The solemnity of abortion

Twenty years ago I wrote the forward to the book "Abortion: My Choice, God's Grace" by Anne Eggebroten. Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, if you haven't read this book, you should. It is a compilation of stories of Christian women and their abortion experiences. In the forward, I wrote:

"Abortion is almost always a difficult decision, no matter how much bravado a woman displays. I am continually awed by the spiritual struggle women go through as they face the decision, their introspection is admirable, and their anguish is quite real. … More than anything else, being able to choose and being affirmed in that choice gives a woman peace."


I then went on to write about the spiritual damage the various denominations of the Christian church do to the women in their congregations who've had abortions, either through excoriation of abortion or complete silence about abortion.

Twenty years later I find I need to write about the damage the Planned Parenthood videos are doing to women who've had abortions. Not from the angle of the filmmakers, but from the angle of the clinic staff and doctors and the leadership of Planned Parenthood.

The thing that has many people disturbed, even outraged, on either side of this issue is the seemingly cavalier attitude toward the aborted fetuses by the clinic personnel. They laugh, they make jokes, they appear to haggle over the price of the body parts and they describe making it "less crunchy." And every woman who has had an abortion is now is wondering "Did they talk like that about my abortion?"

Women don't go skipping into abortion clinics ready to get their party on like it's just another day of fun. Women do anguish over the decision; it is a solemn act that should be treated as such, even in the back rooms of the clinic. Many times when speaking to women about their abortion, they've told me they cried through the whole procedure. They cry and they have anxiety about the procedure and whether or not they will be judged by friends and family. Many women feel they've failed because they didn't prevent the pregnancy in the first place, even more so now than in the past, as there are so many contraceptive options out there and morning after pills are over the counter. Or they feel they've failed because their life circumstances were not conducive to having a baby.

Abortion is something they will never forget. Many can clearly tell you the details of how they felt when they learned they were unexpectedly pregnant, their thought process that followed, the day of the procedure, the clinic, the doctor, the aftereffects of cramping and pain and sleeplessness.

It is disturbing that Planned Parenthood would make statements about investigating the filmmakers as their first response. Wouldn't it have been better to say you don't expect Planned Parenthood personnel to conduct themselves in this way and you would certainly look into it? Perhaps to acknowledge that abortion is a difficult but often necessary procedure, and we respect the women who find they have to make that decision and we meant no disrespect? And we will issue new guidelines for exactly what costs can be recovered in harvesting the fetal tissue for research so that we remain firmly within the law?

Planned Parenthood is a great organization that delivers quality reproductive health care across this country. But in the polarizing abortion debate, they've lost this round and they need to issue an apology. That apology should go to the women who've had abortions at Planned Parenthood on behalf of abortion providers everywhere. And once done, they should issue layoff notices.

Bunnie Riedel is a Columbia resident; she was founding executive director of the Southern California Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights from 1989 to 1994. Her email is