Abortion remains one of America's most divisive issues almost five decades after it was declared legal nationwide. On one side, the belief abortion means killing a human being. The other, a wider explanation boiled down to "choice." That's one in a number of words and ideas and positions used to soften the reality of a life and death decision.
One of the toughest battles for people against abortion is addressing assertions around the issue that makes taking a life seem more acceptable. Like the contention that life doesn't actually begin till a baby's outside the womb.
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Myth: Not Really a Life Till Outside the Womb
"There's this idea that before the baby's born, nothing's really happening," said Danielle D'Souza Gill, author of The Choice: the Abortion Divide in America. "It's basically a nothing, and then all of a sudden *POOF* at birth, we have a baby."
As actor Nick Loeb, the director and writer of the new movie "Roe v. Wade" described his youthful knowledge of the fetus, "I grew up in a generation where we were told it was a clump of cells and a gob of goo when a woman got pregnant until the baby kicked."
In her book, Gill takes on what she calls myths accepted as fact. She points to the actual fact there's much more than nothing the first few weeks an unborn baby is forming and growing.
"In the first trimester alone, the baby's toes, fingernails, bendable elbows, nose, head, hormones, and heartbeat develop," she shared. "Only 18 days after conception, modern technology can detect the baby's heartbeat. We can see it beat after about 22 days. To say that the baby is not a person when it has a heartbeat is counterintuitive to science and the system we use on Earth to "determine life."
And as for those who say the baby isn't really alive or is just a clump of cells, Gill writes, "Overwhelming evidence shows us that the fetus does in fact feel pain as early as 13 weeks, even before the cortex develops."
Michelle Shelfer, who's counseled many post-abortive women and is one herself, writes in her book Prepare a Room about the humanity of the aborted unborn, saying, Unlike those we memorialize who lived full lives outside the womb, these unborn children were unknown. But they were real. Like our other loved ones, our unborn children were living people full of possibility. They had beating hearts and blood flowing through their veins. And they were ours."
Myth: Women Aren't Wounded by Abortion
There's a myth women aren't wounded by abortion. Shelfer takes that on in her book, writing, "The blow to a woman's identity that occurs with abortion can be likened to a racehorse that loses a leg, an athlete who suffers a disabling injury, or an artist who goes blind. Except that we did it to ourselves."
She also writes, "Abortion deals a heavy blow to both the body and the mothering nature. In this one dreadful act, the mother is undoing the natural process of lifegiving that was started in her body. She truncates not only the life of the child…but also the biochemical and hormonal fast-moving train her own body was on. This can't but help have ramifications for her as her body processes the assault."
Gill recounted in her book, "Another woman described her experience to Cosmopolitan magazine, saying, 'Emotionally I was a wreck. I cried through the entire ordeal. I was so sad even though I knew it was the right thing to do right now...It's one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life.'"
And it gets more dangerous and can be more harmful to the woman the longer she waits.
Gill writes, "The CDC estimates that the risk of death for a woman undergoing an abortion increases by 38 percent for each additional week of gestation. With every week of pregnancy that passes, larger and sharper fetal bones are being forcibly removed, and they could puncture a woman's uterus or cause a tear in her body… More likely is increased risk of excessive bleeding and hemorrhaging because the placenta is tightly attached to the lining of the womb at this stage in pregnancy and has been forcibly ripped off."
Brandi Swindell of Stanton Healthcare opened a pro-life pregnancy center next to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Boise, Idaho, and has dealt with thousands of pregnant women, many of whom chose to end their baby's life.
"All the studies show and all the stories from heartfelt women show that they have been deeply wounded by abortion violence," Swindell asserted. "Abortion is a violent act on a woman's body and, of course, we know it takes the life of an innocent child."
"We have seen ourselves at our worst. This may result in the background noise of guilt, anxiety, or self-doubt," Shelfer writes. "Our grief in abortion is a double-grief. We suffer not only the loss of our child but the loss of ourselves as mothers. What a terrible hole this leaves in our sense of self."
Gill writes, "Most women feel deep sadness and regret after aborting a baby. Jennifer O'Neill, an American actress, and supermodel, said, 'I was told a lie from the pit of Hell; that my baby was just a blob of tissue. The aftermath of abortion can be equally deadly for both mother and unborn child. A woman who has an abortion is sentenced to bear that for the rest of her life.'"
Myth: Men Should Have No Say
Then there's the myth men really don't have a role when it comes to deciding the matter of abortion. Some pro-choice types assert fathers-to-be and really all men should be taken out of the equation altogether.
"They want to make it really just between the woman and the abortionist," Gill said.
40 Days for Life's Steve Karlen writes in his book This is When We Begin to Fight, "Men, in particular, tend to sit on the sidelines of the abortion controversy. It's long been an issue that we've been told we aren't entitled to form an opinion on. 'My body, my choice.' 'You can't get pregnant.' 'No uterus, no opinion.' 'Another white man telling women what to do with their bodies.' For most of us, we just think, 'Why risk being ostracized as a 'misogynist' for standing up for life?'"
Karlen told CBN News, "Every child that I've ever met has both a mother AND a father, and half of the victims of abortion, in terms of the babies, are male babies. And so, I think it is disingenuous for those in the culture that has tried to claim that this is a woman's issue only."
He concluded, "We've had 50 years of seeing how that works out for us, and the answer is that it hasn't worked out. We've got broken families, broken communities, broken relationships and a lot of hearts broken and lives lost to abortion."
Myth: Men Aren't Wounded by Abortion
Shelfer argues against the myth a man isn't wounded by abortion.
She told CBN News, "He suffers a blow to his identity as a protector, as a father. Those instinctive and bred-in-the-bone identity issues are really assaulted when he steps back and allows his little one to be harmed."
Shelfer writes in Prepare a Room, "Men may be spared the immediate grief that abortion brings. They can put it out of their minds more easily than the mother, and go about their business without inconvenience. But over time, the primal imperative to protect his little ones that is endemic to the male identity is impacted by the realization that he has failed in his duties."
69 percent of men want abortion legal and 43 percent call themselves pro-choice. But Gill said there's another side.
"There are many other men who find it very heartbreaking," Gill stated. "And I think for them, it often ends up being kind of like PTSD, where they live with that for the rest of their lives, knowing that they couldn't do anything to stop the death of the child."
Gill writes in The Choice about one of those named Karl: "Even though he ended up paying for the abortion, it had a traumatic effect on him: 'I didn't know how I was going to survive; I wasn't going to jump off a bridge, but I probably would have drunk myself to death… I've thought about what happened every day for the last 32 years.'"
And Gill tells this tale: "Another man, Chuck Raymond, whose 18-year-old girlfriend had an abortion in the late 1970s, said that at the time he was in military training at West Point. He says that he suppressed what happened for many years. But years later, he says, 'I realized the tragedy that had occurred and that we had made a tragic choice.' He likens the mental and emotional anguish that follows abortion to the kind of PTSD that one might get after being on a battlefield. He has been haunted for years."
Shelfer in her book quotes Jim telling of numerous nightmares he's had about an abandoned woman and her daughter years after his girlfriend's abortion, writing, "I wake up from this recurring dream with feelings of shame and guilt. Sometimes I see the little girl from a distance, and long to hold her. But I know that is not possible. She is hauntingly beautiful."
Gill writes, "These kinds of voices are excluded from the abortion debate. The pro-choice side clearly doesn't care about how the woman's choice affects the man who is the father. While the Left acts as though they appreciate 'men expressing their feelings in other circumstances and encourage men to be 'vulnerable,' they don't actually want to hear what breaks the hearts of men the most."
Shelfer concludes, "In the instances where men are not allowed to have a role in the decision to have the abortion, they may be left undone by a loss they couldn't control. In this case, the grief may be immediate and palpable. Not only is sex without responsibility the inheritance of modernity, but so is the notion that the decision to have an abortion should be made by the woman alone, without regard to the man's desires. This is essentially emasculation. Either way, men may seem to walk away scot-free, but they do not escape. They are impacted in many ways. Some later in life as they reflect on the past. It may manifest in myriad ways as their essential role is laid bare for them to contemplate. The little one's grip is tenacious."
Myth: Abortion is 'None of My Business
Related to that is the myth that this really is just a woman's choice, nothing weightier than that. In his foreword to Karlen's This is When We Begin to Fight, Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life writes, "Some say that while they would never have an abortion, it's 'none of their business to stop someone else from getting one. This view, of course, forgets about the victim who needs our defense. We don't hear people speaking this way, for instance, about child abuse. 'I don't believe in abusing my child, but if someone else wants to abuse theirs, it's none of my business: let them have their choice.'"
Karlen himself writes, "When we as a society encounter a woman in crisis and tell her, 'I'm sorry but the best we can do for you – the best we're willing to do for you – is to take your money and kill your baby,' that's not good enough. That sends a message, not just to that woman, but to the entire world that there's not enough love in our hearts or in God's heart to help her triumph over a desperate situation. It sends a message that there is no hope. Abortion is a product of despair."Myth: Abortion is Just an Issue
There's the myth that abortion is just an issue. Also in his foreword to Karlen's book, Father Pavone writes, "We can sometimes end up thinking that abortion is ultimately a debate or a difference of opinions, albeit strong opinions. But abortion is not so much about beliefs as about bloodshed; not so much about viewpoints as about victims. Some who support abortion say we should 'agree to disagree.' But when violence is being carried out, we don't sit back and agree to disagree with the perpetrator. Rather, we stop the perpetrator."
Myth: Unborn May Be Humans, But Not Persons
Another myth is the unborn may be human, but they aren't persons with the rights all people naturally have.
"And this goes down to really their very existence and their very ability to live or die," Gill said.
In her book, she writes, "There is no difference between a human being and a person. When it comes to your human rights or your basic or natural rights, all human beings are persons, and all persons are human beings. As soon as we differentiate between "humans" and "persons," we have set the stage for man's most perverse horrors. This is the justification the Nazis used, claiming that Jews are humans but not persons. This is the justification used for slavery, claiming that blacks are humans but not persons."
Gill also stated, "Hillary Clinton has said she believes that rights of personhood begin only at birth. Her words when she was running for president in 2016: 'The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights.' This pro-choice argument denies that there is such a thing as intrinsic or inalienable rights. There are only the rights that are conferred by the state. Roe v. Wade, in a sense, proclaims the non-personhood of the fetus prior to viability."
These four authors – Gill, Shelfer, Karlen, and Pavone – all agree: if and when myths and falsehoods are ripped away, society must then cope with the devastating truth that abortion takes the life of a person just as real as each of us.
Have you have had an abortion, are contemplating ending your pregnancy, or would like pregnancy-related resources, please click here.