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NRL News
Page 2
October 2009
Volume 36
Issue 10

Impossible Motherhood”:
What the Story of an “Abortion Addiction” May Tell Us

BY Dave Andrusko

I didn’t wish to be burned by giving more credence than it might deserve to a story when it initially ran under the headline, “Abortion Addict Confesses 15 Procedures in 16 Years: Repeat Abortions Baffle Experts, as Author Irene Vilar Explores Her Impossible Motherhood.” So I waited a day to reflect. That in and of itself wouldn’t allow me or anyone else to know whether Vilar is making all this up, or grossly exaggerating, to sell her forthcoming book, Impossible Motherhood. After all, all we have to go on is the story written by Susan Donaldson James, and a short excerpt from the book.

But what we encounter is extremely revealing, on any number of grounds, for what it seems to tell us about a particular woman with many, many problems, and the larger ugly reality of repeat (and repeat again) abortions.

Accepting what may be Vilar’s after-the-fact spin, James begins by writing, “Irene Vilar worries that her self-described ‘abortion addiction’ will be misunderstood, twisted by the pro-life movement to deny women the right to choose.” Plus Vilar says she’s worried for her safety, probably because she senses an “inkling of hatred.” Talk about projection!

Without the book in hand, it’s almost impossible to figure out what Vilar—in the book or in her interview with James—is trying to say or to accomplish. The official explanation is that “Although her personal history is unique, Vilar hopes through her painful memoir to trigger a public discussion on abortion and what leads women—even after the feminist movement—to use ‘procreation as power.’” As we shall see, in some sense this is more true that Vilar may realize.

Without going into detail, Vilar’s early life was obviously very traumatic and she has chosen very poorly in picking out the men in her life. The relationship with her first husband, for example, “was riddled with shame, self-mutilation and several suicide attempts.”

Confronted with a woman who says she’s aborted 15 times, James has to try to figure out what is peculiar to Vilar herself and what it says about repeat abortions in general. We’re told that about half of women who abort have another abortion—and, more specifically, 10% of women have three or more.

A lot of times the circumstances are unusual and complicated,” said Rachel K. Jones, a senior research associate who co-authored a 2006 report from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute. Most of the women having repeat abortions are over 30, say they are using contraception, but who may be “‘perceived as having difficulty practicing contraception’ or are using abortion as a method of family planning, according to the report.” Adds Jones, in the understatement of the year, “There’s always a lot more going on than someone who does not want to use contraception.”

Even though there are many reassurances in the story that abortion is safe, various experts admit that multiple abortions decrease the chances of being able to carry a child to term. But I would think even the hardest-core pro-abortionists might pause when they read about the psychological ramifications.

The official party line is that mental health problems are “‘not a direct result’ of choosing to have one abortion,” according to James, quoting from a report from the American Psychological Association. (We’ll just let that go, for now.) “But the 2008 report did note that many ‘confounding factors might indicate mental problems’ in women who have repeat abortions.”

Indeed. There are more than a few suggestions in the story that multiple abortions are a kind of “self-mutilation,” a way of “escaping feeling empty,” as Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical assistant professor at the Northwestern University School of Medicine, described it. James writes, “Vilar’s pregnancies became compulsively self-destructive: After her 9th and 10th abortions, she ‘needed another self-injury to get the high.’”

Vilar, a literary agent and editor, has a series of explanations for “poor choices”: a “hypersexualized society”; the example of some sort of Hollywood “motherhood fetish” at the same time “women are repeatedly told that they must be everything but mothers, everything but someone weighed down by motherhood”; a certain “recklessness”; or the aforementioned women, “even after the feminist movement,” using “procreation as power.”

It was when I put together the various rationalizations that the amazing irony which permeates the story hit me. After all this Vilar, who has found contentment in a new marriage and the birth of two children, seems annoyed most of all that taking care of children is devalued.

In school and on TV, every message I get is what I am doing as a mother or wife is wrong,” said Vilar. “I should be thinking about a profession and not mothering. Everyone is having babies, and yet they don’t want to care for them.”

I never saw that one coming.