Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I'm happy to see the article
raised questions for you, and I apologize for not getting back to you sooner
(it's been a really busy week).
Your argument for why you wouldn't perform abortions - that you wouldn't
want to help a woman who might unknowingly be making a mistake - is a new
one I hadn't thought of. When I spoke with Anne Rubles, she told me there
was one instance in her time at Planned Parenthood where she pre-screened a
woman who was saying she wanted to have an abortion but, to Anne, seemed
very conflicted about it. She sent her home and told her to come back in a
week. Honestly, I don't know that we can do much more than that. When we
talk about giving people choice, we also have to acknowledge their right to
make a decision that might be the wrong one. I do believe, however, that
there is a HUGE need for pre- and post-abortion counseling. I interviewed
women who said that at Planned Parenthood the counseling seemed routine and
insincere (the counselors go by a script). At the very least, I think the
industry has a responsibility to keep women informed about the procedure and
to provide therapy that helps them make a rational decision.
One thing I learned in doing this article is that people's feelings on their
abortions evolve as they age. Consider those women who have turned
pro-choice, for example, and carry signs at protests that read, "I regret my
abortion." Speaking to you as a friend and not as an objective journalist
:), that really bothers me. I see what they are trying to do - stop women
from making the same mistakes they did. But they are 40- or 50-something
women re-considering a decision they made when they were 18 or 20. They
aren't the same people who made the decision 20 years earlier, and they
certainly aren't facing the same fears they did then. They have the luxury
now of reflecting on their abortions and calling them mistakes as women who
never had to be young, single mothers. I'm not convinced they wouldn't do it
again if put in the same circumstance.
In terms of your sterilization question, first I should point out that I
don't think very many women have several abortions in their lifetime. And
consider that most women are highly successful at regulating pregnancy. One
source made an interesting point to me: say you're a woman who has sex an
average of once a week from the time you are 25 until you are 50, and say
that for one week every month you ovulate and can't get pregnant. That's
three times a month where you can get pregnant, and 36 times a year, and 900
times in the course of 25 years (the length of your fertility, let's say).
If you get pregnant one time, that's still only a .11 percent error rate. If
you get pregnant twice, that's a .22 percent error rate, which really isn't
bad. With numbers like that, it makes sense that one in three women are
having abortions. Contraception isn't fool proof and we all make mistakes.
But, with that said, I understand that your point was focused mainly on
women who are uneducated and poor. Doctors do work with their patients who
come in for more than a few abortions. Often they'll counsel them on birth
control methods, but granted that's not always enough. When you talk about
sterilization, you're talking about voluntary sterilization, right? I would
never endorse any sort of forced sterilization...I find it problematic to
support that and also to be pro-choice, because in being pro-choice, you're
acknowledging the right of a woman to govern her own reproductive behavior.
It does get interesting when you talk about birth defects though. In those
cases I'm not as comfortable allowing the woman to make the decision (where
would it end?). I still have to reconcile that point for myself.
Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. I'd love to hear your response, if you
get a chance.