Is There a Post-Abortion Syndrome? A Symposium: The Right That Makes Women Grieve

By McKenna, George | The Human Life Review, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Is There a Post-Abortion Syndrome? A Symposium: The Right That Makes Women Grieve


McKenna, George, The Human Life Review


Every so often, if only to protect its interests, the Eastern Establishment gets curious about what the natives are doing. So it sends its Stanleys and Livingstones-its scribes-out into the hinterland for a closer look. One recent adventure in pith-helmet journalism came when the New York Times Magazine recruited a writer to go deep in the heart of Texas to cover the activities of a prolife woman who does post-abortion counselling. The author, Emily Bazelon, is identified in the piece as an editor of the online magazine Slate, but a short Internet search revealed that she is also a recipient of a George Soros-funded fellowship and a contributor to the leftist Mother Jones magazine. So the red light went on even before I started reading herand she didn't disappoint me. Here is her first line, for some reason set in caps: "EARLY ON A WINDY SATURDAY MORNING IN NOVEMBER, RHONDA ARIAS DROVE HER DODGE CARAVAN PAST A WALMART AT THE END OF HER BLOCK. . . ."

So this is going to be an evocative piece. We have a gas-guzzling SUV driving past a union-busting, low-wage-paying mega-corporation run by Bible-belt evangelicals. At the wheel is Rhonda Arias, "who is 53, often wears silver hoop earrings and low black boots." She is on her way to a holy-rolling, Bible-shouting session with prison inmates who feel guilty about their abortions. Later, Bazelon watched them "drink in" Arias's preaching of repentance at the prison chapel, and, still later, observed them as they "shuffled out."

These are just the kind of people the Times pities and despises. It pities them for their ignorance and stupidity, and it despises them for their willingness to listen to right-wing rhetoric instead of what the Times considers to be their authentic self-interest. Thomas Frank, an author much feted in the Times, wrote What's the Matter With Kansas? from that perspective. What is wrong with these people?, Frank kept asking. Why do they care about fetuses instead of themselves? That people could have serious concerns about the moral condition of America, and be willing to support candidates who speak to those concerns, was baffling to him. The only explanation he could come up with was the old Marxist line about "false consciousness": The poor wretches keep focusing on the symptoms of their pathology instead of its "real" roots in economic oppression, and that is what makes them vulnerable to "pro-family" hucksters. Emily Bazelon takes somewhat the same approach in diagnosing the ills of the women in Arias's prison ministry. They suffer from troubled childhoods and troubled marriages, and they've messed up their heads with drugs and alcohol. Now they are being seduced into believing that their self-destructive behavior is the result of their abortions. At the end of her article she quotes a pro-abortion psychologist as saying that these women are preyed upon by fake therapists and religious "crusaders" who offer women a diagnosis "that gives meaning to the symptoms, and gives women a way to repent."

The Svengali behind all of this, according to Bazelon, is Dr. David Reardon, a biomedical ethicist who has published several books and articles often cited by prolifers. On the basis of interviews with post-abortion women, Reardon concludes that many of them are suffering severe and long-lasting psychological distress as the result of their abortions, a pathology he calls "post-abortion syndrome." Bazelon flatly dismisses this claim. "The scientific evidence," she asserts, "strongly shows that abortion does not increase the risk of depression, drug abuse or any other psychological problem any more than having an unwanted pregnancy or giving birth." As evidence she cites the results of studies by various "academic experts," including the findings of a special panel appointed by the American Psychological Association (APA), which influenced the APA's decision to issue an official statement in 2005 denying a link between abortion and subsequent psychological trauma. …

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