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Full disclosure - Tactical Ninja

Nov. 1st, 2011

09:55 am - Full disclosure

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Okay so today I'm going to talk about some stuff that's pretty damn close and pretty damn raw. I was going to talk about some fluffy stuff but then I read The Hand Mirror and something that's been brewing for a while popped up.

Y'see, I believe in integrity as the ultimate goal - that is, where what's on the inside and what's on the outside are the same thing. For me, part of it is disclosure. How can I have complete integrity if I'm not completely honest about myself?

What I'm about to say might piss some of you off. If it does, you'll have to deal with it. We clear? Good.


I'm doing this because New Zealand's abortion statistics were released on Friday. There's the usual pro-life rhetoric going on around them, and in response, one of the blogs I read is doing a week of pro-choice postings. This morning's one struck a chord - Abortion as an act of love.

I'm curious about people's reactions to that statement. As the post says, the pro-life movement seems to have collared the monopoly on love in relation to pregnancy, and abortion is generally seen, even by pro-choice people, as something to be avoided if possible. Because abortion is messy and bloody and whether you believe it's murder or not, it's not normally something people associate with feelings of love.

I've had two abortions.

The first was when I was 19. I was two months into a relationship with the man who was to become my husband and I have no excuse - it was a result of silly neglect on my part. I knew that I was in no position to be a mother and I didn't want to be one, and I was not about to bring a child into the world that I didn't want and wasn't mature enough to care for. The father supported me in this decision. It was all very straightforward but we didn't tell anyone, just went and did it. I had to tell two doctors that to have the baby would mess with my mental health and to be honest, it was true. So this was an act of love not only for myself - a young woman not even really started yet - but for the child that would have been brought into a world where its existence was resented.

Life went on and six years later I had my son. While I was still breastfeeding my son, I became pregnant again. This is relatively common - one is not supposed to use oral contraceptives while breastfeeding and those of you who know me well will know how my relationship was going at the time. Let's just say that sex by this time was not my choice. My marriage was a bitter, ugly joke, my husband was trying to convince me I was insane, and there was no way I was bringing another child into this. I knew I was going to become a single parent at some point and was not willing to set myself and my child/children up to live in poverty. I chose to abort the pregnancy. This time my husband did not support me*. I went ahead and did it anyway, and while I was there I got them to insert an IUD because clearly I'm pretty damn fertile. I've had an IUD ever since and had no more problems.

So. If I had not had those abortions I would have three children. One would be 20, one 16 and one about 14. I am trying to imagine how my life would have been had I chosen to have those babies. It's actually pretty hard, but I'm guessing I would have found it much harder to leave my marriage with three children, and even if I did manage that I would have had to support them somehow. I doubt my ex husband would be any more forthcoming with child support for three kids than he is for one. He probably would have fought harder to make me stay in the same town, and maybe succeeded. The reason I left Dargaville was because I was struggling more and more to stay away from him under the pressure he was putting on me to go back to our marriage and I knew that if I didn't leave, eventually I'd give in.

I see my son struggling daily with the effects of being brought up in that environment and I think about myself and two other children also being in that environment. Remember, when I left I was messed up enough to believe that this man was a better parent than me, that I was insane and that my parenting was bad for my kid. I was entertaining suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. Now imagine me and three children having spent the last 16 years in that environment.

Instead, I have one child who I love very much. I don't need to reiterate how my life has gone, suffice to say that I am not dead, I am not insane, and I am not abused.

The two abortions I have had were acts of love. Love for myself, love for the children who didn't have to exist, and love for my son who got the chance to have a decent mother because of it.

Do I have any regrets? Yes. I regret allowing myself to end up in the position where I thought leaving my son was better for him than taking him with me. How the fuck did that happen? You'd have to have been there to understand and I'm aware (oh god i'm aware) that nobody else can ever judge me as harshly as I judge myself for that.

But I don't regret those abortions for a second.

Apparently I'm supposed to, if you read all the pro-life stuff. Abortion is supposed to have long term damaging psychological effects, I'm supposed to grieve for those babies not born. But how can I grieve when I know that what I did was the best thing I could have done for them?

And what about me? In this pro-life worldview, once a woman becomes pregnant it seems she is somehow secondary to her foetus, and all of her decisions must be about its welfare, its health, its survival. She doesn't even come into it, apparently. We are supposed to happily birth babies regardless of how we feel about being a parent, about pregnancy and childbirth, about the risks and the opportunity cost - because love only counts if it's love for your foetus/baby/child. Love for yourself, what makes you happy and fulfilled, is of less importance than that of a zygote.

Which is, frankly, bullshit. Unhappy, sick, abused, suicidal Tats was no kind of a mother. Happy, confident, engaged, fulfilled Tats is a good mother. By performing this act of love that gave importance to my own happiness equal to that of my unborn child, I ensured that the child I chose to be a mother to has a mother worthy of the title.

So I suggest to you that the next time someone mentions abortion as a bad thing, as something we should reduce the number of where possible, or even goes so far as to call it an act of hate or pontificate that access to abortion should be reduced, have a think about how you consider abortion. Do you think it's inherently a bad thing? Why? And are these thoughts based in experience or are they based in some idea that's been put into your head by someone who has an agenda?

* My body, my choice. He tried to make it about him but it.just.isn't.


I'm leaving this post open. It's a risk, I know. But, full disclosure. And I'm tired of feeling like I should have to hide things. If this upsets you, deal with it.

If you thought I was a decent person before reading this and now you're wondering if I am, please check yourself.

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Comments:

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From:pythia
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
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*hugs*

If anyone thinks that having an abortion makes you less of a person, or less of a decent person, they're not worth your time and energy anyway.

I honestly think that a lot of the time, having an abortion shows a personal strength and willingness to actually DEAL with an unwanted pregnancy. I have absolutely no problems with it whatspever, and if I ever got pregnant, I'm 99.9% sure I would have an abortion. I don't say 100% because I suspect it's one of those situations where you never quite know what you're going to do until you're actually in said situation.

I quite the like the idea of abortion as an act of love. It quite often is done out of love, I think.

Thank you for sharing this.

xxx
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From:clashfan
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
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I've known several couples who have had abortions. It's never seemed capricious to me, which is how it's so often painted by the anti-choice crowd.

Over here in the States, the left sometimes says things like, 'Safe, Legal, and Rare' meaning that we want contraception to be so easy to get and destigmatised to use that unwanted pregnancies don't happen that often. I think that's a pipe dream, myself. People make mistakes. Especially young people. Especially where sex is concerned. Pah, you don't need my ramblings on US-istan politics.

I've always thought you were a decent person. Nothing here changes that.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
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The way that US politics has been attacking women's reproductive rights over the last couple of years is terrifying. I completely fail to understand the mindset that makes a foetus more important than a woman, until it's born after which nobody seems to give a shit.

And yes, mistakes happen, accidents happen and life doesn't go the way people plan it a lot of the time. Thanks for recognising that.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
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I'd suggest that access to contraceptives needs to be in that equation with the education somewhere too.

In my research for the essay about Project Prevention I discovered that over 3 million women in the United States do not have access to birth control. Many of these women are poor. And the government, I believe, just cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
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From:devifemme
Date:November 18th, 2015 05:09 am (UTC)
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Dear Tatjna -- Thanks for your response to my post on abortion policy today. (I hasten to add we're in mid-November 2015, in case you trip over this in future...) I just read your "Abortion as an act of love" (which I'll comment on over on my LJ) and started reading the 30-odd replies you've had to it.

But I saw your reference to the U.S. having "just cut funding to Planned Parenthood..." Obviously, I don't recall exactly what was happening in 2011. But I do think the Obama Administration -- all through this politically messy period -- had been defending those budgets pretty vigorously. So I just googled and can confirm that 4-year-old impression. Federal funding has continued.

I'm sure you're well aware of the current (2015) situation, with the Republicans constantly trying to de-fund PP (especially over the so-called "scandal" in which PP opponents secretly videotaped a couple of PP representatives... pathetic!). While some of our loony state governments HAVE succeeded in cutting some PP funding, the Obama folks have hung onto substantial Federal PP funding in the current budget. There'll be more fights in the next several months, but the President has threatened to veto any legislation that de-funds PP -- and Congress has grudgingly yielded to his determination.

Thanks again, sweetie!
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From:tatjna
Date:November 18th, 2015 05:18 am (UTC)
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That's excellent news!

Ober here we often hear of the ouyrage, but rarely the outcome.
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From:clashfan
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
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What's abstinence-only sex education effective for? It's a political football, used as a tool by the Right to scare parents into voting for their candidates. It's used as a wedge issue to keep the Christian Right in the headlines, soaking up donation money, and getting the attention they so dearly crave.

Part of the problem is the level of economic disparity--I'm too lazy to look it up, but I bet the difference in the US is quite a lot more than the difference in the Netherlands. Also, sex education is (usually) not a national issue; it's commonly left to the individual states to determine how they'd like to address it. Often, the states kick the decision to individual school districts, each of which has their own school board. As one can imagine, this leads to a patchwork of programs, initiatives, schemes, and curricula. Across a nation of more than 300 million people, in rural and urban areas, in rich and poor neighborhoods, in racially integrated and de facto segregated communities. It's not a shock that it doesn't work all that well.

Please to forgive my rant if you knew all this and your question was rhetorical in nature. :-)

Regarding the funding of Planned Parenthood--that's an even more tangled issue. Not sure if here is the best place to get into it. It's your space, and I'm happy to talk about it, but I don't want to threadjack. Any more than I already have. :-/
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From:tatjna
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
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Please go ahead, I'm interested to hear what you've got to say on Planned Parenthood. ;-)
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From:clashfan
Date:November 1st, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
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All right then! :-)

Planned Parenthood gets funding from a variety of sources: the federal government, state governments, private donation, sliding scale fees, and (I think) billing to private insurance. According to the Hyde Amendment (an addendum to federal budgets, dating from 1976), no federal funds may be used to pay for abortions. Thus, PP and other groups had to keep those funds separate--use those monies for birth control, Pap smears, education, outreach, anything that wasn't abortion services. (In 1977, they added language that allowed exceptions in case of rape, incest, or hazard to the life--not health--of the woman.)

Some but not all states have gone along with this, and allow no state funds to be used for abortion. New Jersey (at the insistence of its governor) has even cut *all* funding for Planned Parenthood, pleading poverty. The short-sightedness of this policy ought to be self-evident; most women who need state assistance to pay for an abortion would need help to pay for prenatal care and the birth itself--a much spendier proposition than a simple MVA or D&C. No matter! This is the same crowd who want to throw drug users and addicts into jail or prison rather than require outpatient treatment, another example of being penny-wise and pound foolish.

So. The thing about the US is that it's big. It's *really* big. In New Jersey, not having a Planned Parenthood in your town is difficult, but not a deal-breaker, as New York City is not all that far away, even by public transit. There are an awful lot of places in the US that are a six-hour drive (or more) from a city that may have a PP. And that's in a private vehicle, which not everyone has access to. Some states have tried adding barriers to abortion access (such as NZ's two-doctor rule) like requiring a 24-hour wait between a consultation and the procedure. This means the woman must get a motel room, probably pay for at least two more meals. I am not sure if these have been struck down as placing an undue burden on the woman--some have, but possibly others have not.

As an aside, the Hyde Amendment isn't just for Medicaid and grants to health clinics; it also applies to the Armed Forces, the Indian Health Service, and other programs. So now, you have a young Native woman living on the rez, far from a city of any size that has a clinic, and she has to come up with $300-450 for an abortion? Do you know how common poverty and addiction issues are in reservation life? Very. Extremely. A lot.

Back in the Dark Ages, when I dated men, I used Planned Parenthood for birth control. I was a community college student, too old for my parents' insurance and working only part-time. Community colleges only rarely have the student clinics that universities do (this may have changed in the last 15 years, I don't know). PP was basically my only option. I was fortunate enough to never get pregnant, but if I had, I would have aborted. For countless women, it the only reproductive health care they can get. I believe this with all my heart: Not funding Planned Parenthood kills women.
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From:russiandolls
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
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But surely "Safe, Legal and Rare", or however you wish to brand encouraging contraception use, is a good thing? I'm totally pro-choice, and I completely understand and support tatjna's confidence that she made the right decision, but for some people abortions are traumatic.

I've never had an abortion, but if I were to get pregnant now, for health reasons I'd have to get an abortion, and believe me I would grieve. I'd grieve because I really want a family, I'm at an age where I don't have all the time in the world left, and having to give up something that under other circumstances I'd be thrilled to have would be bloody difficult.

Not to mention the health risks associated with abortion....

I guess all I'm saying is that the psychological (and physical) effects of abortions will be different for every woman, and therefore minimising unwanted pregnancies must be a good thing (along with safe and legal access to abortions should the situation arise of course).
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From:tatjna
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
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Yep, I'm all for minimising unwanted pregnancies so that women are not faced with decisions about abortion as often.

What I would like to see stop is the value judgement placed on abortion as 'good' or 'bad' (in this case, almost universally 'bad'). Abortion is not inherently good or bad, it's just a medical procedure and it's the judgements people bring to it that are the problem.

It's perfectly valid to say "An abortion would be bad for me." It's not valid to say "Abortions are bad."

But you knew this. Sorry, I'm a bit ranty today.
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From:russiandolls
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
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No worries, I reckon we're totally on the same page :-)
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From:anna_en_route
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
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I thought you were a decent person before this and now I think you're a decent person who has had to make some hard and (in my opnion) brave choices in the midst of some awful circumstances.

Anyone who judges you based on those choices is lacking in human empathy in some fundamental ways.
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From:bekitty
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC)
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*applauds*
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 31st, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
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I personally regard abortion as a no-no, but I'm a guy, so what would I know???

I'm not into judging, preferring to leave that to the One who can read ones heart and understands All the circumstances, two things I'm pretty crap at.

As you've described the situations, I believe you have taken the right decisions and acted on them appropriately, so there's no blame or judgement from me. And I don't think any the less of you for your disclosure.

You're due a hug next time we meet IRL, OK?

T C :-)
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From:friggasmuse
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you had access to a safe, legal abortion and didn't have to wait months to obtain one. <3
I've had two abortions as well; one at the start of my relationship with Lee (we were too new of a couple to even think about raising a child together and I had just begun my apprenticeship) and one years ago, when I was 19 and involved with a man ten years my senior, who didn't ever want kids.

I am so glad I made these choices and had control over my own body. I can't even imagine how a third child or a first child during those times in my life would have affected my entire future.

Abortion IS an act of love.
I'm so thankful for reproductive freedom.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, me too.

Abortion here isn't legal, but there's a loophole that allows for the health of the mother either physical or mental, that has to be confirmed by two doctors. Consequently women can access abortion but still have to jump through hoops to get it, and that impacts negatively on those who have difficulty accessing two doctors within the time period (like women who live in isolated communities for example).

Pro-choicers in New Zealand are battling for it to be legal but we're not there yet. From what I hear, it's still miles better here than in the US. ;-/
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From:friggasmuse
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
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Ugh, that's awful!

Canada is pretty good. There isn't enough abortion clinics to go around so the wait period can be long, but it is omitted from your health records and the care providers are compassionate.

Stephen Harper (our PM) recently said he wants to reopen the abortion debate which frankly, terrifies me.
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From:missgriim
Date:October 31st, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
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I completely support you. <3
It angers me that people still think of women as baby making machines when that isnt even half of what a woman is. and it also makes me angry that a woman is thought of as secondly important once she's pregnant. fuck pro/lifer's.
You were smart to not bring children into an unwise enviornment. These experiences make us stronger.
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From:missprune
Date:October 31st, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
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I applaud you and think you are a fine person.
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From:downwardlashes
Date:October 31st, 2011 11:33 pm (UTC)
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Amen. I had an abortion before both kids, back when my now-husband and I lived in a derelict shack in the middle of nowhere, I had no job, he worked at a gas station, and neither of us had graduated college. So I had an abortion, and all I felt was huge, immense relief. Gladness. No one mentions that emotion connected with abortion, but I know even so that it was the true emotion for me.
Then, we moved, my husband went back to school, I got a job I loved, we got married, THEN we had kids. And it was all good, and I still am glad. Good for you posting this. I still haven't mentioned it to my own journal, though maybe some people I know will see this since it is public. That's okay. I wish more people knew that abortion doesn't ruin your life.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:November 1st, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
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*hugs!* i think you did the right thing. it is not an easy decision, certainly, but in the end, the only person who could or should make that sort of decision is you...

i had an abortion 3 years ago in april, when my fiance and i had only been together for about 5 months. we agreed that we weren't ready to be parents yet. it was not like we weren't using birth control - we just had a failure... anyway, it was the right choice. it's interesting to call it an act of love, but i can see it: it was more loving of me to spare the potential breakup of the prematurely created family, not to mention the fact that i was in the middle of grad school and working slightly less than full time and really not prepared for it mentally or economically...
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From:polychrome_baby
Date:November 1st, 2011 02:30 am (UTC)
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I've mentioned this a few places, so I certainly don't mind mentioning this here.

I had a pregnancy when I was 15 (to the age of 16) that ended in adoption. This was the best possible outcome considering all the intangible and tangible bits.

I had a pregnancy when I was 21 that ended in abortion.

I had a pregnancy when I was 35 (to the age of 36) that ended in the birth of my twins.

Each of these were right in their time and place. I am fortunate that I had the ability to avail myself of a private no-pressure adoption.

I am fortunate that I had the ability to avail myself of an easy and even quite early abortion (one that by current laws I'm not sure I'd even be able to, I was just a bit over 4 weeks pregnant, but was quite clockwork and immediately went to my doctor and scheduled the abortion which was then performed within the week - waiting periods and examinations being what they are now, I would have likely had to wait a good deal longer).

I am fortunate that I had the time and ability to not be a mother at all until I was actually in a solid position within which to do such. This made it possible to truly be a patient, open and caring mother to my two children. It also made it possible for me to not have children with the men who were the father of my previous pregnancies. They were singularly unqualified for fatherhood, and quite abusive.

Considering how I myself was so insane in my teenage years and early twenties, I don't know that I would have survived, and it seems quite likely that those children would have been put through hell.

So. Yeah. Abortion can be an act of love. Choosing to not be a mother can be a very loving act. It does seem like the more of us that are out about that, the better.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 1st, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
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Yes. It is almost expected that women will keep their personal story to themselves, as if it's something to be ashamed of.

I will not.
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From:polychrome_baby
Date:November 1st, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
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I refuse to be ashamed of who I am and what I have chosen. I refuse to shame others for the same. Especially when those choices do not result in babies growing up in absolute poverty, in emotional unstable surroundings, or physically abusive surroundings. Or even, just, not wanted.

Because, really, that last one is the final straw. How about all the babies born be wanted? How about that? How about I not shame a woman for not bringing a child into the world unwanted?
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From:tatjna
Date:November 1st, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
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We are supposed to all want children and any woman who doesn't is an aberration.

(in someone's version of reality. i think it's the same one where dinosaurs were god's gotcha and death is women's fault)
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From:guaparella
Date:November 1st, 2011 02:41 am (UTC)
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<3
Never a question. Just love for you.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:November 1st, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)
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I never got the pro-life thing. Shouldn't we all be deeply ashamed that when we do conceive we don't have a billion children? Otherwise, think of all those wasted sperm that won't turn into children.

Also, I am surprised it's not legal in New Zealand without the loophole you mention in another comment.

While I support women having the ultimate say in bearing children, I'd be really sad finding out a partner had one without discussing or mentioning it beforehand (not that it sounds like that was the situation for you!).
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From:caycos
Date:November 1st, 2011 03:56 am (UTC)
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It would be sad, but, it'd also be not your decision.. My personal view is that if I got pregnant and was considering an abortion I would like to be able to discuss it with the potential father, but there are so many reasons why this might not be possible.

One reason might be where the woman fears that the man will, even unwittingly, influence the woman to take an action she didn't want to take.

I'm not in any way suggesting this would be a place you personally would be in, but what you express is an ideal that doesn't fit in to so many situations.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 1st, 2011 06:59 am (UTC)
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I personally would not be ok with having an abortion without discussing it with the other person. In my case, I knew he would be against it but I was prepared to go against his wishes and bear the consequences rather than compromise my principle of honesty.

That being said, I also knew that I had made up my mind how I was going to deal with it and my informing him was about consideration and courtesy, not permission or agreement.

The first time, we discussed it and agreed. But that was different.
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From:bewarethefish
Date:November 1st, 2011 06:44 am (UTC)
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Having never been pregnant I can honestly say I don't have a clue as to whether I could make the decision to abort.

But do I support your decisions, and those of every other woman who does or doesn't make that decision? Heck yes.
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From:helianthas
Date:November 1st, 2011 06:53 am (UTC)
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I read this somewhere and really identified with it: "I love my children so much I decided not to have them."

I've always said I'd never have kids from my own eggs-- I've been unhappy that long. I had $300 in a jelly jar in my room when I was 14, we joked it was "the abortion fund", but all my friends knew that's what it was for: just in case.

My friends and I were lucky enough to have "scare 'em straight" yet still comprehensive sex ed and brave enough to insist on condoms -- it was kind of expected in the culture of my town, to tell you the truth, and I think most kids either went to another town over to buy em, shoplifted them, or took some from someone who did -- so I never had to use the fund.

What I'm grappling with right now is that I'd love to have a family someday, and while I still feel giving someone my DNA is a bad idea, it'd probably be a lot easier for me than adopting.

I'm a bit afraid to get pregnant because in my cace, i feel the loving choice is abortion and the selfish choice is to have the baby. "I love my children so much I didn't have them." It kinda hurts, but it's true.

So fuck anyone who says otherwise!

Off to read your link.

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From:danjite
Date:November 1st, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
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Personal decisions are up to the person.

In my experience, you are an excellent person.

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From:38
Date:November 1st, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for sharing this. I have always thought of you as a decent person and will continue to do so even more.
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From:rynhaiiro
Date:November 1st, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)

Thanks

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Thank you for sharing this. I wholeheartedly agree with what you have said.
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:November 2nd, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
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I would never judge you or change my opinion of you because of the information you shared. I also don't think you need me to say that. You are perfectly capable of validating your own experiences and you are the only person who counts.

There was a time in my life when pregnancy would have equaled abortion without question (though despite one close call I never had to make the choice). There was a time in my life when we were actively working to become pregnant. Now we really don't want another child, but I'm not sure I would have an abortion if it happened accidentally. The point is that a person's decisions and attitudes change depending on a number of factors and this is perfectly ok.

I don't feel that abortion is bad or good -- it's a choice that will depend on the person and situation. Prevention is statistically safer than elimination (risk of infection or complication, minimal though they are) and should be encouraged just in terms of lowered cost and complexity.

It's also a choice to be made by a single person and while not including other parties might have repercussions on various relationships, it should have no repercussion on the choice itself.
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