Denise Yankou’s abortion story is full of conflict. The self-described abortion rights advocate had an abortion last year, and while her abortion was easy and convenient, it left her feeling sad and deeply conflicted about how the pro-abortion movement describes abortions.
The beginning of her column at Alternet was very different from the end. She explained how she found herself pregnant at age 31 to a new boyfriend – “the more I learned about him, the more I didn’t like.” After taking five pregnancy tests, the New York City woman called Planned Parenthood to schedule an abortion.
I cried (with relief) when I called Planned Parenthood and they wanted me to come in the next day for the abortion. The next day!
Women across the country wait weeks for an abortion, hoping it won’t be too late for a first-trimester procedure by the time they finally get an appointment. They’re fed medically inaccurate information and patronizingly forced to “think over” their decision, as if they haven’t already. They have to figure out how they will pay for it, arrange childcare and find transportation, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles and over state lines to find a provider. Not me, though. I’m lucky enough to be a middle-class woman in New York City.
At her appointment, Yankou learned that she was five weeks pregnant, too early to have a surgical abortion because her unborn baby was too small; and she had to wait. After she had the abortion, she described feeling relieved but depressed. Friends around her tried to tell her that an abortion is normal, and she shouldn’t feel bad or afraid to talk about it.
“’It’s okay! Talk about it,’ said my friend. ‘Abortion should be normalized. Say you had brunch, got an aborsh, went to Pilates—no big deal.’ But it was a big deal to me,” Yankou wrote.
While she used part of the column to advocate for the same easy access to abortion that she had, with no waiting periods and insurance that paid for most of it, she clearly felt conflicted about what she was advocating for.
The “choice” that she made — one that abortion activists call a “right,” a simple medical procedure that is good and necessary for women — did not fit in with the narrative that she herself reiterated for so long. Her abortion was painful and sad, and it continues to trouble her a year later.
Yankou acknowledged that she was irresponsible when she got pregnant. She slept with a guy she barely knew and didn’t like, an irresponsible guy who didn’t want to be a father. She didn’t manage her finances well, and she was about to make a big career risk, leaving her stable, salaried job for one that was “more exciting but less economically certain.” She pinned part of blame for her sorrow on her age. At 31, she knew that her chances of getting pregnant are not what they used to be, and she does want children someday.
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Her conclusion was a painful one. She clearly is struggling with a conflict inside, as someone who has believed and fought for something for so long – only to discover that it is a lie.
Early in her piece, she wrote:
I consider myself an ardent feminist and abortion rights advocate, and have long said that if I ever became unexpectedly pregnant, I would have an abortion without a second thought. Pragmatically, I believe that it is not enough to be merely pro-choice. Choice means nothing if abortions are not accessible to those who need them. We have an obligation to help by petitioning, advocating and voting for candidates who will pass legislation and direct funding to make abortion accessible for all people—women, as well as transgender men.
But her conclusion revealed very different thoughts:
Before my pregnancy, I expected that if I ever needed an abortion I would feel grateful, exuberant and deeply satisfied that I was taking control of my own life. But I didn’t feel any of that for a long time after the procedure, and I still have complicated feelings about it. This experience seems to run counter to the pro-choice movement’s narrative, which emphasizes that few women experience post-abortion depression or regret. I wonder if there’s room for women who embrace reproductive choice but look back at their own abortions sadly, realizing they made the right choice at the time, but wishing that things could have been different.
Despite what the abortion lobby says, many women struggle with pain and regret after their abortions. The Silent No More Awareness Campaign has documented thousands of stories of women like Yankou who hurt as they slowly began to realize that they killed their unborn child.
Many in the pro-life movement are reaching out with compassion and support to women like Yankou who have been deceived by the abortion lobby. Programs like Rachel’s Vineyard, Surrendering the Secret and others offer confidential, non-judgmental support to help women and men heal from their abortion experiences and forgive themselves.