When it comes to controversial topics, abortion either at the top or close to the top of the list. Which is surprising, considering a reported 69 percent of Americans support Roe v Wade and do not want to see it overturned, and one in four women will have an abortion before they're 45. Still, anti-choice rhetoric is pervasive, and those in power who are against a woman's right to choose are usually loud. Very loud. That's why there's seemingly no end to the list of things people need to stop saying about moms who've had abortions, especially since those moms definitely aren't alone.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 59 percent of the women who have abortions already have at least one child at home. In other words, the majority of people who are terminating their pregnancies are moms. They're people who've been pregnant before, have had babies before, and who know just how complicated pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum, and parenting can be. They're the people we, as a society, have trusted to raise the next generation, which makes certain people's failure to trust their decision to end a pregnancy all the more perplexing.
I had my own abortion after having lost one baby to premature birth, and after nearly losing the other. Between my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) struggles, the financial issues my partner and I were experiencing, and the physical trauma I endured while bringing my son into the world, I knew it wasn’t the right time to have another baby. I have zero regrets about my decision, and zero doubt that the choice I made was the best choice not only for me, but for my son, my partner, and our family.
As women, and as mothers, we know what's best for ourselves, our families, and our futures, which is why we're tired of the shame and stigma attached to such a common, safe medical procedure. So if you have a mom-friend who has had an abortion, feel free to avoid saying the following and, you know, choose to be supportive instead.
"She Should’ve Been More Responsible"
While anti-choice folks will often chastise people who have abortions for being “irresponsible,” moms tend to be on the receiving end of this accusation more than most. As parents we're already considered to “more responsible" than others, and often have to take on way more responsibilities for our families than, say, fathers. Experiencing an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy is then used as a reason why we're not responsible at all, as if all of our other responsibilities somehow disappear.
For many women, having an abortion is a more responsible decision than carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
"What Will Her Children Think?"
In my experience, a large amount of anti-choice individuals want to believe that a mother’s own children will judge her as severely as they do. And, in my experience, that just isn't the case. I know I would be incredibly understanding if my mother had an abortion, just like I would be incredibly understanding if my son was with a partner who had an abortion, too. We are capable of explaining our decision, if we want to, to our children, and in a way that won't elicit judgment and shame.
"She Deprived Her Kids Of A Sibling"
Talk about an attempt at emotional terrorism, right? The problem is, of course, that a fetus isn't a person (science) and ending one unplanned pregnancy doesn't mean someone won't bring another pregnancy to term in the future.
It's also odd that anyone would care whether or not my child has a sibling. Family planning decisions should be handled by, you guessed it, the family. No outside opinions needed, my friends.
"She’s Already Had A Baby. Couldn’t She Just Give This One Up For Adoption?"
Adoption is a great option for those who choose it, but it's not for everyone... and positioning adoption as the default option for pregnant people is not only unethical, it's dangerous. Those who’ve had difficult, complicated pregnancies know this reality all too well. The United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and a black woman in the United States is three times more likely to die during childbirth than a white woman.
"Guess She’s Lacking That Maternal Instinct"
Knowing when, and if, you're ready to have another child (or a child at all) has nothing to do with a so-called "maternal instinct." The mother having the abortion knows what's best for her family and her actual children, and no one has the right to try and make that decision for her.
"Doesn’t She Realize This Might Be Her Last Chance To Have Another Baby?"
While numerous anti-choice myths would have you think otherwise, you can get pregnant after having an abortion. Surgical and/or medication abortion doesn't impact your long-term fertility. In fact, a provider will likely discuss birth control options with a patient during their abortion appointment, since it's possible to get pregnant very soon after an abortion procedure.
"You’re Setting A Bad Example For Your Kids"
You know what I think is a great example? Teaching your kids bodily autonomy and the ability to make responsible choices for themselves and their families. You know what I think is another great example? Showing your children how to trust other people to make their own health care decisions.
"I’m Disappointed In You"
Abortion shame and stigma is real, and the damage it can do is real. Not only does it allow prevailing myths about abortion to fester and spread, but it can make it harder for people who need abortion care to seek it out. According to The New York Times and a recent, comprehensive study of 1,000 women who sought abortions across the country for five years, having an abortion doesn't negatively impact someone's mental health... but being denied access to abortion care does. Shame, stigma, and limited access to this common medical procedure hurts people. Literally.
So make no mistake, a friend doesn't need to hear that you're "disappointed" in them. If you are, simply keep it to yourself.