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Published by Deborah Agre

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Published by: Deborah Agre on Jan 09, 2012
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01/09/2012

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Late-TermAbortions:WhyWomenHaveThem,HowWeTalkAboutThembyDeborahAgreonSaturday,June6,2009at1:24pmI’veheardandreadalotofthingsintheaftermathofDr.GeorgeTiller’shorrificmurder.ButI’veheardalmostnothingaboutwhatalotofpeoplemustbethinking:Whydoesanyoneenduphavinganabortioninhersecondorthirdtrimester?GeorgeTillerwasoneofjustafewdoctorsinthewholebigmiddleofthecountry(andoneofjustaboutadozenintheentirecountry),whoperformedtheseabortions.Womencamefromallovertoseehim.Ifhehadlimitedhispracticetofirsttrimesterabortions,heprobablywouldbealivetoday.WhenIwasinmytwentiesIhadagoodfriend—awell-educatedadult,withaccesstohealthcareandhealthinformation--whodidnotrealizeshewaspregnantuntilshewaswellintohersecondtrimester.Acombinationofdenial,menstrual-likebleeding,andbadinformationfromadoctorinthefamily,ishowshegotthere.Averyclosefriendwithamuch-wantedpregnancylearnedthatshewascarryingafetuswithananomalythatwouldleadtomiscarriage,stillbirthordeathininfancy.Anotherfriendhadanincompletefirsttrimesterabortion.Allthesewomenhadsecondtrimesterabortions.Butthey’renottypical.Muchmoretypicalaretheteenagers—orevenpre-teens—whoaredenyingthattheyarepregnant,hidingtheirpregnancyfromtheirparents,orknowsolittleabouttheirownbodiesthattheydon’tevenrealizetheyarepregnant.Others,oftenyoungandpoor,wantanabortionbutcan’tfigureouthowtofindaprovider,orthemoney,orthechildcare,orthetimeofffromworkorschool,orwhattosaytotheirfamily,togowheretheyneedtogotogetafirsttrimesterabortion—untilthefirsttrimesterisover.Thentherearethewomenwhoaretalkedaboutthemost,andwhogenerallyevokethemostsympathy.Womenwhofindoutthroughprenatalteststhattheyarecarryingafetusthathasan“abnormality”--themostcommonbeingTrisomy21orDown’sSyndrome.AtavigilforDr.Tiller,awell-knownwritertoldoflearning,whenshewas17weekspregnant,thatthefetushada“geneticabnormality.”Shesaidthat,whilethisnewsandhersubsequentabortionweretheworstthingsheandherhusbandhadevergonethrough,theonlythingworsewouldhavebeentonothavetheabortion.Shewentontosayhowgratefulshewaswhenthedoctorshowedherphotosof“healthy”babieshisotherpatientshad,andassuredherthatshewouldgetpregnantagainandhavea“healthy”baby,too.Isupportanywoman’srighttohaveanabortion,anytime,andforanyreason—andtofeelortalkanywayaboutherdecision.Butthiswomanwasspeakingpublicly,andaspartofapoliticalmovement,soIthinkit’sfairtoask:Whatisshesayingaboutthelivesofchildrenandadultswithdisabilities,ortheexperienceoftheparentswhoareraisingchildrenwithdisabilities?Thischaracterizationofthe“painfuldecisiontoendawantedsecondtrimesterpregnancy”vs.the“tragedyofhavingachildwithadisability”isechoedthroughouttheabortionrightsmovement(exceptinsmallpocketswheredisabilityrightsactivistshaveengagedthemovementandarticulatedmorerespectful,nuancedwaysoftalkingaboutabortionanddisability).Fear,bigotryandignoranceaboutdisabilityarerampantinoursociety.Itcomesout—andisunwittinglyexploited—intheprevailingpro-choiceargumentsforlate-termabortions.Anditisthecontextinwhichwomanaremakingdecisionsaboutabortion.Whenweexploitnegativeviewsofdisability,weperpetuatebigotry,alienatealliesinthedisabilitycommunity,andgivetheargumentovertotheotherside,whichexploitspityforpeoplewithdisabilitiesforitsownends.Atthesametime,oursilenceaboutthelivesofotherwomenwhohavelate-termabortionsandwhy,implythatsomewomen’sreasonsaremoreacceptablethanothers.Weforfeitourresponsibilitytoeducatepeopleaboutallthecircumstancesinwomen’slives—poverty,shame,forcedorcoercivesex,lackofmedicalinformationandservices,fearofparentsorpartners,restrictiveabortionregulations—thatmakelate-termabortionsnecessary,andvitallyimportanttodefend

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