The Human Face of Abortion
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” (C.S. Lewis – April 29, 1959)
Since entering the field of unplanned pregnancy and abortion recovery outreach in 1991, I have had the great blessing of working with multitudes of post-abortive individuals at all stages of healing. We are everywhere — in churches, shopping centers, grocery stores, daycare centers, high schools, pregnancy centers. We encompass all spectrums of the educational system — from high school drop-outs to holding Ph.D. degrees. We often work well below our level of capacity yet also at the top levels of corporation, governments and institutions. Most of the time, we go unnoticed but that doesn’t mean we don’t exist.
Statistics from abortion providers say that if you look into any American audience, nearly one third of the women you see could have experienced an abortion.[i] Abortion is the most common form of surgical procedure in the United States yet also the one that is rarely discussed in any setting.
For most of us who made this choice, this is a secret we dare not share. If people – even loved ones – knew about our abortion decision, they would not like us, love us, or associate with us. In the unhealed heart of a post-abortive woman, we have committed a sin that is so horrendous we believe it to be unforgivable. This sin stamps a scarlet letter A on our foreheads and souls…
Society is not going to punish us. We punish ourselves with self-destructive behaviors: drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, sexual dysfunctions, suicide attempts or completions, abusive relationships — often times never associating this pain and behavior with our abortion decision. That memory is buried so deeply and covered with other dysfunctional activities in an attempt to distance our minds from the seemingly haunting presence of our lost child(ren).
Somewhere along this road something snaps and we can no longer bear the burden of these memories. Perhaps the break is triggered on the anniversary of the Roe versus Wade decision where abortion is often featured in media channels. Or it could be a mother’s day celebration. Getting pregnant and giving birth is an overwhelming reminder. Or perhaps it is in a second, third, fourth crisis pregnancy, where abortion is repeated. Hearing a song from that period or a fragrance can reminds us of the moment when we lost so much. Yearly anniversary dates such as the date of the abortion or the due date of the child can also initiate this depression.
When these triggers of pain occur, some confess — perhaps quietly, discreetly, tentatively, or even angrily to a friend, loved one or family member. The pain is obvious and the relief in finally stepping out to recognize our lost child(ren) is a first step in the healing process.
Others dare not confess and further withdraw into themselves, trusting no one. They have overheard conversations portraying painful condemnations such as, “I don’t know how anyone could ever choose abortion. They must be horrible people.”
Even in approaching the abortion clinic, some were branded and taunted as “murderers” by a certain type of abortion opponent. Those voices typically propelled us into the apparently safe arms of those who assist with us in this choice we would come to regret so deeply. It is often hard for us to trust anyone on either side of this hotly disputed political topic.
Many of us began this journey due to the prayers of others who never forgot quietly uttered confessions or have a Godly understanding that women such as ourselves are silently in their midst. To those who have prayed, please continue to do so. Our journey to wholeness in Christ can be instantaneous or a long procession.
If you know or suspect that a loved one could be struggling with this pain, perhaps you are unsure how to comfort them. Begin by understanding that we need your unconditional love and acceptance. There is no sin that God cannot forgive yet many of us struggle to forgive ourselves for making this decision. Abortion needn’t be an unspoken topic around us but it must be carefully and kindly addressed without condemnation so as to not bring further guilt and shame to our hearts. Always realize we are in your midst. Faced with a similar situation, any one could have made the same choice.
All of us have been touched by abortion – whether we know it or not. With each abortion a whole segment of family lineage is lost. The next time you address the topic of abortion, please remember those around you who have made this choice. A word of encouragement to us can go a long way in helping us find God’s healing.
[i] “Facts in Brief: Induced Abortion,” The Alan Guttmacher Institute, Washington DC, January, 2006.