Lena Dunham just admitted abortion is emotionally and physically “challenging” on Instagram after facing a backlash to her bizarre comments on abortion from last week.
“Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had,” the creator of HBO’s “Girls” said in her most recent episode of her podcast. Unsurprisingly, her remark offended a lot of people who thought Dunham’s comment showed an alarming lack of empathy for women who have experienced reproductive challenges or undergone an abortion.
She has since walked back her comment, claiming that it was a joke and that she was merely playing a persona. A portion of her apology reads (emphasis added):
My words were spoken from a sort of ‘delusional girl’ persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that’s what my TV show is too) and it didn’t translate. That’s my fault. I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy. My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma.
Dunham isn’t wrong — abortion is physically and emotionally hard on women. And not even the most pro-choice of women can pretend otherwise.
The truth is, women are often coerced into getting an abortion. In a 2005 study, researchers found that 34 percent of the women they surveyed who were recruited from a domestic violence program said they had been pressured into getting an abortion by their partners. A 2010 Guttmacher Institute study affirms that reproductive control, including forced abortions, is a huge problem among women who have suffered domestic abuse at the hands of a partner.
While the exact numbers of how many women are pressured by others into having an abortion is unknown, multiple studies have affirmed that it’s not at all uncommon. Women who have had an abortion are also more likely to have been abused by their partners within a year of getting an abortion. In other words, abusive men often use abortion as a means to control and hurt their female partners.
Abortion can also be psychologically traumatic. A 2011 study from the British Journal of Psychology found that post-abortive women faced an increased risk of mental health issues: “Women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be attributable to abortion,” the study states.
Getting an abortion isn’t a lighthearted activity that women can just shrug off afterwards. It’s a procedure many women don’t chose for themselves. When they do chose it, it’s usually because they’ve recently undergone a disruptive event (like unemployment, separation from a partner, or are facing dire financial circumstances) and feel they have no other option. In other words, abortion often isn’t a “choice,” it’s something a woman does when she feels like her back is against the wall.