What The Hell Is An “Unbortion”?

Today in Anti-Abortion Activists Making Up Medical Terms That Don’t Actually Exist And Aren’t Used By Doctors News: the “unbortion.” (For past reference see: partial-birth abortion.”) What’s an “unbortion,” you ask? An “unbortion” is what Resurrection Medical Center, a Roman Catholic hospital in Chicago, calls it when anti-abortion activists persuade a woman who is partway through terminating a pregnancy to halt the procedure and carry the pregnancy to term. According to Time magazine — which published the only article on “unbortions” that I’ve ever seen — four women were persuaded to halt their abortions, but doctors only went along with it in three of the cases.

Oh, and did I mention that “unbortion” is a complete anti-abortion activist fabrication and isn’t an actual medical term used by doctors? Technically speaking, women are able to backtrack on second-trimester abortions because the procedure takes several days. A woman first has her cervix softened with bundles of dried seaweed called laminaria. If she changes her mind about going through with the abortion — i.e., the “unbortion” — the Catholic hospital will then take the laminaria out, the cervix will close, and the fetus will continue to develop.

The problem? This practice may not actually “save” the fetus because it could cause a miscarriage or pre-term birth. Time cited a 2009 study out of New York University in which two out of four reversed abortions resulted in pre-term births in which the child died. Makes you wonder why it’s worth putting women through all that trauma, doesn’t it?

However, the problem isn’t just that Resurrection is touting a fake medical procedure. This “unbortion” stuff is yet another example of guilt and pressure being used to coerce women against making the reproductive decisions that are right for them. According to Time, the anti-abortion activists — who call themselves “sidewalk counselors,” a rather generous term for a group whose form of “counseling” means persuading you to do what they want you to do — meet women when they’re leaving abortion clinics and do things like offer to give them a ride home. So-called “sidewalk counselors” measure success in how many “babies” lives they save, not in how many real, live women (likely with existing children) in crisis who they actually help. Will the “sidewalk counselors” be there for the 3 a.m. feedings? Will they pay for the formula and diapers? Babysit when the dad turns out to be a deadbeat and mom can’t call in sick to work?

Resurrection claims that before a woman has an “unbortion,” the staff meets with her to verify she is making the best decision for her. But seeing as its a Catholic hospital — a medical facility known to be anti-abortion — it’s hard to imagine the staff would counsel a woman into having an abortion.

Let it be known that the fight to erode abortion rights isn’t just in the courts or in the halls of state houses — now it’s in a woman’s mind and right up in her cervix.