Abortion should be legal and safe. That said, I was concerned after reading Janet Harris’s Aug. 17 Outlook commentary, “Stop calling abortion a ‘difficult’ choice.” I am in the same camp as Hillary Clinton, Planned Parenthood and many others who believe that the decision to have an abortion is far from easy. The decision should be difficult. When a woman chooses an abortion, she is making that decision for herself and for the fetus she is carrying.
I had an especially difficult time with this point about abortion rights groups: “Once these groups locked themselves into a discussion of ‘choice,’ terminating a pregnancy became an option rather than a necessity.” Terminating a pregnancy is an option. Other options include carrying a baby to term and raising the baby or giving the baby up for adoption.
Each woman should make this decision for herself, and she need not justify her decision to anyone. But if women who choose abortion find the decision easy, then we have lost our humanity.
Ellen Levin, Columbia
Janet Harris wrote, “To say that deciding to have an abortion is a ‘hard choice’ implies a debate about whether the fetus should live, thereby endowing it with a status of being. It puts the focus on the fetus rather than the woman.”
Ms. Harris should be thanked for stating the issue so clearly: the “status of being” of the unborn human creature, growing in the mother’s womb. That’s not to say we should ignore the difficulties a woman faces with an unwanted pregnancy, as happened to Ms. Harris in her teens.
Yes, focus on the woman (and maybe on the potential father while we’re at it). But many of us will continue “implying that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue,” to use Ms. Harris’s words.
Peter Kenny, Glenn Dale
Janet Harris called out groups such as Planned Parenthood for sometimes referring to abortion as “a difficult decision” because this language may demean or stigmatize women who do not feel this way.
Ms. Harris wrote about her own abortion, which for her was not a difficult decision. Similarly, my abortion was not a difficult decision, but it was not without meaning.
Planned Parenthood provides abortions to women of many different backgrounds and circumstances. We try to make room for women’s wide range of experience and emotion. For some women, abortion truly is difficult — because the pregnancy resulted from coerced sex, because the pregnancy is wanted but not viable or for many other reasons. Those of us who provide reproductive health services strive to do so without judgment.
We can all agree, as Ms. Harris herself says, that what is increasingly difficult about abortion for many women is access. Legislators are taking away safe, legal abortions, and the women who need them indeed are caught in a difficult situation.
Dawn Laguens, Washington
The writer is executive vice president and chief experience officer of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.