Pregnancy at SDSU: Abortions can bring relief or regret

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

No one would talk to us for this article.

Some who had had abortions feared they would be found out (even if left anonymous) and demonized.

Some did not want to revisit those memories, preferred to let them stay in the past.

Some who had contemplated abortions could not even consider going back to a time when they had even thought about that (the word italicized in the tone of voice) now that they were mothers.

In short, especially with the impending vote over House Bill 1191 (or “The Abortion Bill” as it has so tactfully been named), which would define life as beginning at conception, at least in South Dakota, a story that was supposed to be about the personal side of a very delicate issue became, as all stories about abortion somehow become, political.

But who are these women? How do they make the difficult choice to terminate a pregnancy?

Maybe-just maybe-in the politics are the answers we wanted all along.


Kate Looby, the state director for Planned Parenthood, sits directly in the crossfire of the abortion debate. Her clinic is the only one in the state which offers abortions and one of the few that offers abortion as a consideration during counseling.

So who are the women who decide to terminate their pregnancies?

Looby says they are typically between 20 and 29 and usually unmarried. For most patients, this will be their first abortion.

The reasons for having an abortion, Looby says, are as varied as the women who make that choice. Some have health risks. Some were raped. Some cannot afford having a child. The majority simply does not want a child at this time, the exact reasons as mysterious as the inner workings of anyone.

Looby does not think HB 1191 will stand up to court scrutiny if it is challenged. She also thinks that if the number of abortions is to be reduced, the United States has only one option.

“Obviously, our feeling is the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the numbers of unplanned pregnancies,” Looby said.

Looby discounts talk of physical problems with those who have had abortions. While every case is different, she says, abortion is safe.

“Abortion is the safest out-patient procedure done in the United States today. … It is extremely safe. It is safer than childbirth. (But) I’m not going to suggest that there are no risks. Like any medical procedures there are some health risks involved,” she said.

She also said that while some have trouble dealing with the choice they have made, the majority of women who have an abortion feel relief after the procedure.

Do you believe her?


Nicole Osmundson sees a very different picture than Kate Looby does. Osmundson is a registered nurse who works as the abortion recovery doctor at the Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls organization which discourages women from having abortions and provides counseling for women who have had abortions.

Osmundson also says that the reasons women have abortions are different, though she says many are forced into it by boyfriends or families, while some come to that decision on their own. What she says is similar is the pain she has seen from the women who cross the Alpha Center’s doorstep to seek an ear that will listen to their story.

While some women she has seen have had physical effects from their abortions, Osmundson says the majority have had psychological effects. They cry uncontrollably. They experience hallucinations and nightmares. Sometimes, they try to commit suicide. Oftentimes, Osmundson says, abortion counseling helped them deal with their problems. Most of these women never expected psychological problems.

“I have dealt with a lot of women who believe that since the government has said abortion is O.K. there must be nothing wrong with it and it’s a safe procedure,” Osmundson said.

She also said that now that some of the stories of women who have had abortions are becoming known, the government has a responsibility to step up and take a new look at abortion.

“Our nation as a whole needs to take a different look at abortion than they have in the past,” she said.

Osmundson’s boss, Leslee Unruh, the director of the Alpha Center agrees.

“The most important thing is obviously for the women. Women are suffering from abortion. Abortion hurts women. … Over the last 20 years, I have been working with women who have had abortions and it’s devastating to them and to their families,” she said.

Do you believe her?


When does life begin? Should government legislate morality? When does a fetus begin to have rights?

Are there answers to these questions that will satisfy?

One woman stands on one side of the fence. Two others stand on the other side. All three are convinced they are in the right. What do you think?

Perhaps the best thing about the abortion bill for all three of these women is that people are talking about these issues. People are discussing morality and legality and when life begins.

Somehow, though, we may have lost the women at the center of this story. Are they hurting? Are they relieved? Is there a common ground anywhere?

How will we ever know?

No one would talk to us for this article.