In our circles we have discussed the issue of abortion – why it is wrong, the pain the baby feels, and of course, why God detests it.

But what of the women who have had abortions?  How do we view them?  When we think about abortion and its effects, do we have enough of a complete picture, and do we sufficiently think about the harmful effect on the woman who has had an abortion?  We think about the baby, but what about the effect on the woman, and the father of the child?

I have been involved in the area of pregnancy help for the past 12 years and have specialized in studying Post Abortion Grief.  I would like to share with you, some thoughts on abortion and the effect it has on society. I have added quotes from various books throughout this article, and the books quoted from are listed at the end.

Unfortunately, since the acceptance of abortion within our society, many women are pressured into having an abortion.  This could be by a boyfriend, husband, parents or even a doctor.  Society itself plays a big role in the increase of women having abortions.  Women are told that having a child when they are not financially secure, when they are single, or when they are young is not a wise decision.  That it would be best for the woman and the child if she has an abortion.  And if the child is not planned or ‘unwanted’ than it should be aborted because otherwise she will abuse and neglect her child after birth. Many women feel alone when they are at their most vulnerable.  If they have no support from their husband/boyfriend/parents, then they wonder who will support them and how they would manage.  They are often threatened with abandonment if they don’t go ahead with an abortion.

“It isn’t just babies that are killed by abortion, but a part of every woman dies who has chosen this path.  A pregnant woman should not be forced to choose between the conflicting wants and needs of herself and those around her.  A woman’s rights should and must include the right to bear children in a safe, loving and welcoming environment.”1

In cases such as rape, incest or if the child is intellectually disabled, abortion is seen as the sympathetic answer for the woman!  Yet abortion is just another act of violence against them.  Abortion is seen as ‘a quick fix’, where nobody needs to know and yet, for most women, it becomes the most painful and lifelong secret.  It is the biggest lie being sold to our women of all time!

Studies indicate that as many as 87% of women who have had an abortion will suffer some form of post abortion trauma.  Personally I would be surprised if any woman would come through an abortion unscathed.  The main features of Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS) are denial and suppression. Typically (but not always) the abortion is followed by years (5 to 10) of unrecognized reactions, the woman not consciously associating the problems she is experiencing with the abortion.  With some women the affects are immediate and intense, with some trying to commit suicide very soon after the abortion, and others crying for weeks on end.

“I went on with life and tried to pretend, unsuccessfully, that the pregnancy and abortion never happened.  Although pro-choice slogans gave me the courage to choose abortion, there was no comfort for the pain, suffering, and confusion that followed.  I was faced with the harsh reality that I had done something horrible and that it could not be undone.”2

For many the start of delayed symptoms is often triggered by certain events such as:

  • an anniversary date (due date of birth, or anniversary of the abortion)
  • relationship deterioration or breakup
  • miscarriage
  • failure to conceive
  • loss of a wanted child
  • onset of menopause
  • birth of a wanted child (often mis-diagnosed as Post Natal Depression)
  • death of a loved one
  • birth of a friends child

“I discovered that keeping the ‘secret’ had actually interfered with my healing.  This terrible secret took up so much room in my heart that it wouldn’t allow the mending to begin that would put my broken heart back together.”3

“The thing is, this approach of denying what happened and our feelings from it, takes a lot of energy because it means hiding from things – especially hiding from yourself.  Denial, someone said, is a form of self-protection.  And it works, rather nicely too.  It insulates us from emotions that we are not prepared to handle.  It buys us time …for a while.  Denial cannot last forever.  It costs too much energy, it keeps us from healing, and so we are kept from living normally again.”4

The symptoms of Post Abortion Syndrome are many.  Some of these include:

  • frequent weeping/ major depression
  • suicidal thoughts and attempts
  • total loss of self esteem
  • alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • unnecessary risk taking
  • repeat abortions
  • extreme grief/ anxiety /guilt / anger
  • withdrawn behaviour
  • flashbacks/ sadness/ loss of joy/ irritability/ memory loss
  • sexual dysfunction
  • promiscuity
  • chronic relationship problems
  • desire for an atonement child

“I was a walking, talking heartache.  At times the dark, heavy pain was so overwhelming, I had trouble breathing.  It was as though I was trying to move through quicksand, but was being sucked down.  I felt used. Abandoned. Ugly. Unwanted. Unloved.”5

This is only a short list of some of the symptoms experienced by women after an abortion.  Many women however, do not connect their symptoms with their abortion.  Society tells them that they made the decision so they should be happy.  There is no room for the woman to grieve, to talk about her experience and no acceptance of her symptoms, simply because society has chosen to ignore the facts.  There are only some doctors who have recognized Post Abortion Grief, while many others still try to write off the symptoms as other things.  This is especially true when a new mother presents with Post Natal Depression.  The birth of a ‘wanted’ child is one of the biggest triggers for the onset of Post Abortion Syndrome, but many people in the medical profession do not want to hear about problems with a past abortion.  There are still many books written by people in the medical profession which state that the overwhelming feeling a woman will experience after abortion is relief.  If any woman comes back complaining of other symptoms, she is simply ignored.  This only makes the grief and symptoms worse because the woman than feels as though she is not normal.  It is only through talking to others who have experienced the same or through talking to people who are understanding and accepting of their symptoms that they are able to start the journey to recovery.

“I learned that grieving, which is so important in healing, is quashed by a society that doesn’t want to hear and doesn’t understand.  My guilt and shame also caused me to keep my secret hidden.  Until women identify their need to grieve their loss and are encouraged to do so, they will continue to experience emotional and psychological trauma.”6

How is it possible for a woman suffering from Post Abortion Trauma to find recovery?  As I just mentioned, one of the first thing a woman needs in order to start this recovery is acceptance and validation of her feelings.  She needs someone to listen to her, to allow her to express her feelings without judgment or interruption.  Then there are other areas to deal with and one of the biggest is guilt and forgiveness.  All Post Abortive women talk about an inability to forgive themselves.  And we know, that from a human perspective, it is impossible to forgive ourselves for something we have done wrong.  In this case forgiveness seems even harder to accept because the mother caused the death of her own innocent child – a child which she was meant to protect.  There is no way for the child to forgive her because she killed it.  As Christians we know the answer.  We know where to find forgiveness.  And it is at the foot of the cross.  Christ shed His blood for sinners and no sin is too great for Him to cover.  Women suffering from Post Abortion Syndrome are completely broken, crushed by Satan, yet there is hope for them.

The promise is there, as we can read in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So where does that leave us as Christians?  Should we play a part in recognizing and helping women who are suffering from Post Abortion Grief?  Yes!!

Jesus gave us His wonderful example of how He felt compassion for the people who were suffering.  Matthew 9:36,37 – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”’.

Yes, the harvest is plentiful.  There are many suffering, broken people.  Even though I have talked about women, there are also many men who grieve deeply after an abortion and also suffer immense guilt, especially if they pressured the woman in any way.  There are many empty people looking for mercy, for grace and love.  And let us not forget that there are also those among us who have suffered through abortion.  As Christians, we are not immune to the temptation of abortion.  If we know someone suffering within our circles we need to remind them of God’s grace.  There are also other avenues which can help and lead those who suffer to healing.  Speaking to a counselor who knows and understands Post Abortion Grief is great.  There are retreats – one called Rachels vineyard which is run in various cities in America, Canada and Australia.  There are also many books written on the subject, which are great for anyone interested to read, in order to gain an understanding of those who suffer.

“I want women who are suffering from abortion to know that they can be healed.  I want them to know that the train wreck of thoughts, disjointed feelings and years of depression are normal after abortion.  I want them to know that they can experience feelings of joy and peace as I have, and that it’s only because of the divine mercy of Jesus Christ that I can stand here today.”7

In Isaiah 53:5 we read what Christ has done for repentant sinners – ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed’.  What a beautiful testimony to those who are suffering, those who are sick inside, those who are riddled with guilt and pain.  And it is our privilege, as Christians, to offer this hope, to lead women to forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

One last thing which should be mentioned in relation to this, is whether we are also willing to support those who have chosen to continue their pregnancy.  Do we praise them for their brave decision, or do we look down on them if they are single, young and pregnant?  Are we there to support single mothers?  Will we offer to help them?  If we disagree with abortion, we must show that we are open and available to help and support.

– Lyn Schoof

1 Real Abortion Stories, edited by Barbara Horak, pg 78

2 Ibid pg 65

3 Ibid pg 36

4 Redeeming a Father’s Heart, Kevin Burke, David Wemhoff, Marvin Stockwell, pg 56

5 Real Abortion Stories, edited by Barbara Horak, pg 3

6 Ibid pg 82

7 You’re Not Alone, Jennifer O’Neill, pg xiv