A few weeks ago I attended a training day for professionals on post-abortion grief. It was attended by social workers, counsellors and nursing staff, some of whom were in private practice or in the public sector, and all who had come into contact with women grieving after abortion. It was clear that some people had very strong ideological positions, however all shared the common knowledge that abortion can indeed be harmful to women and each was there to learn how best to serve the women who were suffering. After a decade of working to highlight the potential of psychological harm from abortion, and being continually marginalised by those with more interest in ideology than in women, it was affirming for me to see this day being offered by a mainstream, publicly funded body specialising in grief issues.
With around 80,000 abortions a year in Australia, even a very small percentage that may experience harm, regret, or an unresolved regret constitutes a significant number of women. Many of these women feel very isolated in their grief and often feel they have nowhere to turn. Abortion advocates often deny even the possibility of their grief, often choosing to say the woman was mentally ill pre-abortion or that she had been somehow brainwashed by religious groups, or even that her response is about stigma, not about her loss. Pro-life groups are often represented as cold, callous and judgmental toward post-abortive women, even when many who work on pro-life groups are post-abortive themselves.
Acknowledgment that some women can, and indeed do suffer emotionally after abortion is a positive step toward finding the common ground so desperately needed in the ideological debates surrounding abortion. Debates that do nothing to ensure the needs of women are prioritised and that no woman needs to undergo an abortion she doesn't really want, or that she has because of a lack of other supportive services. That isn't choice.