By Charles Gerber
I grieve for two victims in every abortion—for the discarded life filled with potential, and for the woman who aborts. I have talked to many women who have had abortions in my role as a Christian counselor. Years later, the emotional pain is often more intense than it was at first. Many of them endure a secret storm of shame.
Statistics indicate an estimated 46 million induced abortions are performed worldwide each year—nearly one and one-half abortions every second.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1,312,990 abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2000—a number slightly less than the population of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. In fact, that number may not be high enough if it omits the use of the abortion pill RU 486.
Isaiah stated, “I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see” (Isaiah 21:3). That is what I am feeling. These numbers are staggering.
The Great Divide of Opinion
What happens to women after they’ve had an abortion? The pro-life and pro-abortion camps do not agree. A Planned Parenthood website states,
Research studies indicate that emotional responses to legally induced abortion are largely positive. They also indicate that emotional problems resulting from abortion are rare and less frequent than those following childbirth.
Anti-family planning activists, however, circulate unfounded claims that a majority of the 29 percent of pregnant American women who choose to terminate their pregnancies suffer severe and long-lasting emotional trauma as a result. They call this nonexistent phenomenon “post-abortion trauma” or “post-abortion syndrome.” They hope that terms like these will gain wide currency and credibility despite the fact that neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognizes the existence of these phenomena.
Consider another study that claims,
“Sixty-five percent of American women studied [who had abortions] experienced multiple symptoms of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], which they attributed to their abortions. Slightly over 14 percent reported all the symptoms necessary for a clinical diagnosis of abortion induced PTSD, and 84 percent said they did not receive adequate counseling. Thirty-one percent had health complications afterwards.
Both conclusions cannot be right.
A Refuge of Lies
Note the phrases “largely positive” and “nonexistent phenomenon” in the Planned Parenthood report. The APA’s diagnostic manual on mental health does not recognize “guilt.” Why, then, would it recognize the emotional effects of abortion? This failure to acknowledge guilt may stem from one of two sources.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Our secular society is blinded to the effects of abortion. They have exchanged the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25). The prophet Isaiah observed, “You boast, ‘We have entered into a covenant with death, with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place’” (Isaiah 28:15).
Satan entices unbelievers to live amid a refuge of lies. In regard to abortion, this results in catchphrases like “tissue mass” and “reproductive health services.” Such lies falter and fail, leading to depression. These lies are designed to blind the mind to abortion’s truth and to the physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual consequences of abortion. They provide a false sense of peace and security.
Another source of the failure to recognize guilt may result from what psychologists call the Dunning Kruger effect—a psychological impairment causing people who are unknowingly ignorant about a topic to believe they are well informed.
Many women who have abortions retain painful memories of the event created by six major sources: the five senses and time. When she sees a stroller, hears a baby cry, or passes a pregnant woman, she remembers her own abortion and mental anguish results. Likely she remembers the day, time, and even weather conditions of the day she aborted.
Helping Victims Heal
We can use our unique position in Christ to bring hope and help to those who struggle in abortion’s aftermath.
First, we must learn to see those who have chosen abortion from God’s point of view. Matthew 9:36 describes how Jesus viewed the masses: “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The word harassed can mean “to flay or mangle.” Mangle means “torn apart” as in a fight—what wolves do to sheep. Jesus saw the pain and desperation in the masses. We must be able to see the pain and desperation in the lives of those who have aborted their children.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus recognized those who were weary and burdened. Matthew 12:20 shows how Jesus cared for those represented by “a bruised reed” and “a smoldering wick.”
Jesus cared for the hurting. We must too. We can listen to their stories and empathize with their pain.
Christians who are healing from their own abortion experiences may be able to use those experiences to minister to others. Help them identify and express their emotions. Don’t be surprised by the intensity of their feelings.
Isaiah reminded the Israelites that they were precious to God (Isaiah 43:4). Remind those who suffer in abortion’s aftermath that God still loves them.
Create a sincere emotional connection. Paul writes in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
Emphasize God’s grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
Pray for their peace of mind. This may be their most important emotional need. (See John 14:27; 16:33.)
Don’t see the abortion victim as an enemy, but as a victim of your enemy, the devil. If they are not Christians, their lives are built on shifting sand. Help them identify with Psalm 62:5-8.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge (NIV, 1984).
Hannah had abortions when she was 17 and 19 years old. “I felt I disappointed everyone by getting pregnant. I was afraid of everyone, especially my parents,” she explains.
“In high school my parents made the decision for me. They felt like this was the only choice to make since I was young and not ready to take on the responsibility of being a parent. When I got pregnant again in college, I believed abortion was the only option. I couldn’t face going home to tell them I was pregnant again.”
Both times Hannah felt love and support when she needed it most. “My dad went with me to the office for my first abortion. He brought crosswords to do and other silly little games. It was his way of showing me that even though this was happening, he still loved me—I was always going to be his girl.
“In college my boyfriend felt there was no other alternative since we attended a Christian school and he was a ‘poster child’ for the university—good grades, an RA, the president of several clubs. He went with me to the appointment. He drove through Steak ’n Shake on the way home and got me a chocolate shake. He didn’t know what else to do or any other way to make up for what had happened.”
Hannah faced opposition to her decisions from others and from herself.
“Some of the most damaging words a well-meaning Christian can say to a woman who’s had an abortion or is considering one is, ‘How could you do that? Every child is a gift from God!’ Yes, I know every child is precious in the eyes of our Lord, and he loves every one of them. This is a line that kept me up at night for years. I would cry on my knees for forgiveness, over and over, no matter how many times I had already asked before. It took a long time to understand that God forgave me the first time I asked.
“The best thing you can do when you’re talking to a woman who’s had an abortion or is considering it is to hide the shock. Allow her to talk to you openly about wanting to have an abortion and see where she is coming from. Try to see all the factors that are causing her to consider going down this path.”
Hannah’s story doesn’t end with abortion. “Now I have a wonderful child who brings great joy to my life. It was a hard decision to stay pregnant because I knew that my husband was not a good man and would not be there for us, but I felt God was present in this pregnancy in a way I hadn’t before. Even though things were falling down all around me, he provided a way. He led me home, and I could feel the true peace that God gives in a way I had never before felt.”
The Deceptive Aftermath
Abortion brings with it many potential side effects. Here is a partial list.
Insomnia or Nightmares
Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings
Hope from God’s Word
God’s grace covers all our sins. These Scripture passages my provide comfort to women who struggle with guilt over abortion.
Ephesians 2:8, 9
Psalm 103:12, 13
Micah 7:18, 19
1 John 3:1-3