IOPT and Abortion Rights
This was originally a blog post on my website in response the the news that the Supreme Court in the USA were about to overturn legislation commonly known as Roe vs Wade, which has made abortion formally legal in the USA for the last fifty years. As IOPT practitioners the issue of survived abortion attempts is quite common in our work, and so I thought it would be helpful to open up the topic more within the IOPT community.
At this time, May 2022, the United States Supreme Court are about to reverse a legal decision that has been in place for more than 50 years that has allowed legal abortion rights to women. If this goes through then abortion will be illegal in the United States of America. In my view this is a phenomenal and retrograde event. It means that it will be illegal for a woman to abort the child of incest and rape, and possibly even if her health and life are at risk, but apart from anything it puts into law something that I do not think should be in legislation at all: the right to make one’s own decisions about one’s own body. In my view the choice should be one of personal conscience, not of people one has never met, will never meet, and who know nothing about you.
In fact at this moment it is illegal for women to terminate their* pregnancies in any circumstances in 24 countries, with a further 37 countries restricting access in any situation except where the mother's life is in danger (Guardian article by Weronika Strayżyńska, 3/5/22).
*Note the use of the possessive word 'their' as in "their pregnancies". It is important to recognise the issue as an issue of the woman, not the state.
I want to look at this issue from within the IOPT frame of thinking, because the issue of abortion frequently arises in our work, and in my view, we need to think carefully about our stance on this topic. It is so easy to slip into judgements and criticism, and that surely is not our job.
The Failed Abortion Attempt
In our work as IOPT practitioners we frequently come across the issue of the person having survived a failed abortion attempt, and the resulting trauma of such a clear statement by the mother of not wanting her child, as well as the sometimes very painful physical effects of the method tried as expressed by representatives in their processes.
There are two quite obvious physically enacted statements of a mother not wanting her child: abortion attempt, the attempt or actual killing of the child, and adoption, giving the child away like an object. There cannot be anything more clear than either of these, and the consequences of both of these for the child are lifelong, including having to live in the family environment as a child for many years where it is likely that every moment of the child's life is subtly tinged with the mother's feelings about the abortion attempt having failed. Or we could say, that the child in his very tiny infancy has thwarted his mother's will that he should not exist. Whatever the mother's feelings about this failed abortion attempt, they are all there for the child to absorb. Whether she feels guilt, shame, anger, hatred or regret, whether she takes revenge on the child, all of this is there to be absorbed by the child. In addition to all of this he has to live with the constant experience of not having been wanted in the first exciting flush of his existence.
It is a reasonably common experience for the IOPT practitioner to come across these issues in our work, and some of the more extreme results of this level of being unwanted as a child are the very serious enactments of self-harm: cutting, Anorexia, Bulimia, suicide attempts, addictions, living unhealthy and dangerous lives, or living a ‘non-life’ as in chronic fatigue illnesses and other debilitating conditions, with all the accompanying misery, defeatism, despair and loneliness that this involves. I state this degree of non-existence to make it clear that surviving an abortion attempt is by no means the end of it. Such a serious statement of the child not being wanted has lifelong consequences, many of which, if not properly understood and addressed, result in never-ending emotional and physical pain.
The child’s dilemma at this level of being unwanted can be stated in this way: “My mother does not want me and wishes that I had not lived. How then can I live my life, stay alive, and meet her wishes that I should not exist?” The only solution is a life of non-existence, non-thriving, often accompanied by such dangerous behaviours as outlined above. Franz Ruppert has said that the unwanted child does not know that he exists; his existence is so fragile that the fact of his existence has to be undermined and denied every moment of his life. This is the future of the child who survived an abortion attempt.
But does this mean that our stance must be anti-abortion? Should we take a stance at all on this issue? Is it our place to make any kind of judgement on such an issue when working with our clients?
In our work the issue that comes up is the failed attempt to abort the child, and the suffering of this attempt, and the consequential suffering I have outlined above of the relationship between the mother and child and the child’s future life.
Why does an Abortion Attempt Fail?
On thinking back over the years of my working with the IOPT process, as far as I can remember, all of the times where this issue of a failed (survived) abortion attempt came up it was an attempt by the mother to perform the abortion herself. I do not remember (and I admit my memory may be flawed because I wasn't necessarily thinking in this way before now) that any of these failed/survived abortion attempts were from proper medically performed abortions. This is an important point. Researching online I found statistics stating that the failure rate of medically performed abortions are low, something like 2% or less. This bears out my own experience that the failed abortion attempts that come up in our work are usually attempts made by the mother herself, and inevitably not done properly... hence the failure and the reported physical and emotional suffering in the processes.
Perhaps it would help us as practitioners to think about this in our work, and keep track of whether the abortion attempt that comes up in our work is actually attempted by the mother or whether it is in fact a failed medical procedure. The distinction I think is important.
One of the problems with government legislation against abortion is that it will inevitably lead to a massive increase in home-attempted abortions, many of which will fail, and then result in a massive increase of 'abortion attempt survivors'. As IOPT practitioners into the future then, we can expect the issue of the failed abortion attempt, sadly, to become much more common in our work.
We have to remember that the abortion issue we are working with is the failed attempt, that means the person actually does survive with all the relevant consequences. As practitioners we are never working with the successful abortion, because the child is no longer alive and cannot set his own intention. Additionally, since as IOPT practitioners we are always working with the psyche of the enquiring person, any representation of an aborted child in IOPT processes can only ever reflect how the enquiring person holds this child in his or her psyche. It can never show the reality of the experience of the aborted child. That information is just not accessible, it can only be surmised. In IOPT we cannot go into the realm of the possibility of connecting with the actual experience of someone who has died. That is the, in my view, flawed position of Family Constellations.
So, I will now talk about the successful abortion. It succeeds, and the barely lived infant dies. This is true, and has to be acknowledged and faced.
There is much debate online about the issue as to whether the foetus feels pain (both physical and emotional) during the procedure. The likelihood is that it does, and this has to be taken into consideration of course. One way of thinking about this issue is that there is pain either way: there is the pain of the procedure, and there is the pain of growing into adulthood with the issue of not having been wanted and loved, and who is to say which is worse? It is an impossible argument. My mother didn't abort me, and I am truly glad to be alive, but she didn't want me and that has been immensely painful over the years for me.
My Own Experience
I had an abortion when I was in my early twenties. I did not know who the father was, and I was barely managing on the income I had. I was not very smart, and very into sex, hence not knowing who the father might have been. However, I was clear at the time that having a child then would have changed my life irrevocably; I did not want to be pregnant and I did not want the child. In fact, at that time, I saw it as ruining my life, and now, some fifty years later, I know it would not have been a good life for me or a good start for the child if I had not had the abortion. I still know it would have ruined the life I wanted to have, and that resentment would have deeply coloured my relationship with the child. One stupid mistake and my life was lost. That is how it seemed to me.
Luckily I was able to have a proper medical abortion which was successful. One of the potential fathers was kind enough to pay for it, even though he knew that it wasn’t necessarily his child, and supported me through it, and I have always felt immense gratitude to this man even though I have not had contact with him for many, many years.
I knew at the time that I did not want the child, and although my attention may have been more on what I wanted than on the child, now, as an IOPT-informed person, I do not regret having done it. At that time I would have been a terrible mother, and the child would have suffered my resentment his whole life, and I would have had to live with that too.
Not so long ago I was doing a piece of work with my own intention and the issue came up of my mother have had an abortion before she had me. Franz, who was facilitating, said to me "Your mother was a killer". My immediate response was: "Then so am I".
Franz was stating a fact, which is reasonable, but so was I, and in that moment I actually felt the honour and respect for myself of living with this fact, rather than feeling guilty. I am not proud of my action, but I am also not prepared to be ashamed of it either. The fact that my mother had an abortion is irrelevant. To call her a killer may have some shock value in our work, but to say the same to a client (which of course Franz didn’t) I am not convinced is the best kind of intervention.
Any woman who has had a properly performed and successful abortion has to live with the fact that they have killed another human being. Perhaps instead of vilifying the woman who chose to have an abortion, we can respect the fact that this is a terrible decision to have to make and something she has to live with for the rest of their life. And this is not something many men have to live with.
I have had two personal intention processes where this aborted child was brought in and represented, and in both processes there was an immediate feeling of strong, uncomplicated love between us. I know that this reflects nothing of the actual child, but only how he is held in my own psyche... but how he is in my psyche seems to be peaceful and loving, and that says something important to me about myself and my relationship with the fact of having had an abortion.
As IOPT practitioners we deal with complicated issues all the time. It is easy in a way as a facilitator to say to a client "Your mother was a killer", just as easy as it is to say "Your mother did not want you". There may be value in stating the reality in such a way, but behind that there must be compassion and understanding rather than judgement, or else we are in danger of ending up judgemental and critical, yet another perpetrator in the life of our client. My view is that, simply because we are often dealing with the fallout from failed abortion attempts, does not mean that we should become 'anti-abortion'. We have to be greater than that, more generous and compassionate than that, and hold in our thinking what it means to live with the fact that a person felt forced to make such a decision.
At this moment I wonder how many women in our growing IOPT community feel shame and guilt about having had an abortion, and perhaps avoid talking about it for fear of this confrontation: “you are a killer”. I would not want this to become a topic we cannot be open about, and that IOPT women come to feel perpetually in the wrong about. It must be a matter of personal conscience at the time, in the psychological state of the person in that moment. I cannot change how I was then, and I am not sure even now that I would want to in this regard. I was who I was, but even so from my more evolved and peaceful place now, I do not think I would want to have made a different decision.
And to the IOPT community of men: amongst the many painful issues you have in your life, the issue of having taken the decision to kill a child in your own body, and to live with the consequences is not one of them. You may have been a party to such a decision, but it is the woman's body, her pregnancy, and her final decision to take such a step to have her body invaded and some part of her that is growing inside taken out. As practitioners it is not our job to judge, but to support reality and truth.
I realise that I am opening up an extremely sensitive and frequently fought over topic here... but who are we as IOPT-informed people if we cannot be open to exploring such issues? I do not wish this to be a final word on the topic... rather I hope it opens up a vibrant and energetic conversation so that we all can get on with living a good life ourselves, and are more able to support our clients to move in that direction too.