Dealing with a Past Abortion
Your abortion experience may be fairly recent, or it may have occurred more than 15 years ago, but regardless of your age and circumstances, A Hope Center is a
safe and caring place to get help. Many
women and men in this situation feel relieved to discover someone who understands their experience and the emotional consequences they may be enduring. They know they will not be judged and that everything shared with peer
consultants at the center is strictly confidential to the extent
allowed by the law.
Dealing with uncomfortable feelings after an abortion can be very
difficult, since people often feel alone in the process. Friends or
family may tell you:
“Just get over it.”
“It wasn't that big of a deal”
“Don’t worry, time will heal.”
“It was your choice, so why are you upset about it now?”
These responses are discouraging to someone in pain. As a result, women
and men often keep their emotions inside and never talk about them at all.
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Post Abortion Stress (PAS)
is the loss of a pregnancy, but women and men with an abortion in
their past often do not feel they have permission to grieve that loss.
Buried grief may result in depression, anxiety, and re-experiencing the
trauma. These reactions taken together with other adverse emotional
reactions are sometimes referred to as Post Abortion Stress. A Hope
Center peer consultants offer hope and healing to hurting people
through individual and group support.
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Indications of PAS
many women experience a feeling of relief immediately following an abortion
experience, that feeling is sometimes replaced with more destructive
emotions. Check the indications of PAS you may have experienced since your abortion
• Denial, rationalization, and/or numbness
• Dwelling on the aborted child: what he/she may have looked like, his/her age, and gender
• Difficulty dealing with emotions surrounding the birth of children
born after the abortion event: having a difficult time bonding with
those children or being overprotective of them
• Avoiding or having heightened emotions at reminders of pregnant women
or babies: baby showers, maternity or baby departments, pictures of
fetal development, etc.
• Self-destructive behavior: increased promiscuity, “partying” more, workaholic behavior, or eating disorders
• Anniversary reactions: increased negative emotions around the time the baby would have been born or when the abortion occurred
• Disrupted relationships: with the father of the baby, family, or friends associated with the abortion decision
• Guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression
• Flashbacks and/or nightmares
• Suicidal thoughts or actions
The more signs you have, the greater the likelihood you may benefit from peer support at A Hope Center. Serious emotional disturbance, however, should be addressed by a professional counselor. Please call Lisa at 969-6633 for an explanation of our program and/or a referral to a mental health professional.
The widely reported sense of relief immediately following an abortion (along with few clearly attributable symptoms in the first few years after the procedure) may lead one to believe that abortion does little emotional harm, but this conclusion does not align with the experiences of women who report strong negative emotions resulting from their abortion choice. At A Hope Center, most women seeking our post-abortion services describe disturbing negative emotions as well as self-destructive behaviors related to their abortion experience.
Even though the existence of Post-Abortion Stress has been in contention among professionals studying the issue, a growing body of evidence affirms the existence of PAS in some women. More longitudinal studies are needed, since signs of disturbance often become apparent 5, 10, or even 15 years after the abortion. Research has shown that several factors may increase the risk of Post-Abortion Stress. They include: the woman's age, the abortion circumstances, the stage of pregnancy at which the abortion occurs, and the woman's religious beliefs.
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A True Abortion Story
was only 18. Too young to raise a child and too afraid to tell my
parents - afraid they might be angry, hurt, disappointed - afraid they
might tell me to keep it, and at the same time, afraid they might tell
me to abort it. So I didn’t tell them. I just cried. I knew I had no
choice but to get an abortion. I called the clinic and I got the
money—somehow. A friend dropped me off in front of the old building and
I climbed the crumbling stairs thinking, “This is surreal. How can this
be a clinic?” There were a lot of us in the waiting room. It wasn’t
memorable except no one was looking at each other and I couldn’t
believe what we were all about to do. I stole a look here and there,
imagining in my mind what their reasons might be— why we were all in
this dingy place together, and why everyone could appear as if this was
no big deal—like we were just about to get an ugly mole removed.
My next memory was being in a tiny office with a lady behind an
old-fashioned school-teacher type desk. I think she was supposed to be
my “counselor.” A few words were exchanged (I don’t remember what was
said) and finally she asked for the money. I handed over a wad of
bills. It was carefully counted and shoved in the top drawer. Fear crept in
over the rest of my emotions. “What do I expect?” I thought. I felt
dirty and ashamed as I fell into a resigned stupor. I was sent to
change my clothes and was given a thin cotton gown. Finally, I was sent
to a tiny little room on the floor below. From that point I felt there was no escape and no turning
back. Several other women were there too, waiting for the “instructor”
to begin. All I remember was a plastic model of female anatomy, the
woman’s droning voice, and the pitch of fear that was building in me. I
wanted to ask something … but I couldn’t.
I remember having the feeling of “not being seen”—by anyone.
Several women just sat there in their cotton gowns, staring at the
floor, trying not to think. My body was gripped with a paralyzing fear
and a strange cold that wafted through the room. It permeated
my bones and invaded my soul. Naked and defenseless, I’ll never forget
the cold. My name was called and I grabbed the back of my gown as I
numbly stood up. They were calling us in every ten to fifteen minutes,
and my turn had arrived. I worried that I was too far along, because I
was pretty sure I was too far along. Something inside me hoped I was
too far along. The doctor pushed down on top of my abdomen
and said “She’s OK.” The next thing I remember is having rods inserted in
my cervix. (I found out what this was later; he did the procedure
without explanation.) I felt tears fall down my cheeks as he placed the
instrument for extraction. I remember thinking I was screaming with
nothing coming out. There was intense pain though I am not sure how
much was physical and how much was emotional. Then I vaguely remember a
nurse saying, “It’ll be over soon.” Some women feel relief at this
point—their crisis over. I, however, was traumatized immediately.
They sat me in the recovery room which included a few recliners
located about the perimeter of the rectangular space. I remember some
towel or pad or something to catch the blood and I remember crying
uncontrollably, uncontrollably without sound. No one came to comfort. A nurse furrowed her
brow. A patient rolled and narrowed her eyes as if to say, “How dare
you cry.” A few minutes passed, my gown was lifted by a passing nurse
and I was checked for hemmorage. I looked at what came out of me and
was gripped by its foul origin of destruction, a visual reminder of
what I had done.
I don’t remember the rest—getting dressed or the drive home. I just
remember crawling into bed and crying loudly this time. I cradled my
empty womb and begged for forgiveness. I wondered how I would go on.
My traumatic experience left swollen seeds of bitterness in my heart
for the clinic, the doctor, the father of the baby, my friend that “helped,” and my parents who never even knew. I was especially angry
with my “true love” who had left my life a year prior. If he hadn’t
hurt me, none of this would have happened, I reasoned. I hated myself
and I didn’t want to live. As it turned out, living wouldn’t be easy.
The abortion hadn’t made the problem go away. It only made it worse.
The ugly mole I imagined in the waiting room was successfully removed
and no one could see my terrible mistake, but the shame I tried to
remove multiplied like a cancerous tumor into depression, grief, and
self-destruction. I suffered 18 years before I sought help at A Hope
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True Accounts of Healing
has been said that abortion is a woman's best kept secret. This was
true for me. I kept my abortion concealed for years. I needed a safe
person with whom to share my secret. I found that person at A Hope
Center. She was not shocked or judgmental, but instead responded with
compassion and acceptance. Because of her response, I felt safe and was
able to get the help I needed to heal my pain, and find forgiveness and
total freedom from my abortion experience."
"Since my abortion, sadness and guilt were never far from me, so I
responded by trying to justify what I had done. I asked God to forgive
me, but never really felt forgiven. I ended up marrying the father of
that baby, and promptly experienced five years of infertility. I
thought a baby would fill that hole in my grieving heart, but after a
daughter and then a son, I still felt empty. I had living proof in both
my children of the life that I had helped to destroy. Thankfully, I
eventually found healing and forgiveness. It's my dream that the
hurting women and men in our community will also find this freedom
through past-abortion help at A Hope Center.”
"I carried pain from an abortion for over 18 years. My secret had eaten
me alive, bit by bit, until everything good in my life was in jeopardy.
The hardest part of admitting I needed help was making that first phone
call. I had built a wall of self-protection through secrecy, denial,
and rationalization. Opening up to a stranger was very frightening, but
I shouldn’t have been afraid. The kind person I spoke with at A Hope
Center listened with a gentle, caring heart. She understood how I felt.
She didn’t judge me. She only wanted to help. After peer counseling at the
center, I finally healed the gaping wound abortion left in my life. I
have an incredible sense of emotional and spiritual freedom now. I am
free to laugh and to cry. I am free to love and to be loved.”