While working in a pro-life pregnancy center, I was often asked to speak to church groups and share the mission of our center and make an appeal for volunteers. One Mother’s Day I was asked to speak to such a group. I always took these opportunities to share my own story because I wanted to put a face on the other victims of abortion. Not only do we need to focus on the babies we hope to save but also on those women who are among the many millions who have had an abortion.
Living with a painful secret
I told the congregation that morning that when I became pregnant at the age of 16, my family made an adoption plan for the baby. Once the adoption was complete, it was never spoken of again, and the turmoil I had inside was never addressed. I acted out in all kinds of self-destructive ways and found myself pregnant again at age 18.
There was no way on earth I would confess this to my parents, my siblings or anyone else. I did have the fleeting hope that the father of the baby would want me and want this baby, but that was a fruitless dream. The father of my baby drove me to the abortion mill, and I sacrificed my child on the altar of self-preservation.
I also shared with the congregation that morning that I had spent 30 years suffering in silence over that abortion, bathed in shame and self-hatred. I told them how I credited to God the aching in my heart that finally led me to the pro-life pregnancy center where I now worked. In that center, I was finally able to admit to another human being what I had done. The floodgates were opened, and the healing process began. At last I was able to pray specifically to God about my sin, repent of that sin and seek His forgiveness.
In speaking that Mother’s Day morning, I urged anyone who needed help and healing from their own abortion experience to call me. As was often the case, no one asked for help—that is, until one year later. That’s when I received a letter from Amy, who had been in the congregation that morning.
In her note she told me how stunned she was at what I had shared. She said that it felt as if I had been appealing directly to her. She asked to meet me and go through our abortion-recovery study. Amy’s story was different from mine, but our years of shame and silence are all too familiar.
Usually by the time women seek help, they have spent months or years wallowing in shame, regret, denial, anger, guilt and self-loathing. They only came to our center when the pain was acute, when they could no longer live with the horrible secret they carried.
I have come to believe that no woman can escape the pain of an abortion. Someday, all who’ve undergone it must come face to face with the reality of the abortion. Whether they were aware or not, God’s most sacred law was violated. “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalms 51:4 Psalms 51:4Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge.
American King James Version×).
Both women and men have shared with me how they spent years trying to justify the abortion, punishing themselves and others, being emotionally unstable, drinking to excess or doing drugs, having nightmares, ruining one relationship after another, emotionally smothering the children they did have or rejecting them, refusing to forgive others and, perhaps most astonishing of all, having multiple abortions. The world told them that abortion was legal, quick, safe and the only way to get on with the life they deserved. They believed the lies and became part of the millions who suffer after abortion.
What they experience is a stress reaction to life-changing trauma and loss. It has been described as Post-Abortion Stress or Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS). The onset of PAS can occur at any time from immediately after the abortion to years later. It involves the inability to express feelings about the pregnancy and subsequent abortion. They are unable to resolve the losses due to the abortion and come to any kind of inner peace.
PAS does not discriminate; it affects both women and men and can develop in those who consciously made the choice or those who were forced or coerced into the abortion.
The victims of PAS get the message: “Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Get over it and get on with your life!” A Christian woman may believe she can never find forgiveness from the sin of abortion and so she keeps her secret from family, friends and her church. She lives in fear that someone will find out and struggles with all the consequences of the abortion (both emotional and physical) alone.
Pro-choice advocates stress the importance of a woman’s choice: “her body, her choice.” They insist that abortion is the best decision in certain circumstances. The existence of PAS and any feelings of loss are denied, because to acknowledge that there was a loss is to admit something of value was destroyed. That’s an issue the pro-choice advocates cannot face.
Until there is a crack in the wall of denial, or until she finds safe help, a woman is stuck. Much like a cancer left untreated, PAS continues to grow. Likewise, PAS must be dealt with so that healing can take place.
Replacing lies with truth
I would summarize the abortion-recovery process in this way: replacing lies with truth. The center where I served used a Bible-based study that focused first of all on God, His Word, His law and then on how His law had been violated by our actions. Each lie we believed would be carefully held up to the light of His Word and replaced with truth. Rather than feeling shamed and worthless, God became our source of courage. All of this is done in safety and confidentiality and with great care and love. No more solitary sorrow.
Amy, who I mentioned above, had this story to share. She got pregnant at age 14. Being completely naive, she ignored her body’s symptoms. Eventually her mother realized Amy was pregnant and was relentless to find someone who would “get rid of it.” She drove her to Wichita, Kansas, to abortionist George Tiller, one of the few performing late-term abortions at the time (who was later shot and killed over that practice).
He performed a late-term abortion on 14-year-old Amy. After the two-day ordeal, Amy’s mother made it known they would never speak of it again. Was it any wonder that Amy went on to have serial relationships and subsequent abortions?
But that’s not the end of the story. Amy completed our multiweek abortion-recovery study and found real healing for her grief and loss. She was able to forgive her mother and herself and all those who were involved in her abortions. She went on to become an advocate for others who were in need of abortion recovery.
I have spoken mostly about women in this article, but the truth is that many men are affected as well. A man once shared with me how devastated he had been when his girlfriend told him several weeks into her pregnancy that she’d decided to abort. He had cowardly said, “I’ll support your decision.”
He told me that afterwards he had spent decades cutting himself off from any kind of female relationship and was haunted by the fact: “There was a baby—and then there was not.” He eventually did find an abortion-recovery group for men where he began his healing process and has since been involved in the abortion-recovery movement.
You are not alone
No one needs to face this alone. If you are suffering from your own abortion or that of a loved one, please reach out to someone who will help. I am humbled by the number of truly caring organizations that offer help and healing to men and women who grieve after abortion. Please reach out today.
The abortion-recovery study I’ve used is SaveOne Abortion Recovery: (615) 636-2654 or saveone.org. They have many chapters worldwide.
AfterAbortion.org has numerous resources for everyone, including shared testimonies.
RamahInternational.org provides resources to those considering or navigating life after abortion. Their most recent resource is for healing abortion’s heartache in grandparents. They have centers in countries around the world.
H3Helpline.org offers help for abortion recovery to women and men: (866) 721-7881.