A book traces the story of the “regret for abortion” from the origins at the center of the anti-abortion movement


LAWRENCE – One of the main arguments of the American anti-abortion movement is that women who have an abortion will experience a deep sense of regret, mental anguish, anxiety, and all kinds of problems arising from the decision.

However, this account is not new, and a book co-authored by a professor at the University of Kansas traces its origins to the 19e century to the main strategy of opposing abortion today and how it has taken hold in politics, law and advocacy.

“Abortion Regret: The New Attack on Reproductive Freedom” examines idea historically, socially and politically. Alesha Doan is Associate Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a faculty member in the School of Public Affairs & Administration at the University of Kansas. Doan co-authored the book with J. Shoshanna Ehrlich of the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

“We examine the regret account of abortion, tracing its origins and adoption by the mainstream opposition,” Doan said. “One of the consequences of the regret story is that it describes women as uninformed about their reproductive health and encourages the state to intervene to protect women through anti-abortion legislation, which ultimately restricts the access of women to abortion. “

The authors argue that the narrative of regret is a long-standing paternalistic and protectionist strategy. It rose to prominence in the middle of the 19e century by elite doctors in the United States as part of the first campaign to ban abortion. While the practice was legal at the time, it was not necessarily safe or well regulated. This strategy was successful but eventually faded as the main tactic of opponents of abortion once the practice was banned.

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, and by the early 1990s the anti-abortion movement was gaining a reputation as radicals who bombed clinics, murdered doctors, and didn’t care about the well-being of women. The book traces how the leaders of the movement realized they needed a softer image, which might appeal to more centrist citizens.

They made the decision to put the grieving mother at the center of their message to show the commitment of the anti-abortion movement to the well-being of the woman and the fetus. The leaders developed new anti-abortion laws as a way to save women as well as the fetus from serious harm.

“Abortion Regret” traces how the new mainstream narrative also found its way into policy, analyzing state laws that regulate providers through tactics such as dictating details of clinic reporting, information that must be provided to women seeking abortions, limiting clinics with restrictions on hallway size, admitting privileges in hospitals and requiring “informed consent” before the procedure can take place.

While these tactics may be new, they come straight from the history book of abortion regrets which assumes that women cannot or are unable to make decisions about their own bodies and their health care, the authors write. Ehrlich explains that “by linking the current effort to limit abortion rights based on the regret narrative to the doctors’ anti-abortion campaign, the book makes it clear that abortion restrictions have always been about to manage women’s bodies and not just to protect potential life ”.

“The regret for abortion is based on a very strict understanding of women, who see them as divinely created for motherhood,” Doan said. “From this point of view, opponents see abortion as being at odds with a woman’s true call to motherhood, so the only reason she would have one is because she doesn’t know what the pregnancy is. abortion or was pressured to have one. “

In addition to tracing the history and evolution of the narrative, the book analyzes several court cases that have influenced abortion rights or opened the door to restrictive state-level laws. Interviews with emergency pregnancy center staff and analysis of the content of state anti-abortion policies detail the growing influence of the regret narrative and its use of the “grieving mother” figure in the community. center of his approach.

While some women who have had an abortion experience regret, Doan said, the danger lies in assuming that their individual experiential knowledge applies to everyone and provides a solid basis for politics.


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