Post abortion Trauma Affects More than the Baby's Parents
I have received many phone calls and e-mail communications from individuals who have just discovered that an abortion has occurred in their family. For some, they are overwhelmed with shock. After that wears off, they are left with various emotions that include grief, anger, frustration, and helplessness.
Whether or not you realize it, you are in the process of beginning to mourn a lost family member. Regardless of how the post-abortive parent is reacting, you must give yourself time to mourn this loss.
Maybe you fall into the categories listed below. Regardless, understand that you are hurting and may need to go through your own grief process.
Demographics of Post-Abortive Individuals
While women are normally the initial target audience for ministry services, we know that other people are affected by post abortion pain. These individuals can also be a powerful testimony to abortion's devastation. Here are the groups Ramah International, Inc. is seeking to reach:
Carol Everett, former head of five Dallas abortion clinics as well as a woman who experienced an abortion, describes the post-abortive woman in this way:
"We are everywhere. We are in churches. We are in shopping centers. We are in grocery stores. We work in daycare centers. We are high school dropouts. We are high school graduates. We have Bachelor degrees, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees. We work well below our level of capability. We work at the top level of corporations and governments.
Society is not going to punish us. We punish ourselves with self-destructive habits ... drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction's, suicide attempts or completions, abusive relationships.
Years later something snaps and we can no longer bear the burden of our sin. We confess. Perhaps tentatively, carefully, cautiously, discreetly, prudently to a friend, a loved one, a boyfriend, a husband or a lover. The pain..."
Carol's words -- "years later something snaps and we can no longer bear the burden of our sin" -- accurate describes the break in denial that eventually occurs in most PAS women. For a certain amount of time, we can convince ourselves that we lost a "blob of tissue" in the abortion and not an actual child. Information channels can destroy this myth and bring the reality of the abortion home in an undeniable way. This leaves us open to the feelings of overwhelming grief and guilt that we have stifled for many years. The pain can encompass the heart and until this lost child is properly mourned, peace is a distant concept.
For myself, seeing my second child on the ultrasound screen crumbled the "blob" visual I had in my mind and it was at that point that my world shattered and the pain began. Bruce was fully formed, sucking his thumb, and kicking around at 16 weeks of age. For others, fetal development information or pro-life films (i.e., "The Silent Scream", "The Hard Truth," etc.) can bring the reality of abortion into focus. Or it could be in giving birth or struggling with infertility issues which makes it difficult to deny the humanity of the unborn.
The post-abortive woman can be found in nearly every race, religion, culture, correctional facility, income-bracket, or age range. Society is completely permeated with our ranks. Yet few know us personally because we normally refuse to allow people to be our close friends for fear they might find out our secret. If we aborted for the sake of a career, you will find us at the top of the corporate ladder, working around the clock to prove that we made the right "choice."
Eventually, after the denial is broken with the truth that the woman aborted a fully formed baby, a post-abortive individual will face the truth that she lost a child and begins to grieve. This is the point where Jeremiah 31: 16 comes into play -- "... Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because her children are no more."
Because the woman endured the abortion physically, her emotions differ from other post-abortive individuals. In denying the maternal instinct to "protect your young," the woman has short-circuited many emotions that will come to the surface in distant years.
Here are some groupings of PAS women based on their situation at the time of the abortion:
- The young teenager whose parents insist upon abortion.
- A woman pregnant by rape -- society insists that abortion is the only option.
- Many women involved in abusive relationships perceive abortion as the only way to live -- they could be beaten to death if they made another choice. In other works, their child would eventually die anyway at the hands of the abuser.
- Mothers who want the child but discover the possibility of genetic defects and are strongly advised to abort.
- Health of the mother -- the physical pregnancy could kill them.
- In some Far Eastern countries, where the loss of virginity is punishable by death, abortion is the only viable choice.
- Incest is perhaps the most difficult dilemma. Consider an uncle who has impregnated his niece. He simply takes her to an abortion clinic, signs the papers assuming the role of her father, and she is led away for an additional abuse. The uncle is then free to continue to have sexual relations with her.
- Regardless of the reasons for the abortion, the resulting emotional, spiritual and psychological pain is the same. However, the focus of their anger may vary.
While less is known about the emotional impact of abortion on fathers, the main difference between men and women is that the woman physically experiences the abortion. As a result, the stress can be varied depending upon the father's involvement in the decision. A post-abortive father can fall into several groups as list below:
- He insisted/forced his wife/girlfriend have an abortion.
- He allowed his wife/girlfriend to make the decision to abort.
- He didn't want the abortion to take place and tried to actively stop it.
- He found out about the abortion after it was completed and had no voice in the decision.
Healing can sometimes depend on the scenario. Unfortunately, there is very little is available to men who are struggling with the death of their child through abortion. While many crisis pregnancy centers have offered bible studies to these fathers, few men are willing to address this pain. For fathers who don't know about their child's death, obviously pain cannot occur.
Again, very little is known about the emotional impact of abortion upon grandparents. Grandparent pain can be separated into several categories as well:
- Parents who encouraged/forced their child to abort.
- Parents who did not know their child was pregnant and aborted.
- Parents who allowed their child to make their own choice about aborting.
- Parents who actively tried to stop the abortion but had no legal standing.
For the parents who encouraged/forced the abortion, there are many similarities in pain to the other demographic groups. Guilt, anxiety, mourning, grief, depression, etc. can all result because the person sees himself or herself as having the blood of this child on their hands. In many cases, the healing process can be similar to a mother's process. By acknowledging their sin, reaching out to God and grieving the loss of this child, they can also find peace. Yet they may still be confronted with anger from the aborting child because the child was either helpless or overruled in making their own choice.
For parents who never discover their grandchild was aborted, there is no specific grief. The family often experiences a dysfunctional relationship with the aborting daughter/son but rarely suspect a past abortion could be the reason for their difficulties. This daughter might become angry when a sibling presents the family with the first grandchild, secretly knowing that her child should have received this esteemed position.
When the parent allows the child to make the abortion decision, many times the grandparent feels guilt for not being more actively involved. This is especially painful when history shows the aborted child to be the only grandchild. Peace may be obtained by acknowledging the sin, and asking God to help them through the grieving process.
Parents who actively tried to stop the abortion but had no legal standing are especially vulnerable to pain and family dysfunction. This is more often the case when their son's girlfriend/wife has the abortion. Denial is not a part of dealing with this pain. Grief is immediate and profound.
There are no resources currently available for grandparents suffering the effects of post abortion stress. Ramah International is working to offer tools to this demographic group.
Siblings of the Post-Abortive Woman
Anger and hostility from a sibling who had a secret abortion at the birth of a first grandchild may cause unexplained family problems. This PAS woman may experience profound jealous for other pregnancies within her immediate family. This can cause family dysfunction that no one will understand these emotions until the PAS woman is able to reveal her secret and allowing healing to occur. When she does, these family members can be overcome with grief. Maybe they are especially close to their nieces or nephews and struggle with the understanding that they could have had more family member to love. Regardless, their pain is real and needs to be recognized.
Siblings of the Aborted Child
Imagine your son coming up to you and saying, "Hey, Mom! I had a great dream last night. I went to Heaven and played with my big brother, Jake." This actually happened to a woman who had never told her son about her abortion. Many times, siblings sense a lost brother or sister without confirmation that this has actually happened.
Philip Ney, in his study, "A Consideration of Abortion Survivors," reports three groups of post-abortive siblings:
(a) Replacement/Substitute Child: For those who were considered a "replacement" or "substitute" child (i.e., after the abortion the mother got pregnant immediately in an attempt to recreate her lost baby), discovering the abortion can be very traumatic. Without the death of their sibling, they would not be alive. The feelings can be similar to those experienced by Nazi concentration camp survivors -- "why was I allowed to live?" The child carries a heavy burden of expectation that he/she may not be able to fulfill. When he is disappointing, the parents may react with enraged frustration.
(b) Bound Child: This child reflects parental need to control those forces that destroyed his sibling. If an abortion was done for convenience, social pressure or economic necessity, the parents struggle to make sure it cannot happen again. Subconsciously aware of their destructiveness, the parents overprotect the child against projected hostilities. As the child is kept free from exploring the world, so his intelligence, adaptability and curiosity are crimped.
(c) Haunted Child: The haunted child survives to live in distrust of what may be in store for him while parents conspire not to burden him with the facts. The child is haunted by a mystery, knowing and yet unknowing. He is afraid to ask for clarification in case he discovers something more awful than he already expects.
The healing process is currently unexplored in this area. No resources are available to post-abortive siblings.
Individuals who participated in the Abortion Decision
Perhaps one of the most well known people in this category is Dr. James C. Dobson. In 1968 he was not a member of the pro-life movement and was counseling a young woman in a crisis pregnancy. When she felt abortion was her best option, Dr. Dobson drove her to the clinic and waited while the abortion took place. He would later testify that the blood of that baby was forever on his hands and this is one of the main reasons he is such a dedicated member of the pro-life movement. Many children are now alive because of this one child's death.
These individuals can be former abortion providers or those who were employed by the abortion industry. The devastation when these folks finally realize their sin is monumental.
The International Institute for Pregnancy Loss, under the direction of Dr. Philip Ney, offers the only healing program available for former abortion clinic providers. The program is called, "The Society of the Centurions," and has reached 100 or more wounded hearts found in this category. More needs to be done to assist this effort.
For those who simply assisted, accompanied or encouraged an abortion decision, no resources are currently available to address their pain. Yet a post abortion bible study specifically for this category could be helpful but they should not be mixed in with PAS individuals. This group, using Dr. Dobson's example, can be incredibly effective in post abortion outreach efforts.
It is a fact that at least 40 million abortions have occurred since 1973. Considering the multiple abortion possibility (44% of all post-abortive women will have multiple abortions , we have at least 20 million women who have experienced abortion. Include 20 million men and then add the grandparents and siblings and you come up with potentially 200 million individuals in the US alone who could be touched by post abortion outreach efforts. There are now just 275 million folks in living in the U.S. When you take this vision to the world, this number can be increased to easily one billion people. Regardless, everyone is touched by abortion, whether they know it or not.