Women's ability to time, space,
and limit their childbearing is a necessary condition for their
health, and addressing political attempts to restrict women's
reproductive rights is a key element in any global health agenda
for women. Abortion is a 'front line' for the defense of women's
reproductive rights because anti-abortion politics is a leading
edge for a broader right-wing agenda. Meanwhile, worldwide, many
women wish to limit or space births. Each year an estimated 22
per cent of all pregnancies are terminated by abortion.
Anti-abortion advocates have used
many strategies to restrict women's access to abortion, but their
claim that abortion damages women's mental health has particular
implications for feminist psychologists. If this claim is accurate,
then we want to understand how such damage happens and work to
ensure that women have access to prevention and treatment by qualified
mental health providers. If this claim is inaccurate, then we
have a responsibility to counter it, as 'silence is consent'.
Because claims that choosing to
have a legal abortion can damage women's mental health have not
been substantiated in the scientific literature, pro-life advocates
use cyberspace, which has no peer review, to get out their message.
Abortion is constructed as a wrong and shameful act that leads
to a psychological disorder labeled as 'post-abortion syndrome'.
Women are told to expect 'anniversary reactions' and to 'admit
their personal responsibility', to pray for others and recognize
that 'they too acted out of ignorance, fear, or petty human selfishness'.
Women, labeled as having 'post
abortion syndrome' are referred to attorneys set up to sue physicians
for psychological damages. Meanwhile pro-life advocates attempt
to pass legislation to impose criminal penalties (which cannot
be insured against) for causing such damages. If these efforts
are successful, abortion may be legal, but unavailable because
no physician will dare to perform one. Although this claim originated
in the US, it has spread to England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland,
New Zealand, and central and eastern European countries, among
others. Given these circumstances, having research-based knowledge
about abortion readily accessible via the Internet is essential.
The Psychological Issues Section
provides a source of empirically based knowledge and informed
opinion about the psychological aspects of abortion and related
reproductive health issues from a feminist perspective. Because
the issues are international, the Task Force on Reproductive Issues
of the Society for the Psychology of Women has joined with Pro-Choice
Forum to create a Psychological Issues Section. The Section emphasizes
feminist scholarship and practice, and promotes policies that
advance equality and social justice.
The Psychological Issues Section
is chaired by Linda Beckman, Marie Harvey and Nancy Felipe Russo
and has an international Advisory Group that includes Hortensia
Amaro, Mary Boyle, Henry P. David, Susan Dudley, Ann Furedi, Ellie
Lee, Victoria Tepe and Gail Wyatt. Please send suggestions and
information for the Section to Linda Beckman (firstname.lastname@example.org
Adapted from: Russo, N.F., and
Beckman, L.B (Spring 2002). 'Taking feminist psychology into cyberspace'.
The Feminist Psychologist, 29(2), 24-25.