Act Locally » July 21, 2003
Moving on Just Fine
Web site allows women to share positive aspects of abortion
Patricia Beninato spent January 22, 2003, the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, in an Internet chat room, discussing the ruling’s significance. During the course of the exchange, something struck her. Virtually every participant became uneasy when asked to acknowledge the positive aspects of abortion.
Beninato was aghast. “The pro-choice crowd was deferring to the pro-life crowd. I couldn’t believe it. Yeah, abortion is a wake-up call. When I got pregnant I told myself I’d better be more vigilant about who I sleep with and how I use birth control. But there are millions of us who’ve had abortions who are not in a corner screaming about pain, guilt, or how old the baby would be if we’d had it. There are lots of us who’ve gone on with our lives just fine, with no regrets.”
Beninato’s dismay prompted her to do an Internet search on abortion. Once more, what she found stunned her: Pro-choice groups are virtually silent about the procedure and its aftermath. Within a week, Beninato had created www.Imnotsorry.net, a Web site where women can speak about positive abortion experiences. “At first I solicited people through a bulletin board,” she says. “Now people are hearing about the site through word of mouth and I’ve been getting one to two new entries a week.”
Among them: Colleen, pregnant at 28 due to contraceptive failure, writes, “I had neither regrets at this time nor any time since … I was so relieved not to be pregnant anymore.”
Catherine, who found out she was pregnant eight days after her fourteenth birthday, states, “It wasn’t emotionally traumatic. It wasn’t an especially hard choice.” Now applying to medical school, she tells readers: “I plan to do abortions as part of my practice, to make sure that other women have the same chance at finding their dreams that I did.”
Brandy, who writes, “I got pregnant at 15 but because I did have the abortion I finished school and currently work in a good career. If I had had the baby I probably would have gotten married, quit school, and stayed in an abusive situation longer than I did for the sake of the child.” Nearly three dozen people–from teenagers to middle-aged women with children–posted entries on the site within its first six weeks. “It took a while for the right-to-lifers to notice,” laughs Beninato, “but now they’ve started to put their rants into the guest book. Overall, more than 90 percent of the responses have been positive.”
Still, the site is a lone warrior. Those searching the Internet for information on surgical or chemical abortions or post-abortion recovery are likely to find an overwhelming–and terrifying–array of data on Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) and Post-Traumatic Abortion Syndrome (PTAS), maladies said to afflict women who end unwanted pregnancies.
To hear these sites–all of them sponsored by anti-abortion organizations–tell it, women who have abortions suffer from symptoms ranging from mild grief to traumatic stress, conditions made manifest by feelings of alienation, anger, depression, guilt, isolation, and shame. Those afflicted by PAS and PTAS are also said to suffer from nightmares, auditory hallucinations of babies crying, eating disorders, low self-esteem, physical pain, sexual dysfunction, and sleep disorders. What’s more, the sites report that self-mutilation, reckless sexual conduct, and drug and alcohol abuse are rife among women who’ve aborted.
Maryland Right To Life takes these scare tactics even further. They claim that “100,000 women a year lose a baby they want due to a miscarriage that results from complications of a prior abortion.” Even more absurd, David Trosch, a convicted anti-abortion terrorist, warns that “the vast majority of women who have had an abortion … contemplate, attempt, and … many of them … actually commit suicide.” Not surprisingly, neither Maryland Right to Life nor Trosch reveal the source of their specious statistics.
Worse, Trosch and his ilk pay no mind to the fact that the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have declared neither PAS nor PTAS exist. Undeterred, the antis have also ignored the findings of a recent study by the University of California, Santa Barbara, that found severe post-abortion distress to be rare, affecting fewer than one percent of those who terminate their pregnancies.
Not only that, UCSB researchers found something that may help Beninato establish a niche within the pro-choice community. According to their report, the perceived need to keep abortion secret, because of fear of disapproval, increases stress. In addition, they indicate that the symptoms attributed to PAS and PTAS may, in fact, be a reaction to anti-choice rhetoric spouted by groups such as American Victims of Abortion, Project Rachel, and Women Exploited by Abortion.
Beninato believes that www.Imnotsorry.net can help women both before and after their abortions by giving them a safe space to vent, ask questions, and celebrate reproductive choice. “I picture a teenager, scared to frigging death about being pregnant, typing in abortion, and getting all these sites telling her how bad she’s going to feel if she has the procedure,” she says. “I want her to find us, too, and hear real women describe the actual 20-minute procedure. I want her to hear that she can feel happy about having an abortion. I want to make sure she knows that she doesn’t have to be intimidated and have babies she doesn’t want. I want her to know there’s another reality out there.”
Eleanor J. Bader
Eleanor Bader is a teacher and freelance writer from Brooklyn, N.Y. She is a frequent contributor to The Brooklyn Rail, RHRealityCheck.org, elevateddifference.org, ontheissuesmagazine.com and Truthout.