On Exploiting Post-Abortion Grief

I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with the topic of post-abortion recovery. Too often, I think we put all of our energy into the ‘preventative’ side of pro-life ministry while almost completely neglecting the emotional fallout people got through after making the choice to kill their child. Obviously, we are concerned with saving the innocent lives of the unborn. And that absolutely needs to be primary. But the psychological state of mind people need to be in—in order to make the decision to abort—can’t be completely demonized. Far too often, women have simply bought into the lies that what they are doing isn’t just ‘not bad’, but probably the better, more humane choice for their child! Or should I say… for their “clump of fetal tissue”? Those who choose abortion are absolutely victims too.

What bearing this has on the pro-life community might be a little sobering. How do we treat victims? Are we shaming and blaming more than seeking to build bridges? What is the proper response to demonstrate when one has the knowledge that someone has been through an abortion? One thing I would like to propose is that we make concerted efforts not to exploit grief. While there are a couple groups dedicated to helping pro-choice people make sense of their post-abortion experience… this topic is not dealt with extensively at the Pro-Choice water-coolers. Not by a long shot. You have to staunchly maintain the triviality of the decision to abort in order to keep selling it. This is why Planned Parenthood does not offer post-abortion counseling despite studies indicating the significant psychologically negative effects women experience after abortion.

Meanwhile, pro-lifers have made some serious efforts to reach out to people who’ve experienced abortion with excellent healing ministries such as Project Rachel and through websites like AbortionRecovery.org. Yet there is one troubling habit that remains… the tendency to minimize the grief post-abortive parents feel when we try to turn their experience into a proselytizing moment. And the temptation is very real of course! If someone is sad or heartbroken over their abortion… it seems logical that we ought to say something like “See! If only you’d realize that you really and truly DID kill a human baby, you wouldn’t feel this way!” Obviously, most normal people aren’t quite this callous, but I think the sentiment is inadvertently expressed nonetheless. Yet, some very self-aware post-abortive people are yearning for this sort of freedom to express their sorrow freely! “Being sad that something happened isn’t the same as admitting that it shouldn’t have happened.” -Hugo Schwyzer on Pro-Choice Men and Abortion Grief

As pro-lifers, we have to allow people to grapple with their grief on their terms. And we have to validate their very real sense of loss, without chomping on the bait to push our agenda! For meaningful strides to be made in the pro-life movement, we have to validate and even emphasize the grief of both pro-life and pro-choice people without using the experience to our own ends. Our nation won’t be converted until hearts are converted. And hearts won’t be converted until they feel an authentic sense of safety and validation in expressing and working through their abortion experience on their terms. Not all journeys to conversion follow the same path. But it is absolutely certain that you can not lecture someone about nutrition… until their starving bodies have been fed food. So it is with post-abortion victims. There is no changing the mind, when the heart has not been allowed to bleed unhindered by ideology.