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Special Report
September 19, 2012
Pro-abortion advocates talk of “back alley” abortions while ignoring life-giving alternatives for women in crisis pregnancies.

“When I went to Planned Parenthood for my five abortions, I was never given any sort of a choice other than to pay my money, sign the papers, and go in the back for the procedure,” says Lisa Kratz Thomas.

Kratz Thomas, a former drug addict who turned her life around and is now a mother, motivational speaker, and talk-show host, said her quick fix with abortion didn’t help her with her greatest needs. “It was very impersonal, and it was like, the less talk the better. There was no interaction with the staff and hardly anyone talked about the procedure. No asked ever asked me about what needs I may have had, or why I was a repeat customer.”

Every four years as election rhetoric heats up, pro-abortion advocates threaten that a vote for a pro-life president would send women to the “back alleys” for abortions—and this year is no exception—but the back alley reality may already be here.

The idea of the back alley abortion has long been a tactic used by pro-abortion supporters to scare voters into believing that without legalized abortion women would be faced with unethical doctors, unregulated surgeries, emergency room visits and even death due to botched procedures.

Marilisa Carney, one of the co-founders of 40 Days for Life, says, “Planned Parenthood, in their factory approach to abortion, has really legitimated the back alley. In their focus on profits over women’s health, Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry promote that which they were supposed to rid society of.”

The back alley statistics were first cooked up by abortionist Bernard Nathanson, the co-founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortions Laws, which became the National Abortion Rights and Action League (NARAL). He claimed that 5,000-10,000 women lost their lives annually from botched abortions. Nathanson, who performed more than 75,000 abortions during his career—including on his own child—later admitted to concocting the numbers to help legalize abortion.

As many states, such as Virginia and Tennessee, are making attempts to require attending doctors to have admitting rights into hospitals, others have very few requirements when it comes to informed consent and even standard practices required in other sectors, such as follow-up appointments after a procedure.

Dr. Timothy Field of College Station, Texas, an obstetrician/gynecologist who has helped post-abortive women with complications, said: “I would ask them when their next appointment is and the women would say the same thing: ‘I don’t have one. In fact, they told me not to contact them if something went wrong, but to call 911.’”

Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson said that while Planned Parenthood’s intention used to be to truly help women, the abortion giant has wavered in its conviction. “Planned Parenthood’s mission, on paper, is to give women quality and affordable healthcare and to protect women’s rights. In reality, their mission is to increase their abortion numbers and in turn increase their revenue.”

“The abortion industry provides a ‘quick fix’ and focuses more on the immediate effects of the crisis,” Johnson explained, “giving women an ‘out,’ rather than focusing on the long term effects of the woman’s choice and the reality of what is best for the woman.”

Johnson, who joined the pro-life cause just a year after she was named the regional Planned Parenthood “Employee of the Year,” stressed that the organization does not provide good health care. As a result, an abortion clinic is “a place women go and are not only left confused because they do not hear the ‘truth’ about abortion and their choices, but they are also in a sense abused by the medical procedures that are performed without quality medical instructions/information. It’s a tragic place.”

The problem is not resolved by taking abortion out of the clinic. RU-486, or the abortion pill—commonly referred to as a medical abortion—also poses numerous problems and risks, not always made known to those who take it.

“RU-486 was approved in 2000 by the Food and Drug Administration to chemically produce abortions,” says Chris Gacek, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. “The promise was that the drug was safe, but experience has taught us that it fails frequently, often causes excessive bleeding, and can produce severe infections.” According to Gacek, one in 18 first-trimester medical abortions requires some sort of follow-up due to complications.

The abortion pill, which was developed to provide abortions for women in rural areas, has a higher risk of complications—complications that can go untreated given a woman’s remote location. In some places, such as Britain, the pill is only administered in the hospital where a woman can be watched, but in the US, the risk is compounded because a woman doesn’t have access to an attending physician.

The problem is exacerbated by those in poor nations who use medical abortion, but also don’t have access to adequate health care. “The track record established by RU-486 makes it clear that the push for the widespread use of medical abortion in poor nations is inhumane and detrimental to the interests of the female patients who take these pills,” Gacek explains.

“Those pushing for medical abortions in developing nations do so arguing that the short supply of medical capabilities argues in favor of making medical abortions available to women in these areas,” but, Gacek concludes, “Good conscience and good medicine require us to point out that the exact opposite is the case.”

In an article that appeared in Marie Clare titled “I Was Betrayed by a Pill,” Norine Dworkin-McDaniel explained her harrowing experience with RU-486, which came without any warning by the medical staff assisting her. “Nothing—not the drug literature, not the clinic doctor, not even my own gyno—had prepared me for the searing, gripping, squeezing pain that ripped through my belly 30 minutes” after taking the pill, Dworkin-McDaniel explained.

While she was aware of some risks, “[w]hat blindsided me…were the huge cystic boils that soon covered my neck, shoulders, and back,” Dworkin-McDaniel wrote. “I was also overcome by fatigue—an utter lack of ability to do anything more strenuous than sleep or lie on the couch. My brain felt so fuzzy, English seemed like a second language, and I couldn’t work. On top of all that came depression: I sobbed constantly. I wouldn’t leave the house. I stopped showering.”

Her doctor told her that such dramatic reactions weren’t uncommon and prescribed an anti-depressant for her to take until she felt better, which took a full nine months.

“It doesn’t help that those who dispense mifepristone/misoprostol (the active drug in the abortion pill) don’t always know as much about the drugs as they should,” Dworkin-McDaniel added. “In fact, at the clinic I visited, the doctor couldn’t tell me which hormone the combination used.”

The consequences of abortion can extend beyond the immediate aftermath of the procedure. The psychological and physical damage done by abortion doesn’t end once the woman has recovered from the procedure, says Victoria Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel, a resource for post-abortive healing. “Women who have had abortions may feel sadness, guilt, confusion over what they are feeling. The list of lingering effects is long.”

“There can be depression, chemical dependency issues, suicidal ideation and attempts. There can be difficulties in subsequent pregnancies, reduced fertility, premature births if there are two or more abortions, relationship problems with the father of the aborted child. The majority of relationships disintegrate after an abortion. Promiscuity or sexual dysfunction, repeat pregnancies, etc. … the list goes on,” Thorn continued.

“One thing that no one speaks about is that mothers carry cells from the children they conceive, even in a miscarriage or an abortion, for at least 40 years. These cells are scattered throughout her body and in subsequent pregnancies, she also passes them to her other children. It is biologically impossible to forget these pregnancies. The phenomena is called microchimerism. There is still much to be learned, but it is a certainty that they exist.”

“Women may also struggle spiritually if they have a faith background and conclude that they have committed the unforgiveable sin,” Thorn said. “The woman may seem to be fine for many years and then a life event sets off the grief. Others struggle immediately after.”

Though abortion clinics might not offer alternatives, there are options that give women a real choice.

Mary’s Shelter, a five-year-old program meeting all the needs of pregnant women in crisis, has become a new model for authentically helping women. Comprised of a collection of homes in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia, the organization was founded by three homeschooling moms.

The shelter’s first resident was a Chinese woman whose husband’s work visa had just expired, forcing him to leave the country. Expecting their fourth child, the family knew she would be forced to have an abortion if she returned to China pregnant because of that country’s one-child policy. Although there was not yet an actual residence, the three moms of Mary’s Shelter scrambled to find a place for the mother and her three children, and were able to gather all the necessities for the family within a week.

The shelter, now operating on the shoe-string budget of $150,000 annually, has four—soon to be five—beautiful homes for pregnant women and their other children, in addition to transportation, child care, life-skills training, and assistance with further education. The shelter, which has no staffing costs, relies on the members of the local community for all the women’s needs.

Kathleen Wilson, the shelter’s director, says that their residents come from all walks of life and backgrounds. “We have married women who come from other countries, here on refugee status or lottery, waiting for husbands. We have women who have emotional issues and have been trying for years unsuccessfully to get life in order. We have young women who fall prey to men who are abusive and finally get the courage to leave. We have women who are just plain down on their luck, lost a job, lost a boyfriend, family disowned.”

The real key to success in helping the women, according to Wilson, is that they are motivated to change their lives. Those who come without any motivation “are the hardest to work with, usually do not stay long, and move on to another not-great situation.”

On the other hand, for women who are motivated, we “have seen much healing and transformation. Many women have gone onto make changes and find faith. Many complete school, training programs, or [their] GED and move on to the next step. Most of our mothers, through much training and guidance, are great mothers to their children.”

Having a proper home is key to helping a woman decide against abortion, Wilson explains, and many who come to Mary’s Shelter would have been left with no option other than abortion. “Many have no place to live, their family does not want the baby, will not keep them if they don’t abort; same with the boyfriend. Some lose jobs when the boss finds them pregnant or ill. They think they cannot afford rent and a baby.” 

For women who have already had abortions, Project Rachel, an official ministry of the Catholic Church, has spread worldwide to help bring peace and healing in its aftermath. It relies on trained caregivers, mental health experts, and spiritual directors. Thorn explains that Project Rachel finds the appropriate assistance to meet a woman wherever she may be in the healing process.

While “the common goal of both the pro-choice and pro-life movements is to help women in crisis, the difference is the ways that they provide care for these women,” Abby Johnson explains, but there are better options than abortion clinics.

“Our tax money should go to organizations that provide comprehensive care to women, men, and children. Planned Parenthood provides shabby, limited health care,” the former Planned Parenthood clinic direct concluded. “Why would we want women to get some health care when they can go to a different clinic other than Planned Parenthood and receive total health care?”
 
About the Author
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Carrie Gress 

Carrie Gress has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She has worked as the Rome Bureau Chief of Zenit's English Edition and a Junior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, serving as the assistant to George Weigel. She lives with her husband and three children in Virginia.
 

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