Teen Vogue has taken heat recently about their treatment of abortion. They’ve published upwards of 63 articles on the topic in the past few months–some surprisingly flippant. Why this “teen” magazine is trying to promote abortion to minors is anyone’s guess.
But to give credit where credit is due, Teen Vogue has just published a piece of greater depth on the subject. While not explicitly pro-life, the poem “What It’s Like To Have An Abortion You Do Not Want” does justice to the mass of conflicting feelings and lingering losses experienced by many post-abortive women. It also offers compelling commentary on how our cultural values of commitment-free sex and individualism have failed young women.
Commitment Free Sex Makes Women Vulnerable to Betrayal
One of the first things the author says she “wished she knew about abortion before having one” was the betrayal of the father of her unborn child: I wish I knew that the guy that impregnated me after dating for one month, who had an “INTEGRITY” poster hanging up in his bedroom (no lie) would immediately run, saying he would pay half, and never paying half, just disappearing.
It’s unclear whether the betrayal was the author’s impetus for considering abortion. It’s placement in the poem indicates that it was a contributing factor. It is not difficult to imagine that the author may have made a different decision had her partner stepped up for her and the child, expressed a wish to support her and the baby. In any case, his hypocrisy (with the “Integrity” poster) was something she “wished she knew”—maybe because had she known, she would not have engaged in a sexual relationship with a man who would run at the first sign of her pregnancy.
Pushing Individualism Can Have Tragic Consequences
In categorizing the breathtaking cowardice of the poet’s boyfriend as hypocrisy, the poem takes a stand against his selfishness.
More subtly and poignantly, the author reveals how our culture’s exaltation of the individual played a role in her abortion, leading her and women like her to trade the real for the ephemeral: I wish I knew that I was making the decision based on my own dreams, dreams that would never come to fruition.
How often are millennial girls (especially middle-to-upper-class millennial girls) told to “follow their dreams” as the paramount goal of life? Isn’t this “value” sold to them more than the values of being a kind person, a reliable person, an honest person? Above being a caring friend, family member, citizen? The consequences of a “my-dreams-first” value system is that it compels some women to be fearful of their fertility and anything else that could disturb their plans.
Abortion Not Just About A Woman and A Doctor
The saddest revelation was the reaction of the author’s mother—the grandmother of her unborn child—who pushed for the abortion: “I decided I would keep it. When I told my mom she said no, you’re not. I felt so helpless and lost, so I listened.”
Bravo to Teen Vogue for publishing an account proving that abortion is not always “between a woman and her doctor.” Rather, it is sometimes the result of intense external pressure from the people the mother loves and needs most—including boyfriends and parents.
All Woman Deserve Better
The poem leaves many questions unanswered. The author writes: “I wish I knew that it was the best decision for myself at the time, maybe I would never know if it was the right decision, but it was the best one.” If only we could listen in more depth to the author’s thoughts on this dichotomy. Why was it the “best” decision “for the time?” Even though she never achieved her dreams? Even though she says that she would “never again be the 100% upbeat, positive person that [she] was?” Isn’t the “right” decision in the long run, the best one?
How I wish those around the author could have given her the gift of time and resources to make the right decision—instead of a “three minute” window on a cold, hard table in a clinic, bereft of support for anything else. And though she tragically writes that she would “never fully forgive herself”, I hope that she can experience complete forgiveness and healing from her loss.
Most of all, I am grateful to the poet for expressing so movingly her lived experience as a post-abortive woman. Teen Vogue’s readers will have the opportunity to see the other side of abortion, and how it can leave wounds that last far beyond the operating table.