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Opinion: Anti-abortion pamphlet raised re-traumatization risk

While the Vermont Right to Life Committee (VRLC) distributed a pamphlet about the “science behind the preborn” through the Addison Independent, I would like to take space to open the dialogue about the science behind re-traumatization. I hope that in writing this, I can clarify how access to reproductive choice impacts people who have experienced dating, domestic and/or sexual violence.
Recently in the WomenSafe office, a woman took note of the AddisonIndependent on the table in front of her. The Jan. 21, 2016, issue included, without my knowing, a pamphlet containing an objectionable collection of unsupported facts, blaming language and triggering stories that spoke to trauma relating to the abortion process. The woman looked at it, and then at me in confusion and shock; she was almost in tears.
Re-traumatization is a serious and frequent occurrence for many people that happens when the retelling of a trauma narrative causes intense physical and psychological reactions; the VRLC pamphlet has the potential to inflict intense trauma reactions on the people of our community.
We must remember that any reason a person gives for why an abortion is the right fit for them is automatically enough to justify it. People who were coerced into having abortions by abusive family members or intimate partners, people who have had abortions for the safety of their physical and/or emotional health, people who have had abortions for their physical safety in abusive relationships, people who have had abortions because of a pregnancy following a sexual assault, or any people experiencing a complex issue around their pregnancy deserve to be safe and respected in our community.
The headline on the first page says “Worst Decision Ever” in reference to abortion. VRLC states that there is a tremendous feeling of grief and remorse for people who choose to have an abortion. The American Psychological Association has concluded that abortion rarely causes any long-lasting or severe psychological after-effects. The VRLC also urges people to consider adoption rather than abortion. Adoption is a difficult route for anyone to take, and it is not fair to demand that people make such a sacrifice.
Lastly, VRLC used a harsh tactic in giving a fetus a voice to share its development in an effort to scare people considering abortion. The brain structures and nerve-cell connections that characterize the thinking and feeling parts of the brain are not completed until between the seventh and eighth months of gestation.
It is essential to pay attention to the many ways we may unintentionally alienate members of our community. WomenSafe will now be checking periodicals that come into our office for traumatizing material before we put them out. If other service and health care providers do the same, we could decrease the possibility of distancing survivors in our community. As we take steps toward making Addison County a safer, more supportive place, let us keep in mind that any personal decision regarding one’s own body is something that does not deserve outside judgment, but basic empathy.
WomenSafe extends our support to anyone experiencing dating, domestic and sexual violence regardless of their stance on reproductive rights. We understand that the impact of abortion is complex and the effects are person-by-person. We offer a 24-hour, confidential hotline that serves all of Addison County. You can reach us at 802-388-4205, on our website at womensafe.net, or find us on Facebook.
Haley Renwick
Outreach Advocate
WomenSafe
Middlebury

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