When Abortion Recovery Video Based Programs Fail: The Unexpected “Fall Out” on Post-Abortive Hearts

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  Matthew 12:33

“I am not like the women on those videos, Sydna,” a distraught woman recently relayed to me after completing an abortion recovery video based program. “They were perfect and their healing was obvious. I can’t relate to them.  What is wrong with me?”

Abortion recovery video based programs seem to be the rage in pregnancy centers today.  Their format typically involves watching an hour-long video of another group going through the healing process.  The class then spends forty minutes in discussion of the video and homework assignments.

A “small-group” video platform relating to books of the Bible, or a closer walk with God, can certainly have a profound impact on hearts for Christ.  Yet does this format translate well in addressing the deep emotional trauma related to abortion or even sexual abuse?

As I reflect on my own personal healing after abortion, I am concerned about the depersonalization of a video format. While snippets of videos (5-8 minutes) can certainly verify points about the emotions of grief, hour-long videos eliminates  powerful discussions related to each individual’s pain.  Abortion’s agony is frequently accompanied by sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse.  It is also often masked by deep denial that needs to be rooted out through dialogue with a caring individual.

During my own recovery process, God met me each day through the homework assignments.  I grew to rely on the fellowship and camaraderie with group members. These intimate two hour dialogues also triggered memories that needed to be addressed immediately.

Through Godly leaders, called to minister to post-abortive women, the personal format of my recovery program was centered around Biblical concepts.  That allowed God to move in a unique way, facilitating a level of healing that transformed my life quite obviously.

During my aborted child’s memorial service, God removed my guilt and shame and helped me to forgive myself and experience His joy at a new level.  I am still in touch with members of that group today!

Since God’s healing, I’ve been an advocate for women who have experienced abortion.   God called me to be one of the first to publicly share my abortion testimony on a radio broadcast in 1992 that reached @10,000,000 listeners.  In sharing my name, I was also allowed to assist those that responded.  I learned then that every lamb that God sends into my life involves a great responsibility for their emotional care in referring to local recovery programs.

The most heartbreaking moments of my ministry life arrive when a woman I’ve referred to an abortion recovery group graduates in deeper emotional pain than when she entered. This initial caller was in that spot. While this has been rare over the last two decades, recently this additional wounding has become much more prevalent.  In searching for the root of this new problem, the common denominator has been that these women attended a abortion recovery video based program.

The struggling mother continued with great heartbreak, “They were all perfect – like the cliquish women in church that look down on me.  They didn’t have my pain level either. I’m a freak. I cry every single day and feel worse now.   It took my husband a long time to support me in attending this class in the first place.  He’s  angry now and my children wonder what they’ve done wrong to make their mommy cry so much.  Our lives are a mess.  I’ll never attempt to address this pain again.  God just can’t heal me.”

As I agonized over her heartbreaking situation, I realized God had accomplished a miracle in her contacting me at all.  Most would just slip away, lost in a sea of agony.  When asked why she had attended the class, she said, “Because I love God.  I want to be His bride. I want to give up this pain. I watched your testimony on-line and realized that you were a lot like me. That gave me the courage to at least try something. I found this pregnancy center on your directory page.”

For the next hour, and over several e-mails, I  encouraged this broken woman that God could INDEED heal her heart.  Sadly, she refused my referral to a non-video based class led by a trusted leader.   I could not put my arms around her and offer tangible support.  Nor was there a possibility for me to communicate with her angry husband who was dealing with a wife who was now weepier than before!

After a month-long discussion, she slipped away from contact but God has her in the palm of His hand and I pray for her every day.

Another similar caller outlined, “There were five other women in this class.  I could never stop crying long enough to join the discussion. No one ever asked me to explain how I was feeling or even pass me a tissue. Two people monopolized each discussion session.  They didn’t care about my pain at all.”

There have been many other calls, each with a similar message. They had summoned their courage, fought the “flight” response that is common with PTSD related to abortion, and attended an abortion recovery class that used the video platform. Some were willing to attempt another non-video based class. Most simply slipped away like the first caller.

With the advent of medical services, new workers have joined the pregnancy center movement.   Most have never experienced abortion. Directors are tempted to discontinue abortion recovery efforts entirely, due to time constraints and/or the cost of offering ultrasound services.

Some medical versus missionary based leaders feel led to reject post-abortive volunteers, perhaps believing they are too damaged!  In these scenarios, aa abortion recovery video based program seems to be a perfect solution!  Training seems unnecessary or simplified because the video is filled with “professionals” or “trained” leaders who seem to have a depth of experience on this topic.  But do they?

What does success look like in working with abortion’s wounded hearts?  Here are some obvious questions to ask:

  • Do individuals attending these programs graduate clearly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • Are they experiencing the joy of God’s unique redemption?
  • Have they accepted and given forgiveness to those involved in their choice?
  • Are they released from the deep pain that accompanies this pregnancy loss  enjoying a closer walk with God?

Success depends on God’s hand in each individual heart.  Some have had multiple abortion experiences and may need a separate program for each life lost.  Others discover God’s deep healing from multiple abortions through just one recovery class. Some are touched by a small group study that has nothing to do with the abortion topic. Clearly, God can heal in any way He desires.

It is obvious that facilitators need to be personally vested with each individual to determine and directly assist with their emotional needs. Tangible, compassionate support is one key to successful abortion recovery programs as it is difficult to fellowship with women on a video screen.

The role of the abortion recovery facilitator is outlined clearly in Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV):

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

If you replace the bolded word “me,” with “a video,”  I think you’ll get God’s point.  While abortion recovery video based programs seem popular, I strongly urge a re-evaluation of their overall use.

Sydna Massé is President & Founder of Ramah International.  She is also the author of the book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion (David C. Cook Publishing, January, 2009).

Abortion Recovery Blog Sydna Masse

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