St. Louis, Mo. was the site August 7-8 of the first national conference of Women at Risk, a U.S. coalition of women and their family members who have been hurt by abortion. Ninety people gathered to learn of ways of moving beyond the harm abortion does to women.
“We defined ourselves,” said Ann Vogel of Springfield, Ill., who co-founded Women at Risk with Miriam Dapra of Utah. “We will not be pigeon-holed into pro-abortion or pro-life camps, with their assumptions about who we should be and what we should do.” She maintained that the pro-abortion movement has tried to determine what women need, sometimes without input from women who have been hurt by abortion experiences. “They also judge our intelligence,” she said.
A major concern is the assumption on the part of those who do abortion counselling that women seeking information about abortion have their minds made up. “Many are only seeking information, and when they get to an abortion clinic, staff move to make the abortion happen,” said Vogel.
“When women come in for counselling, questions are thrown at them about coping with a baby and expectations of others. This is not counselling,” she emphasized. “People in crisis will grab onto any answer. Too much power rests with those who feel and talk as if they know what is best for the woman. Coercion can be subtle or blatant and can come from family, doctors, lovers, or counsellors. Seventy-five per cent of all (aborted) women report they were coerced in their abortion decisions.”
‘Been there…hated it’
On the other hand, Vogel argued, pro-lifers sometimes seem to think that women who suffer from abortions have gotten what they deserve. Women at Risk wants people from both sides of the issue to join them, as well as the fathers and families of women who’ve had abortions. “We are open to anyone who says, ‘Been there, done that, hated it.'”
A large part of the group’s mandate is to hold abortion providers accountable for injuries done to women through abortion procedures. In fact, the conference passed a resolution, which will be sent to the U.S. Congress, requesting legislation to regulate abortion. The list of proposed regulations includes: informing women of the risk factors associated with abortion and the alternatives to abortion; requiring that women considering abortion be given time to make a decision, and that they be protected from coercion; ensuring that abortion facilities meet certain standards, that they have emergency facilities, and that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals; and ensuring that abortionists can be held accountable to the women they claim to serve.
Vogel insisted that if abortion is just another medical procedure, “then physicians should operate under the same rules that govern all other medical procedures. We want a blanket national standard of care.”
Women at Risk acknowledges that it will be accused of taking the legality of abortion for granted. But the group believes that before and after an abortion, a woman should be treated like an adult. Vogel added they do not promote lawsuits as a way of dealing with post-abortion problems, but are willing to refer those women who want legal advice.
Another major goal of the conference was to push for the creation of state and local chapters of Women at Risk. The organization is open to the formation of Canadian chapters.
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