If one third of American women have experienced abortion, why is it that you rarely hear anyone confess to this choice? Abortion is typically cloaked in secrecy. Post-abortive silence speaks volumes about the post-abortive shame that is often associated with this choice.
In working with tens of thousands of post-abortive individuals, Ramah finds it is often difficult for these hearts to resolve the issue of their post-abortive shame in having participated in abortion. Triggers like the birth of a subsequent child, learning the details of fetal development, losing another child through miscarriage, or a future understanding that they actually took part in the loss of their own child through abortion can intensify post-abortive shame.
Even if these hearts were coerced or harassed into the abortion, many come to the point of recognition that they should have fought harder not to have the abortion. It doesn’t matter if these conclusions are accurate or not. Post-abortion emotions can be complicated to understand.
To address this emotional pain, it’s important to outline the difference between the emotions of guilt and shame:
Guilt involves the realization that one has violated the law or the rights of another person and/or God.
Shame is remorseful consciousness of guilt that makes one feel disgraced or dishonored.
While guilt tells us we made a mistake, shame wants to tell us we are a mistake.
Post-abortive shame often produces thoughts of worthlessness. Many often believe they are unworthy of love at any level. This emotion can often lead to suicidal tendencies.
Post-abortive shame states that nobody can help us. Unhealthy shame is often called “the sorrow of the world.” It can be a major enemy in the effort to healing, especially if it binds us to maintaining secrets.
Many individuals can be stunted in their spiritual growth because they expend great energy to ensure, “No one will ever know about my abortion. It will always remain a secret.”
Abortion disgrace can initiate great fear of parents, spouses, children, or friends discovering an abortion secret. Even when loved ones show OBVIOUS compassion towards other post-abortive people, it is hard for the post-abortive to believe they even deserve to be accepted and forgiven for this choice.
Self-destructive behaviors can encircle the post-abortive shame emotion. Women who endure physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of others often believe they “deserve the abuse” for their abortion action.
Even in professional counseling situations, rarely does an intake form include the questions, “How many abortions have you experienced?” While we may not answer truthfully, simply asking us the question can outline to our hearts that our abortion could be the root of our pain.
Pro-choice rhetoric often insists that post-abortive shame is the result of Christian ethics and judgment. This message outlines that only Christian women feel shame about their past abortions. Even in Japan, with less than 3% of a Christian population, post-abortive women have memorials to their aborted babies in Shinto shrines. While God’s hand of conviction may bring the truth of the loss of a child to a clearer level, there is no proof that only Christian women suffer from the emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical consequences of abortion.
Shame can be deeper for those who chose abortion multiple times. These women often believe they are much worse than anyone else. This shame is complicated when someone remembers one abortion more vividly than another.
If you know a post-abortive person experiencing obvious shame, continue to encourage them to consider an abortion recovery program. While they may be unable to discuss their choice with you, they can benefit from understanding you don’t judge them. Whenever the abortion topic is discussed around these wounded hearts, be sure to vocally outline your understanding and lack of judgment whenever possible.
Should you be struggling today with feelings of post-abortive shame surrounding your abortion, understand that you are not alone. Millions of us have wrestled this emotion after abortion.
Within the one third of American society that has experienced abortion is a beautiful network of abortion recovery leaders who can identify and understand each post-abortive emotion. Your secrets can find a safe home in these confidential programs that will not force you to reveal anything to the world. They are the perfect place to share an abortion secret!
Sydna Masse is the President and Founder or Ramah International and the author of the book, Her Choice to Heal Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion. To contact her, write to [email protected].