The Problem with Choice

People who advocate abortion as a woman’s choice have no idea how difficult and complicated is that choice. I reviewed the literature and found that there were at least 55 factors that a woman has to consider before she can truly make an intellectual decision to abort or not to abort. Besides that, in most instances women have little information about abortion precedure or the consequences of it. Even with the best information and wise counsel, it would take approximately 6 months for a woman to unravel and resolve all the dimensions of a choice to abort or not. By that time, of course she will have become well attached to the growing baby within her.
Dr Philip Ney

The popular perception

A woman is pregnant. If she (and her partner) want a baby at that time, all well and good. If her or their circumstances are such that having a baby would be undesirable or difficult, she can have the pregnancy terminated. She has the free choice of what to do with her life and her body, no longer the slave of biology. If you want the child you have it, if you don’t want it, you don’t have it. This is the hard-won right of the women’s liberation movement, the gaining of “reproductive rights.” Simple, easy and clean, right?

Early feminists pro-life

The pro-choice lobby believes that it enshrines women’s liberation but in fact, the early feminists were opposed to abortion which they saw (prophetically) as the degrading exploitation of women. The choice of whether or not to have an abortion is not a free and equal one because women, even if political correctness would ban us from saying it, are intimately tied to their biology. Women attach to their pregnancies and to their children and all the ideology in the world cannot overturn that fact. For a pregnant woman to have her pregnancy terminated is not the same as the choice between being pregnant or not.

Abortion has negative consequences because the woman’s overriding natural impulse is to nurture and care for the life within her; interrupting that process has a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual impact, greater or smaller depending on the individual woman and the individual circumstances, but which also cannot be totally predicted – though it is of course fair to say that women with prior history of mental problems, who have been coerced into abortion, who have ethical or spiritual values that uphold life or who are ambivalent about the decision are likely to fare least well afterwards.

A loaded choice

Choice implies that both or all available options are given equal weight and are equally facilitated. This is manifestly not what happens with abortion. If true choice were really available, women would be quizzed carefully about their true wishes and provision would be made to support those who wanted to keep their child. This is a million miles from what actually occurs. A woman who wants her child but “chooses” abortion because her partner is not supportive or because she has financial worries does not want abortion per se, but help and support to facilitate her true choice is not forthcoming. And one of the reasons it is not forthcoming is… because abortion is an option. If the same scenario occurred in a context in which abortion were not provided on demand, the man or the woman’s family would probably rally round and she would have the child that she actually desires and to whom she will be a loving mother.

Women are often given the message, subtly or overtly, that choosing to have the child is selfish and irresponsible. The dice are loaded in favour of abortion. Interestingly, the people supposedly in favour of choice are seemingly not in the least scandalised by this. What most women want when they are pregnant is support and encouragement to have the child. Because a whole society is under the sway of the “woman’s right to choose” mantra, she is left alone to make her choice and those who might have rallied round now stay stolidly away, determined not to “interfere.” Without forgetting, of course, that abortion is an industry, and a very profitable one. Some people have a vested interest in encouraging women to choose abortion and the pro-choice ideological stranglehold plays right into their hands.

The need for autonomy

The woman herself needs to be sufficiently mature to be able to make a choice. To do this, autonomy – which might be defined as the capacity to make informed and un-coerced decisions – needs crucially to have been developed. When facing unplanned pregnancy, someone who has been unaffirmed in childhood is more likely to panic and be less able to gain support from the surroundings. She is less likely to have positive thinking and more likely to have a judgemental internal dialogue. If she has not grappled with and resolved at least some of the conflicts resulting from her inadequate and damaging childhood, she will not have acquired the ability to assert herself in the face of opposition and is likely to be influenced by threats of abandonment.

The unchoice

In all too many cases, the so-called abortion choice is like someone offering to cut a woman’s foot off when she goes to a doctor complaining that it hurts; it certainly removes the ache but it also debilitates permanently. Dressing this up as choice is insulting, all the more so in a situation in which the duty of informed consent has been so neglected. This medical negligence, under the sway of the pro-choice ideology, in not providing women with all the information about what abortion is and what the potential risks are and in establishing that abortion is a therapeutic option for her itself makes a mockery of choice.

All too often, abortion is the “unchoice”: not what women would choose if they had been seriously presented with any other option.

The real choice is before pregnancy

As Nancy Newton Verrier says about abortion in her seminal book on the adopted child, The Primal Wound:

…we should do more to ensure that women do not have to make that painful choice. The alternatives should include the quaint idea of self-control or abstinence. In addition to being a religious/moral issue, being sexually active is also a psychological/social issue. Just because a person is capable of having sexual intercourse does not mean that one is emotionally or psychologically ready for a sexual relationship. Many young people just want to feel loved. We are failing them in this. And we are failing to impart to them the tremendous emotional impact these kinds of decisions will have on the rest of their lives. If they do make a conscious choice to be in a sexual relationship, then they should have information to birth control methods and devices, so that their next decision does not need to be a life or death decision. If pregnancy does occur, there are three choices: keep the baby, have an abortion, or put the baby up for adoption. All three choices will have life-long consequences for both mother and child.