Who said it: anti-abortion activist or a breastfeeding advocate?

Austin, Texas Abortion Debate, July, 2013

Imagine if an anti-abortion protester wrote:

If you believed some you would think that for women choosing to terminate a pregnancy continuing it instead is bad for women’s mental health.

Both anti-abortion activists and breastfeeding advocates ignore the critical importance of the ability to choose unfettered by the “support” of those who want them to make different choices.

But pregnancy does not damage maternal mental health. In fact, pregnancy can do marvellous things for women’s well-being. Alongside reducing risk of reproductive cancers like ovarian cancer and breast cancer, it can help women feel empowered, confident, and heal childhood trauma, too. Childbirth hormones are even thought to help reduce the impact of stress and sleep deprivation upon the body. It’s no wonder that numerous studies have found that compared to women women who suffer miscarriages, those who continue a pregnancy have a lower risk of depression.

That’s why terminating a pregnancy is always the wrong choice. The problem is not pregnancy itself. Instead it is the lack of support and investment in helping women choose life. Most women who choose termination do so because they antipicate lack of support, hardship, or difficulty making ends meet. Those of us who give abortion counseling at our clinics offer women the support they need to continue pregnancy, not end it.

You might respond with several critical facts that the protester left out:

1. No one ever said the problem is pregnancy itself; the issue is that unwanted pregnancy can be devastating for women’s mental health and every other aspect of her wellbeing.

2. Yes, pregnancy has health benefits, but pregnancy itself is life threatening. Terminating a pregnancy is actually healthier for women than continuing it.

3. The fact that women are devastated by miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy tells us nothing about the impact of continuing an unwanted pregnancy.

4. The conviction that every woman who choose to terminate a pregnancy would continue it if she just got more support reflects deliberate obtuseness. It emphasizes short term drawbacks when the real issue may be very different.

Now consider that the claims above were not made by an anti-abortion protester. They are a nearly word for word adaptation of claims made by a professional lactivist. They come from a recent piece by Prof. Amy Brown, Breastfeeding is good for mothers’ mental health – but those who struggle need support.

Brown, too, displays deliberate obtuseness. She is certain — every bit as certain as anti-abortion protesters are certain — that every women who formula feeds would breastfeed if she just got more support. She, too, emphasizes short term issues when the real issues for women who choose formula may be very different.

Brown also deliberately misrepresents the situation in the exact same way as any abortion opponent.

1. No one has ever said the problem with aggressive breastfeeding promotion is breastfeeding. The problem is pressuring women who don’t want to breastfeed, find breastfeeding painful and frustrating or discover they cannot produce enough milk to fully nourish a baby.

2. Yes, breastfeeding has benefits, but it also has significant risks — risks that are routinely elided or denied in the same way that anti-choice advocates ignore the risks of pregnancy.

3. The fact that women are devastated by being unable to breastfeed if they had intended to do so tell us nothing about the mental health impact of not breastfeeding on women who don’t want to do so. Furthermore, it tells us nothing about the impact of pressure to breastfeed on the mental health of women who who prefer to formula feed.

4. Most importantly, the same people who exclaim over women devastated by failure to breastfeed fail to consider that THEY are responsible for that sense of failure. To my knowledge, there was very little if any angst about formula feeding UNTIL lactivists started pressure women to breastfeed. It seems particularly cruel for lactivists to berate women who don’t breastfeed as substandard mothers depriving babies of incredible health benefits and then offer sympathy for their feelings of “failure.”

Both anti-choice activists and breastfeeding advocates ignore the critical importance of the ability to choose unfettered by the “support” of those who want them to make different choices.

Anti-abortion activists insist that waiting periods for abortion, unwanted ultrasounds and mandated medical “counseling” are being offered to help women make informed decisions. Lactation professionals insist that locking up infant formula, forcing women to sign consent forms for formula and mandated medical “counseling” about the benefits of breastfeeding are being offered to help women make informed decisions. Both groups are lying to themselves and others. Such practices are forced on women to pressure them to make pre-approved decision.

Her baby, Her body, HER choice! Why is that so hard for activists of all kinds to understand?

  • Whitney

    Okay, what about the other sources? This isn’t a laughing matter. Women are being violated and robbed of motherhood by their own admission. You laugh at those women because you don’t take one of the sources seriously?

    • Who?

      No one’s laughing, though The National Review naturally raises a few smirks.

      Women are being violated when they want an abortion and can’t get one, and when they don’t want an abortion and are forced to have one. The problem isn’t the procedure itself, it’s the toxic environment.

      A man who insists a woman doesn’t deliver his baby (or a parent or sibling who insists a pregnant daughter or sister won’t deliver a baby) will do something illegal (assaulting her, or even killing her) to achieve it. Limiting the right to abortion to protect foetuses against over-involved third parties gets no one anywhere good.

      • Heidi

        Sure, and that’s not what this writing was about. It was not an appropriate place to bring it up, without at least an “OT” warning. If you really thought the problem was about the “toxic environment” and not about abortion rights, why share anti-choice propaganda? Why not keep it solely with fact-based sources who don’t have an interest in stripping women of reproductive rights?

        I think it was pretty clear that I was laughing at the National Review.

      • Heidi

        Sorry I thought you were Whitney when I responded. Wh- beginnings I guess!

    • Heidi

      With the exception of PP, those are all anti-choice propaganda. If you actually cared about women being violated, then I think you’d do best to stick with fact-based sources and actually care about all situations when women are violated, including when partners refuse to wear condoms to cause a pregnancy and/or STIs. But you don’t, and that’s very telling. And I will laugh at the National Review still! But you knew that’s what I was laughing at, as I don’t think I could have been much clearer about it.

  • Whitney

    While I think lactivists and pro-lifers can both come in equal flavors of crazy, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking abortion is exclusively about women’s choice. It can easily become just another means of control.

    https://youtu.be/y6cMm00Qex8

    https://www.pop.org/many-american-women-felt-pressured-abortions-study-finds/

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/08/forced-abortion-coerced-women-pregnancy-economic-pressure-pro-life-help/

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/01/abortion-roe-v-wade-unborn-children-women-feminism-march-life/

    https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/3613/9611/7697/IPV_and_Reproductive_Coercion_Fact_Sheet_2012_FINAL.pdf This is from Planned Parenthood noting the link between multiple and second trimester abortions and reproductive coercion.

  • rational thinker

    What i hate most is the whole argument of “if she has proper support”. I had plenty of support but I chose to formula feed. I wish they would get it through their heads that some mothers just have no desire to breastfeed. I personally was not comfortable with it. I had been raped before, and I had a chest size 38d by the time I was in tenth grade which attracted a lot of unwanted attention from boys, and I was groped and grabbed by different boys when simply just walking down the hall to my next class. I had my chest grabbed at least 5 times daily. The school didnt do anything about it either. So I had been touched out by the time I had my first baby. The thing is I should’nt have to tell anyone the reason why I wont breastfeed, but sadly that isnt the case. These days if you dare to formula feed you better have a good reason. “I dont want to” should be the end of the conversation.

    • Cartman36

      Thank you! telling a woman she should “just try” breastfeeding is no different than some punk telling a woman to just let him put the tip in. There is NO benefit to breastfeeding (imagined, real, perceived, etc) that out weighs a woman’s right to choose how she uses her body.

      And I am so sorry for what happened to you. That is horrifying.

      • rational thinker

        The worst part of all that was when I punched one of the kids in the face,and the principal knew why I did it and I got suspended and all the little asshole got was an ice pack.

  • rational thinker

    I have a friend that is very pro choice about abortions, she herself has had two of them. Then when it comes to breastfeeding she said every mother should breastfeed for at least the first 3 months or they should not have kids. and that there should be a law to enforce this. What a hypocrite right? She also breastfed 2 babies while on methadone and having hepatitis C.

    • Heidi

      Wow. I’m not sure if this is a way to make herself feel better about endangering her children’s lives or if she really think breast milk is so beneficial and formula that dangerous that methadone and Hep C are worth risking.

      • rational thinker

        Ive heard her say breast milk is magical, and she told me the hep c wont pass through breast milk.

        • andie ette

          It sounds like the HEP C hypocrite is no longer doing it but for others reference. Knowingly exposing a child to a communicable disease is a legitimate reason to contact your state abuse hotline. The investigator will disabuse her of that crazy notion or magically remove her child from the danger.

          • rational thinker

            When her youngest baby was a month old the doctor did step in and diagnosed him as failure to thrive.She still wanted to combo feed so he could get some breastmilk but the doctor talked her out of it or threatened cps im not sure which one she wouldnt say.

  • Tina

    There is something seriously depraved about comparing the termination of an unwanted pregnancy to the miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy. These people must be seriously deluded and also have no experience with women who have experienced either or both.

    • LaMont

      The only way in which termination and miscarriage are similar is that both will be grounds to put women in jail after Roe ends.

  • HailieJade

    Spot on, as always!

    “I just don’t want a baby” is a perfectly valid reason to have an abortion.

    “I just don’t want to breastfeed” is an equally valid reason to not breastfeed.

    But neither of those reasons are considered valid to either lactivists or anti-choicers. They always know what women want better than the women themselves.

  • Tori

    One of the things my mother remarked to me when I couldn’t produce enough milk was, “but didn’t they tell you that could happen in antenatal class?” In a pre-lactavist era, her antenatal class were apparently told, “Some of you will be able to breastfeed, and some of you won’t be able to.” The trouble is although I’m sure that would help those experiencing guilt that breastfeeding didn’t work out, now that would be “setting up expectations of failure”. Le sigh.

  • RudyTooty

    Anti-abortionists & lactivists share a common cause:

    Dictating to other people what they should do with their bodies.

  • OT: A woman at my church had planned for a vaginal, drug-free delivery with a midwife (at the birth center of our hospital, so a real midwife and just a few hallways away from the OR); she’s now scheduled for a cesarean later this week (don’t know why). I am hoping that she is not feeling disappointed/pressured/like she’s “failed” because she is now having what I am sure is the best procedure for her and her baby.

    • Ah, the baby is large and breech, and an ECV’s already failed. Good for the mother, not remaining committed to a certain birth process, but instead doing what she can to keep herself and her baby healthy; on her Facebook page, she’s expressed excitement at meeting him. Dare I hope she might even consent to vaccinations and vitamin administration?

      • rosewater1

        She does seem like she has her head screwed on straight. Fingers crossed.

  • LaMont

    The other day, a very feminist/liberal friend of mine responded to someone saying, essentially “formula is fine if that’s what works best for you! I tried breastfeeding and had the help of LCs but it wasn’t right for me”.

    Her response: “what late-capitalist bullshit”.

    • space_upstairs

      That’s because matters of care of the body – your own and, if you are a mother, those of your children – are about class, not politics, and therefore upper-middle-class people (or aspirants) from both sides of the political spectrum will justify their class-based beliefs in these matters with their own version of the politics. For conservatives, breastfeeding and the like are about gender roles explicitly, but for liberals, they make those standards about the environment and capitalism and stuff. They also have their own takes on why they refuse or delay vaccines, why they eat organic or vegetarian, why they prefer alternative medicine, etc., based on social/religious vs. environmental/economic justifications.