Did you know that perhaps 50 percent of women who visit your center might have already chosen abortion? The Alan Guttmacher Institute (research organization for Planned Parenthood) states that, "Among women having abortions in the United States, about one-half have already had a prior abortion."1
If you have ever felt that your center's abortion recovery efforts are not essential, please reconsider. Half of your client base could be in need of these necessary ministry services.
This 50 percent statistic outlines that everyone working with abortion-risk clients needs to be educated on the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it relates to subsequent abortion decisions. Without this comprehension, it could be quite easy to miss . Guttmacher goes on to state in this report that, "Three-quarters of repeat abortions were reported to have occurred within five years of the prior procedure, including four in 10 within two years. Third and higher-order abortions appear to be even more closely spaced."2
IT IS DIFFICULT TO STUDY THE IMPACT OF ABORTION USING SOCIAL SCIENCE SURVEY DATA
Because I represent the post-abortive audience and Ramah offers a popular abortion recovery program, many contact me for specific information that they can share with women who chose abortion. As most readers understand, it is difficult to study the impact of abortion using social science survey data, as many women do not openly reveal their abortion experiences. Even pro-choice researchers struggle with the reasons why women continue to chose abortion repeatedly. Therefore it's difficult to deliver any statistically significant information on the post-abortive audience.
When faced with a subsequent pregnancy, a prior abortion experience is a close memory, particularly during the moments of discovering another child is expected. Perhaps this is why these individuals come to centers initially versus abortion providers. They know abortion intimately but seek support in making a choice that is easier to live with long-term. Some may be still in the denial phase and justify a second abortion with comments like, "I lived through it once ... I can live through it again!" Others could be carrying "atonement" babies designed to replace the aborted child yet find themselves in parallel situations and may abort again. Still others just happen upon a center thinking abortion services are available. However they arrive, rest assured that half could be post-abortive. Each one is a gift from the Lord!
EMPTY RECOVERY CLASSES
Given current abortion rates, it is estimated that 35 percent of American women will have an abortion by age 45. It is staggering to comprehend that so many millions have made this choice and never admit it to anyone. This does not mean that they don't feel pain and regret. Their fear of rejection and judgment simply reinforces their solitude. Due to the high expense of medical services and the impact of the recession, many pregnancy center boards are now considering service areas to discontinue should income fall short of expenses. Since abortion recovery is the smallest arena of pregnancy center efforts, many directors falsely conclude there is less need for these services. Without pregnancy center support, very little would be available to the millions that are struggling with regret after an abortion decision. No other groups offer this ministry.
"We simply don't have any clients in need of post-abortion ministry services," a director relayed to me recently. When I discussed the high rates of repeat abortions, this person was astounded. Even within pregnancy centers, the understanding that the post-abortive are silent observers of our efforts is often unrecognized.
DISCOVERING THEIR TRUTH
One question I ask abortion-vulnerable callers in a gentle, straightforward manner is, "Have you ever experienced abortion before?" Many answer truthfully. When a woman admits to a previous abortion, she entrusts this listener with her greatest secret. She needs to immediately experience acceptance. If you are post abortive, now is a good time to share this with her. If you are not, be sure to address the past abortion with love and concern.
The immediate emotion of many women after abortion is relief. The crisis has passed and they can now get back with their lives. This "relief" period is usually temporary. That initial relief is a memory that many cling to when sorrowful emotions encircle their hearts. Post-abortive people often use anger to distance themselves from this grief.
Since abortion is rarely discussed, few connect their pain to a past abortion. Every client needs to be educated on the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of abortion. If they have never chosen abortion, this potential "regret" often encourages life decisions. Should they have already made this choice, the symptoms will help them understand the potential source of pain in their hearts.
HOPEFUL ADVERTISING MESSAGES ARE CRITICAL
Abortion pain is often unknown to those who have not experienced this side of the choice. This fact is outlined many times, particularly in advertisement messages for recovery programs. A simple search of YouTube.com on this topic reveals many abortion recovery messages that outline intense pain but fail to show the hope of peace and forgiveness that comes through Christ. Sorrowful images of women abound. Some even look like they are considering suicide! Who wants to join a class where peaceful recovery isn't obvious in the advertising? Advertising to this audience must be extremely positive or it could discourage attendance. Women need hopeful faces that indicate "You can feel better about this past choice!"
Even worse are abortion recovery messages that utilize words like "murder" and "kill." These graphic abortion terms outline judgment and condemnation instantly to wounded hearts. Why would anyone turn for assistance to a group that already believes you are a "murderer?"
THE ONLY "HOME" FOR ABORTION RECOVERY
Many believe abortion recovery is not a necessary part of pregnancy center work. With the development of church-based programs, centers are surrendering these services at break-neck speed. Some believe that offering post-abortion outreach as a "stand-alone" organization, separate from pregnancy centers, would be the best. Sadly, it has never turned out that way. Many factors contribute as to why abortion recovery is best when offered through a pregnancy center.
With repeat abortion factor, pregnancy centers are one of the few organizations that have the most contact with post-abortive individuals. If women are going to be transparent about this choice, it will likely be in either an abortion clinic or a pregnancy center. In serving the abortion-vulnerable audience, pregnancy centers simply have the widest accesses to post-abortive people.
Abortion recovery ministry is typically volunteer-based and relatively inexpensive if not free. Most attendees are willing to pay for their recovery program materials. Competition for pro-life funding exists among community pregnancy centers, maternity homes, right to life groups, etc. On top of this competition, national pregnancy center and/or pro-life organizations also seek funding from local communities. It's logical to conclude that any stand-alone ministry will add to the competition for funding. Since it is an inexpensive program to offer within centers, why should it be a separate group that could drain funding from your donors?
It is essential that post-abortive individuals be served with the same excellent and confidential care as the abortion-vulnerable client. This includes board oversight, leadership, direction, and prayer coverage. Separate from a center, a stand-alone abortion recovery group must compete not only for funding but also leadership. Centers understand the personal devastation that often accompanies abortion. Everyone connected to this work can also endure a secondary form of PTSD as it relates to abortion simply because clients continue to abort.
Even within centers, some post-abortion leaders are often allowed too much oversight over their programs. Non-post-abortive directors can falsely perceive that a post-abortive person has a different level of insight into abortion and trust them implicitly. Even healthy post-abortive people can short circuit due to spiritual warfare associated with this work. Without professional oversight, these leaders can adopt unhealthy mindsets that could result in further devastation for wounded hearts. Centers are the best in supporting these leaders, ensuring on-going training, prayer coverage, and professional/emotional support.
CHURCH-BASED CONFIDENTIALITY ISSUES
Confidentiality is a key element with any abortion recovery effort. A church setting can be the most difficult place for confidentiality to be maintained. The entire family of a post-abortive woman can be impacted by this secret being revealed within a congregation. If the post-abortive person is well known in church, they are less likely to share this truth in that setting.
Within the recovery class itself, information can be shared about spouses that other group members will interact with in the future. Intimate information can quickly be turned into gossip and travel throughout the congregation. For many post-abortive people, the risk of full disclosure within a church body is simply too great a risk to consider recovery class attendance. Privacy is best maintained within a pregnancy center setting.
It takes a great deal of personal strength to confess to an abortion. It is easier to share this truth with strangers versus friends. Making first contact with your center is normally a courageous act of faith for anyone, particularly post-abortive people. For days after sharing, these memories can be a source of internal torment. This truth can ignite so many other points of pain.
When they share their truth with your team and receive unconditional love, clients are more likely to consider attending a recovery class. The days of subsequent anguish following a confession can convince them they certainly do need help. If you attempt to refer them to a separate abortion recovery ministry, the individual could perceive this as rejection. They could also simply conclude that they cannot endure another sharing session and tragically revert to their old ways of coping with the pain.
Abortion affects all of us, whether we know it or not. Without the support of a local pregnancy center in helping me discover God's incredible healing touch after my abortion, Ramah International's work would not exist today. You may never realize the success of your efforts, but the Lord knows and will bless your center accordingly. Please prayerfully consider expanding this area of your services, as there are millions of men and women yet to be reached with the hope of God's healing.
1. Jones, Rachel K.; Singh, Susheela, Finer; Lawrence B.; Frohwirth, Lori, F., "Repeat Abortion in the United States," Occasional Report No. 29, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/11/21/or29.pdf, November, 2006.
2. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, "State facts about abortion," http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/texas.html, accessed June 29, 2006.
Sydna A. Massé is the Founder and President of Ramah International whose mission is to encourage post-abortion healing throughout the world. For more information, visit www.ramahinternational.org or contact Sydna at 479-445-7070 or write to Sydna@aol.com. Ramah International, 2707 E. Woodcliff Road, Fayetteville, AR 72701.