PHILADELPHIA, Penn. (Christian Examiner) -- "Dear Abby" columnist Jeanne Phillips, daughter of original "Dear Abby" advisor Pauline Phillips, recently used her platform to advocate abortion and push "pre-natal care" allegedly provided by Planned Parenthood, the nation's top abortion provider.
When "Stunned in Pennsylvania" wrote to say her boyfriend called her a "child murderer" while reflecting on "Stunned's" decision to have an abortion at age 18 – a decision she said haunted her all her adult life – "Abby" said the boyfriend's comment was wrong not merely because it was insensitive but because abortion is a legal "right" many men and women "fought hard to achieve."
"Abby" attributed feelings of regret over an abortion to the stigma attached to it.
Vincent DiCaro, Chief Outreach Officer for Care-Net, the nation's largest network of pregnancy centers, believes both the boyfriend and advice columnist could have provided better answers.
He explained to Christian Examiner the most important thing for people in contact with a woman who regrets having an abortion is to recognize and validate her feelings.
"Lots of people have similar sorts of experiences after an abortion. It might be a year, 10 years, or even 20 years later," DiCaro said. "Those feelings are not unusual. It's important to work through why a person is having those feelings and work through ways of coming to terms with the emotions rather than taking an approach of, 'You don't have anything to heal from,'" he said.
"Our culture has trained men to think they have no say whatsoever and their opinion is irrelevant," DiCaro said. "They feel their job is to support her decision. So being a 'good man' is going along with whatever it is she is going to do. More and more people are realizing that's not a healthy way forward. Whether a man was complicit or paid for the abortion, there are consequences emotionally," DiCaro stated.
In a move similar to "Abby's," Lena Dunham, director, writer, and producer of HBO's Girls, used the show as a platform for what she calls "reproductive justice" – the erasing of all stigma and apologetic feelings associated with the choice to have an abortion.
Care-Net CEO and President Roland Warren responded saying, "I was struck by the fact that Dunham was more interested in telling women how they should feel about their abortion than understanding how they do feel. ... In a sense, Dunham is saying that if women are hurting over an abortion, they should just buck up and stop it, as seen on TV. Now, this may make good TV, but it is incredibly condescending and disrespectful to women."
In a separate column, Abby advised a pregnant 16-year-old to seek pre-natal care from Planned Parenthood and review the organization's web site for information on adoption.
"It has become clear, especially with the expose videos, that Planned Parenthood provides very limited health services that are frankly abundantly available from other sources like regular doctors and community health centers," DiCaro told Christian Examiner. "It's in Planned Parenthood's interest to overinflate the perception of how much health services they offer when the reality is their number one procedure is abortion. More than 92 percent of pregnant women that visit Planned Parenthood get an abortion," he continued.
Planned Parenthood's web site home page features the topics of the morning-after pill, birth control, abortion, and STDs, but makes no mention of adoption and does not provide a search mechanism for people to find adoption information.
DiCaro explained the contrasting approach of a pregnancy center to that of Planned Parenthood.
A 16 year-old pregnant teen who comes to a Care-Net affiliated pregnancy center, he said, will be counseled in all the options available to her - adoption, single parenthood, co-parenting, and marriage - and she will be given support for the option she chooses.
"If she wants to adopt, they'll help her navigate that. If she decides she is going to be a single parent, they will help with parenting and material support. They will help her think through the fact that she does have options, and they're going to be there to provide the compassion, hope, and help she needs in order to carry through that decisions," DiCaro said.
Pregnancy centers address abortion for the purpose of educating clients about abortion procedures. "They do approach the subject of abortion even if she does not bring it up," DiCaro said. "She might have considered it and might be scared. We will address it essentially by saying, 'Some women in your situation are also considering abortion. How do you feel about that option?' Her answer will give us information, and we give information about abortion procedures."
Since 2008, Care-Net affiliated pregnancy centers provided nearly 700,000 free ultrasounds, parenting support and education for 828,000 people, material resources to over 1.2 million people, and 2.1 million free pregnancy tests. Additionally, 1.2 million people heard the Gospel and 462,089 infant lives have been saved since 2008 according to Care-Net's 2015 Impact Report.
"It's really important for people to ask, 'If a woman is pregnant, and she decides she wants to have the baby, what will Planned Parenthood do for her?'" DiCaro said. "I think you'll hear a deafening silence, and I think that's very telling."