The pervasive message of popular culture, with the seemingly enthusiastic backing of the United States government, is that there is nothing better than casual, consequence-free sex. But some inconvenient truths are showing up around that assertion as well. In November, the New York Times reported on two studies that found casual sex to be much less physically satisfying for women than the kind of intimacy achieved in a committed relationship.
Elsewhere, motherhood is back on top of the charts, after a survey from Great Britain, reported this week in the Telegraph, found that women with children “topped the list of those voicing overall happiness with life,” while childless women were the most unhappy.
Even Hollywood seems to be enjoying a resurgence of motherhood. The red carpet for the Golden Globes ceremony this week was baby bump to baby bump full of pregnant actresses in designer dresses. Juliana Margulies even pulled pregnant Planned Parenthood apologist Kerry Washington aside to say that having a baby was the best thing she had ever done. Just a few years ago, Natalie Portman was nearly run out of town for saying during an acceptance speech for her best actress Oscar that her impending motherhood was “the most important role” of her life.
Perhaps the study that validated our feelings about abortion more than any other had a very different outcome in mind. The “Turnaway Study” – undertaken as a way to push back against laws enacted in some states, and under discussion in Congress, to ban abortion after 20 weeks –set out to show just how dire a woman’s circumstances can get if she waits too long or has to drive too far or can’t have an abortion with public funding. But the study inadvertently highlighted a very different reality. As reported in June 2013 by the New York Times, only five percent of the women who had babies after being turned away wished they hadn’t. The other 95 percent learned to “adjust.” Listen to how “S” adjusted to the birth of “Baby S.” after being turned away for an abortion.
Reporter Joshua Lang wrote: “S. now says that Baby S. is the best thing that ever happened to her. ‘She is more than my best friend, more than the love of my life,” S told me, glowingly. There were white spit-up stains on her green top. ‘She is just my whole world.’”
Life finds a way after all.
We look forward to a day when stories like those of “S” and her daughter are the kind of stories women will tell each other, experiences they will recommend and share with sisters and daughters and friends. But until that day, we will continue to tell the truth about abortion, with an increasing confidence that people are finally ready to listen.