From Campus Reform: A group of University of Michigan professors recently suggested that abortion providers should be more open about the “gruesomeness” of their jobs.
Professor Lisa A. Martin, et al. published an article in the most recent issue of Social Science and Medicine, where they explain that abortion providers “self-censor” in order to avoid discussing sensitive issues such as “multiple abortions, grief after abortion, [and] the economics of abortion.”
Martin and her colleagues go on to note that many abortion providers face severe backlash for speaking up about these issues, but argue that failing to do so “results in costs to the movement itself.”
“One consequence is that nuanced public depictions of abortion workers are rare,” Martin explains, adding that “the absence of providers’ voices has created a vacuum in which stereotypical caricatures may dominate the public discourse.”
Indeed, the four authors claims that neglecting to talk about the “difficult aspects of abortion work [could] ultimately weaken the abortion rights movement,” referencing an argument initially made by the late Norma Leah McCorvey Nelson (the “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, who eventually became an anti-abortion activist.)
The professors reviewed the testimony of 96 abortion providers collected during a 2007 research study, and found that abortion providers tend to stay silent because of fear of “affirming anti-abortion stereotypes, challenging pro-choice movement messaging, and acknowledging moral ambiguities in abortion work.”
The paper elaborates that “while participants often commented about their pride in their work, many also identified moral uncertainties about whether or not providing abortions was always a good thing.”
“I still to this day say to myself I hope I’m doing the right thing. That never goes away,” said one abortion provider. “There’s part of this where you need some validation [that] what you’re doing is right.”
Another abortion provider expressed concern that she worked in an “abortion mill,” as anti-abortion activists call it. “It’s like a slaughterhouse—it’s like—line ‘em up and kill ‘em and then go on to the next one—I feel like that sometimes.”
Worry over whether abortion is murder also caused abortion providers distress, with one admitting that “I thought I was going to go to Hell and God was going to punish me if abortion was murder—I was like ‘Is abortion murder, maybe it is murder?’ I just sat there and used to think about that constantly.”
Others, however, expressed disappointment with the pro-choice movement’s perpetual defensive stance, exemplified by messaging focusing on the issue of choice rather than explicitly advocating abortion.
“Why can’t we have a pro-abortion stance?” one asked, while another wondered, “… can you say that on a bumper sticker?”
Regardless of the potential backlash that the practice could incur, Martin argues that abortion providers should nonetheless talk more about abortion because it “could strengthen the pro-choice movement” by offering “opportunities to grow, mature, and strengthen by developing new discursive messaging.”
“What kind of radical shift might we see in the nation’s polarization around abortion if some abortion providers routinely said, ‘Yes, abortion stops a beating heart and sometimes I do think of my work as killing—and yet I find it the most fulfilling work I could do’?” the authors ask near the end of the paper
Campus Reform reached out to Martin for more information, but did not receive a response.