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Thursday, 20 September 2018 09:43

Abortion Coercion Admitted

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Portman says: “Sometimes even in the best of circumstances we understand that a person is to a degree being coerced but feel they still need to go ahead.. because it’s their only choice, because otherwise this person will leave them, and their 4 kids (for example).    it’s very hard to know what to do in those circs so you go ahead with what their choice is even though to a degree they are being coerced. Let’s try this approach this in other settings:

  • A woman attends to undergo a breast enlargement saying her boyfriend is going to leave her if she doesn’t have it so she feels like she has to.
  • A woman requests a tubal ligation saying her husband is going to leave her if she doesn’t have it done, even though she isn’t really sure.
  • A woman says she is having sex every night with her husband or one of his friends, even though she doesn’t really want to, but feels she has to because he will leave her otherwise.

In each case the woman says this is her ‘choice’ while also talking about ‘not really wanting to’. I wonder how many doctors would proceed with a cosmetic surgery procedure or a tubal ligation when a woman is clearly expressing doubt or clearly expressing that her partner is pressuring her and she is consenting under coercion? How many people would accept that a woman having unwanted sex with any person because she is fearful of abandonment or threats of violence is okay? For more than a decade we have been talking about both direct and indirect forms of coercion toward abortion, and abortion advocates and providers have denied coercion exists or simply stated that if they identified that a woman was coerced an abortion wouldn’t be performed. It's not that big a leap backwards from 'my husband will leave me or hit me' to 'I don't have enough money' or 'I will lose my job' or 'my school will kick me out'.   Yet these types of situations would make up the bulk of those experienced by women seeking abortion and we still dress them up as 'choice'. I have dozens of cases in front of me of women who experienced coercion to abort, both overt and subtle, from partners, mothers, employers and inside abortion clinics by doctors.   Such coercion can be direct threats, threats to withdraw support or lose jobs.  They include women who are pressured to abort after being told they aren’t possibly capable to providing for this baby and still support other children.  They are also women who cried in front of the abortion provider saying they were unsure or they didn’t want to do it. At least now if nothing else comes out of the Queensland hearings, these women’s stories are validated by Portman’s revelation.

  • Abortion providers do abortions on women they know are not fully consenting.
  • They do not care about the exercise of the woman’s right to freely choose.
  • Abortion ‘rights’ are not about women’s rights to autonomy, freedom or control of her own life.
  • They do not abide by the most basic tenet of informed consent; that is that a person must be free from coercion and able to exercise his/her own will.

How much more evidence is needed by our politicians and the public that abortion is not serving the needs of women when even abortion providers admit to completely ignoring coercion? In the same hearing, the Director of Marie Stopes, Philip Goldstone states that his organisation is currently working to develop tools to assess for coercion.  I have to wonder for what purpose, when it appears to make no difference whether consent is free or coerced anyway. We must do better than this for women.       

Click here to read Debbie Garratt's paper on abortion coercion: 

Debbie Garratt

Researcher and Counsellor

Debbie Garratt is a Doctoral Researcher and Registered Nurse, founder of Real Choices Australia, a research and education organisation dedicated to ensuring the dissemination of accurate information about the needs of women experiencing challenges during pregnancy and early parenting, and about the adverse impact of abortion.   Underpinned by experience across a range of sectors as a counsellor and adult educator for almost 3 decades, along with 2 Bachelor Degrees and a Master’s Degree, Debbie’s expertise on the issues of abortion and coercion, and breaking down the ideological barriers to abortion discussion is highly sought both nationally and internationally.

Through the Pregnancy and Parenting Care Network, Debbie has developed standards of practise for pregnancy support services and professional development education programs which are used nationally and internationally.