Recently, I talked with a friend who had to endure the aftermath of losing life. He and his girlfriend were juniors in college when they decided to have an abortion out of fear of how their parents, friends, and society would treat them. They were both still maturing and they thought that having an abortion was the best choice at the time. However, it’s been 10 years since and their choice has left them with feelings of guilt, depression, and pain.
As a Mental Health Advocate, Women’s Coach, Children’s Counselor, and believer in Christ, when I am empowered to share the truth- I have to speak up and share. Just as hundreds of thousands of people shared their truth on January 22-23, 2016 at the National Walk for Life in Washington, DC.
Despite the blizzard pouring down pounds of snow, supporters made their voices and vision shine through ice storms and freezing temperatures as people marched in solidarity for life. I now join them and I am writing this to shed light and hope on value of their boldness, fearlessness, and joy to speak truth in love.
This post will live on the internet forever as a means of sharing a mental health view on the medical procedure of abortion. Abortion use to be a last resort procedure in America when the life of the mother or baby were at risk. Please read that sentence again, because again, abortion was used when life was at risk. Meaning that in the womb, there is life. It begins at conception and grows into a human being. If the life process is stopped in the womb, then no human will be born. But if that child is given an opportunity to grow- he or she would look just like you and me. If we give that child the time and space that he or she needs to live- who knows, maybe they would turn out to be the next President, Therapist, Tech Leader, International Ballerina, Diplomat, Community Doctor, Hollywood writer, Nonprofit Leader, Musician, Entrepreneur, Artist, Financial Guru, Choreographer, Lawyer, Teacher, Athlete, etc.
From my Christian worldview, the Bible states that you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. So I hope that this post has an opportunity to share truth. Everyone has the power to choose their own path in life and the best decisions are made with research, knowledge, education, and/or sound doctrine. Yet, I believe our culture has made it increasingly difficult for voices that don’t agree to co-exist. For example, Pro Life and Pro Choice organizations both have the right to freedom of speech; yet sometimes, one stance can overshadow another and vice versa in certain contexts. In the end, this is not a political post, nor am I taking a condemning stance on the issue. I am focused on the social and emotional redress of the parents involved. To me, this is where truth and choice must live.
While some women elect to have a medical abortion, complete the operation and have no regrets or mental health affects reported. There are women and men who are affected by their decision in many ways (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). In fact, Post Abortion Stress Syndrome (PAS), a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, is a real condition that some women and even men experience.
The symptoms of post-abortion syndrome will not necessarily appear at the same time, nor is any woman likely to experience the entire list. Some may occur immediately after an abortion and others much later. If you can identify with more than two of these symptoms, it could be that you are experiencing post-abortion syndrome. Below are the symptoms that describe post-abortion syndrome (as described by Dr. Paul and Teri Reisser in their book, Help for the Post-Abortive Woman now entitled A Solitary Sorrow):
Guilt: A mother’s heart is genetically designed to “protect their child at all costs.” Abortion short-circuits that basic human instinct. That can lead to feelings of guilt. A common guilty reaction after abortion could be that the individuals believes future bad events happen because they “deserve it” for making this choice.
Anxiety (i.e., anxiety attacks): Many individuals state that after their abortion they started feeling tense and could not relax. Some outline physical reactions like dizziness, pounding heart, upset stomach, headaches. They may worry about the future, struggle to concentrate and not be able to sleep. It is often difficult to understand the source of anxiety.
Avoiding Children or Pregnant Women: It is common for post-abortive people to avoid children, especially pregnant women or children that would have been around the age of their aborted child. This avoidance can include: skipping baby showers, avoiding the baby aisle at the grocery store, walking around the block to avoid a playground, or making excuses to escape events that include children or pregnant women.
Feeling “Numb”: To avoid painful thoughts after abortion, many work to shut off their emotions. That could mean abandoning friendships and family, particularly if they remind them of the abortion experience. When someone shuts down emotionally, they don’t feel sorrow or joy. Many turn to drugs or alcohol to assist in numbing these memories that result in guilt or anxiety.
Depression: Everyone is sad once in a while. After abortion, gloomy feelings can make the person feel hopeless and unlovable. They may cry uncontrollably for no reason and/or feel like they are going crazy. Perhaps they can’t eat or sleep. Others eat too much and sleep all day. The things they used to enjoy are avoided.
Thoughts of Suicide: Some post-abortive people get so sad that they think it would be easier to die than continue living. Others miss their lost child so much that they want to join them to hold them at last. Anniversary Reminders This “anniversary” can be the aborted child’s due date, or the date of the abortion. On these dates, individuals can feel horrible for no apparent reason. It can take years to realize these dates are related to their abortion experience.
Experiencing The Abortion Again: A post-abortive person can be suddenly transported back to the abortion clinic and remember everything in their minds. Memories can be triggered by simple sounds heard during the abortion procedure – like a vacuum cleaner or a dentist drill. For those who endured medical abortions, it can be the sound of a toilet flushing. Yearly pap tests can also resurrect these memories. Others experience ongoing nightmares involving children, perhaps in pain. They can even have the same nightmare over and over again.
Wanting To Get Pregnant Again: It is normal to want to get pregnant again as soon as possible after any pregnancy loss. Most do so out of a desire to make sure they can still have a baby. Others hope to “replace” the life that was lost during the abortion.
Fear of Infertility A common reaction after abortion is to worry about being able to get pregnant again. Many fear they have aborted the only child they will ever have. Others suspect the abortion could have mutilated their body in some way.
Unable to Bond with Present or Future Children: Some post-abortive people live in fear that children they had before or after the abortion could easily die. This fright can lead these parents to overprotect their children at an unhealthy level.
Fear that Future Children Will Die Some post-abortive people live in fear that children they had before or after the abortion could easily die. This fright can lead these parents to overprotect their children at an unhealthy level.
Eating Disorders: Episodes of anorexia or bulimia is common for people who have chosen abortion. Some get fat or thin to avoid anyone wanting them at a sexual level as that could lead to another pregnancy decision. Eating is also something an individual can personally regulate when their life feels beyond their control.
Alcohol and Drug Use: Drugs and alcohol often serves as a tranquilizer to help keep the memories of an abortion at a distance. They can help calm anxiety and promote sleep. Sadly, the overuse of these elements can lead to other problems at a mental and physical level.
Abortion is not a one minute procedure that leaves the (would-have-been) mother or father in a peaceful state. In our field, it's a life altering procedure that leaves people in need of confidential help and support.
If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms- Grace Matters Network can help.
Grace Matters Network provides motivational coaching to women and can provide nonjudgmental support and guidance. No matter the reason behind the procedure, together we can work through PAS. If you are hurting and need to schedule a coaching session, contact us today: firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-560-8326.
Hope and healing is possible. Your choice is powerful. We hope you choose Grace Matters.
Post Abortion Support: http://postabortionsyndrome.org
Live Action News: http://liveactionnews.org/the-devastating-reality-of-post-abortion-stress-syndrome/
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201010/post-abortion-stress-syndrome-pass-does-it-exist
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/no-women-do-not-regret-getting-abortions_us_55a41166e4b0b8145f734040
* Photo credit is given to photographer. We claim no rights to photos and will remove as requested.