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Duly Noted

Monday, Dec 5, 2011, 2:05 pm

Abortion Without Tears: Marie Annelle’s Story

By Lindsay Beyerstein

Marie Annelle, a Canadian mother of two, is blogging her medical abortion at The Pursuit of Harpyness. By sharing her story, she's helping to debunk the myth that abortion is always a difficult decision. Abortion is a major decision, but sometimes circumstances afford clarity.

"For me it’s a no brainer. In one corner we have a fetus, in the other we have my job, my husband, my kids, the roof over our heads, the bills, food, etc. Yeah, no brainer there," she writes in her introductory post.

Like the vast majority of women who get abortions, Marie Annelle is in her first trimester. She was only 6 weeks pregnant when she started the abortion process. Her embryo's heartbeat was not yet visible on the ultrasound. She has no compunctions about terminating this pregnancy.

So far, she has posted about Day 1 and Day 2 of the process, which unfolds over several days. 

The idea that abortion is always a difficult decision presupposes that every woman at least sort of wants to be pregnant at any given time and/or that abortion is always at least sort of morally suspect.

The myth of universal regret gives ammunition to patenalistic anti-choicers who promise to protect women from the consequences of their own decisions. As a rule, rational people don't do things that they expect to regret. So, women who get abortions must not expect to regret them. But if every woman who gets an abortion regrets it, that implies that women who get abortions are irrational or self-deluded and therefore in need of protection from themselves.

When it comes to abortion stories, emotional upheavals and ethical dilemmas get more attention than calm, resolute choices. This bias creates a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby women may end up feeling worse than they otherwise would because conflict and ambivalence are written into our social script for abortion. What was the last TV show or movie you saw where an abortion was portrayed a clear choice for a character, rather than an impetus for high drama?

If your culture says that everyone who does X feels bad about it, chances are you'll feel bad too. Even if you don't actually feel bad, you may feel bad about yourself for being off-script. Of course, if you feel bad about not feeling bad, you're less likely to admit that you don't feel bad, and the bias perpetuates itself.

I'm grateful to Marie Annelle for being so forthright about her experience. She's helping to break the vicious cycle of silence.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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