The Oklahoma Law and My Ultrasound

On Tuesday, while the Oklahoma Legislature was voting to override a gubernatorial veto and reinstate a law requiring women to have ultrasounds before allowing them to have an abortion, I was, well, having an ultrasound. This is not the first state law that requires this procedure prior to abortion but this one takes it one step further and mandates that the doctor or technician set up a monitor so the woman can see it and that he or she describe the heart, limbs, and organs of the fetus.  The law does not make an exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. 

Perhaps, it was because I’d just gone through the procedure or perhaps it’s just the pregnancy hormones raging through my system but the thought of a woman being forced to go through this when all she wanted was to exercise her legal and moral right to terminate the pregnancy made me cry.  That kind of manipulation is cruel. 

My husband tried to console me by saying that I shouldn’t worry, at those very early ultrasounds the images are so murky and the fetus has so little resemblance to a human baby that it will not successfully convince any woman to change her mind.  He may be right – at my first scan, the fetus was more alien than baby. Then again, I could see and hear a heartbeat, and despite the fact that the fetus was smaller than a grape, the magnified images let me see a tiny developing spine.  We’ve all watched those stereotypical scenes in movies and sitcoms where a couple goes to the OB and are chatting, fighting, texting, or otherwise not paying attention until the sound of the heartbeat stops them cold and brings tears to their eyes.   Clearly, changing the mind of women who are seeking abortions is exactly what the lawmakers are hoping to do but I’m not sure that whether they succeed matters.  Just trying is degrading and damaging to women. 

I wanted to be pregnant, so for me the goal of the 8-week scan was to hear a heartbeat and confirm that this was a viable pregnancy.  After all, at that stage of pregnancy one doesn’t look pregnant or necessarily feel any different. It was heartening to learn that the home pregnancy test was right.  I wouldn’t exactly say that it was an emotional experience for me but the thought “okay, there really is something in there” kept going through my head.  In my opinion, this isn’t a thought that women seeking an abortion in early pregnancy should be forced to have. 

Our society seems to have a romantic fantasy about the unplanned pregnancy that changes a woman’s life for the better.  Think about the Judd Apatow movie, Knocked Up, or the new Jenna Elfman sitcom, Accidently On Purpose.  We seem to enjoy the idea that an unexpected pregnancy can join two unlikely people together and created an instant loving family. One of the lawmakers who voted for this veto has clearly bought into such a vision saying that, “maybe someday these babies will grow up to be police officers and arrest bad people, or will find a cure for cancer.” In real life, though, it rarely works that way. 

Most women who seek abortions know what they want; they have made a well-reasoned, intelligent decision that for whatever reason — be it relationship, money, job situation, or long-term goals– carrying this pregnancy to term would not be good for them, for their families, or for the resulting child.  These women do not need somebody to say: “Really, are you sure? Before you say anything let me just show you a heartbeat, your baby’s heartbeat.”  Such questions are manipulative, patronizing, and unfair. 

Similarly, women who go to a clinic and are unsure of the option that is best for them should also not be exposed to such manipulations.  These women need to sit down with an informed and impartial counselor who has no agenda of her own and is not required to promote the agenda of conservative lawmakers.  

Unfortunately, the Oklahoma law has a second provision that is even more insidious.  This provision prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.  According to the New York Times, “…the bill’s sponsors maintain that it merely prevents lawsuits by people who wish, in hindsight, that a doctor had counseled them to abort a disabled child.”  That explanation seems suspect to me, and I agree with choice advocates who see this as designed to protect doctors who purposely mislead women to keep them from having abortions.

The ultrasound I had on Tuesday is referred to as an anatomy scan and typically takes place in the 20th week of pregnancy, the halfway point.  The 45-minute procedure goes over every centimeter of the developing fetus and carefully measures the arms, legs, brain, and kidneys.  It takes a detailed look at all four chambers of the heart, and checks blood flow through the umbilical cord.  And, for expectant parents who want to know, it can determine the biological sex by carefully examining the genitals.

There was, in fact, a monitor set up directly in front of me.  Half the time, my husband and I had no idea what we were looking at but certain things were obvious.  The head looked like a head, possibly one of skeleton, but a head nonetheless.  Each vertebrae of the spine was visible, and the hands and feet were unmistakable. Such tests answer the question “does it have ten fingers and ten toes?” long before birth. Of course, we all know that that age-old question is a bit of a stand-in for: “Is everything normal?” or “Is there anything wrong?”

If, the technician had found that there was no blood flow to one of the fetus’s kidney, that the heart was growing outside the its chest, or any other number of anomalies that can now be determined pre-birth, my husband and I would have had to make a decision about whether to continue the pregnancy.  In this case, we would have turned to the doctors not to “counsel us to abort a disabled child,” but to give us the information we needed to make that decision for ourselves.  To tell us based on the extent of the anomaly and the most up-to-date research what we could anticipate for this child.   The thought that the sonographer or the physician on call could withhold information from us in order to influence our decision sends shivers down my spine. 

In this pregnancy alone, I have had 6 sonograms, all performed by different technicians and physicians none of whom I have met more than once.  I have no idea what their personal views are on abortion and I shouldn’t have to care.  But this law, in essence, allows their opinions on abortion to be more important than my own. 

In truth, I was a little disappointed with technician to whom I was assigned on Tuesday.  While the other ones had smiled and said things like “oh that looks good” throughout the procedure, this one had a serious look on her face that bordered on a scowl and stayed quiet unless prompted.  Not the reassurance I needed.  At one point, confirming the amniocentesis’s finding that the fetus is a girl, she said, “yes, I don’t see a pee-pee.” I later joked to friends that the sex educator in me felt compelled to reply “ok, but do you see labia?” 

For women in Oklahoma, the technician who they pick out of the phone book or to whom they are referred is no joking matter – it can now mean a lifetime of raising a disabled child because somebody else thought they should.  Moreover, while I was able to trust my technician’s professional opinion despite our personality differences, until this law is struck down by a court, and I have to believe it will be, women in Oklahoma can no longer have such feelings of trust.   

And that, even without a system full of pregnancy hormones, is enough to make me want to cry. 

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  • harry834

    One was a therapist who counseled women who regret their abortion. I asked him if anyone had ever regretted not having one. He said “I never had a woman say that. never.”

    I myself don’t know many women who have openly said that. But I’m not very connected. Have you had experience of women, with kids, saying they wish they would have aborted? If so, we need to talk about them.

  • harry834

    even if ALL women who were denied an abortion eventually came to love their children and wouldn’t look back, it is still wrong to deny the choice. The ends don’t justify the means. And many/most women who have abortions come to love their lives as well.

    Some of these women might be police or cancer researchers (or at least be successful enough to donate time or money to these causes). The same imagined possibilities for the would-be child can be applied to the woman.


  • crowepps

    Women say that to the children themselves.  If you search for the phrase with Google, you will find a lot of places where adults report hearing that phrase from Mom both as children and as adults.

  • mechashiva

    I have also heard the sentiment from women I know, though they have not told their children (as far as I am aware). It is a difficult feeling to admit you have, because there is such stigma against it. Women who regret having children berate themselves for being “bad mothers,” even though that feeling is more common than most people realize. I think most mothers experience it at some point, even if it is only a fleeting frustration.

    However, I think that people are very resilient and find ways to deal with most any hand that is dealt to them. That’s not to say that I think it would be alright to force all women to carry every pregnancy to term… that would be like saying that rape should be legal because most survivors do come to terms with their experience, heal, and move on with their lives.

  • harry834

    on the one hand, we don’t want to endorse women saying such things to their children. It probably may be ok once the kids grow up.


    …but we need a way for them to speak. Maybe anonymously on internet. Probably already doing this.

    …ideally, a mother should avoid saying these things to her child, try to be a good non-abusive mom…but still find a place to express those private true feeings. Mothers already do this: they often saying things around the their girlfriends that they choose not to say around the kids.


    …of course, the word needs to get out to prevent such ignorance, especially by therapists. Anonymous stories are one way. Even if no one may every say “I wish I aborted my kid” to our faces, we ought to have the knowledge that those women are out there speaking in their safe circles.




    another issue is that maybe people WANT to ignore those women, because they are “abusive mothers, who don’t care about their kids”. And maybe that’s true. I don’t want to minimize the life of any child growing up with such a mother. I want to have the sympathy, if not empathy, to listen to the child or adult child’s stories…


    …but we all know that social justice – even criminal justice (imperfect as it is) – requires looking beyond the victim’s pain. We must ask what these women wanted to be before they had the kid. I don’t believe this is the responsibility of the child who suffered. They have went through enough trying to “understand” and “forgive” the mother that never stopped looking down on them.

    …but for those of us who were not the victims, we have the lucky (not earned) gift of emotional distance to look further. I think that is one of the points of having advocates, rather than having the victims do everything themselves. They are to be representatives that can look and go to those places, so the victims don’t have to.

    I do believe victims have some responsibilities, but only so far. Those of us who play the role of advocate are playing the role of altruist, trying to give of ourselves and go and talk to people when it is too painful for others to talk to them. We don’t say “grow up and talk to your own mother”. We show our true altrusim by taking the burden onto ourselves, easing their shoulders, for no other reason than we want to help. 

    Such an altruistic nation would not be so hostile to paying taxes (unless the money was poorly spent).

  • harry834

    “I think that people are very resilient and find ways to deal with most any hand that is dealt to them. That’s not to say that I think it would be alright to force all women to carry every pregnancy to term… that would be like saying that rape should be legal because most survivors do come to terms with their experience, heal, and move on with their lives.”


    It’s a survivavly instinct to deal with the hand dealt. Sometimes that leads to folks saying they “would never have it any other way”. Michael J Fox said this in his book Lucky Man.

    Also, if we assume thoughts are shaped by what words we are allowed to say to those around us (language shapes thoughts) and social roles come to shape what the person feels inside (Stanford prison study), then we might know why many women might be denied a paricular choice (to have ano abortion, not be raped, to not have parkinson’s), come to accept it, learn to reconnect with the world and those around you with the acceptance, then be happy with everything that has happened.


    I don’t think this means these women shouldn’t be happy. But to know how these (non-disordered) psychological processes work can help explain things in ways that avoid the (sometimes cognitively seductive) narrative of the anti-choicers.

    Beacuse we can say the same for women who have had abortions, even if they felt pain or regret. They too can come to accept their hand, and then embrace the life that they created.

    Which then brings us back to the question of the government’s right to force a certain choice.

    I question Amanda Marcotte’s claim that “desire to protect fetus from termination” is not an least ONE of the major motivations in the antis work. I see room for misogynist motives, but I think we need to do a good job of explaining what misogyny is, beacuse we have lots of anti-choice women hwo are laughing at the idea that they “hate themselves”, or even “hate their fellow women”


    I think the misogyny show CAN fit. And possibly even these laughing women can be classified as misogynist. But when the word literally means “hating women” and people don’t consciously feel this emotion, there is more than a dioctionary needed.

    Then again, we perhaps ought to know that bigotry has NEVER been about intentional evil. All those men in the past that preached against women getting the vote or getting a job did not see themselves as misogynists either. But today, conservatives are very comfortable saying that these past generations were misogynists/sexist. It seems that it is only decades or centuries after the specific bigotry has been denounced do most people accept that these people were bigots. But never at the time it happened.

    These facts are readilly available to all people. For those who want to learn specifics to modern times, go read something. Go think and write on a Word dpc before you make heavy anti-woman claims on a blog. If you a REALLY not a bigot, if you are REALLY concerned about women as you claim you are, then you should be willing to entertain the idea that you might need to test your assumptions against ideas outside your typical reading/watching choices. If you were acting or thinking in ways that promoted the bigotry you CLAIM you oppose, shouldn’t you want to correct yourself…fairly quickly?


    So I guess we might see the issue of understanding misogyny as a two-parter, though some may figure more weight to one side than the other depending on goals. 

  • harry834

    “bigotry has NEVER been about intentional evil”

    The words “never” and “always” are too easy to rebut, so perhaps I should have used the word “mostly” or “a great deal of the time”.

    I’m a psychological scientist at NYU now. I’m learning not to make claims with such absolute certainty.

  • bj-survivor

    Two that come instantly to mind are Casey Anthony and Susan Smith. I have known several women who told me that while they love their child(ren), if they had it to do over they would not have had them (one did actually use the term “abort”). And I have known many “pro-life” women who “could NEVER have an abortion,” but then resent and emotionally and sometimes physically batter their children in retaliation for ruining their lives.


    To me, one resented/neglected/abused/thrown away/murdered ACTUAL (you know, BORN) child is a tragedy infinitely exceeding all the untold millions of zygotes that fail to implant, as well as the millions of embryos and fetuses that are spontaneously and willfully aborted. Better that the process of creation be terminated before the proto-child has the capacity to experience the condition of suffering. To me, and to most sane people, quality of life is vastly more important a consideration than mere existence.

  • liberaldem

    To me, one resented/neglected/abused/thrown away/murdered ACTUAL (you know, BORN) child is a tragedy infinitely exceeding all the untold millions of zygotes that fail to implant, as well as the millions of embryos and fetuses that are spontaneously and willfully aborted. Better that the process of creation be terminated before the proto-child has the capacity to experience the condition of suffering. To me, and to most sane people, quality of life is vastly more important a consideration than mere existence.

    Submitted by BJ Survivor on April 30, 2010 – 3:40pm.
    Your post really articulates my thinking on this issue. Thank you.
  • crowepps

    Maybe if we stop telling women that they OWE their child life, that they OWE their child nurture, that they OWE it to their child to abandon all their own hopes and dreams, that ‘a good mother’ always puts her husband and children FIRST and herself last, then mothers will stop treating their children like a burden. Nobody like the bill collector.

  • harry834

    in what ways the views of “what’s best for women” are skewed by the strong motivation to discourage/protest any woman’s choice to abort.

  • crowepps

    As one who survived and eventually mostly has come to terms with being resented/neglected/abused I agree with you 100%.

  • harry834

    that strong motivation doesn’t PROVE that their other stated motivations are false.

  • harry834

    Love this site! And our community!

  • crowepps

    First we have to come to terms with “What were women created FOR?”, a question that rarely comes up when talking about men, by the way.

  • bj-survivor

    I also believe that we could drastically reduce the incidence of child abuse if we included the following in comprehensive sexuality education:


    • Age-appropriate education regarding child development and effective parenting.
    • Teaching that parenthood is fraught with difficulties and overwhelming frustrations and is not one continuous Hallmark moment.
    • Teaching self-assessment for parenthood readiness.
    • Including the message that it’s absolutely beneficient and entirely unselfish to come to the realization that one does not want to be a parent or is unsuited to parenthood for whatever self-assessed reason.


    Further, we need to step up the penalties for child abuse, be quicker to remove children from abusive situations, and only divert into treatment/education programs those parents who self-report. There should be hotlines set up for reporting of child abuse and public service announcements designed to educate the public on the signs of child abuse, the importance of reporting it, and to reach out to parents who are at risk for or are currently abusing their children.

  • bj-survivor

    You can’t know how gratifying it is that you have triumphed over it, as I’ve known far too many people that do not ever get over it. Your sharp intellect and infinite courtesy to the forced-gestation idiots who spew their bile all over this board has become an inspiration to me to tone down my hot-headed, derisive rhetoric, even though my underlying contempt for forced-gestation ideology and willful ignorance have not dissipated one iota (well, at least I’m better about just not using crass vulgarities as personal attacks against the forced-gestation idiot horde and I try to refrain from posting if I can’t come up with anything but “fuck you, misogynist asshole!” ;).


    *edited for grammar

  • crowepps

    You can’t know how gratifying it is that you have triumphed over it, as I’ve known far too many people that do not ever get over it.

    I don’t know as I would say that I had ‘gotten over it’ at all – the pattern of flinches, the nasty mental auditor and the tendency to go hide are still there, and depression waxes and wanes.


    What I have gotten over is being stuck in anger at my parents for not being perfect.  Neither of them had a pleasant childhood and in fact I’d sure prefer what I got to what they had because they had it a lot worse.  I’ve also gotten over the ‘what did I do to deserve that’ and ‘God must have had a reason for allowing my childhood to be miserable’, both of which are attempts to inject meaning into a situation entirely random.


    Being courteous is as much for me as it is for those to whom I am being courteous.  It keeps my blood pressure down, and it doesn’t seem fair to individually blame the ignorant for the woeful lacks in our present school system or the fact that they were inculcated with a wariness towards ‘smart people’, a suspicion of science, and their religious beliefs forbid them the use of logic (or ‘humanism’, as they call it).  They really, honestly don’t know any better.  That really is the best they can do with what they’ve got.


    If somebody’s willful ignorance or bizarre ideology strike me as wholly wrong-headed, if their posting style is abrasive and abusive, there is absolutely nothing about getting angry and blasting them that will encourage them to think.  F-U never convinced anybody.


    It would be my observation that the various nutsos feel VALIDATED when people get angry, it makes them feel IMPORTANT.  Personally, I think they’re pathetic, ludicrous, sound like two year olds (other people are supposed to make me happy — wah wah wah — I don’t like to think about icky stuff like reality — wah wah wah — you better do what I say or I’ll tell my God to punish you).  Refusing to engage with that is difficult sometimes, but there’s a quiet satisfaction in not giving them their jollies.

  • harry834

    “Including the message that it’s absolutely beneficient and entirely unselfish to come to the realization that one does not want to be a parent or is unsuited to parenthood for whatever self-assessed reason.”


    for opting out of parenthood, marriage, couplehood, sex, or abstinence

  • progo35

    “This provision prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.  According to the New York Times, “…the bill’s sponsors maintain that it merely prevents lawsuits by people who wish, in hindsight, that a doctor had counseled them to abort a disabled child.”  That explanation seems suspect to me, and I agree with choice advocates who see this as designed to protect doctors who purposely mislead women to keep them from having abortions.”



    This is a very ignorant statement. The intent of the law is to prevent wrongful birth lawsuits in the courts in which the parents argue that the disabled child should not have been born. Many wrongful birth lawsuits have occured in situations where new tests that were not normally offered where, predictably, not offered, and parents have sued. There was a case where parents sued because their child was born deaf-even though this test is not part of the normal battery of tests. Moreover, the fact that we are even testing for things like deafness and creating a culture where people are actually choosing their children’s features sends chills down MY spine. Wrongful birth lawsuits are the deepest form of prejudice-they argue that someone who is different shouldn’t have been born at all. Many pro choice disability advocates are appalled by such lawsuits, and as someone who is allegedly concerned with the well being of others, you should be, too.

  • mechashiva

    The ultrasound requirement 1 day prior to the abortion is blatantly anti-access, a common tactic of the anti-abortion movement that is not intended to help patients or doctors in any way. Because of the bill’s obvious anti-abortion origins and strategy, I do not think it is unreasonable to say that the second part of the bill was constructed to protect anti-abortion physicians. Doctors absolutely should not be allowed to pick and choose what information they give a woman about her pregnancy (not in this country, anyway). Patients have a right to informed consent, and that right is violated if doctors actively prevent them from being fully informed.


    If legislators want to do away with wrongful birth lawsuits, they should find a way to do so without compromising patients’ rights. Tacking it onto an anti-abortion-access bill is not the right way to accomplish their goals.


    ETA: In fact, now that I am thinking of it… I bet the reason the anti-wrongful-birth-lawsuit part of the bill was put in so that it would gain more support. I’d wager the main intent was to rally enough support for this one part of the bill that legislators (particularly moderates and liberals) would be willing to pass the ultrasound legislation. It’s like reverse pork-barreling.

  • equalist

    What about parents who know their child is at risk of a terminal illness that would like to test for that.  Something like massive fetal abnormalities that can be seen in an ultrasound, which is a part of normal testing procedures.  This bill allows doctors who know their patient would choose to terminate a doomed pregnancy to go on thinking their child is normal and healthy when they carry a time bomb in their womb.  It allows doctors to put their own choices and morality above the choices and wishes of their patients who ultimately have to live with the consequences of the doctor’s actions.

  • suburbangrrrl

    I counsel women prior to their abortion at an abortion clinic. I also do post-abortion counseling.  I have had a few women come to see me because they felt they made a mistake in not having an abortion. But I believe Harry834’s therapist acquaintance who has “never” had a client say that. MechaSiva has it right; there is such a culture of stigma towards women who are honest about not wanting to become mothers or are simply ambivalent about motherhood. The women who are emotionally and intellectually honest about their regrets of having children are (now) self-aware and courageous enough to admit these feelings to themselves. One woman told me she regretted not having an abortion at 21; she was afraid to speak the truth to her family who would have made her feel guilty about having an abortion. She loves her child and is responsible but also admits she would have done it differently had she known what she’d feel like later.  She now is conscious enough to know that she made the decision for others (who don’t have to live with the consequences) and not herself. (The flip side is true for the opposite: having an abortion under the pressure of a partner or parent and later regrets it. Women need to be trusted to own their own feelings and decisions so that they are making an informed choice regarding a pregnancy.) This woman knows that opportunities that she wanted have been lost. She regrets her decision while is mature enough to accept the responsibilities of her decision. She has learned to love her child. But her love is not a joyful, profound, deep love that comes from the conscious act of one’s own creation.  

    Given that such women now have the responsibilities of parenting they are probably better parents than if they kept this shoved down. As MechaSiva notes, many woman cannot acknowledge these feelings. Their regret turns into resentment which can manifest itself in all sorts of unhealthy behavior ranging from impaired parent-child relationships to verbal and physical abuse. Or they force themselves into a packaged identity that is not their own (e.g. the good, sacrificing mother who develops a rigid set of motherhood rules for herself. Because if she follows the social rules she will be good and, therefore, happy). And the women who don’t regret not having an abortion may simply be the kind of persons who don’t look back or regret the choices that have shaped their life experiences. These are the people who make lemonade out of lemons. If they know what they know now, they might have chosen an abortion. But they didn’t and accept the choice they did make and the self-learning that goes along with it. And the responsibilities. And love their children.


    The problem with relying on therapists’ clinical experience–and I say this as a therapist–is that we all fall prey to thinking our microcosm of experience is representative of the whole of women’s experience with abortion and parenting. People seek out therapists because they are struggling with something. The ones that aren’t conflicted have no need to see us. So we have a skewed perspective. That is why good social science research in this area is needed.

    Harry834’s therapist acquaintance may also be asking the wrong question. The question is not “Do you regret not having an abortion (translation: do you regret becoming a parent, do you regret having your child?) but “if you became pregnant now with the same circumstances would you want to have another child?”  One can regret a past abortion but it doesn’t necessarily follow that one will regret a future abortion. These decisions are not based on abstact principles alone but based in the context of their lives at a given point of time as well as a woman’s own values and beliefs. I see women (anectodal) who have a child or children from prior unplanned pregnancies who are pregnant again and clearly don’t want to have the child.  They are able to say , ” Looking back I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I love my child more than life itself. But I cannot go through it again.”  These are the women, who from experience and personal growth, would regret not having an abortion the 2nd time around. 

    We also need to remember our mothers and grandmothers generations who did not have the choice to have children.  There are countless stories of these women who would have made different choices if they had the freedom to do so. Who regretted not being able to go to college or have meaningful work or to limit the number of children they had. And who regretted–and resented– not having freedom to choose their own destiny. And who fought hard for women to legally obtain birth control and abortion not only for themselves but so their daughters could have that freedom as well. I used to counsel the elderly. I heard plenty of stories of women taking stock at the end of their lives. They have let go of most of the attachments–emotional, relationship, and material– that we have when we are younger. They are able to be honest and say they wish they could have had a choice to be mothers.


    My rambling point of all of this is that women have a range of experiences and feelings about their abortion. Each is a unique individual. What we don’t have, in this country, is social permission to express that range of experiences. My hope is that this is slowing changing as more women come out and tell their story which encourages others to tell theirs, and so on. Our culture has been so suppressed by the manipulative messages of guilt and stigma around abortion that I think a dam is about to burst for a full airing. Keepin’ my fingers crossed anyway:)

  • julie-watkins

    Thank you for your post.

    The problem with relying on therapists’ clinical experience–and I say this as a therapist–is that we all fall prey to thinking our microcosm of experience is representative of the whole of women’s experience with abortion and parenting.

    After my husband had a stroke (at age 40) I was seeing a therapist for a long time before — not having complete control of my life had me paniced. I talked about a lot of things with my therapist: never my abortion (more than 10 years before). I don’t know if I was feeling guilty or not (and not bringing it up was a sign that I should have) … but I had a larger fear that I somehow would become a statistic that would be used to restrict abortion choice to some other woman. I don’t have any problem speaking of my abortion in any political discussion, nor do I have any trouble defending my choice. I don’t know if other women who either 1) had an abortion and might regret it (perhaps subconciously) or 2) did not have an abortion and might regret it (perhaps subconciously) who reated the same way I did when speaking to a mental health professional in a clinical setting. Abortion is too politicized; I think it would be difficult to construct a study that prevented poltics from influencing what what people would say.

  • mechashiva

    Excellent analysis, SuburbanGrrl.


    I would add that even women who have never had to choose between abortion and birth experience ambivalence about motherhood. Though my brother and I were both planned and wanted, my mother has told me that if she could do it all over again she wouldn’t have had children. She never said it in a mean way. She wants me to consider these kinds of things for myself, before it is an issue.


    I think that parenthood and the ambivalent feelings people have about it (I bet that men experience similar feelings) should be discussed in comprehensive sex-ed classes. Then again, I think that sex-ed should be a subject required in every grade. It is more practical than many of the subjects we insist students study.

  • jayn

    This provision does more than just allow doctors to deny parents the oportunity to abort–it also allows them to deny parents the opportunity to prepare in advance for having that child in their lives.  A commenter on Feministing brought up that with this info, parents can arrange to birth somewhere with facilities to deal with congeital deformities–an arrangement which can affect the quality of life of the child, or the child’s chances of any life.


    In short, this provision allows doctors to be unethical.

  • crowepps

    Parents faced with astronomical medical bills, for whatever reason, will use any means possible to try to raise the money to pay them. If that means suing the gynecologist, then they’ll sue the gynecologist. Of course, none of that would be necessary if our for-profit medical system didn’t give people who need care for their disabled child the choices of bankrupting themselves or surrendering the child to the State so that the State will pay.

  • harry834

    A fuller perspective of women’s experiences, and how we assess them, is why I love to interact with this site. I’m grateful to speak with a therapist on this issue besides the guy I met on that other site, whom I feel may truly be helping the women he counsels.

    I also imagine that there is some self-selection on the part of the clients…though that presumes they have a sense of the therapist’s ideological slantings before going in.

    I believe such pre-knowledge is possible to some extent.

  • concernedmom

    Eugenist, BJ! Tell me, do you have stock in Planned Parenthood?

  • concernedmom

    “Telling women ‘Really, are you sure? Before you say anything, let me show you a heartbeat- your baby’s heartbeat.’ Such questions are manipulative, patronizing, and [MAY SAVE THAT TINY GROWING LIFE by urging the mother to realize the gravity of her decision, once the fetus is destroyed]

    Gee, how unreasonable to care what happens to ab unborn child.

    “…Okay, there really is something in there’ kept going thru my head IMO, this isn’t a thought that women seeking an abortion in early pregnancy should be forced to have [OR THEY MIGHT DECIDE TO CHANGE THEIR MINDS, heaven forbid?]

    Abortion: a SICKENING “choice”

  • bj-survivor

    The goal of a eugenicist is to prevent the “feeble” from reproducing and to ensure that those considered to be of the proper genetic stock reproduce, even if it means forcing those women deemed to possess the appropriate genetics to breed whether they want to or not. I do not care about skin color, sex, gender, ability or disability. I want everyone, including the other species with which we share this planet, to have the best quality of life possible. The evidence bears out that those who desperately want children are the best suited to have them. It is my desire that each person think long and hard about their desire and ability to parent, love, and provide for a child and to refrain from creating children should they self-assess that these factors are not met.


    Planned Parenthood, as a non-profit organization, does not sell stock. I do give them money each month, because I feel compelled to give back to them what they charged me not one penny for when I was in need. When I was very young and could not afford to buy health insurance, Planned Parenthood provided my primary care, including Pap smears, STD screening, immunizations, allergy medications, condoms, diaphragm, and cervical cap. When I was in a committed relationship (that is now a marriage) and needed a more fail-proof contraceptive than the cervical cap alone to enable condom-free sex, I was again under-employed after a lay-off and, again, Planned Parenthood came through for me. They placed a copper-T IUD, for which I was qualified to obtain for absolutely free (a $500 value).


    In short, Planned Parenthood has done far more than ANY forced-gestation organization to both prevent unintended pregnancy (and, hence, the need for abortion) and to provide primary health care to those of us who are unable to afford health insurance. Planned Parenthood does far more to improve quality of life, to enable young women to remain in college and eventually be able to provide for a family as well as contribute to the tax base, than ANY forced-birther anywhere.


    I will reiterate that one resented/neglected/abused/thrown away/murdered actual, born child is a tragedy infinitely exceeding all the untold millions of zygotes that fail to implant, as well as the millions of embryos and fetuses that are spontaneously and willfully aborted.

  • bj-survivor

    for your perspective as a therapist in the trenches. It occurs to me that people can pick up on an open-minded, non-judgmental mindset, just as they can pick up on the opposite. It occurs to me that your clients opened up to you about this stigmatizing subject because they felt safe to do so. I highly doubt that the therapist that Harry834 describes was quite the caliber of therapist that you are. Hence, he may very well have treated women who regretted having children or regretted NOT having an abortion, but those women would never dream of admitting that to him, knowing that they would receive only condemnation and censure.

  • squirrely-girl



    I’ve had similar discussions with my mother over the years as well and she’s mentioned on several occasions that if abortion had been a real option or  she had it as a “do over” she probably would not have had my younger sister. Granted, my younger sister’s father was violent and abusive toward my mother, emotionally abusive to me, and her pregnancy caused that relationship to go on much longer than it should have. When I first discovered I was pregnant we had a really long conversation about whether I was “ready” for parenthood in which my mom shared this info again and promised she’d never think less of me for whatever decision I made because she trusted my judgement and knew it would be the best decision for MY life. :)

    Going off of some of Suburban Girl’s comments, specifically, “if you became pregnant now with the same circumstances would you want to have another child?” and “Looking back I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I love my child more than life itself. But I cannot go through it again.” I would have to say that, while I love my son more than life itself, I wouldn’t be ready to go through pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing again anytime soon while being able to maintain my sanity or my professional attainments. I don’t think that makes me any “less of” a mother.

  • ahunt

    Just so we’re clear, CM, you don’t find women who choose abortion to be sickening, just the choice?

  • concernedmom

    “Planned Parenthood is a non profit organization.”
    Planned Parenthood is the most successful abortion franchise in the country. A conservative estimate of the amount of revenue generated by these abortions would total over $79 Million.

    Funny thing about Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger spoke in her book [c. 1920] “Woman & the New Race” as calling her work “nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or those who will become defectives.”

    In more recent times, PP has never ceased to target the poor & disabled- Sanger’s favorite example of the so called “unfit”. The ‘choice’ that PP’s abortion clinics provide is really the counselor’s choice wheather or not she will inform the patient about the danger of post abortion syndrome, the risks of sterility, or even alternatives to the procedure.

    Former PPFA president Pamela Maraldo insisted that PP has never strayed from the fundamental principles Ms. Sanger espoused or the ethic of control to be imposed on our country and on much of the developing world by Sanger’s followers who choose to promote ridding the world of the unfit.

    You must be so proud of supporting them.

  • ahunt

    Hugely proud. And as you cling to the old canard of Sanger’s “eugenics,” those of us whom PP has served well, protecting our health and allowing us to control our reproduction back in the low-income days…allowing us to realize our personal and educational goals, raise our income and live high-quality, productive lives… will continue to support the fine work of Planned Parenthood.

  • concernedmom

    To answer your question.

  • mechashiva

    Is this the “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing? I’ve never understood it, and here is why…

    Ignore the things that this phrase usually applies to; homosexuality and abortion. Think of something that we can all agree is disgusting and hateful, like rape. I find it impossible to hate rape without hating rapists. Perhaps you could enlighten me.

  • ahunt

    Pretty much, Mech.  But I suppose it is possible that Libertarian Tea-Baggers are more “evolved” than the rest of us.


    I do notice some distinction in the cases you implicitly compare. There is a serious and genuine effort to avoid demonizing women who choose abortion on the part of the opposition. Not so much…with gays and lesbians.

  • mechashiva

    True enough. Too often I hear, “I don’t hate them… God hates them.”


    Riiiight. Considering my buddy just got home from a Catholic Mass in which the sermon was all about environmentalism and not discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation, I’d have to say that these attitudes lie entirely with the individual. People just use God as a way to justify the attitudes they already have.

  • concernedmom

    For some more pro life profiling, gang. What are you guys going to back next- equal rights to marry a donkey? What about 3 men marrying, instead of 2? What’s wrong with that, long as it makes them happy? The trouble with liberalism is its an encroaching, consuming organism.

    See ya at the polls.

  • concernedmom

    Are distinctly different issues. We have laws to protect us against violent crime. Rapists must be prosecuted as criminals.

    A woman has “free choice” to carry her child to term, or enable someone else to kill it. Even if your worn out rationale that 6-8 week embryos “can’t feel pain” or “are only zygotes” were true, abortion isn’t limited to just the 1st 8 weeks, like its founders intended, I seem to recall in ’73 when the procedure became legal. No, its now okee dokee to abort a fetus all the way into the 3rd trimester. Talk about opening Pandora’s Box! Forgive me if I have a problem with that.

  • mechashiva

    This is not about rape vs abortion as an issue. I asked a question about “love the sinner, hate the sin.” If the idea of loving a rapist is repugnant, how can you claim to love someone who is (in your eyes) a murderer? Are you capable of loving men who abuse their wives, or parents who abuse their children? Are you capable of loving Hitler (or other genocidal maniacs), despite what he did? When it comes to anything that is non-controversially wrong (meaning, we all agree it is wrong), no one ever uses the “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument.


    That isn’t to say I think it is an invalid attitude, but I would like to point out that people pick and choose what they apply it to.

  • mechashiva

    Legal contracts can only be signed by those who can provide informed consent. That would be adults (or emancipated minors) of the human species. There is no reason to argue that homosexual marriage could lead to beastiality-marriage any more than one could argue that decriminalizing homosexual sex is the same as decriminalizing sex with a dog. Homosexuality is legal now, and beastiality is not (despite the best efforts of “zoophiles”).


    Personally, I dislike “marriage” being an institution of the government. I don’t like the idea of the government having its fingers in our personal relationships, but I do see that the specific rights and responsibilities of the legal contract that we call marriage as beneficial in a relationship (of some kind) in which people share the same household (defined in the way you would for the purposes of doing your taxes). I think that we should have domestic partnerships for anyone who wants to form the specific contractual agreements involved, simply because “marriage” is a loaded term and I think loaded terms should be absent from legal-ese. Can you tell I was raised by a lawyer?


    Some anecdotes to explain my position:

    Marriage is not about raising children. My aunt and uncle got married knowing that they never wanted to have kids. Marriage is not about who you have sex with. My mom has a chronic pain disorder that keeps her from being able to have sex without excrutiating agony (she used to do it anyway, obviously), so my parents have been celibate for most of their marriage. Polyamorous people (or swingers) I’ve known stay married even though both partners have sex with other people, and may even share sexual partners. Marriage is not about love, as we probably all know people who stay married even though they do not love each other. I also know people who got married when they did not love each other, because their marriages were arranged (they did have the choice to turn down the person their parents’ picked out, but they thought it was a practical match).


    Marriage as a social institution is about commitment. The legal contract of marriage is all about merging assets and establishing power-of-attorney. I honestly see no reason to limit either of those things to heterosexual couples who are romantically involved with each other. If a gay man and a lesbian decide they want to live in the same house, share income, and grant each other power-of-attorney (and all the other things involved in the marriage contract), then more power to them. The same goes for any other combination of legally consenting individuals. If 3, 4, or 5 people think they can put up with multiple spouses, I say let them try (and laugh at them).


    Personally, I have no interest in getting married (legally) to either a man or a woman… ever, for any reason. The entire marriage argument is purely legalistic, not moralistic, to me. I understand my perspective is not the norm, even among those who support the idea of homosexual marriage, and I doubt I will ever see my views reflected in the polls. However, I still think that I am right in my analysis of what marriage is, both legally and socially. I think we should vote according to what marriage is, based on how we actually treat it… not according to what we would like it to be, based on how we think other people should treat it.

  • jayn

    As someone who got married more for practical legal reasons than for love (although without the second, the first wouldn’t have mattered), I just have to say, ‘here here’. I’m not among those who think marriage as a legal institution should be abolished–I recognise it as a useful legal tool–but we really need to learn how to separate out the social, religious, and legal aspects of it.

  • kerewin21

    I have no problem with 3 adult men marrying each other, though for fiscal reasons perhaps their social security survivor benefits and some other benefits would have to be shared as our financial system is not set up to accomodate plural marriages.  A man marrying a donkey would not be allowable the same way a man marrying someone underage is not allowed, based on the premise that the other party in the marriage would have to be a consenting adult.  As a donkey is neither an adult nor capable of consent, such a marriage would not be admissible.


    If you actually take a look at the philosophy behind liberal attitudes you find that there is a reason for them.

  • crowepps

    $79 million?  Is that all?  Peanuts!

    Americans spend $6.5 BILLION annually on manicures

    Americans spend $8 BILLION annually on makeup

    Americans spend $11.8 BILLION annually on cosmetic surgery

    Americans pend $15 BILLION annually on bottled water



  • concernedmom

    Doing your best to trip me up, aren’t you, Mecha? Why would I love people apart from their acts of violence, is what you’re asking. I don’t, but God does. He knows every one of us is a sinner, in need of a Saviour. That’s why He sent His Son to die on a cross, so we could choose His free gift of Salvation. I have a history I’m very ashamed of. So does everyone else, in one form or another. So I accepted Jesus, and now faithfully serve Him. There’s really only two choices. And they both want to win your soul.

  • mechashiva

    Actually, between my two previous replies, I did a lot of thinking about the concept of unconditional love, which I think is really at the root of “love the sinner, hate the sin.”


    My parents are friends with a very, very conservative Christian couple. One of their children raped another, and they struggled with loving their son despite what he had done. 20 years later, they love him so much that they have a very different view on our policies regarding sex offenders than most people do. Indeed, I have a difficult time sympathizing with the struggles he now faces, but because he is their son they hate to see him suffer.


    I’m not trying to trip anyone up. I find that “gotcha” doesn’t tend to go over well. I genuinely think that unconditionally loving thy neighbor as thyself is a good way to approach life, but it is a struggle. I think people would do well to recognize this, and actively try not to pick and choose who they think is “deserving” of love and compassion. I also think that leaving it up to God to love people rather than working on applying unconditional love to others in your life misses the point of Jesus’s teachings. I have a hard time reconciling justice with unconditional love, however, and I understand it must be a difficult thing for you with women who have abortions.


    If I can stomach her religosity, perhaps I could ask my mom’s friend how she manages such conflict.

  • concernedmom

    God loves me, that I am obligated to reach out to those still searching, or doubting, in God’s unconditional love. I’m weak, human, & have an Italian tempter. :) I am married to an aggravating, mentally juvinile spouse on disability. He strains my patience & ability to serve him in ways you wouldn’t believe. I have to pray several times a day not to jump ship in defeat. Marriage IS about commitment, as you said in an earlier post. And Jesus said to “love the unlovely”. My husband certainly is THAT. But the love I have for him isn’t the world’s definition of love. Its God’s. I don’t have to like someone, to love them. By this I mean, put the other person as more important than “what’s in it for me?” Very contrary to [my] human nature. But in the end, I know God will reward me for sticking to my assignment, not giving up, & trusting Him to carry me through the discouraging moments.

    As far as having compassion for people who’ve committed atrocities, I need supernatural backup in that area, but like people who visit prisoners & try to inspire them to give their lives to God, repent, etc., I wholeheartedly would endorse THAT kind of love for criminals. Even the most wretched sinner can & often does, realize God is real, loves them, & will forgive them. Just like He did, for me.

  • mechashiva

    I found inspiration in The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. You might also consider reading another one of his books, Ethics for the New Millenium. Tibetan Buddhism is a pacifist religion, and they have a good deal to say about unconditional love. The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda is also apparently a good read (my born-again Christian mother read that book and became a born-again devotee of Yogananda) on these subjects.


    Not a suggestion to switch religions, but some ideas on places to look for guidance in the art of compassion. If you are only going to the prison to convert criminals, you have a motive…. you have a condition you expect the criminals to meet, or else you can dismiss them as lost. Truly unconditional love will show compassion for the most untouchable, with no personal investment in what religion (if any) they choose.

  • lauracarroll

    This is about finding legislative ways to stop abortions and create conditions upon which women will have the baby no matter what (they will not know if anything is wrong with the fetus). From a legal standpoint, the anti-abortion establishment is constantly trying to knick away at Roe v Wade. I am no lawyer but can’t help believe that if these laws stay in place they are part of a grander legislative plan to overturn Roe v Wade. I also can’t believe they are constitutional, because they violate the right to privacy, the foundatinupon whichn Roe v Wade stands.  ~Laura

  • crowepps

    Yes, that’s right, that is the basis of Roe v Wade, as it is the basis of the various court decisions protecting the rights of gays to live their private lives in the way they wish. Which is why the right-wing wants to get rid of the entire concept of personal “privacy”.


    In their opinion, there is no such thing, and they want this ruling overturned, not only to reverse Roe v Wade, but also Griswold v Connecticutt as well so that married couples won’t have access to birth control and Lawrence v Texas so they can recriminalize homosexuality.

    The question of whether the Constitution protects privacy in ways not expressly provided in the Bill of Rights is controversial. Many originalists, including most famously Judge Robert Bork in his ill-fated Supreme Court confirmation hearings, have argued that no such general right of privacy exists. The Supreme Court, however, beginning as early as 1923 and continuing through its recent decisions, has broadly read the “liberty” guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment to guarantee a fairly broad right of privacy that has come to encompass decisions about child rearing, procreation, marriage, and termination of medical treatment. Polls show most Americans support this broader reading of the Constitution.


  • goatini

    about your (CM) motivations.  You’re aflame with anger, sadness and guilt over your personal situation.  But your belief system requires you to suck it up, offer your pain up to Jesus, “serve” a man who doesn’t deserve your goodness, and hope that you’ll be rewarded by G-d after you die.


    Because you feel like you have no choice, you don’t want any women to have a choice… or a chance to escape a dead end. 


    I’m a long time lurker and your post moved me to register at last, so I could respond to your comment.  My annoyance at your posts and at your stubborn embrace of a misogynistic spirituality are now replaced by empathy and compassion for you.  I’m truly sorry that your man does not value you for your true worth.  I hope that you someday learn that G-d really would not want for you to suffer in service to an unworthy spouse, and that you are not, and never were, a “wretched sinner”.

  • ack

    I might be having a reading comprehension fail, but when you said “polyamorous couples (or swingers)” I felt I needed to clarify. Polyamorous couples have committed relationships with more than one person. They don’t buy into the cultural belief that you can only be in love with or committed to one person at a time. Swingers, on the other hand, are people who have open marriages in which the parties agree that casual sex outside of the marriage is an accepted part of their relationship. (These are very general definitions, and the people in each relationship decide what their parameters are, of course.)