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Governance and the community

Let me comment on Barun Singh’s letter with a few short observations.

The issues that Barun raises are of profound importance to all of us. I believe he would be reassured to know the depth and intensity with which the Executive Committee and the Presidential Search Committee are engaged on the topics of governance and community.

Barun’s comments will certainly add texture to these discussions.

As an MIT graduate, I particularly appreciate hearing the perspective of students and, like Barun, I believe our practice of having recent graduates as members of the Corporation is a great avenue for those who want to engage.

John S. Reed ’61, Chairman of the MIT Corporation

Standing for life and women’s rights

In the wake of recent debate on legislation, there has been a wave of opinion articles, both on various websites and in print, suggesting that the pro-life movement is trying to undermine women’s health, and that pro-life policies are fundamentally anti-women. I would like to address these concerns, and argue that standing up for life is not only standing up for developing children but, in fact, also standing up for women’s emotional and physical health.

First of all, elective abortions pose a significant risk to women’s mental health. A study recently published in The British Journal of Psychiatry reviewed 22 previous studies on post-abortion mental health. Using the medical records of 877,181 participants, 163,831 of whom have experienced an abortion, the author concluded that “women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems”. In other studies, abortion is also linked to an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, hospitalization for psychiatric treatment, and chronic relationship problems.

What about women who become pregnant as a result of sexual assault? Rape is always a tragedy I do not think anyone would dispute that. Advocates of elective abortions often refer to rape victims to justify their stance, saying women in this situation need abortions. However, their argument is misguided. First, most rape victims do not actually want abortions — 75-85% choose to give birth, according to a survey conducted by the Elliot Institute. Second, research shows that most of those who do choose abortion — frequently due to pressure from counselors and/or family members — regret their decision, while all who choose to carry their pregnancy to term are happy they did (see Reardon, Makimaa & Sobie, Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2000) 19-22.). Post-rape abortion does not help women heal, rather, it traumatizes them more. They not only have to deal with the emotional turmoil of the rape, but also that of the abortion.

The psychological effects are causes for great concern in and of themselves, but even more so when considered along with the physical effects. Approximately 10% of women experience immediate complications after an abortion, such as hemorrhage, cervical injury, or infection. Many health issues take much longer to develop, and manifest as overall decreased reproductive health later in life, such as an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and ectopic pregnancy. The association of abortion with increased rates of cervical, ovarian, and liver cancer is also worrying. Teenagers (who account for 30% of all abortions) and women who have had multiple abortions are much more likely to experience these medical problems.

Having reviewed the emotional and physical harm abortion can do to women, now we come to the question: why would women want to subject themselves to all this? The answer is: they don’t. They are told it is OK, they are made to feel like it is the only logical decision if they face an unplanned pregnancy. While some claim abortion should be an available “choice”, many women feel they do not have a choice at all. Lately, some have declared pro-life efforts are a “war on women”. I do agree that there is, in fact, a war on women today. However, pro-life activists are not the ones wielding the sword. The real war is waged by those promoting abortion, whether they realize it or not.

Georgina Botka ’14