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Roe v. Wade is personal

Posted Jan. 21, 2013, at 11:56 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 21, 2013, at 12:42 p.m.

Jan. 22 — the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This piece is not political; it’s personal.

We’ve all been affected personally by the decision to legalize abortion-on-demand at any stage of fetal development. I’m in my 40s, so the ruling has been in effect most of my life. I now have two daughters, the oldest with autism. Many of her would-be peers, kids with Downs Syndrome, have been aborted, so it’s lonelier for her. I imagine when, and if, researchers discover the genetic link to autism, like they did with Downs, we will see fewer kids with autism too. At that time we can herald in the next dubious triumph of our tacit eugenics program.

The beginning eugenics programs in Nazi Germany centered on kids with disabilities. My great grandfather, a doctor there, died in a concentration camp because he dissented these programs to “improve” the genetic composition of the population. His son, my great uncle, a priest, stood up in opposition too and was interrogated repeatedly by Nazi officials; he was commemorated in his town. That’s not far back in my family’s and our collective history. I wonder if history repeats itself, especially since learning that Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was an avid proponent of eugenics.

Yes, Roe v. Wade is personal. I lost an extended family member to abortion. Most of us have. That child would have been a son or daughter, grandchild, great grandchild, nephew or niece, neighbor. She wanted to keep the baby, but was pressured to abort. Insurance covered the procedure. My family and our society lost a child, but the death, like most of them, was silent and not publicly mourned. At 12 weeks in utero, it was euphemistically called a “termination.” It wasn’t called ” taking a life,” but was it?

I know she or he had perfectly formed fingers and toes, and organs, limbs, muscles, a heartbeat. She or he could already yawn, suck and swallow. The current technological ability to see the baby in utero in intricate detail, not widely available 40 years ago, should cause us to reconsider the Roe v. Wade ruling.

Most women aren’t given the opportunity to see their baby in utero before they decide to have an abortion; most who do change their mind. How many women I have both befriended and read about who, at some point, suffer the repercussions of the decision to abort their child, a decision they made when they were vulnerable. Of these women, many of them felt pressure to abort, and a tiny fraction did so because their life was at stake. I mourn with these women, most of whom didn’t have all the information and thought abortion was their only option. The all-too-human reaction to their abortion can be delayed for years, then something eventually clicks that this truly was the death of her child.

It’s a lie that abortion is “pro-women.” It is anti-women to withhold information and resources and to lead a woman to believe there will be little physical or psychological risks to her abortion. The physical aftermath can include, but is not limited to, bladder, bowel and/or uterine perforations, cervical injury, hemorrhage, permanent infertility, breast cancer and future sterility.

The psychological risks, yet to be recognized in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, include post-abortion trauma, substance abuse, depression and recurrent nightmares, to name a few. So if a post-abortive woman does seek help for these symptoms from a clinician, chances are they will not be recognized and addressed for what they are, and she will continue to suffer in silence. These women are the walking wounded. And this doesn’t address the effects on fathers when they lose a child to abortion.

I don’t write this out of self-righteousness — because it could have been me when I mistakenly thought abortion was fine. I stand in solidarity with women and men who now suffer from and have been victimized by this tragic and traumatic decision. It’s a fateful decision packaged benignly as a choice.

Abortion affects us all. In this country, millions of women have had abortions since Roe V. Wade. We have lost 55 million babies and counting. So, despite the mantra that abortion should be ” safe, legal and rare,” it is only one of those. We all need to ask ourselves some difficult personal questions about what we are doing and not doing to let this holocaust continue.

After four decades, it is time to end the silence.

Sara Alexander, of Etna, is a wife and mother of two daughters. She has professional and personal experience supporting people with disabilities.

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