Analysis

Love Them Both: 7 ways to help someone who has had an abortion

abortion, post-abortion, post-abortive, abortion trauma

As pro-life activists, we are called to do nothing less than transform the culture. Cultivating a pro-life vision for society involves not only promoting ideas and actions that are life-affirming, but also healing the wounds from the culture of death. 

Second in woundedness only to those who have lost their lives are post-abortive women. These women are in great need of support and care, but can be difficult to reach, as they often hide their histories of abortion as a result of regret, shame, and fear of judgment. 

It is possible for you to be a positive, healing presence in the lives of post-abortive women, however. These are a few simple ways for you to help:

1. Be loving. As Tori Shaw, Founder of Not Forgotten Ministries, states: “One of the purest demonstrations of love is to be aware of difficult situations and broken people and willingly choose to move towards them.” Moving toward the wounded means presenting yourself in such a way as to not repel them – kindness and understanding are key. Shaw continues: 

It’s … tempting to keep those people at a distance or make it known that we believe they’re wrong. But when we “turn a blind eye” or shout our opinions, it’s like running away from those who need love the most. To have the greatest impact, we must run toward those who are broken, even if we disagree with them, even if they are making terrible choices, and even if the situation is complex and messy.

It is estimated that nearly 1 in 4 American women have had an abortion. What you say on social media and in seemingly casual conversations, and how you present yourself when engaged in pro-life activism can make a defining impact on whether or not you reach these women. Speak truth, but always with charity, remembering that abortion-wounded women who may be desperate for help but afraid to reach out are hiding in plain sight all around you.

2. Listen without judgment. If you are chosen as a confidante by a post-abortive woman, be there to listen when she needs to talk. You don’t need to have all the answers, or be able to relate to everything she is going through – just be a loving, listening ear. Resist the temptation to interrupt with stories about situations you perceive to be parallel – she may very well feel like her pain is unlike anything else on this earth, and this strategy may therefore backfire and push her further away. The most important thing is simply to show you respect and care for her by allowing her to speak.

3. Check in. Self-imposed isolation is common among post-abortive women due to the prevalent belief that nobody else can understand or relate to what they are going through. The culture has told them hundreds of times in dozens of ways that abortion regret is not real and that they will be able to walk away from the abortion experience without a blip on their existential radars. When this promise fails to become reality, many women question themselves, feeling they must be anomalous in some way, which can cause them to feel disconnected from others. 

Particularly if you haven’t heard from a post-abortive friend for some time, take the time to reach out, and be persistent and consistent about following up. Make sure she knows you care for and are available to her.

4. Familiarize yourself with post-abortive recovery resources. This short list is a great place to start:

Retreats/Group Classes:

Deeper Still  

Not Forgotten Ministries 

Rachel’s Vineyard

She Found His Grace

Real Options

Social Media Support Groups:

I regret my abortion 

PATH: Post-Abortion Transformation and Healing

Books:

Free Indeed

Surrendering the Secret (video-based)

Forgiven and Set Free

SaveOne 

Hotlines:

H3Helpline: 866-721-7881 

24/7 live help in English and Spanish. Live chat available via website.

OptionLine: 1-800-712-HELP 

24/7 live help in English. Live chat available via website; text HELPLINE to 313131 for text messaging.

Websites:

Abortion Changes You 

AfterAbortion

Lumina

Silent No More Awareness

Support After Abortion

If you are familiar with the resources that exist, it will be easier for you to direct those who are in need of help to the sources that provide it. Connecting a post-abortive woman in crisis to the right resource can change, or even save, her life.

READ: Post-abortion trauma is real, and researchers do women no favors by denying it

5. Remind her that she is not alone. Studies and meta-analyses have found an increase in the risk of mental health pathologies among post-abortive women, in the range of 45-81%. Anxiety, depression, suicidality, substance abuse, avoidance, guilt, and shame are all remarkably common experiences for women walking this path. However, social problems and isolation are also common – often motivated by the post-abortive woman’s feeling that nobody else can understand what she is going through. Reminding her that she is not alone and helping to connect her with post-abortive support networks such as those mentioned in the list above can be exceptionally helpful to her healing process. 

6. Help her transform her pain to purpose. Many post-abortive women’s testimonies speak to the powerful transformations that occur when they are able to share their stories, reach out to abortion-minded women, and encourage them to embrace life. You can help a post-abortive woman to find her voice and turn her pain to purpose. This can be done by accompanying her in doing outreach on the sidewalk outside of an abortion facility, by helping her to write her story, or simply by being a voice cheering her on along the way.

7. Be patient. Post-abortive women can provide formidable energy and evidence in support of the pro-life movement, and for that reason, you might feel a great sense of urgency about getting your post-abortive friend to speak out. But women who have made this grave of a mistake must work through an almost inconceivable amount of grief, shame, and fear before they can find their empowered voices. Give her the time and grace she needs for that process, and make sure she knows you are there for her every step of the way.

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