Strong Families Love Unconditionally

Strong Families Love Unconditionally

by Susan Lehman

May 8, 2011

As the mother of grown children, I have basked in the annual glow of Mother’s Day recognition for a long time. Both my family and my community offer me blessings and praise for raising and providing for my children. But one of my most deeply maternal choices, my abortion, does not warrant the same recognition.

Data from the Guttmacher Institute states that one in three women will have an abortion at some point in her life, and that the “reasons [women] give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life.” Even more significant as we approach Mother’s Day and as we celebrate strong families, Guttmacher reports that 61 percent of women having abortions are already mothers.

At Exhale, the pro-voice organization creating a more supportive and respectful social climate around abortion, where I serve as a counselor on our national multi-lingual talkline and as a moderator for our online community, I hear from women of all ages talk about abortion and parenthood. I hear some young women speak quite longingly of motherhood, and who wonder if they have lost the opportunity to be mothers. Women who already have children speak of what they have lost, and a few worry if they have failed as mothers. Others call to feel supported for doing what they know to be a responsible, parenting decision.

Across the range of experiences that young mothers have with abortion, they deserve unconditional love from their families.

Many women who call our talkline reveal they have kept their abortions secret out of a deep concern for their families. A woman will frequently speak of her parents, in particular, saying that she fears worrying them, or possibly offending their beliefs and causing them pain. Yet, a family that can fully demonstrate – in words and actions – that a woman who has had an abortion is respected and supported can give a woman what she needs to be well after an abortion.

I’ve had opportunity to consider what I would have wanted at the time of my own abortion; as well as the support I would want to give my own daughters. The greatest reassurance to me would be to know that my loved ones trusted and believed in me, and that I had a safe haven in which to talk about and process my experiences. The safety and normalcy of my family would feel empowering, even if the time felt strange and confusing.

Recently, Jamia Wilson wrote about the critical role loving, strong families play in fostering the “health and well-being of African American women who have abortions.” Jamia reminds us that in all communities, strong families are ones in which each individual is respected, decisions are trusted, and experiences are validated.

Strong families are made up of people who have learned to care for each other, and who share a genuine interest in each other’s dreams and well-being. Strong families embrace their members who have had abortions and give their love unconditionally and without judgment.

This piece is part of a Mama’s Day blog series by The Strong Families Initiative. To follow all of the Mama’s Day events, visit them on Facebook and Twitter.

Susan Lehman lives in the North Bay and works as a high school teacher. She has been with Exhale since Fall 2009, and has served as counselor, moderator, and pro-voice ambassador.

Also see “A Tale of Two Nursing Mothers” by Chanda Chevaness in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

See “Acting As If Future Generations Matter” by Carolyn Raffensperger in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.


Merle Hoffman's Choices: A Post-Roe Abortion Rights Manifesto

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“Merle Hoffman has always known that in a democracy, we each have decision-making power over the fate of our own bodies. She is a national hero for us all.” —Gloria Steinem

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade and a country divided, Merle Hoffman, a pioneer in the pro-choice movement and women’s healthcare, offers an unapologetic and authoritative take on abortion calling it “the front line and the bottom line of women’s freedom and liberty.” 

Merle Hoffman has been at the forefront of the reproductive freedom movement since the 1970s. Three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion through Roe v. Wade, she helped to establish one of the United States’ first abortion centers in Flushing, Queens, and later went on to found Choices, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive women’s medical facilities. For the last five decades, Hoffman has been a steadfast warrior and fierce advocate for every woman’s right to choose when and whether or not to be a mother.