Yes, We Should Listen to Women Who’ve Had Abortions

One abortion supporter is calling for post-abortive women to be central in today’s conversation about abortion. She’s right.

On Saturday, The New York Times published an opinion piece with the headline “Who Should You Listen to on Abortion? People Who’ve Had Them.” As a writer who has had one, Renee Bracey Sherman touched on her abortion as a 19-year-old and her work as an abortion doula to argue that post-abortive women are ignored in the abortion debate.

“I’ve hugged, cried with and held the hands of hundreds of people who’ve had abortions,” she wrote. “All felt the stigma and shame society thrusts on them.”

Bracey Sherman is no stranger to the abortion industry – she’s in the middle of it. Besides serving as senior public affairs manager for Network of Abortion Funds, she sits on the board of directors at NARAL and boasts recognition by America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.

But even in the midst of that, she claimed, women’s abortion stories are overlooked.

“[T]he voices of those who’ve actually had abortions are ignored. Few people try to understand our lives,” she insisted. “And we are never asked the most simple but important question: Why did you do it?”

But if Bracey Sherman did a quick search of today’s news, women are asked exactly that. Just to name a few outlets that have (because the list does go on): BuzzFeed, Cosmo, Elle, HBO, Salon, Teen Vogue, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

Ironically, Bracey Sherman is right. Americans should hear abortion stories. The problem isn’t the question though, it’s who the media are asking: women who talk about abortion positively. In other words, not women who are haunted with regret.

Although, according to Bracey Sherman, those women don’t really exist. “Ninety-five percent of women surveyed don’t regret their decisions, and it doesn’t affect our mental health,” she wrote.

While Bracey Sherman didn’t link to that statistic, she was likely citing a 2015 study published by TIME which surveyed 670 women in the three years after their abortions. It’s also a study that poses problems.

For PJ Media, Brianna Sharbaugh, who counsels post-abortive women, challenged it by pointing to multiple other studies, including one from Finland that found “Women who had committed suicide and were post-abortive were six times more prevalent than women who had committed suicide and carried a pregnancy to term, especially among lower income, single mothers.”

Furthermore, many pro-life experts have stressed that women are frequently in denial for a period of five to 10 years following an abortion – which would easily bypass a three-year study.

And, despite what the media report, women ravaged by the terrors of abortion do exist. Thousands have shared testimonies full of “regret” and “horror” through organizations like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. 

Here are just a few of their stories, often dismissed and left untold:

  • “Please understand the horror of getting an abortion. It’s not a procedure to fix an illness; it’s to end a life.  It’s not all going to go away, you will think about it for the rest of your life.  It will haunt you.” – Jenna, Indiana
  •  “If I can offer one bit of advice to a young woman in a similar situation to mine, it's don't have an abortion.  You'll regret it the rest of your life, just like I have.” – Debbie, Montana
  • “If I could do it over, I would have kept her … I will never forget what a horrible decision I made at the time, and I will never forget that I killed my little girl, my only girl." – Young, Alabama
  • “To my precious baby: I will not forget you. I never have. You were always here hidden in my heart. I will not hide you anymore. I love you. To say that I am sorry doesn't seem to be enough.  I will never forget you! Your life does matter. I know that you are with Jesus in His Kingdom, and I will see you one day. Love, Mom” – Joanne, New York

Then there are the stories of women like abortion survivors Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden as well as the stories of women who were conceived in rape – women alive today because their mothers refused abortion. 

Where are those abortion stories?

Then again, Bracey Sherman is selective when it comes to storytelling. When The New York Times published a pro-life op-ed earlier this month, Bracey Sherman bashed “More anti-abortion op-eds in @nytopinion by extremists,” before adding, “STOP LETTING ANTI-ABORTION TERRORISTS WRITE OP-EDS VOID OF FACT.”

In her conclusion, Bracey Sherman defined what she saw as the “crux of the issue.”

It’s “not whether you would have an abortion yourself,” Bracey Sherman wrote. “It’s whether you would stand in the way of someone else’s decision.”

Yes, many Americans would. Because there’s another “someone else” in that equation: the little unborn person. 

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