Helping Post-Abortion Clients Discover Your Ministry
Perhaps the greatest element discouraging post-abortion individuals from contacting a ministry program for help after their abortion is the fear that their contact will lead to judgment and rejection. Their anxious hearts sit in silent prisons of pain, longing for spiritual, emotional, and even physical release. You must overcome the myths they believe. In this article, I hope to explain the post-abortive mindset before contact.
Myth #1—Pro-lifers will be the first to judge.
Many post-abortive individuals report they are apprehensive of judgment and rejection from pro-life individuals. They expect to be judged because pro-lifers take such a passionate stand against abortion. The first step in reaching these hearts is to dispel the myth that we are condemning and judgmental. This mindset often is encouraged and reinforced by pro-life slogans that call abortion "murder" and/or use the word "kill" without including messages of love and compassion for those who have made this choice. While these words can be effective in turning hearts against abortion, they can further condemn the post-abortive person and hide the fact that many of us also are post-abortive.
In sharing about the general ministry of pregnancy care centers, be sure to address your post-abortive efforts. If you emphasize only life-saving work or abstinence education programs, wounded listeners could assume that you are just like others who call them "murderers." Address the post-abortive listeners in the audience, offering them hope and compassion.
Myth #2—I don't need any help—I'm healed already.
I read a booklet that listed some of the symptoms of post-abortion syndrome. Those pages outlined my life. I had never related my pain to my abortion. However, I still resisted the idea that I needed help. I reasoned that I was a strong mother of two, holding down a full-time job. I wasn't mentally ill or overtly struggling with my abortion. "Counseling" was only for those with major issues in their lives.
When I discovered the work of pregnancy care centers, I was excited that Christians were offering other choices to abortion. I called our local center to ask about volunteering. The receptionist offered little information at first. She bluntly asked, "Have you ever had an abortion?" I was stunned. No one had ever asked me that directly before. I stuttered with an affirmative answer. She informed me that every post-abortive woman had to go through a Bible study before volunteering at the center. I had never heard of a Bible study for post-abortion, and it disturbed me that this was a requirement. My response was, "Well, thanks anyway."
The conversation with the receptionist was troublesome at many levels. The mandatory requirement seemed oppressive. I reasoned that I was healed. Who were they to judge me? This is a common mindset among the post-abortive. Had she encouraged me to visit the center before specifying that rule, I would have been able to learn of the compassionate and non-judgmental nature of the staff. Given a more loving explanation, the prerequisite would not have seemed offensive.
Encouraging statements to potential post-abortive volunteers like, "I understand that many experience a deep level of healing from God outside of a post-abortion class. If that's the case with you, then our group won't be a threat, and you can begin to help others there," will have a calming and inviting affect.
In order to avoid making the post-abortive person feel like they are being "picked on," I propose a new policy that every pregnancy care center worker be urged to attend a post-abortion Bible study—not as observers but as participants. Everyone has experienced loss and grief. Unforgiveness or other sin issues can be addressed in the study. The process allows many to understand post-abortion pain at a deeper level and should enhance ministry efforts to the abortion-minded.
Myth #3—If I approach you, everyone will assume I've had an abortion.
Post-abortive individuals rarely come forward publicly because they fear "guilt by association." Even those who aren't post-abortive can be afraid of you. Many women have come to me after I've spoken at a banquet or another venue, literally shouting for all to hear, "I've never had an abortion but I want to shake your hand!" It may sound comical, but it happens often. If those who are not post-abortive feel the need to use this approach, why would the wounded ever come forward?
Individuals need a safe and quiet way to contact you without risking public exposure. E-mail and Web sites are perfect for this initial communication. You may want to relay the invitation this way: "Many of you may be afraid to speak with me now about your abortion for fear that your secret may be exposed. Feel free to contact me. My e-mail address is ..." and give them your contact information. Assure them that any correspondence will be kept confidential. Then be sure to check your e-mail often.
Myth #4—God won't forgive me for this sin.
Post-abortive individuals often view their sin as unforgivable in the eyes of God. They can also struggle with forgiving themselves for participating in their own child's death. Dr. Dobson addressed this to me by saying, "There is no sin God can't forgive." We need to understand that it isn't in God's character to hold our sins against us. He wants to forgive and heal our hearts.
The bigger issue often is that we cannot forgive ourselves and are filled with guilt and shame. This was why many of us pursue self-punishing behaviors like drugs and promiscuity. We are actually trying to penalize ourselves for making this horrible choice because we believe we deserve it.
God used the parable of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:21-35 to help me release myself from my bloodguilt. Through this passage, God's forgiveness was confirmed in my heart. God then led me to view myself as the second servant. If God had forgiven me, He was requiring that I forgive me too! It was in that realization that forgiveness for myself became a reality because God commanded me to do so.
Be sure to outline God's magnificent forgiving nature in sharing with audiences that include post-abortive listeners. Highlight that many people struggle with forgiving themselves after abortion and they may need help in doing that. Recommend your post-abortion outreach program as a way that they can come to peace with their abortion experience and realize the peace of God's healing love.
Sydna A. Massé is the founder and president of Ramah International. Ramah provides inexpensive Web site design for pregnancy care centers and a detailed booklet on Internet ministry entitled: Go Ye into the World: Ministering on the World Wide Web. For more information visit www.ramahinternational.org or contact Sydna at 941-473-2188 or write to Sydna@aol.com. Ramah International, 1776 Hudson St., Englewood, FL 34223.