The sense of safe separation between the assaulted person and the real world is shattered, especially if associated with physical pain and injury. Although a life-threatening illness presents a less physically tangible assault on one’s sense of self, the safe haven of our body is ruptured and redefined…witnessing a violent event involving life-threatening bodily injury of death may redefine what constitutes a safe boundary for us, may shrink that boundary, and therefore constitute a threat to our survival,” (Scaer, pp. 4-5).

According to the DSM-IV definition, that which is traumatic threatens the integrity of our bodies or our selves in a life-threatening manner. However, the DSM-IV definition does not reflect new research into the occurrence of PTSD. As stated by Dr. Glenn Schiraldi, author of The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook, “consensus is emerging…that a variety of secondary factors can increase the risk of developing PTSD following exposure to traumatic events. These factors become more influential as the severity of the traumatic event decreases,” (Schiraldi, p. 37). Dr. Scaer maintains “…that the definition of a recognized response to traumatic stress must include not only those symptoms related to reexperiencing, arousal, and avoidance defined in the DSM-IV, but also must address comorbid, associated, and somatic symptoms known to be related to past exposure to trauma,” (Scaer, p. 132), and further, “…numerous studies support the concern that prior life traumatic events and psychiatric morbidity are associated with a higher risk of developing PTSD after a new trauma, and that this vulnerability may result in an enhanced traumatic reaction even with less intense traumatic exposure. As a result, even minor nonviolent societal trauma should not be dismissed as a source of significant trauma in selected populations,” (Scaer, p. 139).

What should this mean to the Guttmacher reporters? They tell us, “most abortion…occurs in the context of an unwanted pregnancy, and it is very difficult to tease apart the effects of these two events. Psychological problems that develop after an abortion may not be caused by the procedure itself, but instead may reflect other factors associated with having an unwanted pregnancy, or those unrelated to either the pregnancy or the abortion, such as a history of emotional problems or intimate partner violence,” (p. 24). In their efforts to separate abortion from any psychological problems that result, the Guttmacher authors ignore a significant and growing body of research that urges us to consider a history of trauma, including the trauma of the unwanted pregnancy itself, as a trigger for a traumatic response to abortion.

There are other factors in addition to a history of traumatiziation that come into play in the development of the disorder, risk factors that can make “ordinarily” stressful events assume life-threatening proportions. According to Dr. Glenn Schiraldi, author of “The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook,” these risk factors include (Schiraldi, p. 38):

• Underdeveloped protective skills, problem-solving skills, self-esteem, resilience, creativity, humor, discipline, ability to express emotions to others, ability to tolerate distress.

• Personality and habitually negative thought patterns (e.g., pessimism, depression, introversion).

• Biology. Some people appear to have overactive nervous systems. Heredity and a history of drug abuse appear to influence this factor.

A poor family environment during childhood that does not support a child's safe exploration of boundaries may result in our failure to learn what constitutes these boundaries, and can also make us more susceptible to developing PTSD as a result of stressors that would not ordinarily be viewed as life-threatening (Schiraldi, pp. 38-39). An accumulation of stressors can also weaken our defenses against serious illnesses such as PTSD, and include divorce, illness, financial pressures, or losing a job. Dr. Schiraldi calls all of these risk factors “pre-trauma vulnerabilities,” (ibid).

At the time of the traumatic event, PTSD is more likely to occur if the victim dissociates, perceives that she is responsible for the event or responded inappropriately, and/or feels alone or isolated. After trauma, PTSD is more likely to occur if the victim is still isolated; cannot talk about the pain she experienced; or is “…disbelieved, stigmatized, shamed, or shunned,” (Schiraldi, p. 39), particularly by those who are supposed to help the victim instead of inflicting further harm, as when a rape victim is asked whether she could have prevented her assault; and as happens when a physician …”minimizes the symptoms, belittles [the] one seeking assistance, or even refuses to render treatment,” (Schiraldi, p. 40).

Having defined what constitutes trauma, and the factors that can contribute to the development of PTSD even in the absence of an actual threat to life, let’s look at other known traumatizing events to determine whether emotions of relief and happiness have any bearing on whether the trauma victim will develop the disorder.

Surgery is an excellent example, and is listed in the DSM-IV as a potentially traumatizing event. Even if anyone would agree to surgery without expecting to benefit, few surgeons would operate if they did not anticipate offering the patient some relief. For example, if surgeons amputate a gangrenous leg, the patient may report feeling relieved and happy, because her life is no longer threatened. However, she remains vulnerable to PTSD, according to the DSM-IV which specifically lists amputation as a traumatizing event. Removing a burst appendix saves the life, but violates the integrity of the body; a hysterectomy may remove a source of cancer, and a threat to life, that can leave a woman feeling relieved and even happy; but it can also result in post-surgical psychological trauma.

Police officers who kill in the line of duty are not bound to negative emotions as a result. Their actions may have saved the life of another, or earned the regard of their peers. As Dr. Rachel MacNair writes in Perpetration Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing, “The officer’s traumatic symptoms are viewed as a sign of virtue and sacrifice for being a good officer…if it happens to a good officer doing his or her duty, acknowledging psychological difficulties is no insult….It is perceived as one of the reasons to be sympathetic to police officers.” Yet, no one would argue that police officers can’t develop PTSD because they have done their duty and may have positive emotions as a result; we often treat them immediately after a shooting in an effort to preempt the disorder. But as Dr. MacNair points out, “…as with all cases of Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS) [a form of PTSD], there are confounding possibilities on having PTSD before the incident…The extent to which PTSD symptomatology already exists before a shooting incident complicates the study of the etiological nature of the shooting itself,” (MacNair, p. 58). In fact, PTSD can develop in spite of an officer’s actually having been rewarded by his peers and society for his bravery; trauma and the illness that can result do not take such rewards into account.

PTSD was first identified, and early research focused on, the experiences of combat veterans, who, like police officers, kill in the line of duty and may receive honors for having done so. The most extensive work done on the psychological effects of killing and trauma in combat is On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Grossman defines the stages of emotions that result after the traumatizing act of killing:

“When soldiers kill the enemy they appear to go through a series of emotional stages. The actual kill is usually described as being reflexive or automatic. Immediately after the kill the soldier goes through a period of euphoria and elation, which is usually followed by a period of guilt and remorse. The intensity and duration of these periods are closely related to distance. At midrange we see much of the euphoria stage…If a soldier goes up and looks at his kill – a common occurrence when the tactical situation permits – the trauma grows even worse, since some of the psychological buffer created by a midrange kill disappears upon seeing the victim at close range,” (Grossman, pp. 111-112).

Consider this in relation to a phenomenon reported by the Guttmacher authors in an effort to show us that we must ensure women have access to early abortion procedures:

“Thirty-four percent of women who have had an abortion at or before six weeks’ gestation would have preferred an earlier procedure; this proportion increases to 74% at 9-12 weeks and 92% at or beyond 13 weeks,” (p. 17).

The authors give us several reasons why women delay obtaining an abortion procedure, which I will cover in another article; however, they make no effort to explain why women who had later abortions more often reported a desire for an earlier procedure. They do not purport that these women suffered from more complications than women who had earlier procedures, although that is a risk. So why do the women who waited wish they had had the procedure earlier? Was it increased proximity to the kill, as Grossman would call it? According to the American Pregnancy Association,

“Some moms can feel their baby move as early as 13-16 weeks. These first fetal movements are called quickening and are often described as flutters. It may be difficult to determine whether this feeling is gas or your baby’s movements, but soon you will begin to notice a pattern. First-time moms may not feel these movements as early as second-time moms. Some moms, especially those in their first pregnancy, may not feel movement until 18-20 weeks...There is a broad range of when the first detection of movement can be felt, ranging from 13-25 weeks."

The independent movement of the fetus is an indication that what we lose in abortion is not an extension of ourselves, but a live being with an existence separate from our own. This would increase the likelihood that the late-aborters had an opportunity to consider the unborn as a child. This identification may increase our proximity to the kill, or traumatizing event, a factor that increases the likelihood that PTSD will develop. Additionally, the post-thirteen week abortion is likely to be surgical and/or painful. Surgery, as we’ve already noted, is invasive and threatens the integrity of the self, as does severe pain. Are these “preferences” reported in the Guttmacher report indications that these women were negatively affected by their abortions? But if abortion results in our feeling relieved and happy more often than not, why wouldn’t we be relieved and happy at any stage of the procedure? And why wish that a past event would have happened differently, an emotion we often call regret?

We can feel some or all of the entire human array of emotions after abortion, including relief, happiness, sorrow, and regret. But however we feel, it doesn’t matter, because we are still vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder, perhaps because the procedure or act of abortion violates the integrity of self/body, or because we have past experiences or conditions that predispose us to developing the disorder, or because we have been isolated, shunned, and shamed – and not just by those who disapprove of abortion, but also by those who provide them.

The Guttmacher report is blowing proverbial smoke, asking us to believe, contrary to the accepted diagnostic criteria for PTSD (and the growing body of research), that the report of a positive emotional response precludes the development of this neuropsychological illness. This misuse of information is detrimental to women’s health. Propaganda is defined as “information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause.” We will continue to evaluate this particular piece of same in future segments.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Guttmacher Report Supports Abortion-PTSD Link

“Since the APA panel’s review of the scientific literature, there has been a new wave of analyses that report correlations between a history of abortion and a range of conditions, including psychiatric treatment, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and death…Many of these studies, however, have methodological shortcomings that make it impossible to infer a causal relationship. None adequately control for factors that might explain both the unintended pregnancy and the mental health problem, such as social or demographic characteristics, preexisting mental or physical health conditions, childhood exposure to physical or sexual abuse, and other risk-taking behaviors. (Childhood exposure to physical or sexual abuse, for instance, is known to be associated with unintended pregnancy and abortion, and also with risk for a psychological disorder.) Because of these confounding factors, even if mental health problems are more common among women who have had an abortion, abortion may not have been the real cause.”
~ Abortion in Women’s Lives, a Guttmacher Institute report (emphasis mine)

Reading this report by the Guttmacher Institute (an arm of Planned Parenthood), “Abortion in Women’s Lives,” is much like reading about the health effects of cigarette smoking as prepared by RJ Reynolds. In other words, the fox guarding the hen house isn’t about to tell us he has a conflict of interest, so we must read with care. HT: to Annie Bano of After Abortion, who sent me the link to this report. It serves some useful purposes – the fox is the only one who can tell us how many hens he is guarding. However, as a guide to whether or not there are dire psychological consequences related to abortion, the report is wishy-washy. On the one hand, the authors want to dismiss the relationship between abortion and PTSD because it is not proven as causal; and on the other hand, they offer information that supports the existence of a correlation.

Any first-year student of psychology can tell us the difference between cause and correlation. Yet, the report’s authors expect us to read the above paragraph as stated without regard to the definition of these terms, and without explaining that reaching conclusions about causal relationships in psychological research is always problematic. Most relationships drawn in psychological research are correlative because psychology is not a hard, objective science like physics, or mathematics, where certain laws exist that are apparently immovable – drop an apple from a tree on planet Earth, and it will fall to the ground because of gravity. However, not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD – a + b does not always equal c in the subjective social sciences.

The “new wave of analyses that report correlations between a history of abortion” and psychopathology are doing just that – reporting correlations. Remember that the majority of PTSD sufferers have experienced multiple traumatic events – identifying one “real" cause is difficult, because it is the cumulative history of trauma that is most likely responsible for the onset of illness. Still, the report’s authors are leveling criticism against these studies on the basis that they cannot show a causal relationship. This implies a lack of understanding of the nature of post-traumatic stress disorder itself, at a very basic level that should make us suspicious about whether the report’s authors are qualified to discuss its existence as a consequence of abortion beyond the mere reporting of statistics.

For expert advice, let’s turn to Dr. Robert Scaer, MD, author of “The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease.” I have no difficulty finding evidence of his qualifications to speak about trauma – Dr. Scaer is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has done a great deal of research into the kindling effect of multiple traumatic experiences on psychological and physical health (See this article, “One, Two, Three Strikes – You’re Out!” for a description of kindling theory). It is evident that a history of trauma weakens our defenses against developing PTSD. For example, studies show a higher incidence of PTSD among combat veterans with a history of trauma; past experiences, and our subjective understanding of them, contribute to the way we deal with current stressors. As Dr. Scaer notes, “The female victim of incest or rape predictably might develop acute PTSD after an experience of transient fondling on a crowded bus, whereas a previously nontraumatized female might respond with anger and fear, but not dissociation,” (Scaer, p. 129).

But the Guttmacher authors grudgingly admit to the correlation between traumatic history and psychological problems before and after abortion: “Certain factors are more common among women with a history of unwanted pregnancy and abortion than among other women, and health outcomes that might be more common among women with a history of abortion may be the result of these unmeasured factors that preceded the abortion. For example, a history of childhood sexual abuse, emotional problems, intimate partner violence or high levels of stress may be more common among women who have unintended pregnancies (and thus abortions), and may also lead to later psychological problems,” (p. 23, inset).

So, women with a history of trauma, particularly in childhood, may be at a higher risk for psychological problems after abortion, but not necessarily as a direct result of their abortions; instead, the Guttmacher authors tell us that the abortion added fuel, or kindling, to the fire, and these problems are appropriately associated with a series of traumatizing events. It isn’t exactly a causal relationship, but then, “….people are primed to respond to a variety of stressful events based on a myriad of predisposing factors. What may produce surprise and perhaps consternation in one individual may induce shock and dissociation in another. The potential for an event to be traumatizing depends in part on the meaning of the event to the person experiencing it,” (Scaer, p. 132). Prior traumas are part of our medical history, and "studies of PTSD and other psychiatric disorders implicate the patient’s past emotional health in the development of these disorders,” (Scaer, p. 147).

To blame the occurrence of PTSD after abortion on a history of psychological, emotional, and/or social problems does not refute the possibility of its developing after abortion and as a result of abortion(note that the report does not state that it is impossible for abortion to be interpreted as a potentially traumatizing event); indeed, the Guttmacher authors are giving us evidence to support the relationship between PTSD and abortion, even if that relationship cannot be strictly defined as causal, because they are telling us that women with a history of trauma more often seek abortions than those without that history, and they confirm that this history predisposes women to develop psychopathology after (additionally, in telling us that many women who seek abortion have preexisting psychological and/or social problems, they are calling into question whether the act of seeking an abortion is intrinsically a choice made by women in their "right" minds).

But they do so in a way that suggests we should ignore the medical history of women who seek abortions, which suggests that they are unconcerned with the consequences of adding burdens to those who have already been traumatized. They blame the victims for having preexisting conditions which they would like to ignore. But as Dr. Scaer cautions, “It certainly behooves us as the caregivers and healers who attempt to lessen the ravages of unresolved trauma not to contribute to its effects through procedures, institutions, traditions, and behaviors that unknowingly serve to initiate or perpetuate trauma,” (Scaer, p. 156).