A new meta-analysis published in PLOS Medicine provides more information on the link between intimate partner violence and abortion. You can read the entire analysis online, but this post at WECARE summarizes some of the main points, from the point of view of people working to reduce abortions.

1) Intimate partner violence, including history of rape, sexual assault, contraception sabotage, and coerced decision-making, was associated with abortion.   Unfortunately with the limited data available to the authors, it was not possible to ascertain the typical timing of exposure to violence relative to abortion. However, it is likely that various patterns exist, with violence both preceding and following abortion in many victims’ lives. Escalation of violence after the procedure is a strong possibility, particularly when partners are against the abortion.In a high quality study by Fisher and colleagues (2005) published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the authors reported that women presenting for a third abortion were over 2.5 times more likely to have a history of physical or sexual violence than women presenting for their first.

2) Women in violent relationships were more likely to have concealed their abortion from partners compared to women who were not victims of violence. Women likely believed they could not continue the pregnancy and were afraid of the abusive partner’s behavior if the abortion had been revealed. Many women in abusive relationships may feel they have to abort, because they are trying to free themselves from the relationship, they do not want to bring a child into a home with violence, and/or they do not believe they have the emotional energy to go through a pregnancy and raise a child, among other reasons. With sensitive, appropriate pre-abortion counseling, women in abusive relationships can be identified and safely assisted out of the violent, dangerous situation and helped to continue their pregnancies if desired. Without sensitive, substantive care, abortion is often perceived as the only option available.

3) Women welcomed the opportunity to disclose IPV and to be offered help. Women who present at abortion clinics are often at a point where they are quite receptive to help, and if screening and intervention do not occur, countless women will continue their lives feeling trapped and afraid in a violent relationship. If the abortion take place, then there is a high probability that they will suffer psychological consequences as a result that further compound a life marked by significant suffering. Numerous studies from the peer-reviewed literature have documented the fact that women, who feel pressured by partners, abortion counselors, other people in their lives, and/or by life circumstances, are more likely to experience post-abortion mental health problems.

The study focused on women having abortions, but the findings also have obvious implications for crisis pregnancy centers.

(Thanks to Consistent Life for the tip.)

When I attended the helping pregnant women Open Hearts, Open Minds and Fair Minded Words conference last fall, pro-choice and pro-life attendees alike expressed frustration with politicians who talked a good game about protecting human life but then tried to cut funding to programs that help women choose life for their children.

We're told that the government doesn't need to help people, because that's what private charity is for. But private charity can't do the job alone. Crisis pregnancy centers rely not only on volunteers and donations, but on referring clients to government assistance programs such as Medicaid and WIC.  Medicaid pays for more than 40% of births in the United States. Ask a crisis pregnancy center volunteer how much harder their job will get if Medicaid is cut.

Please urge your members of Congress to reject Medicaid cuts.

The first thing I want to say about the Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Fair Minded Words conference is this: it is remarkable to be able to discuss abortion at all without people simply retreating into (metaphorically (mostly)) armed camps. That seldom happens in the normal course of things, and the conference was valuable for bringing us all together, even if the spirit of listening was sometimes forgotten — especially near the end, when I think we were all a bit worn.

One of the conference's stated goals was to "Explore new ways to think and speak about abortion." However, much of the discussion would not have seemed out of place twenty years ago. For my part, I was intensely frustrated – to the point of anger – that the same old anti-contraception official stance of the Catholic Church was the only pro-life opinion heard on the pregnancy prevention panel. Whoever chose the speakers for that panel missed an opportunity to do something really different – bring the other 80% of pro-lifers into the conversation for a change! How can we talk about pro-life and pro-choice people working together to prevent unintended pregnancies when that many voices are shut out right from the start? We also needed to hear much more from young people, people of color, working-class people, and people with disabilities. Those voices are often not a part of the "same old" debate.

One of the most productive panels I attended was the session on supporting pregnant women. The participants were able to come to a remarkable accord both on the types of social and economic support that pregnant women need, and on many of the barriers to providing it. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike vocally agreed that it's hypocritical for politicians to praise the work of crisis pregnancy centers while cutting funding for the social welfare programs they rely on. Several participants also wished aloud that people who object to war could do as well as people who object to abortion have done in preventing the government from paying for it! I would have preferred for more panels to have a real-life, practical emphasis like this one. Abortion is a fascinating topic for philosophical discussion, but it's also a real issue of flesh and blood and life and death, and we must always remember that.

Next, I want to discuss the comments Marysia referred to in this post. I was finally able to watch the recording of the "From Morality to Public Policy" panel last night, and I didn't hear Helen Alvare say that bodily integrity wasn't important. I genuinely can't figure out how Ms. Thorne-Thomsen got that from her words. In fact, at about 15:00 into the video, Alvare specifically mentioned the centrality of the body to women's rights. I also appreciated Cathleen Kaveny's acknowledgment that the abortion issue isn’t just a simple matter of “It’s killing; ban it,” but involves two very legitimate interests – the mother’s bodily autonomy and the child’s life – that both need to be considered.

Unfortunately, that same panel was severely marred by David Garrow's sweeping and factually incorrect generalizations about pro-lifers in general being motivated not by desire to protect human life, but by opposition to non-procreative sex. Garrow started his presentation by admitting that he had erred in agreeing to speak at this conference, and I have to agree. He was a totally inappropriate and disrespectful panelist – at one point he even silently mocked Helen Alvare while she was speaking. The other pro-choice panelist, Dorothy Roberts, was as good as Garrow was bad. She did a wonderful job of putting abortion in the context of the intersecting oppressions faced by so many women on the basis of gender, race, class, and disability. Although I disagree with Dr. Roberts in that I think abortion itself is another form of discrimination against human beings, I wholeheartedly agree that it simply can't be understood in isolation from the social conditions that contribute to it. I would dearly love to see Dorothy Roberts and Mary Krane Derr on a panel together some day!

Was the conference a success? We probably won't know for some time. It wasn't much more than a baby step – there was still too much "talking at" and too little "listening to", and I heard a disheartening amount of prejudiced and thoughtless remarks both on panels and in casual conversation. Still, five hundred people thought it was worth their time and expense to come and talk to people they oppose on one of the most bitter subjects of the day. Personally, I got contact information from both pro-lifers and pro-choicers who want to work together on practical proposals of importance to all of us. There was talk of putting together a coalition of pro-life and pro-choice groups to oppose budget cuts for social services that help pregnant women and their children. If we can start taking steps like that together, that at least must count as a success.

Unfortunately, All Our Lives is not in a position yet to launch the dream feminist CPC described in our last blog entry. But that doesn't mean we will decline to address real-life pregnancy problems in whatever ways we can right now.

The Nonviolent Choice Directory, http://www.nonviolentchoice.info, will soon become a project of All Our Lives.

The Directory lists resources from all over the world that can help alleviate problem pregnancies and abortions. It covers:

–Post Abortion Care

–Male Responsibility

–Sexual/Reproductive Health Education (comprehensive)

–All Pregnancy Prevention Methods

–Crisis Pregnancy Support

–Mother & Child Health

–Parenting/Childrearing

–Adoption, Foster Care, & Guardianship

–Food & Nutrition

–Clothing

–Shelter

–Finances & Income

–Education

–Employment/Career

–Relationships

–Eco-Friendly Living

–Other Ways to Give Life

 

The Nonviolent Choice Directory was launched in 2007 to fulfill a promise made in the book Pro Life Feminism Yesterday and Today, Second Expanded Edition.

You can email the Directory here: editor –at– nonviolentchoice –dot– info

Surfin3rdWave at Feministing.com describes her vision of a feminist crisis pregnancy center.

It would:

  • Refuse to engage in "slut-shaming…'marry your baby's daddy'…fearmongering."
  • Foster choices in birthing, such as midwifery care, as well as in parenting.
  • "Offer realistic parenting classes that promote responsible parenthood while also encouraging women to view themselves as individuals–with personalities and careers" apart from their parenthood.
  • Give "free counseling services to women coping with anxiety and depression during an unplanned pregnancy," including access when needed to licensed mental health professionals.
  • "Encourage pregnant women to view their bodies as beautiful and sexy…provide information about maintaining a good sex life and a positive body-image before and after pregnancy."
  • "Help women find the financial and material resources needed to make it through pregnancy and give birth…[such as] the WIC program.  Donors could bring baby car seats, maternity clothes, cribs, nursing bras, breast pumps, and canned goods…"

All Our Lives cofounder Jen commented on this post, saying that she shared this vision of a feminist CPC and our organization would like to run one like this someday.  There are in fact ethically run CPCs who already engage in these services for women.  And to the above services, we might want to add:

  • Prevention measures such as comprehensive sex ed curricula, a full range of family planning options, and outreach tailored to groups of clients most at risk for unintended pregnancies, such as LGBT youth.
  • Male responsibility programming.
  • An advocacy department to work on systemic-level/collective changes necessary to alleviate the plight of so many pregnant women and reduce the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions, locally, nationally, globally.
  • Standards to help existing CPCs evaluate and improve their services, and aid in the creation of new ones.

 

Please also see the discussion of Surfin3rdWave's post on the All Our Lives Facebook group.