The voices of the recovering post-abortive women working in your center are powerful testimonies to the grace and healing of Jesus Christ.
As pregnancy resource centers see more abortion-minded clients, many leaders are asking how to reach these additional hearts for life. Often abortion-minded clients are already post-abortive women. They used abortion once to erase their mistake, so they are considering abortion to solve their current crisis. We can use the power of their unspoken regret to help them consider a choice for life.
The following Guttmacher statistic reveals how many American women experience abortion. It states: "An estimated 43% of all women will experience abortion at least once by the time they are 45 years old" ("Facts in Brief: Induced Abortion," The Alan Guttmacher Institute, Washington, DC, 2000, www.agi-usa.org). This research goes on to state that 44% of these women will experience multiple abortions. Michigan Right to Life research shows that the biggest deterrent to an abortion decision was the potential for the woman eventually to regret this choice. Therefore, pregnancy resource centers need to utilize the deterrent power of the potential for post-abortive regret.
A Simple Question: How Many Pregnancies?
In nearly every audience there will be post-abortive women. So when speaking publicly, always tell about your post-abortion ministry. This not only reinforces the audience's understanding of your ministry's compassion; it also makes the statement that your center is a safe place for anyone to come for help. Even more, it apprises your audience of the fact that abortion is not an easy, painless solution. Abortion hurts. It has physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological consequences.
Your intake forms must always ask clients about previous pregnancies, including those that were aborted. Keep in mind that clients aren't always truthful in answering this painful question. Even when talking to their OB/GYN doctor, post-abortive women often lie and deny an abortion. If they are truthful, they may have entrusted you with a closely guarded secret. How you respond could determine how they react in their current crisis.
When they are lying, sometimes the truth can be obvious. At the Assist CPC in Annandale, Virginia, Linda Perry has one such client. Records show this woman has experienced five positive pregnancy tests over the last ten years but no live births. When questioned, she refuses to acknowledge that she's ever had an abortion. While miscarriage is possible, this woman won't even admit to having had a previous pregnancy. This is the kind of situation in which you need to deal with your client at her level of immediate need. Rejoice that she continues to find you worthy of her trust and pray intently for the Lord to work in her heart. Each visit is an opportunity to present once more the love of Christ.
When a woman admits to a previous abortion, she entrusts you with her secret. Keep your outward response kind and gracious regardless of what your emotions may be. She needs to experience your acceptance quickly. If you are post-abortive, now is a good time to share this with her. After a brief conversation, begin the test and find out if she is pregnant.
If the test is positive, ask how she feels about the results and what options she is considering. This is a good point at which to get her to talk about any past abortions. Here are some questions that might prompt her discussing a previous pregnancy:
What motivated your previous abortion decision?
Michigan Right to Life research
shows that the biggest deterrent
to an abortion decision was the
potential for the woman eventually
to regret this choice.
Some women casually chose abortion without coming to a place of regret. Other women felt forced into the abortion by family members, the father of the baby, or friends. A few (usually young teens) may have aborted against their will. Some may have made the choice in order to save the family's reputation. Getting her to talk about her previous decision may shed light on her current situation. Don't assume that all women make abortion decisions freely.
What was the abortion procedure like?
For many, the pain of the first abortion will discourage them from subsequent abortions. If the abortion was relatively easy and painless, it will not serve as a deterrent in the current crisis. Understanding her mind-set will help you assess her level of abortion vulnerability.
How old would your baby be today?
With this question you can assess the level of regret. Many women were told the baby was only a "blob of tissue." If they are in denial, they must cling to this myth to maintain composure. If the woman has spent time thinking of her aborted child, her chances of having another abortion are reduced. Help her understand that a unique individual was lost in the abortion. Help her see the humanity of the aborted child and the humanity of the baby she is currently carrying. Utilizing fetal development information at this point is helpful.
Keep in mind that this could be an atonement baby conceived out of regret to replace the child she did not carry to term. Unfortunately many atonement children are conceived in the same difficult circumstances as the aborted child. The mother may perceive that abortion looms once more as her only alternative.
What happened to your relationship after the abortion?
Many women abort because their partner demands it. The women succumb in order to continue the relationship. Seventy percent of relationships are destroyed by the death of a child through abortion. Help your clients understand that having an abortion will not cement a relationship together.
Do your parents know about the abortion?
Maintaining the secrecy of sexual involvement is often a reason to abort. Try to determine whether her parents are still an influential factor in the current decision. Abortion is often seen by young Christian women as necessary to save their family's reputation at church.
When She Wants to Abort
Recognize that not every woman is mature enough to acknowledge that an abortion was a mistake. She may say it was necessary to save her lifestyle. When she doesn't regret her choice, leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit.
If she's considering abortion again, take the necessary time to go through each reason for her abortion decision. Be sure to emphasize the physical risks and procedures in a non-judgmental manner. Encourage her to have frequent mammograms because of the increased possibility of breast cancer among post-abortive women. Reinforce the fact that she doesn't have to make an immediate abortion decision. Remind her that she has time to make an informed choice.
If the client is strongly abortion-minded, connect her with a healing, post-abortive woman immediately. Many times, the words from someone who has gone through the experience can accomplish more. Enlist the support of prayer intercessors on the client's behalf. State clearly that even if she does choose abortion, you will be there for her if she ever regrets her decision.
Post-Abortion Syndrome and Pregnancy
If she determines not to abort this time, there will be other post-abortive issues to deal with throughout her pregnancy. The major issue will be that of bonding with the baby.
Help her to pray for her unborn child. Calm her fears if she fears that God will cause the death of this child because she chose abortion previously. Verify that you are going to be with her for the long term and that you will help her evaluate whether she can parent or should consider adoption. Be sure she is well informed about labor, delivery, and postpartum issues including breast-feeding. If you perceive that she has not bonded with the baby at birth, teach her infant massage as a bonding tool. Your close contact with her throughout the pregnancy will alert you to problems as they develop.
If She is Not Pregnant
If the pregnancy test is negative, this is the perfect time to identify the symptoms of post-abortion syndrome (PAS). Utilize the Focus on the Family booklet entitled, "Identifying and Overcoming Post-Abortion Syndrome," by Paul and Teri Reisser. Help her identify which of the symptoms of PAS she has experienced and introduce her to your post-abortion outreach program.
Listen as she describes her current lifestyle. If she is involved in promiscuity or drug abuse, refer to the PAS symptoms that point out that her abortion is affecting her today. Stress that your post-abortion outreach can help her heal from the multiple effects of the previous abortion. Many times it is a great relief to understand that these problems and behaviors are common among post-abortive individuals. She will now know that there is a way to healing through your center when she is ready to take that step.
The voices of the recovering post-abortive women working in your center are powerful testimonies to the grace and healing of Jesus Christ. Introduce your post-abortive client to such a person to help her understand Christ's healing power. At this time of crisis, salvation or rededication can be a strong tug to her soul. Take every opportunity to evangelize her and help her to understand that God is not seeking to punish her for her sins. Knowing the character of God is an essential element to the healing process.
Ending the Session
Regardless of the pregnancy test outcome, end the session with an abstinence message. It is a good time to inform her about the common sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional ramifications of premarital sex. It is typical for the post-abortive to have diminished sexual enjoyment. She may be engaging in sex in an attempt to be accepted and loved. Speak directly to this possibility and educate her about abstaining until marriage. Finally, be sure to reemphasize that while she may not regret her abortion today, she might in the future and your ministry will be there to help. Continue to pray for her and lift her up to the Lord as He places her on your heart. Always remember that you are a vessel of Christ's compassionate message of grace and love. You can do all things through His power!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sydna A. Massé is the president and founder of Ramah International. She is the author of the book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion, and a new recovery guide that allows this book to be used in Bible study formats. To reach her or order Ramah's resources, visit the web site (www.ramahinternational.org) or write: Ramah International, 1776 Hudson St., Englewood, FL 34223. Phone: 941-473-2188. Fax: 941-473-2248. E-mail: Sydna@aol.com.