In a recent conversation on our AFTER ABORTION LINE, an international hotline women and men contact for support after abortion experience(s), a woman shared the shame and loneliness she felt in having told her friends she had a miscarriage when she actually had an abortion. She was immediately wrapped in the comfort, attention and care she so desperately needed. But, each kind word, story, meal and gift of remembrance created a bigger gap – a greater emptiness. Out of fear of judgment, she had hidden the truth of her loss experience and her complicated feelings of relief alongside regret, sadness, guilt and anxiety.
As a licensed clinical social worker, I have heard versions of this story more times than I could count, yet it never ceases to tug at my heart. While our culture is growing increasingly more supportive of women who suffer a miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion, it is still a type of disenfranchised grief forgotten or ignored by others. Therapists recognize the trauma miscarriage(s) can induce and are prepared to offer help to work through those feelings and emotions with clients. But if a man or woman has abortion experience(s), that conversation is entirely different.
Some in our culture are pushing to destigmatize abortion, citing statistics that one in four women will have an abortion by the time they are 45, that abortion is normal “healthcare,” that women don’t suffer any negative mental or emotional side effects afterwards, and that women need abortion to achieve their dreams. The only accurate statement here is how commonly abortion happens. Everything else is not true. Yet this is exactly what women are reading in most mainstream media outlets, all over social media, at their schools, and even in some churches.
Because of these voices, many women who are feeling anger, resentment, shame, hopelessness, fear, or even despair following their abortion don’t seek healing. They don’t even know help exists. At Support After Abortion, where I serve as CEO, offering resources for hope and healing after abortion and connecting those who need healing to those who provide healing is our goal. We equip healing providers, counselors, clinicians, and other leaders with the tools they need to help women and men heal from abortion experiences. We offer religious and secular healing resources and have commissioned research studies to understand what people who need healing are looking for. We create curriculum, resources, webinars, training, and anonymous self-guided healing options – all with compassion and without judgment.
One of the common denominators of people in need of healing following abortion experience(s) is their desire for secular healing programs. While many identify as Christian, almost three-quarters don’t attend religious services regularly and only 16% want a religious healing curriculum. While our faith guides our passion and work, we are here to connect individuals to whatever healing options meet their needs now. As one of our board members said, “It’s possible that farther down the road of their healing experience they may be drawn to God or a deeper faith. But, our role today is to help them begin to find hope, healing, and peace at this stage in their journey.”
The other common denominator amongst people who are looking for help following abortion(s) is that they have no idea where to turn, or they didn’t know after-abortion healing resources existed. Our published research revealed that 82% of people impacted by abortion don’t know where to go for healing. That’s a vast number – millions of hurting people. We don’t know why this is exactly, but we believe it is because they have been told that abortion is so normal that there is no need for healing. A client shared that their reason for seeking healing a decade after this abortion experience was because they felt alone between people who judged them and others who said there was no life at all to mourn.
Why should women and men who have experienced abortion seek healing in the first place? I think the biggest reason is that, of the number of abortions that occur in this country, almost half involve women who have already had at least one previous abortion. We know from our research that more than 34% of women suffer adverse mental and emotional side effects from abortion. And, I see in my clients everyday that hurt people make trauma-informed decisions they may not otherwise have made. What if we reached them and helped them to heal from their abortion experience? Would we be able to prevent repeat abortions for men and women who desire to break cycles in their life? I think so.
There are ample resources for emotional healing from trauma, as there should be. But abortion is also trauma-inducing, and while resources exist for abortion healing, most people have no idea they exist. Sometimes they don’t even recognize they’re hurting. Sometimes, they also don’t feel they have the right to seek out those healing resources for many reasons: some feel guilty, some feel that they made their decision and have no right grieve, others listen to our culture and believe that their feelings don’t matter after their abortion. Everyone deserves a chance to heal from trauma. Everyone. Support After Abortion was founded to establish the gold standard for a readily accessible network of compassionate and evidence-based care that includes giving women and men permission to grieve their loss(es). This is the entire reason we exist and it’s my deepest hope that the stigma around talking about the need to heal from abortion is broken and people feel the freedom to seek out that healing.
Lisa Rowe, LCSW, is CEO of Support After Abortion.
Michele Mazelin– look here:
Research shows that 34% of women suffer adverse mental and emotional side effects from abortion. As the CEO of Support After Abortion and a licensed clinical social worker, our culture has a responsibility to acknowledge the complex emotions of relief, grief, regret, anxiety and sadness experienced in abortion that is often invalidated or unseen.
Pam Stenzel has been involved and working within the Pro-Life movement for many years. She began volunteering and now serves as a Director of five pregnancy centers and two mobile units in Florida. While working in the pregnancy center, Pam felt called to speak about sexual health, relationships, and sexual integrity. She began speaking at middle schools and highschools throughout the United States and found peace in her new prevention work within the movement.
Pam was surprised when people began to ask, “why have you left the Pro-Life Movement?” She explained that prevention is vital to ensure the movement, and the mission of Pro-Life continues to mature and progress. She states, “the movement is multi-faceted, and we each need to do the unique part that we are called and equipped to do.”
Pam recalls when she met the Support After Abortion team, she was moved by the message of healing. She began to see how healing those impacted by abortion could increase prevention within the Pro-Life movement, by preventing repeat abortions. So often, Pam is faced with young college girls coming to her clinic for a pregnancy or STI test. While they are, they report having a previous abortion, but did not know what to do or where to go after. If we work towards helping those impacted heal, they can make different choices, and we can prevent a repeat abortion.
Letting men and women impacted by abortion know they are not alone, to compassionately love, inserting healing quickly will not only save another child’s life, but will save the life of the man and woman as well.
Fr. Monahan calls the battle we face today, a culture of life vs. a culture of death. He then challenges us to be a culture of life, by finding our COMPASSIONATE voice again. Shame and condemnation make healing tough, if not impossible, but being with someone in their pain compassionately is bringing love and healing to those that are hurting.
Fr. Monahan quotes Pope Francis when he states, “the Church is a field hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints.” He encourages everyone to go out and heal wounds. Again, Fr. Monahan states that he can help heal others when we lead with compassion and love. Throughout the bible, compassion is used and recognized as the catalyst for healing. For example, in the passage of the Prodigal Son, we see the heart of the compassionate father running towards his broken son to welcome him home and heal his wounds.
We see compassion again in the Bible when Jesus meets the woman at the well. Jesus met this woman in her brokenness, and gave her the healing she had been thirsting for, by asking her for water, and showing her she was loved and valued.
Finally when the adulterous woman is about to be stoned, Jesus looks into her heart and soul and challenges those around them to do the same. When no one was able to condemn the woman, she was healed of her shame and left feeling loved.
Fr. Monahan encourages everyone to lead with mercy, love, compassion and healing. When we lead with these, we can touch hearts and souls.
Nathan Misirian, COO of Support After Abortion, dicusses the need to increase resources made available to men that are impacted by abortion. Together with Adam Fransden and Greg Hasek, they discuss why men are afraid, and what specific needs men have to heal and begin their abortion recovery process.
Today’s man is told abortion should not impact them, because of this men often will become silent when faced with an unplanned pregnancy or they will put the decision solely on the woman, because they are afraid to offer support. Adam Fransden, member of the Men’s Task Force at Support After Abortion, states “it is not toxic masculnity to stand up and say I want to be a father.” It is just as important that resources for men are provided so they are given this voice, support, guidance and healing they need. A man’s first instinct is to protect his child, when an abortion occurs, it damages this instinct and therefore leaves a deep wound on the man.
To help heal this wound, Support After Abortion has begun to mobilize so that everyone who needs abortion recovery healing will have access to it. As stated above, Support After Abortion, has created a Men’s Task Force, and has already and will be continuing to conduct consumer research to understand exactly how many men are impacted, and what specific healing programs will work for them. Research has already shown that men do not grieve the same as women, they don’t like to sit in circles, face to face with one another. With more consumer research men will be better served and have more access to healing that will be geared towards what they need.
Increasing collaboration will be crucial for building the capacity needed to effectively serve men impacted by abortion. Through the Support After Abortion, Network Partner meetings we can learn from other leaders and organizations, and work together to increase resources for men. Additionally, it is important to remember that just as people meet women where they are, it is important to start healing men by meeting them where they are as well. Creating a safe space, so they can unravel their roots, heal and become the father’s they were meant to be.
Click here to get your FREE copy of Keys to Hope and Healing for Men.
Amy Ford is the president of Embrace Grace, Inc., a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of providing curriculum and leadership support for churches so that they may support women and men with unplanned pregnancies.
Amy states, “If abortion became illegal today, the church would not be ready to help women with unplanned pregnancies practically, spiritually, and emotionally.”
In her book, “Help Her Be Brave: Discover Your Place in the Pro-Life Movement,” Amy discusses the various organizations that exist and ways you too can help support, or become involved with these organizations.
For those who are passionate about helping those facing an abortion decision, or impacted by abortion, Amy recommends organizations such as Support After Abortion, 40 Days for Life, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, Abortion Pill Rescue and more. Along with these great organizations she also suggests passing notes or words of encouragement to single mothers, handing out information to local pregnancy centers, or making it known on your social media outlets that you are a safe person to talk to and link women with the resources they need.
For those who want to work with pregnancy centers, Amy suggests organizations such as Focus on the Family, Care Net, and Heartbeat International. Again, outside of working directly with these organizations you can organize diaper drives and donate all of the items to local pregnancy centers, send monthly monetary donations to a local pregnancy center, or cards of encouragement and gratitude to those that work at a pregnancy center.
Sometimes the regret of abortion happens quickly. For those who have a chemical abortion, the regret can start as soon as they take the first pill of Mifipristone. Many times women are not 100% percent certain they want an abortion, and start to try to find a way to rescue their baby. This starts the Abortion Pill Reversal process.
The reversal process is safe and begins with emergency, on-going doses of progesterone. Progesterone has been used safely for years to avoid miscarriage or pre-term birth. As mentioned, this is started as soon as a woman calls the Abortion Pill Rescue Hotline. She is also linked with a local pregnancy center to receive the support needed for during and after her pregnancy.
The Abortion Pill Reversal Network is made up of physicians, medical organizations, and a medical advisory board that report the following statistics:
- Abortion Pill Reversal is 64%-68% effective
- At least 2,000 lives have been saved with APR, and
- There is no increased risk of birth defects with APR after Mifipristone is taken.
The media will communicate that the reversal is unlikely, and that women do not change their minds after starting an abortion. However, the above statistics speak to the truth.
“Denying women the truth is denying them real choice.”