The Unspoken Coercive Element of Abortion

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When it comes to abortion, we discourse on subjects like rape, incest, the life of the mother, and viability. We converse over conscience and taxpayer funding. But there’s one region where we rarely venture but, quite frankly, ought to more often: Coercion.

When a woman, especially a young woman, faces an unexpected pregnancy, she may respond as one would in a crisis situation. Women in this position can be very susceptible to outside pressure. Coercion takes on many forms. Read testimonies from women who’ve had an abortion, and you’ll hear statements like, “My mom told me to,” or “I was threatened with ultimatums by the people I trusted.” During crises, a woman will sometimes distrust her own decision-making ability and be swayed by others who pose what sounds like a simple “solution.” This not to shift blame to outside forces but simply to show the immense power words can have on a woman at a time when she is seeking stability.

Stalwarts on women’s “choice” seem to overlook the fact that when a woman signs on the dotted line, there is often, behind the pen, someone holding her writing hand. According to one medical journal, in a study on women who’ve had an abortion, 64 percent said they felt pressured to do so. However, to be both transparent and fair, the study is on the high end of the spectrum as a Guttmacher report displayed a much lower result. But, no matter what the true number is, the percentage is not the point. The crux of the matter is that any type of coercion is going unchecked. Even a pro-choice advocate, Daniel Callahan, acknowledged the irony in his work, “An Ethical Challenge to Prochoice Advocates”:

“… [i]t is remarkably difficult to find much prochoice probing into the reality of coerced abortions. It is as if there is an embarrassed, sheepish silence on what would seem a matter of obvious concern for those committed to choice.”

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