Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy. No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble (Proverbs 12:19-21).
One of the most common questions I hear from pregnancy center advocates is, "Why don't the post-abortive embrace the recovery option?" This article is written to provide answers to this question as well as to offer some suggestions in promoting peace within this wounded audience. While there is no one strategy that will work to transition the abortion-vulnerable to a recovery class, there are ways to 'plant seeds' during the initial ministry session that will begin a spiritual foundation for a future peace in their hearts.
The Burden of God
Explaining your heart on this matter is something few consider, but it is found in Scripture as follows: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build up; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business God has given to the children men to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to the end. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. (Excerpts from Ecclesiastes 3:1-15)
We must all realize that our role in the lives of our clients may never be totally understood here on Earth. God not only dictates our words but also our emotions. With one client, we are 'matter-of-fact,' and with others, we are crying along as they share the pain of life. Having these individuals for a short period of time is like shooting a dart of peace into the battlegrounds of their minds. While a peaceful solution is right in front of them, few can partake immediately. God must work the soil of their hearts in His timetable, using us as if we were ploughs and seeds. Never be discouraged if you cannot discern the effect your efforts are having in their lives. Simply play the role that God has given and trust that He will use you effectively.
Post-abortive women never want to address their past abortion experience. In the light of a recent crisis pregnancy, they are even more intimidated by the concept of 'healing' this scar because they are scared, upset, and unable to focus on anything other than their current situation. To address this past choice with others, particularly those who are related to the pro-life movement, seems impossible to consider. They rarely realize that other post-abortive women encounter similar emotions and that their pain is normal.
Rest assured that these women are often haunted by this loss, never realizing that their fears and apprehensions are centered on unresolved grief. If you add another abortion, that pain is often intensified; and flashbacks often occur in the midst of succeeding abortion experiences. Whether their current pregnancy test is positive or negative will also affect their hearts in favor of or against the healing class option.
Thousands of us on the other side of the healing after an abortion experience can testify to the wonderful peace we have today because of post-abortion recovery programs. Yet even with that testimony, many just cannot embrace the concept of spending 8-10 weeks focused on a past abortion decision. In these minds, addressing this pain directly seems inhuman and brutal to consider and could likely lead to a nervous breakdown or suicide. Their self-protective spirit discourages the healing concept.
Never underestimate the Devil. The accuser's voice in their head is constant, and spiritual warfare is at an all-time high during another crisis pregnancy. The voice is subtle stating that they don't deserve peace and that if they look at a past abortion, they most certainly will be overwhelmed to the point of death. The same voice that led them into the abortion clinic will keep them from the recovery class.
Denial is the emotion you are addressing first in recommending a recovery class. Many who come for pregnancy tests are still bound with the mindset that they aborted a blob of tissue. Your fetal development photos and ultrasound scans can be the first wrecking ball that comes against the wall of denial built strongly in their heart.
However, one direct hit does not shatter a wall. It takes constant pounding to bring down the well-fortified barrier. Thus, your efforts in this session can be simply the start of a long process that God eventually uses to bring them to a point of peace. There is a time for peace and war in their hearts. In the midst of the war over a current crisis pregnancy, there is little peace. When the wall eventually comes down, they will know where to go for help. Normally, only those who are DESPERATE for peace attend a recovery class.
When you add to these dynamics the fact that these clients are in another crisis pregnancy, hesitation is only enhanced. To even arrive at your center for a pregnancy test resurrects all the pain of this past choice. Whether the test is positive of negative has an impact as well.
We find that when the test is positive and the clients embrace a life decision, they are more open to working on the past abortion. However, their bodies are raging with hormones. They have to deal with situations at home that can be overwhelming. The important part is to get through the first months of this crisis pregnancy without adding more stress.
Please understand that attending a recovery class is one of the most stressful things anyone can consider. With positive tests, it's more urgent that you encourage healing because the past abortion will affect their bonding with a new baby. After the baby is born, there will be less time for outside activities.
By the second trimester, the initial crisis pregnancy issues have normally worked themselves out. Hopefully by this time they are also involved in your ongoing maternal support programs ('Earn While You Learn,' Baby Bucks, etc.). It is important at this point to have your team in this area familiar with your post-abortion recovery program and have them post information about new classes that are forming. For any center offering maternal support programs — especially material assistance — there should be a way for these clients to earn resources through attending a recovery class. Many times with reward, these clients will open up to the group concept that they would otherwise ignore. The whole process seems less threatening if there is a good reason to attend (i.e., earning points towards baby furniture).
Negative Pregnancy Tests
When women share about their past abortion(s), they open up and begin to share the memories that are pounding out of their brain. All the stress is resting on whether or not the test is positive. When it comes up negative, they want to forget again about the past abortion(s). This is why it is essential that you plant the seeds of the hope of healing before the test is conducted. While they may fly out of the center in complete relief, you see them as running away from the truth and pain that will descend again upon their hearts. In that painful time when they have left the center, pray for them. Know that the Lord had a strong plan for their time with you—if only to allow you to pray for them more specifically. Release them to His care.
When you have your clients' attention, take some time to really focus on their past pain, bonding with them and offering them simple information. This information should include:
Symptoms of Post-Abortion Stress — The first step is to normalize their experience and pain. Go over the symptoms and ask them if they have ever experienced these emotions (anger, guilt, depression, anniversary, etc.). Let them know that if they have more than three, they are probably going through PAS. Explain to them that PAS is simply a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Abortion is often traumatic and easily relatable to PTSD.
They are not alone in their pain — Help them understand that they are not going crazy but simply could be missing a lost child. The simple fact that they are able to tie their emotions to a past abortion makes it much easier to embrace a future recovery class. It also gives them hope. When they are in the depths of pain, normally around the anniversary dates, Mother's Day, having another baby, etc., they will be able to remember that their suffering is rooted in the abortion choice.
Healing is possible — Pamphlets and websites that allow women to understand the hope of healing can be hard to grasp at first. They have stood for so long in their pain, never realizing that hope is available. Always encourage them to e-mail you and research on the Internet how abortion affects women when these emotions overwhelm them in the future. Give them your e-mail address to continue the conversation.
Drop your agenda — Clients can 'read' an agenda a mile away. Perhaps they will go through a class, but perhaps they won't. God may not have that in their near future, and it isn't your fault that they don't embrace the concept at first.
They Want You!
For most pregnancy center advocates, the pregnancy test is a bonding time with clients. It is in these moments that the foundation for future ministry efforts is laid. In sharing their abortion stories with you, they bond and trust you. It is a rare event for them to open up and share. The love and encouragement they receive from your heart cements you in their minds forever.
So when you tell them about your post-abortion recovery class and mention the fact that there are 'other leaders' who run those groups, most are back to square one in the relationship concept. If you say that you would be happy to meet with them in the future to address this pain, they will be more open to that concept than attending a recovery class.
Post-abortive women who are in another possible crisis pregnancy are more willing to go through the group if you, their client advocate, help them personally. It is difficult to transfer this trust to another who is leading the recovery classes. Sharing is the toughest step in the healing process. Don't make them repeat this tale often. Minimize the necessity to share by asking permission to relay their stories to the recovery class leadership and to accompany them during that introduction. If necessary, even agree to attend the recovery class with them as an observer.
Another element of recovery to understand relates to home dynamics. Often friends and family members discourage the post-abortion recovery class concept immediately. Upon learning my decision to attend a class, my husband said, "Why would you want to resurrect all that pain?" I had one quick response, "I'm not resurrecting it. It's here and won't go away. It's lodged in my throat, and I can't swallow it again." By that time, I had endured two pregnancies and could no longer escape the memories of my lost child. Tom understood that word picture and accepted my logic. He wanted me to be more at peace with this past decision. God had come to the end of the road with my heart and was insisting that I drop my reservations and trust Him enough to attend the class. He helped me explain this to my husband in a way he could understand.
Another element in my husband's heart was that he didn't trust the local pregnancy center with my heart, especially at a spiritual level. He didn't know if they were centered on Jesus. The fact that the class was called PACE (or Post-Abortion Counseling and Education) only made him more hesitant. This is why we promote the less-threatening title of "post-abortion recovery classes." Tom wasn't a big fan of counseling and felt that I was stable and secure enough not to need that level of work. When he learned it was a recovery class run by lay ministry leaders, and not considered 'professional' counseling, he felt more at ease with the group concept.
Spouses and loved ones have a real issue with the potential that the class could wound their loved ones further. Therefore, they are understandably protective. While my husband initially resisted the idea, he agreed to let me go through the program as long as I would come home each night and go through what I heard in the class. This made him part of my healing, and many memories were shared that hadn't been before. Perhaps you can assume this role with your post-abortive clients.
Another factor in most relationships has to do with male-pattern grieving and helping someone in extreme pain. Most men do not encourage grieving in others. Men isolate from tears as much as possible. Yet there was a part in my husband's heart that wondered why I was so cold as not to grieve for my lost child. So many dynamics at home affected my decision to go into the recovery class.
Building Bridges to Peace
When the first version of my book, Her Choice to Heal, was offered, its specific purpose was to outline the emotions of healing in order to provide a 'bridge piece' to help these individuals embrace and attend a recovery class. After ten years of strong sales, there were still very few who were going through a group. I had anticipated that millions would be on the other side of this pain by now, actively working to help others. That dream has yet to materialize. The women currently in post-abortion recovery classes remain at a minimum, each being a miracle in the making.
With the revision to this book, the Lord laid it upon my heart to offer much more information in this resource because this book would be all that many will read in relation to addressing their abortion pain. I had to release the dream of thousands going through recovery classes to understand God can heal anyone in the way He knows is best for their hearts. My 'healing agenda' had to be set aside. You need to do the same. The one thing about pamphlets is that they are easy to throw away. Rarely does someone throw away a book. Ramah International can assist you with a low-cost option to purchase Her Choice to Heal for the PAS abortion-vulnerable clients. Sending them home with a full book can be like giving them a gift. The book will be placed in their homes and be available on a rainy day when the abortion thoughts are in their hearts. In quiet moments, they will read bravely and have an instrument of healing present if they cannot ever attend a recovery class!
Sydna Massé is president and founder of Ramah International (ramahinternational.org) and author of the book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion. Sydna and Tom, along with their three sons, reside in Florida.