Women’s adjustment to life after abortion involves numerous factors interacting in complex ways, and qualitative studies are uniquely suited to enhance our understanding of the breadth and depth of individuals’ experiences. Respondents to a survey of women who had contacted crisis pregnancy centers for post-abortion care were asked to describe the most significant positive and negative aspects of their abortion histories in an online anonymous survey.
“What are the most significant positives, if any, that have come from your decision to abort?”
- None: 243 (31.6%) (Additionally, 218 of 987, 22%, gave no response)
None, there are no positives. My life is no better, it is much worse. I carry the pain of a child lost forever. Although I know I am forgiven and have worked through the guilt and shame, the heart wrenching pain is still there. I would rather have been a single mother of two and have my baby here to love and dote on than the pain of empty arms.
- Deepened spiritual life (finding forgiveness, peace, inner healing): 135 (17.5%)
The one positive is that it has brought me to my end and brought me to my knees before God. He has drawn me to him through His endless forgiveness, mercy, and grace. I think He could have shown me those same things had I chosen another path, but this is how I came to Him, not as a Christian, because I already was one, but as one who really knows Him now.
- Committed to crisis pregnancy work: 102 (13.3%)
As a CPC [crisis pregnancy center] volunteer, I have been able to persuade most of my abortion minded clients to at least wait until they could see an ultrasound before they made their decisions. All that have done that have chosen life for their children. I would probably not have become a volunteer had it not been for the abortion I had.
- Sharing of the abortion experience in writing or orally: 70 (8.9%)
I have found my calling in life and renewed my dedication to education. I feel as though my story, when I get the courage to tell it, helps people know that I don’t judge and I am someone they can trust. Hopefully someone learns from my folly. . .
- Committed to helping women recover from an abortion experience by sharing God’s forgiveness and love: 63 (8.2%)
I understand the pain and can relate to the pain and difficult decision points of other women. That I may share my heart. That Jesus cares about people (about the women/mothers) and that I know/and can share and tell…that babies are in heaven, but that God can use even mistakes we make and turn it all around “beauty from ashes” or mush inside a [caterpillar chrysalis] turns into a butterfly.
- Conversion to Christianity, knowing Christ personally: 58 (7.5%)
I don’t have ties to men in my past. I finally went through a post abortion healing Bible study and have accepted Christ as my savior. I have faced my past, felt the emotions and mourned my losses, experienced anger and forgiven others for their participation. I am free in Christ. I can share my story without shame because I have brought the darkness into the light. I used to be a complete anxious mess—I couldn’t concentrate I felt like a complete failure in every area and was totally isolated. Now I am free! I went through the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study and now I lead the Surrendering the Secret Bible study.
- Active in the pro-life movement: 49 (6.4%)
I have found forgiveness for my abortion, I have led others to find healing and forgiveness from their abortions, I have written a book…along with a website, I am Executive Director of a Pregnancy Resource Center and saved two pregnancy centers from closing, I have lobbied for the Ultrasound Bill and the Human Life Amendment and given testimony on many occasions. I have also appeared on Faces of Abortion and did several radio interviews.
“What are the most significant negatives, if any, that have come from your decision to abort?”
Question not answered: 199 of 987 = 20.2%
- Took a life/loss of a life or lives: 187 (23.7%)
My child is dead and by my own choice. I spent years of anger, shame, and grief. It damaged my relationship with my husband, my children, and my God. For 30 years I did not speak of it to anyone but my husband. My grief overwhelmed him and left him powerless and ashamed. For years I cried every Sunday in church, experienced dark depressions, thoughts of suicide, and flashes of anger. My relationship with my children was unbalanced. I had to be the perfect mom and they the perfect children or I believed myself to be beneath contempt. Imagine the mess in which I lived. Had it not been for the Biblical counseling I received through a local CPC I would be there still.
- Depression: 114 (14.4%)
I was very depressed for years after the abortion. I believe that the depression contributed to me losing a lucrative pharmaceutical job. I did not work for 2 years after the abortion and I did not have the energy to do much of anything. It took me about 3 years to just get motivated to start living somewhat of a fulfilling life again. During these three years, I started living with my boyfriend, who is now my fiancé. I am not proud of my living situation and believe it is attributed to a lack of self-confidence due to the abortion.
- Guilt/remorse: 110 (14%)
I have tremendous guilt and remorse. It keeps me sad a lot of the time. I can be happy, but something is missing. I hate myself for making that decision and I can’t take it back, fix it or make it better.
- Self-hatred/anger at self/self-loathing/feelings of worthlessness/unworthy of love: 98 (12.4%)
The most serious negatives are my being angry at myself that I could abort three babies. The aftermath of abortion is destructive to the soul. Once I had to face the reality of my choices to abort, and not block it out anymore, I concluded that I must not continue to be in denial and keeping it under the rug. My life was interrupted in a way that after 30 years, since my last abortion, I am still hurting, emotionally and mentally as a result of my choices. I will have to live with them for the rest of my life on earth.
- Shame: 86 (10.9%)
A sense of shame and regret have stayed with me ever since my abortion. It is tempered by forgiveness and faith in God’s mercy and grace, but it is still there after all these years. I miss my lost children and regret that my living children were robbed of their siblings through abortion. My husband who did not participate in any way with my abortion or any other abortions has suffered anger and grief because of my abortion. He struggles to forgive those who coerced my abortion.
- Addiction, alcohol or drug abuse including alcoholism: 71 (9%)
I died with every abortion. I became very angry, depressed, and ended up becoming a drug addict and an alcoholic.
- Regret: 73 (9.3%)
Every woman knows in her heart that abortion is wrong. Even though I was young & scared, there was a feeling of “working against” myself. Through my twenties I would think about it but pushed it aside. It was only when I married & started my family that I began to really struggle with my abortion decision. When my first son was born I realized what I had done so many years ago. The love I have for my children was/is more powerful than any emotion I’ve ever experienced. The thought of anyone hurting them has an enormous effect on me as a mother. The knowledge that I ended the life of my child is difficult to manage emotionally. I have struggled over the years with being extremely hard on myself & emotionally beating up on myself. On the outside I don’t think anyone would see that. I look like I have it “together.” However, it is a battle that I have to be very intentional about. Regret is a crippling state of mind.
- Self-destructive behaviors including promiscuity, self-punishment, and poor choices: 61 (7.7%)
It changed my personality. I realize in looking back, that I saw myself differently and felt I did not deserve good things. It changed my relationship with my parents, especially my mother, who I was very close to. I became promiscuous and turned away from God. So, I feel like I ruined my life and what God had planned for me.
- Low self-esteem: 60 (7.6%)
Self-esteem, inability to make choices—because of wrong choices—the thought that I did not protect my children
- Anxiety/fear: 56 (7.1%)
Night times were terrible for nearly a year with getting up in my sleep looking for my daughter then when fully awakened I found I had a son and no daughter and why in the world was I in such a panic looking everywhere for a baby girl. I have a daughter now and she has said many times she thought she was supposed to have an older sister and wept bitterly when I told her she was correct and that it was her father and me who decided to abort.
- Suicidal/suicidal thoughts/wanting to die/self-harm/ dangerous risks/suicidal attempts: 49 (6.2%)
Two attempted suicides resulting from the abortion clinic staff dismissing my request for help for post-abortive regret. Prior to the abortion, clinic staff said I could stop by the office anytime for free counseling after the abortion. I showed up a week later for a follow up and to see a counselor for abortion regret, but my feelings of regret and depression were dismissed and I was told I would eventually get over it. I did not even see a doctor during the follow up. I was just asked if I had felt sick or feverish after the abortion. Nobody took vital signs and the counselor I was supposed to see did not work Saturdays. When I scheduled the appointment, I was told a counselor was on staff all the time to help women. It was a lie.
Two simple open-ended questions were posed to just under 1,000 women in an online survey and the responses were far from simple, echoing themes that are not reflective of contemporary feminist rhetoric. Women generally did not speak of empowerment, the ability to control their reproductive destinies, liberation from abusive partners, the need for abortion in order to be competitive in the work place, etc. . .
Priscilla K. Coleman, Ph.D., is Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403. Contact: email@example.com.
Kaitlyn Boswell, B.S.; Katrina Etzkorn, B.S.; Rachel Turnwald, B.S.,
are former Bowling Green State University undergraduate students.
Read the entire article at http://www.jpands.org/vol22no4/coleman.pdf 
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