Some time ago I remember reading about a study of women who had been refused abortions, and had gone on to bear their children. It was fascinating. A significant proportion did not even remember seeking an abortion. You would think that, if they had been frustrated in their search for an abortion, they would have been angry about it, and remember; most of us do remember the situations where we didn't get what we want, and it was serious. Yet they had forgotten entirely. They were happy with their babies, and that's all there was to it.
Amy Scheuring, of Women's Choice Network, observed that one client completely mis-remembered how things had gone when she came to them. There had been a high level of drama -- raised voices and lots of tension -- as this young woman wrestled with the decision whether to have an abortion or a baby. When this girl recounted the story later, however, it was as though abortion had never really been an option. What?!
Recently, we ran a Facebook ad for Choices Pregnancy Services of Coraopolis (just outside the City of Pittsburgh) on Choices' Facebook page. It invited women who had been clients of Choices to write stories about how they came to Choices, what they were facing in their lives, how they were treated, and how they decided to have their babies.
The ad had the obvious audience, but it had other ones, too: women who were thinking about having an abortion, and people who didn't know what they thought about pregnancy help centers, or thought that pregnancy help centers treat women badly. Pregnancy help centers do a lot of good, but it's not widely recognized.
So, as advertising, I don't think it was a complete loss when we got no responses. Yep: zero. Perhaps no woman who used Choices services saw the ad: 7,100 is not a lot of women in an area like ours. Or, perhaps the few women who had their babies because of Choices and saw the ad had forgotten entirely the role that Choices played in their lives. That would be no surprise.
"Dissociation" is the psychological process by which a person puts distance between himself and something unpleasant that he has experienced. We see it with sexual abuse victims, who may have an "out-of-body" experience while the abuse is taking place, and cannot remember the abuse itself afterwards. There is something deeply unnatural about abortion, and it is no surprise that some women "put it out of their minds" afterwards. There is often a hardening of their hearts afterwards, however. They can't look at babies without irritation, they are more remote from those close to them, and so forth.
Many of the fiercest pro-choice people appear to care too much. They don't seem to be defending an abstract right, but what they have done themselves; if they let up in their cool anger about "pro-lifers" for a second, the facade might collapse. Some women can't hide from the past, and they are broken up by what they have done. Thank God that there are ministries where they can, and often do, find forgiveness and healing! (Broken Vessels and Rachel's Vineyard are two in our area.)
So our advertising was an experiment which failed overall. Still we have learned something. It has confirmed something more general that I have thought for a while: no one likes to think about abortion.
Chris Humphrey has been involved in pro-life activity of one kind or another since the late 1970s, when he first looked at the subject of abortion in seminary in Canada. He has an undergraduate degree in English (University of Toronto), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in religious studies (McGill). He has had a varied career as a pastor, chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, editor of academic and instructional publications, semi-professional photographer, and home renovator. He is a husband of over 40 years to Edith (a Professor of New Testament), father to three girls, and grandfather to seventeen grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.