The reproductive justice movement movement, and in particular campaigns like One in Three, are making great strides in combating abortion stigma by encouraging women to share their abortion experiences.
But as the next legislative session approaches, first-term state representative Molly White is using the story of her abortions to further limit Texans’ reproductive choices.
You may remember White from her Texas Tribune Festival panel, where she spoke at length about how the procedure causes mental illness and addiction—a theory that, as Rep. Dawnna Dukes pointed out, has been repeatedly disproven. When White told Dukes that she couldn’t speak credibly about abortion without having had one, Dukes replied, “To the world, I had an abortion.”
In a recent article, White spoke to The Texas Tribune in greater depth about her two abortions and how they prompted her to crusade against reproductive rights, birth control, and comprehensive sex ed:
We are women and we are designed to give birth, we’re designed to nurture, we’re designed to bond. It’s just nature,” White said inside her favorite coffee shop in Belton, the community she will soon represent as a first-term Texas legislator. “… And when we violate that natural way of having a child and giving birth, it’s going to affect us.
According to White, she aborted two pregnancies in her 20s. Her first abortion was a choice made “based on fear and lack of information”—both of which are the byproducts of abortion stigma.
Her second abortion was not her decision at all. White’s “father and family members” pressured her to terminate her pregnancy, and when she told her doctor that she did not want to go through with the procedure, he ignored her requests. If White’s story is true, that doctor should have his license revoked. All Texans should have access to licensed, qualified abortion providers who provide counseling to ensure that their patient is making the decision to have an abortion on their own. No one should be making another person’s reproductive health decisions without their consent—not Molly White’s family, not Molly White’s doctor, and not Molly White.
Now, White is pushing for even more stringent abortion restrictions, eliminating sex ed, and decreasing access to birth control. She claims that her abortions were followed by depression, addiction, and thoughts of suicide.
I don’t doubt the veracity of Molly White’s story of her abortions and the physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships that she experienced afterwards. While the most common feeling women and trans men report after having an abortion is relief, some people do feel a degree of regret and sadness following their choice to have an abortion.
Those feelings are normal. Having an abortion can be a stressful life event, especially for a person who has to overcome legal, financial, and social hurdles.
But evidence shows that, for people who experience sadness and regret after abortion, those negative feelings usually dissipate over time.
Moreover, people who carry an unintended pregnancy to term are just as likely to experience depression and regret—and more likely to face other health issues—as those who choose abortion.
Research has demonstrated and the American Psychological Association agrees that, if a woman experiences mental illness after an abortion, it is likely because she had an existing mental condition. Although Molly White claims that her abortions prompted her depression and addiction, many other people who have chosen to have an abortion say that the procedure saved their lives.
Additionally, some evidence indicates that negative emotions after an abortion can partly be attributed to the stigma that women and trans men face. In other words, it’s not their reproductive choices that cause sadness and stress, but people like Molly White who insist that they are “violating” nature and murdering fetuses.
Molly White’s personal experience with abortion does not give her the right to make decisions for other women about their access to abortion, evidence-based sex ed, and birth control. In 2015, she will no doubt be one of the most outspoken legislators in opposition to reproductive choice. We have to make sure our voices are louder.
Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.