Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coerced Abortion: A Concerning Issue

Having spoken with and listened to post-abortion women for a number of years, especially at this post-abortion support website, I've learned that subtle to overt pressure and even coercion to have an abortion were a common factor for many woman in their abortion decision. This issue is concerning, however under-represented in discussions on abortion. A growing body of evidence shows that most abortions are unwanted or coerced. One study 64% of American women felt pressured by others. (1) More than half felt rushed or uncertain, yet 67% received no counseling.(1) 79% were not told about available alternatives.(1)

A survey of members at a poltically-neutral post-abortion support website of 5,714 active members, found 772 incidences of individuals in a member's life invovled in coercing her into the abortion(s) (source)

Pressure and coercion to have an abortion comes in many forms and from all sides. It may come from a boyfriend/partner spouse, parent, mentor, school counselor, employer, family planning clinic staff, or religious clergy. Coercion comes in many direct and indirect forms, overt or subtle.

Overt coersion often involves outright words or actions of threat --- such as someone saying to you --- "if you don't get an abortion..." then they will usually list dire consequences purposely to upset her and push her into doing what they want. These dire consequences and threats may include threats of ending the relationship, removing their other child(ren), kicking them out of the home, job termination, etc.

Subtle coersion often includes double-entendres, veiled threats, mind games, passive-agressive actions by the coercers, etc. These threats are not as blatant as the overt coercers, but are more subtle forms of emotional abuse, intended to make her doubt herself, for example, a double-entendre, "It's YOUR decision BUT you'll never finish school." or "It's YOUR decision BUT you wouldn't be a good mom."

Another method includes bribing, sweet talking, or making empty promises ... for example, a boyfriend may promise to marry her if she has the abortion, he may promise that she can have a baby later if she only has the abortion at this time, if she has the abortion everything will be okay and they will be together forever. However these relationships often don't last.

These are all real examples of coercion and these are all forms of emotional/psychological abuse. For those who say "the final decision was up to her," "she signed the consent form," "no one forced her to get up on that table" etc., yes, she ultimately made the choice to get on the table, but pressure and coercion strongly influenced her decision, it was not a "choice" completely made of free will. We need to consider the effects of what being in an abusive relationship can be like and what it can do to a persons free will when she's been emotionally worn down. If you have ever spent time at a woman's shelter or know of a woman who has been abused, know how quickly they feel dehumanized and have no choice and do things they wouldn't have normally chosen to do.

Some coercers have even gone as far as to actually call up and book an appointment at the abortion clinic for the coerced woman, either taking her to the clinic under a misleading guise or basically dragging her and forcing her to into the car and then clinic...using every threat and tactic they can think of to force her through the door and even to sign the form stating that she isn't being coerced. Unfortuantly, many of these women, under emotional duress from harassment and the fear of what will happen when they return home/back to work if they don't get the abortion, will sign the form. Coercion by abusive or otherwise controlling individuals can escalate to violence, forced abortion or even homicide - the leading cause of death for pregnant women.

Some coercers honestly think that by pushing her into having an abortion, they are doing what is right for her, often in the case of parents, who mistakenly believe it is their 'job' as a good parent to presure her into an abortion to protect her from ruining her life or embarassing the family, etc. However, this doesn't undo the emotional hurt or damage of being coerced into an unwanted abortion. "65% of women coerced into an abortion suffer symptoms of trauma" (1) This represents the need for better screening and pre-abortion counseling at hospitals and clinics and more dialogue on this issue from both sides of the abortion debate.

1) VM Rue et. al. "Induced abortions and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women," Medical Science Monitor 10(10):SR5-16 (2004).

For more information, please see:

Abortion: The UnChoice
Stories, research, and documentation of forced or coerced abortions

Forced and Coerced Abortions
Documentation of high profile cases of forced or coerced abortion.

Unwanted Abortions
Stories, research, and documentation of forced or coerced abortions

Women's Experience of Forced or Coerced Abortion
Shared experiences of women who were forced or coerced into having an abortion(s).

More Women's Experiences of Forced or Coerced Abortion
Shared experiences of women who were forced or coerced into having an abortion(s).

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