Secular Resources for Abortion Healing

Women hold "I Regret My Abortion" outside the Supreme Court

The largest and best-known programs for mothers who regret their abortions, like Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More, are faith-based. This is unsurprising when you consider that Christian doctrine promises supernatural forgiveness of wrongdoing and reunification with the aborted child in the afterlife. Many women who have had abortions derive great comfort from those beliefs. But what about those who are not Christian and not interested in conversion? According to the Guttmacher Institute, 38% of abortion customers have no religious affiliation and another 8% identify with non-Christian religions. That’s a huge population who may need secular services.
We wrote about this several years ago, but this is an important topic that deserves an update. Here are a few options for those who want acknowledgment of the actual source of their grief—their children’s lost lives—without bringing the Bible into it.
We highly recommend Abortion Changes You (also offered in Spanish), led by the wonderful Michaelene Fredenburg. We collaborated with Michaelene for a secular abortion healing workshop at the 2019 Rehumanize Conference in New Orelans and hope to work with her again. Abortion Changes You operates under the umbrella of Life Perspectives, which also provides care for families who have experienced miscarriage and other forms of reproductive loss. 

Pro-life atheist Albany Rose, who we’ve known for many years, found that it helped her to reclaim her medical records from the abortion facility. She has opened up about that experience on YouTube.
AfterAbortion.com is an informal collection of message boards where people can help one another through their pain. Formal counseling is not provided; this is purely peer support. Pro-life vs. pro-choice debate is not allowed. 
Some women adopt secular elements of Christian post-abortion healing programs, including rituals such as naming the unborn child or dedicating a physical memorial to the child. Some also benefit from one-on-one therapy with a psychologist—but of course, you will have to carefully choose a psychologist you trust. This directory may help.
Finally, please bear in mind that grief and regret are extended processes, and most abortion healing programs take the long view. They are therefore not appropriate for emergency situations. If you are struggling with self-harm or thoughts of suicide, call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE immediately.

[Photo credit: Students for Life Action]

A Portrait of a Coerced Abortion

In a collection of women’s abortion stories, one woman wrote about how she was pressured into abortion by her husband and abortion workers. 

The woman’s husband had been demanding that she get an abortion. She decided to go to the abortion facility and back out at the last-minute. Then she could say she at least tried to get an abortion, which might appease her husband. She says, “Looking back, I realize I was afraid of my husband.” 

A smiling woman met her at the abortion facility, and she told the woman immediately that she did not want an abortion. The post-abortive woman recalls the conversation: 

We were led into a counseling room by a woman with a pleasant smile. After we sat down, I told her, “Deep inside my heart, I know there is no justification for an abortion.” Ralph glared at me. He said, “She thinks she is carrying a baby and not just a blob of cells.” The counselor assured me that my baby was “just a pinhead.” Both she and my husband argued with me. She said, “You can do this. You don’t have to want it or like it. It’s best to make this sacrifice for the well-being of your two boys.” My husband begged me, “Please do it!”… “Wouldn’t you remove a tumor?” As she shoved the papers at me to sign, she told me, “You can stop the abortion at any time.” 

Under pressure, she signed the papers, still intending to change her mind: 

When it was time to go into the operating room, I crouched down outside the door and whimpered, “I can’t do this.” Two smiling women, one on each side of me, lifted me up and pushed me into the room. The doctor was upset with me because I was crying. Many times, I told him, “I don’t want to. I don’t want to!” 

They gave her anesthesia, knocked her out, and did the abortion. 

This woman made it very clear to the abortion workers and the abortionist that she didn’t want to have an abortion. However, they gave her drugs to incapacitate her and then committed the abortion on her against her will. Their actions make a mockery of the pro-abortion claim that abortion providers are selfless heroes who just want to help women. Obviously, these “pro-choice” abortion providers did not respect her choice. 

That night, the woman cried bitterly, only to have her husband yell at her: 

That night when my crying kept Ralph awake, he yelled at me, “What’s wrong with you? We got rid of the problem!” The next morning, after a night without sleep, I urged Ralph to look on the Internet for what happened to women after an abortion.
He searched WebMD and found only one article. He showed it to me and pointed to one sentence: “Most women do not regret abortion.” He grinned knowingly and said, “You see? You’re crazy, you’re creating this problem. You’ll be okay.” I cried. 

The abortion industry and abortion supporters have released studies that purport to show only a small fraction of women regret their abortions. However, the studies contain methodological flaws. For one thing, few studies follow the women longer than a few months to a year. They therefore miss emotional trauma that surfaces later. 

If you listen to the testimonies of women who regret their abortions, many of them came to experience regret after a triggering incident in their lives. This could mean giving birth to a baby, which led them to wonder about the one that was aborted; finding out information they didn’t know about fetal development; seeing an ultrasound, or losing a child through miscarriage. These events may happen many years after the abortion and trigger long-lasting abortion regret. 

Also, large numbers of women dropped out of the studies after initially agreeing to take part. These women filled out the first questionnaire but refused to fill out future questionnaires. There was no follow-up with these women – they were simply removed from the studies. Every study I have read that was based on questionnaires and came to the conclusion that women don’t suffer after abortion had a high attrition rate – with up to 50% or more of the women dropping out. Some of these women may have dropped out because they found it traumatic to think about their abortions. 

Therefore, these studies are unreliable. Studies that do show that women regret their abortions or that the suicide rate of women is higher after abortion have been published. But pro-abortion medical societies and the abortion industry downplay these studies, and many of them have been published outside of the United States because American journals don’t want to publish them. 

Source: Barbara Horak Real Abortion Stories: The Hurting and the Healing (El Paso, Texas: Strive for the Best Publishing, 2007)

[Today’s guest article is by Sarah Terzo. If you would like to contribute a guest article, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration. Photo credit: Oregon Right to Life.]

Interview with a post-abortive sidewalk counselor: love, not shame, is the key

Interviewer’s note: study after study confirm many women choose abortion because they feel they don’t have the resources to care for a child. Sidewalk counselors work to connect these women to resources in their communities. This work transforms—and literally saves—lives.

People who aren’t involved in the pro-life movement (and even some within it) tend to believe that those who stand outside abortion clinics are there to shame and terrify vulnerable abortion-minded women. Interestingly, in this interview Serena discusses these very type of ultra-aggressive protestors and how they make her goalsto reassure women and get them resourcesmuch more difficult. Still, she’s tenacious.
I’m an atheist. I don’t share Serena’s beliefs about God or Jesus. But I can’t help but note how Serena’s faith encourages and emboldens her to love and support other people in difficult circumstances. It’s admirable work. (You can also read an interview with a secular sidewalk counselor here.)

Meet Serena


How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?
I got started sidewalk counseling after seeing Unplanned. I had gone to the movie not even knowing what it was about and it was like watching my life unfold before my eyes.
I was raped at 13 years old by an uncle and taken for an abortion at Ulrich Klopfer‘s clinic. For 30 years I did not talk about my abortion because it was something I wanted to forget happened. It was by far worse than my rape. I didn’t know what abortion was when I went to that clinic but once I learned, it almost destroyed my life. I nearly lost everything. My marriage was almost over, and I was using drugs and alcohol to numb my pain.
One night after drinking heavily, I texted some friends to come get me. I knew I had too much to drink and I didn’t want to end up in jail. But no one would come get me. I had burned all my bridges. I sat in my car and cried and prayed for help. That night God met me in my car and lavished me in a love that I had never felt before. I made it home and my husband welcomed me back. That began my healing process from my rape. But I never talked about the abortion.
When I saw Unplanned, I felt moved to tell the rest of my story, though I wasn’t sure how exactly. I called our local Right To Life and asked if they ever minister to women before they go to abortion clinics. They explained they were going to start training people to sidewalk counsel in response to Whole Women’s Health opening nearby. I signed right up and began going to the clinic.
It’s so important to have peaceful people at the clinic. On the day of my abortion, no one was there. I will never know if it would have made a difference in my story, but I want to make sure that people know that they can make a difference for someone else.
What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

Going to the clinic requires me to be ready to love others well. We really want to be a peaceful presence that is lead by the Holy Spirit on how to reach women. We want to love not only the mothers, fathers, and other family members but also the escorts and staff. We want to give the support so many of them are looking forin the moment, during the pregnancy, and after the baby is born.
What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?
Escorts block us with their umbrellas and play music so the women can’t hear us. We also have to deal with another group who come out with mics to “preach.” They shame the women who then run right into the clinic. There have been times when we will get the attention of a father in the car and it looks like he is going to come over and talk, but the other group will call him a coward and he instead looks down and won’t come over. They are also known to put ladders up and yell at escorts. It’s awful.
During my own abortion, I remember the clinic telling our family that there would be people outside who hated us, so make sure to walk in quickly. Groups like these who shame women confirm the clinic workers’ warnings. I’ve worked with many post-abortive women, and something I often hear is “the protesters were yelling at me and I just wanted to get away.” In contrast, I had a woman share her story of two peaceful sidewalk counselors praying. She broke away from her parents and went to them for help. She said she could sense their love and knew they were safe. 
Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?
We hand out mom bags which include local resources, a free ultrasound coupon, and info about what abortion is (and that it’s not her only choice). I personally try to put a hand written note, a bracelet, and some type of lotion or something to make her feel loved. If she returns a second day we also include abortion pill reversal information. We also try to let her know about a website (Her Michiana) that can help with many of her needs as well as resources for the dad.
Do you have religious beliefs? If so, how do those influence your work? How do you handle religious differences between you and the people you meet?
I’m a Jesus follower and that helps me love others well. When I’m at the clinic or talking to an abortion-minded woman, I talk about Jesus in a way meant to bring hope, not shame. I want her to know she is so loved. Sometimes you can tell that someone is not really interested and you can feel push back. At that point I will not talk about him, but hope they will know his love by my actions.
How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?
We have people who walk by the clinic all the time; it’s always a teaching moment to educate others on what abortion is. Some people just don’t know and we have the opportunity to have a conversation (not a debate, but a conversation). People seem more open to talking if we approach them in a non-confrontational way. 
What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?
I talk to women daily and they have shared so many reasons they come to the clinics. Some feel like they are not supported by family or the boyfriend, some think they can’t afford a baby, some are scared of Covid. Some have been told something is wrong with their baby and abortion will show “compassion.” In the case of my rape at 13 my family was told abortion would fix my trauma. It was all a lie. 
Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

I make a point of interacting with clinic staff because the Jesus I serve can reach anyone. I speak truth in love to them and pray for them. I try to reach them were they’re at.
I did befriend one of the escorts. Our first encounter did not go well. I shared my story with him and he cussed me out and flipped me off. The next week the escort was drinking a Snapple and made a face like it was terrible. I laughed and said “That bad?” and he laughed too, talked about how they changed the recipe. After that we started talking more, and he has since shared his story with me. He helps knit hats for premature babies! He has misplaced compassion that he doesn’t even understand. 
Other escorts don’t always like that he talks to me but he does it anyway. I’m going to keep showing him love and compassion. I believe it’s just a matter of time before he leaves.
Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?
Trained sidewalk counselors are not there to shame women at all. Sadly, there are people who go to the clinics to shame women and it’s hurtful and counterproductive. The women don’t realize we are different groups; they lump us together. I try really hard to separate myself from anyone who is not being peaceful. If a woman is taken there against her will I hope she looks for the people praying, not shouting. There are people who will help and love you well. 
What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

Go to the training. Make sure that you conduct yourself in a way that is loving; don’t say anything that will hurt a woman for the rest of her life. Offer her hope. Be the hope. Love her, love him, and love the baby well. They are all God’s kids. 

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

If you come across a woman who is in a crisis, meet her with love. Listen, discern, and respond. Figure out what is driving her to abortion and how to meet that need.
If you are part of a church, allow people to come in and talk about abortion. When the church doesn’t talk about abortion it sends a message that we are okay with it. Women in the church have gone from the pew to the abortion clinic because they believe people will gossip instead of help them. [See the Pastor Pledge from The Equal Rights Institute.] If you are a pastor who doesn’t know how to talk about it, invite me to speak. You can also make sure your local pregnancy centers are supported.   
Read more interviews:
Sidewalk counseling training resources:

Interview with a post-abortive sidewalk counselor: love, not shame, is the key

Interviewer’s note: study after study confirm many women choose abortion because they feel they don’t have the resources to care for a child. Sidewalk counselors work to connect these women to resources in their communities. This work transforms—and literally saves—lives.

People who aren’t involved in the pro-life movement (and even some within it) tend to believe that those who stand outside abortion clinics are there to shame and terrify vulnerable abortion-minded women. Interestingly, in this interview Serena discusses these very type of ultra-aggressive protestors and how they make her goalsto reassure women and get them resourcesmuch more difficult. Still, she’s tenacious.
I’m an atheist. I don’t share Serena’s beliefs about God or Jesus. But I can’t help but note how Serena’s faith encourages and emboldens her to love and support other people in difficult circumstances. It’s admirable work. (You can also read an interview with a secular sidewalk counselor here.)

Meet Serena


How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?
I got started sidewalk counseling after seeing Unplanned. I had gone to the movie not even knowing what it was about and it was like watching my life unfold before my eyes.
I was raped at 13 years old by an uncle and taken for an abortion at Ulrich Klopfer‘s clinic. For 30 years I did not talk about my abortion because it was something I wanted to forget happened. It was by far worse than my rape. I didn’t know what abortion was when I went to that clinic but once I learned, it almost destroyed my life. I nearly lost everything. My marriage was almost over, and I was using drugs and alcohol to numb my pain.
One night after drinking heavily, I texted some friends to come get me. I knew I had too much to drink and I didn’t want to end up in jail. But no one would come get me. I had burned all my bridges. I sat in my car and cried and prayed for help. That night God met me in my car and lavished me in a love that I had never felt before. I made it home and my husband welcomed me back. That began my healing process from my rape. But I never talked about the abortion.
When I saw Unplanned, I felt moved to tell the rest of my story, though I wasn’t sure how exactly. I called our local Right To Life and asked if they ever minister to women before they go to abortion clinics. They explained they were going to start training people to sidewalk counsel in response to Whole Women’s Health opening nearby. I signed right up and began going to the clinic.
It’s so important to have peaceful people at the clinic. On the day of my abortion, no one was there. I will never know if it would have made a difference in my story, but I want to make sure that people know that they can make a difference for someone else.
What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

Going to the clinic requires me to be ready to love others well. We really want to be a peaceful presence that is lead by the Holy Spirit on how to reach women. We want to love not only the mothers, fathers, and other family members but also the escorts and staff. We want to give the support so many of them are looking forin the moment, during the pregnancy, and after the baby is born.
What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?
Escorts block us with their umbrellas and play music so the women can’t hear us. We also have to deal with another group who come out with mics to “preach.” They shame the women who then run right into the clinic. There have been times when we will get the attention of a father in the car and it looks like he is going to come over and talk, but the other group will call him a coward and he instead looks down and won’t come over. They are also known to put ladders up and yell at escorts. It’s awful.
During my own abortion, I remember the clinic telling our family that there would be people outside who hated us, so make sure to walk in quickly. Groups like these who shame women confirm the clinic workers’ warnings. I’ve worked with many post-abortive women, and something I often hear is “the protesters were yelling at me and I just wanted to get away.” In contrast, I had a woman share her story of two peaceful sidewalk counselors praying. She broke away from her parents and went to them for help. She said she could sense their love and knew they were safe. 
Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?
We hand out mom bags which include local resources, a free ultrasound coupon, and info about what abortion is (and that it’s not her only choice). I personally try to put a hand written note, a bracelet, and some type of lotion or something to make her feel loved. If she returns a second day we also include abortion pill reversal information. We also try to let her know about a website (Her Michiana) that can help with many of her needs as well as resources for the dad.
Do you have religious beliefs? If so, how do those influence your work? How do you handle religious differences between you and the people you meet?
I’m a Jesus follower and that helps me love others well. When I’m at the clinic or talking to an abortion-minded woman, I talk about Jesus in a way meant to bring hope, not shame. I want her to know she is so loved. Sometimes you can tell that someone is not really interested and you can feel push back. At that point I will not talk about him, but hope they will know his love by my actions.
How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?
We have people who walk by the clinic all the time; it’s always a teaching moment to educate others on what abortion is. Some people just don’t know and we have the opportunity to have a conversation (not a debate, but a conversation). People seem more open to talking if we approach them in a non-confrontational way. 
What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?
I talk to women daily and they have shared so many reasons they come to the clinics. Some feel like they are not supported by family or the boyfriend, some think they can’t afford a baby, some are scared of Covid. Some have been told something is wrong with their baby and abortion will show “compassion.” In the case of my rape at 13 my family was told abortion would fix my trauma. It was all a lie. 
Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

I make a point of interacting with clinic staff because the Jesus I serve can reach anyone. I speak truth in love to them and pray for them. I try to reach them were they’re at.
I did befriend one of the escorts. Our first encounter did not go well. I shared my story with him and he cussed me out and flipped me off. The next week the escort was drinking a Snapple and made a face like it was terrible. I laughed and said “That bad?” and he laughed too, talked about how they changed the recipe. After that we started talking more, and he has since shared his story with me. He helps knit hats for premature babies! He has misplaced compassion that he doesn’t even understand. 
Other escorts don’t always like that he talks to me but he does it anyway. I’m going to keep showing him love and compassion. I believe it’s just a matter of time before he leaves.
Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?
Trained sidewalk counselors are not there to shame women at all. Sadly, there are people who go to the clinics to shame women and it’s hurtful and counterproductive. The women don’t realize we are different groups; they lump us together. I try really hard to separate myself from anyone who is not being peaceful. If a woman is taken there against her will I hope she looks for the people praying, not shouting. There are people who will help and love you well. 
What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

Go to the training. Make sure that you conduct yourself in a way that is loving; don’t say anything that will hurt a woman for the rest of her life. Offer her hope. Be the hope. Love her, love him, and love the baby well. They are all God’s kids. 

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

If you come across a woman who is in a crisis, meet her with love. Listen, discern, and respond. Figure out what is driving her to abortion and how to meet that need.
If you are part of a church, allow people to come in and talk about abortion. When the church doesn’t talk about abortion it sends a message that we are okay with it. Women in the church have gone from the pew to the abortion clinic because they believe people will gossip instead of help them. [See the Pastor Pledge from The Equal Rights Institute.] If you are a pastor who doesn’t know how to talk about it, invite me to speak. You can also make sure your local pregnancy centers are supported.   
Read more interviews:
Sidewalk counseling training resources:

Interview: How Gabriela became a sidewalk counselor outside the clinic where she had her abortion

I met Gabriela recently through Secular Pro-Life. I asked her if she had always been pro-life, and when she said no, I asked her what brought her to our side. Her story moved me, and she gave me permission to share it through an interview. – Monica


How long were you
pro-choice? What were the main reasons you were pro-choice? 
I was pro-choice for
as long as I can remember. It’s funny: I don’t remember the exact moment I
first heard the word “abortion” or learned what it was; I just
remember always supporting it. Even though I grew up Catholic and went to a
Catholic high school, I don’t remember it ever really being mentioned. But
honestly I was pro-choice mainly because I never wanted children. And it just
seemed logical to me that if you don’t want kids, you would support abortion.
It didn’t make sense to be pregnant for nine months only to give the kid to
someone else.
Tell me about your
abortion. What led you to that decision? 
The part that gets
me most about my abortion is that I had an IUD (intrauterine device), so none
of this was supposed to happen. I had a Paragard (copper) IUD, which is
supposedly 99.7% effective, and yet approximately six months after the IUD was
inserted, I got pregnant. My ultrasound appointment showed that the IUD was
exactly where it was supposed to be—it didn’t fall out or embed in the uterus;
it just didn’t work. I decided to have an abortion out of pure panic: I was terrified. I had intended to prevent pregnancy, and I wasn’t planning on
this, so an abortion just seemed like the logical choice.
How did you feel
about it after? 
The moment after my
abortion, I felt relief. The day after, I felt a despair and hopelessness and
horror at what I had done unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.
It’s still hard to talk about.
What did you do to
try to get support and heal? 
In order to try and
heal, I named my child. I also participated in a retreat with Rachel’s Vineyard, a Catholic
post-abortion recovery group that I found through my church bulletin. I tried therapy for a couple sessions, and then I joined a local sidewalk advocate group, which I found out about through a nearby crisis pregnancy center. After that, I was able to get a copy of my ultrasound picture, which I framed.
All of these methods
helped in some way, and I basically did them one after the other. Naming my child
and framing his ultrasound picture were important because those gestures acknowledged his humanity.
Though it was too early to determine the gender of my unborn child, I just
knew he was a boy. The retreat helped because it made me realize I wasn’t
alone, and it provided the participants
 little mementos to honor our unborn children. Therapy kind of
helped,
 but I needed something more. 

Being a sidewalk advocate really helped because I could actually do something
useful, rather than just wallow in regret. 
Sidewalk advocacy has helped me process my abortion by providing me an opportunity to use my story for good. I wish, more than anything, that someone had been on the sidewalk when I went to get my abortion. I now want to be that person for others, and hopefully prevent other women and unborn babies from going through what I and my unborn child went through. A couple of months after I started, a young woman told me that years ago she was about about to get an abortion but someone was on the sidewalk so she changed her mind. Her baby is now 3 years old.

Did you know the
sidewalk counselors before you started working alongside them? 
Before I joined the group, I didn’t know anything about them, but I wanted to
join a group that I knew valued unborn children and shared my newfound pro-life
beliefs.
Did you tell them
your story? If so, what were their reactions? 
I have told them and they are very supportive of me. They
think it can really change people’s hearts to hear about my regret,
particularly because I am now an advocate outside the abortion facility where I
received my abortion.
Are you close to
people who are pro-choice (friends, family, etc.)? What are those relationships
like? 
I am close with
people who are pro-choice, and the relationships are fine because we just don’t
talk about my abortion. Only a few people know, and they responded without
judgment. But overall I just don’t really
talk about it much with those I know.

If you could say anything to yourself years ago, what advice would you give? If I could say something to my younger self, I’m telling you she would not have listened! In all seriousness, I think the best way to change a pro-choicer’s mindset is to ask some simple questions: If a pregnant woman is murdered, should the perpetrator be charged with one murder or two, and why? If you’re in a burning building and have to choose between saving a pregnant woman or saving a woman who isn’t pregnant,  who would you save and why? If it’s the woman’s choice, is it okay for a woman to use abortion as birth control? If not, what’s not okay about it? These pointed questions might have made me question my pro-choice stance a lot earlier, which in turn could have saved my child’s life.

Interview: How Gabriela became a sidewalk counselor outside the clinic where she had her abortion

I met Gabriela recently through Secular Pro-Life. I asked her if she had always been pro-life, and when she said no, I asked her what brought her to our side. Her story moved me, and she gave me permission to share it through an interview. – Monica


How long were you
pro-choice? What were the main reasons you were pro-choice? 
I was pro-choice for
as long as I can remember. It’s funny: I don’t remember the exact moment I
first heard the word “abortion” or learned what it was; I just
remember always supporting it. Even though I grew up Catholic and went to a
Catholic high school, I don’t remember it ever really being mentioned. But
honestly I was pro-choice mainly because I never wanted children. And it just
seemed logical to me that if you don’t want kids, you would support abortion.
It didn’t make sense to be pregnant for nine months only to give the kid to
someone else.
Tell me about your
abortion. What led you to that decision? 
The part that gets
me most about my abortion is that I had an IUD (intrauterine device), so none
of this was supposed to happen. I had a Paragard (copper) IUD, which is
supposedly 99.7% effective, and yet approximately six months after the IUD was
inserted, I got pregnant. My ultrasound appointment showed that the IUD was
exactly where it was supposed to be—it didn’t fall out or embed in the uterus;
it just didn’t work. I decided to have an abortion out of pure panic: I was terrified. I had intended to prevent pregnancy, and I wasn’t planning on
this, so an abortion just seemed like the logical choice.
How did you feel
about it after? 
The moment after my
abortion, I felt relief. The day after, I felt a despair and hopelessness and
horror at what I had done unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.
It’s still hard to talk about.
What did you do to
try to get support and heal? 
In order to try and
heal, I named my child. I also participated in a retreat with Rachel’s Vineyard, a Catholic
post-abortion recovery group that I found through my church bulletin. I tried therapy for a couple sessions, and then I joined a local sidewalk advocate group, which I found out about through a nearby crisis pregnancy center. After that, I was able to get a copy of my ultrasound picture, which I framed.
All of these methods
helped in some way, and I basically did them one after the other. Naming my child
and framing his ultrasound picture were important because those gestures acknowledged his humanity.
Though it was too early to determine the gender of my unborn child, I just
knew he was a boy. The retreat helped because it made me realize I wasn’t
alone, and it provided the participants
 little mementos to honor our unborn children. Therapy kind of
helped,
 but I needed something more. 

Being a sidewalk advocate really helped because I could actually do something
useful, rather than just wallow in regret. 
Sidewalk advocacy has helped me process my abortion by providing me an opportunity to use my story for good. I wish, more than anything, that someone had been on the sidewalk when I went to get my abortion. I now want to be that person for others, and hopefully prevent other women and unborn babies from going through what I and my unborn child went through. A couple of months after I started, a young woman told me that years ago she was about about to get an abortion but someone was on the sidewalk so she changed her mind. Her baby is now 3 years old.

Did you know the
sidewalk counselors before you started working alongside them? 
Before I joined the group, I didn’t know anything about them, but I wanted to
join a group that I knew valued unborn children and shared my newfound pro-life
beliefs.
Did you tell them
your story? If so, what were their reactions? 
I have told them and they are very supportive of me. They
think it can really change people’s hearts to hear about my regret,
particularly because I am now an advocate outside the abortion facility where I
received my abortion.
Are you close to
people who are pro-choice (friends, family, etc.)? What are those relationships
like? 
I am close with
people who are pro-choice, and the relationships are fine because we just don’t
talk about my abortion. Only a few people know, and they responded without
judgment. But overall I just don’t really
talk about it much with those I know.

If you could say anything to yourself years ago, what advice would you give? If I could say something to my younger self, I’m telling you she would not have listened! In all seriousness, I think the best way to change a pro-choicer’s mindset is to ask some simple questions: If a pregnant woman is murdered, should the perpetrator be charged with one murder or two, and why? If you’re in a burning building and have to choose between saving a pregnant woman or saving a woman who isn’t pregnant,  who would you save and why? If it’s the woman’s choice, is it okay for a woman to use abortion as birth control? If not, what’s not okay about it? These pointed questions might have made me question my pro-choice stance a lot earlier, which in turn could have saved my child’s life.

Women who’ve had abortions don’t owe loyalty to the abortion industry

Since Roe v. Wade, there have been over 60 million abortions committed in the United States. Even if 40% of those were repeat abortions (statistics vary by year), about 36 million women have had at least one legal abortion in the past 40 years.

Some current and former abortion workers have wondered where all these women are. Why aren’t more of them active in the pro-choice movement? Certainly, there are many who are. But there has been no massive uprising of post-abortive women fighting for abortion rights. Despite high profile campaigns like Shout your Abortion, most post-abortive women keep their abortions to themselves. The fact that the pro-life movement is so powerful, even when such a large number of women have had abortions and would seem to have every reason to support that right, is telling.

Jeannie Jones counseled women and helped them get abortions both before and after Roe. She says:

I became convinced within a year or two of doing abortion counseling to great numbers at Amherst Medical that the whole thing – society’s condemnatory attitude toward abortion – was going to change so dramatically because there were all these women of all ages who had abortions and members of their families who knew about it. They had this experience of making this tough decision. I thought that was going to change the political landscape and I can’t believe [that opposition to legal abortion] is still going on. There’s this enormous number of women having abortions still, but it’s like you had one and you don’t have any sympathy or concern for anyone else. Where is this enormous population of people who personally had this experience? Where are their families?

[Source: David P Cline Creating Choice: A Community Responds to the Need for Abortion and Birth Control, 1961 – 1973 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006) 206]

Abortion is highly stigmatized despite many women having abortions.
Former abortion worker Robin Dizard is so frustrated that more post-abortive women haven’t been fighting for abortion rights that she contemplated “outing” her former patients. The fact that many post-abortive women just want to go on with their lives, and others join the pro-life movement, angers her. She writes about exposing women’s secret abortions in order to shame them into being pro-choice, or to discredit their pro-life activism:

[I]t’s something that has been used very effectively in outing [of gay people], for example. I’m not in favor of it but look what it does. And look what happens when the hypocrites who are holding elected office get found out: “Oh, Senator whoever you are, your office is full of pornography, that’s very interesting,” and then the guy pipes down a little bit.

[Source: Ibid. 207]


Ironically and perhaps unintentionally, Dizard compares having an abortion to looking at pornography. This comparison acknowledges the stigma surrounding abortion.

Many pro-life post-abortive women are in fact open about their abortions; they see them as tragic events in their lives. Often, it is the abortion experience that motivates post-abortive pro-life women, whether they feel comfortable talking about their abortions or not.

Abortion worker Steph Herold also expresses her frustration:

We need our patients, who we do everything for, to stand up for us. We don’t need them to tell their abortion stories to everyone they know, although of course that would be great. We need them to fight for abortion access in whatever way makes sense to them. If one in three US women has an abortion by age 45, where are these women? Why don’t they stand up for us?

[Source: Sarah Erdreich Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2013) 175]

Herold’s fake “one in three” statistic has been debunked.

Herold isn’t seeing the women who had abortions at her facility on the pro-choice picket line.

Abortion facility owner Maggie Cage ran a full-page newspaper ad during Operation Rescue’s campaign. While pro-lifers staged sit ins in front of the facility door, Cage called for her former patients to come and “defend” the facility:

Where are you? Where are all the people we’ve helped over the years? We need you now. When you needed us, we were there. We held your hand and supported you. We see you in restaurants and at the grocery store, at PTA meetings and softball games. You are the businesspeople, the school officials, the politicians, the voters. We kept you safe. We held your secrets. But now we need help. Where are you?

[Source: Susan Wicklund This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor (New York: Public Affairs Perseus Books Group, 2007) 160]

All the current and former abortion workers quoted here avoid coming to an obvious conclusion: many women don’t consider their abortion experience empowering. At “best,” they want to forget about it. At “worst,” they actively work against abortion.

What about the numbers? How many women who have had abortions are active in the pro-life movement vs. the pro-choice movement?

Unfortunately, current statistics aren’t available. But there is an older study, done in 1981, which found that more post-abortive women were involved in National Right to Life than in NARAL (one of the most prominent pro-abortion groups, then and now).

[Source: Donald Granberg, “The Abortion Activists” Family Planning Perspectives July – August 1981]

The study was done by pro-choice researcher Donald Granberg and published in the journal of the Alan Guttmacher Institute. It found that 3% of women in National Right to Life and 36% of women in NARAL had had abortions. At first glance, it seems like women who have abortions are far more likely to join NARAL and be pro-choice. But when you actually count the numbers up, you find that more post-abortive women were members of National Right to Life.

At the time of the study, there were 12 million women in National Right to Life and 156,000 in NARAL. This means that 39,000 women in NARAL had abortions. In National Right to Life, the number was 245,000.

What this translates to, if you do the math, is that there were six times more post-abortive women in National Right to Life than in NARAL.

Of course, there is only so much we can determine from the study. It only includes two organizations (though at the time, they were the largest), and it is from decades ago. So, we don’t know how much it can be applied to today. But it is seems clear that the majority of the 36 million American women who have had abortions are not pro-abortion activists.

[Today’s guest post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program.]

Women who’ve had abortions don’t owe loyalty to the abortion industry

Since Roe v. Wade, there have been over 60 million abortions committed in the United States. Even if 40% of those were repeat abortions (statistics vary by year), about 36 million women have had at least one legal abortion in the past 40 years.

Some current and former abortion workers have wondered where all these women are. Why aren’t more of them active in the pro-choice movement? Certainly, there are many who are. But there has been no massive uprising of post-abortive women fighting for abortion rights. Despite high profile campaigns like Shout your Abortion, most post-abortive women keep their abortions to themselves. The fact that the pro-life movement is so powerful, even when such a large number of women have had abortions and would seem to have every reason to support that right, is telling.

Jeannie Jones counseled women and helped them get abortions both before and after Roe. She says:

I became convinced within a year or two of doing abortion counseling to great numbers at Amherst Medical that the whole thing – society’s condemnatory attitude toward abortion – was going to change so dramatically because there were all these women of all ages who had abortions and members of their families who knew about it. They had this experience of making this tough decision. I thought that was going to change the political landscape and I can’t believe [that opposition to legal abortion] is still going on. There’s this enormous number of women having abortions still, but it’s like you had one and you don’t have any sympathy or concern for anyone else. Where is this enormous population of people who personally had this experience? Where are their families?

[Source: David P Cline Creating Choice: A Community Responds to the Need for Abortion and Birth Control, 1961 – 1973 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006) 206]

Abortion is highly stigmatized despite many women having abortions.
Former abortion worker Robin Dizard is so frustrated that more post-abortive women haven’t been fighting for abortion rights that she contemplated “outing” her former patients. The fact that many post-abortive women just want to go on with their lives, and others join the pro-life movement, angers her. She writes about exposing women’s secret abortions in order to shame them into being pro-choice, or to discredit their pro-life activism:

[I]t’s something that has been used very effectively in outing [of gay people], for example. I’m not in favor of it but look what it does. And look what happens when the hypocrites who are holding elected office get found out: “Oh, Senator whoever you are, your office is full of pornography, that’s very interesting,” and then the guy pipes down a little bit.

[Source: Ibid. 207]


Ironically and perhaps unintentionally, Dizard compares having an abortion to looking at pornography. This comparison acknowledges the stigma surrounding abortion.

Many pro-life post-abortive women are in fact open about their abortions; they see them as tragic events in their lives. Often, it is the abortion experience that motivates post-abortive pro-life women, whether they feel comfortable talking about their abortions or not.

Abortion worker Steph Herold also expresses her frustration:

We need our patients, who we do everything for, to stand up for us. We don’t need them to tell their abortion stories to everyone they know, although of course that would be great. We need them to fight for abortion access in whatever way makes sense to them. If one in three US women has an abortion by age 45, where are these women? Why don’t they stand up for us?

[Source: Sarah Erdreich Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2013) 175]

Herold’s fake “one in three” statistic has been debunked.

Herold isn’t seeing the women who had abortions at her facility on the pro-choice picket line.

Abortion facility owner Maggie Cage ran a full-page newspaper ad during Operation Rescue’s campaign. While pro-lifers staged sit ins in front of the facility door, Cage called for her former patients to come and “defend” the facility:

Where are you? Where are all the people we’ve helped over the years? We need you now. When you needed us, we were there. We held your hand and supported you. We see you in restaurants and at the grocery store, at PTA meetings and softball games. You are the businesspeople, the school officials, the politicians, the voters. We kept you safe. We held your secrets. But now we need help. Where are you?

[Source: Susan Wicklund This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor (New York: Public Affairs Perseus Books Group, 2007) 160]

All the current and former abortion workers quoted here avoid coming to an obvious conclusion: many women don’t consider their abortion experience empowering. At “best,” they want to forget about it. At “worst,” they actively work against abortion.

What about the numbers? How many women who have had abortions are active in the pro-life movement vs. the pro-choice movement?

Unfortunately, current statistics aren’t available. But there is an older study, done in 1981, which found that more post-abortive women were involved in National Right to Life than in NARAL (one of the most prominent pro-abortion groups, then and now).

[Source: Donald Granberg, “The Abortion Activists” Family Planning Perspectives July – August 1981]

The study was done by pro-choice researcher Donald Granberg and published in the journal of the Alan Guttmacher Institute. It found that 3% of women in National Right to Life and 36% of women in NARAL had had abortions. At first glance, it seems like women who have abortions are far more likely to join NARAL and be pro-choice. But when you actually count the numbers up, you find that more post-abortive women were members of National Right to Life.

At the time of the study, there were 12 million women in National Right to Life and 156,000 in NARAL. This means that 39,000 women in NARAL had abortions. In National Right to Life, the number was 245,000.

What this translates to, if you do the math, is that there were six times more post-abortive women in National Right to Life than in NARAL.

Of course, there is only so much we can determine from the study. It only includes two organizations (though at the time, they were the largest), and it is from decades ago. So, we don’t know how much it can be applied to today. But it is seems clear that the majority of the 36 million American women who have had abortions are not pro-abortion activists.

[Today’s guest post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program.]

NWF attends “Abortion Stories” panel at The Women’s Conference

About a year ago, Destiny of New Wave Feminists attended The Women’s Convention in Detroit. Recently she created a video (FB, Youtube) talking about attending the “Abortion Stories” breakout session. We’ve transcribed the video below. Phrases in italics signify thoughts not spoken out loud.

*****
Okay so I don’t have a ton of time but I want to tell you guys real
quick about something that happened last year at the women’s conference in
Detroit. This was a conference that was put on by Planned Parenthood—that was
one of the big sponsors—and the Women’s March. So the people who had removed us from the Women’s March. They had a conference and I registered with my full
name and everything and they accepted it. And so I was able to go, and it was a
fascinating experience.
Obviously I was surrounded by a lot of very pro-choice women. I did not
go there in any way to protest them or start trouble. I really kind of just
wanted to be in dialogue with them, and to talk to these people who I think so
many of us in the pro-life community maybe even without realizing we’re doing
it, we have dehumanized them. You know, we made them the enemy. So I thought it
would be a great opportunity to just go and sit and hear them. And listen to
them, listen to why it is that they think abortion is such a necessary
quintessential part of feminism.
Abby Johnson also went with a couple people from her organization. So I
was not planning going to this one particular panel, but at the last minute I
decided to go. And it was called “Abortion Stories.” And I walk in, and Abby
was there with her people, and of course Abby’s very recognizable. So she’s
sitting a little bit away from me. I saw people kind of pointing at her. They
knew who she was. So at the beginning of this session, somebody went to the
front and said “We know that we have some people in here who disagree with
this. And we want to make it very clear that if anyone disrupts, you will be
removed immediately.” And Abby was like What?
Me? Nooo.
It was really funny because we really weren’t there to disrupt!
We just kind of wanted to listen. Luckily I was sitting far enough away I don’t
think anyone realized that I was also like a “pro-life spy” or whatever.
[Laughs] Is that what they thought was going on?
So I listened to this panel. It was 4 or 5 women. A couple of them had
had multiple abortions. One of the more outgoing women on it, she was
hilarious, but she kept talking about how she had had this Etsy shop where she
posted abortion related stuff. So she had this flask that she takes with her to
all her speaking engagements and it says “I love my abobo.” And she says “I’m
going to sell these on my thing.” As someone in recovery myself, I kept
thinking Why do you take a flask to all
your speaking engagements?
That—I don’t know—that’s a signal to me that
maybe something isn’t resolved with you about your abortion.
So anyway I listened to them tell their stories and answer all the
questions. They started doing a Q&A. And there was a young woman who stood
up. She said her name was Coco and she was with a Planned Parenthood actually
here in Texas. “How come Planned Parenthood is constantly saying ‘It’s only 3%,
it’s only 3%’?” Because a big part of what they had talked about during their
presentation was how we stigmatize abortion and how there’s a stigma around it.
So she said “Aren’t they in turn actually adding stigma to abortion by saying
‘It’s only 3%’?” And everyone in the room agreed. The outspoken woman on the
panel said “That’s why I say go work for a small, independent abortion
provider.” And everyone starts cheering, like they were kind of anti-Planned
Parenthood. And all of a sudden I’m like Am
I in on some weird pro-choice secret? Like people don’t actually love Planned
Parenthood as much as Planned Parenthood would like us to think they do?

And so the woman was like “Okay, okay” and she sits down.
So at this point there was a reporter who had said she wanted to come
with me if I was going to ask any questions or anything. And she said “If I
can’t be at the session with you, if you could just record it.” So I had
literally just turned my phone on to record and caught the Coco thing. Because
I thought I don’t know if I’m going to
ask a question.
Again, I didn’t go to this to start trouble. But before Coco’s
question they had said “Does anybody have any questions?” And it was just kind
of a long silence, nobody in the room did, and so I almost asked at that point.
And then Coco got up. And so then it was my turn because now the same thing
happened: they were like “Do we have any questions? Any questions?” And it’s
kind of silence. And I thought You know
what? I might as well.
So I raised my hand. All the stories we were hearing
were very positive abortion stories. And I said, “What if a woman’s abortion story
is not positive? What if she was coerced into an abortion? One that she didn’t
want. Is she allowed to be a part of your campaign as well? Or would that be
considered stigmatizing abortion?”
And I remember the outspoken woman who had called on me looks at me,
straight in the face, and she says “Do we have any other questions?” And starts
looking around the room. And the coolest thing happened at that moment. A woman
right in the front row—her hand shoots up—and she says “No. That’s a good
question. Answer it.” And so I’m assuming this woman in the front row is
probably post-abortive and definitely pro-choice, and here she was advocating
for my voice to be heard, which I thought was just kind of beautiful. 
So the woman looks at her and she goes, “Well I guess I really just
didn’t understand the question.” And the woman behind that lady says my
question! Explains it. Which was also really cool. Here these women were saying
“No, we want an answer to this.” So she says, “She’s asking if a woman had a bad
experience and was coerced into an abortion, can she tell her story as part of
your campaign?” And the lady goes, “Well, first of all, if a woman comes to us
and she wants to have her baby, we send her on her way with a pack of prenatal
vitamins and a picture of her sonogram and we say ‘Go be a mom.’ This does not
happen. There are not coerced abortions.” And of course she thinks she’s
putting it to rest with that.
Another hand shoots up from a third
woman in this room who says “No. She’s saying if a woman was coerced, can she tell her story?” And at this point, somebody
else on the panel who’s a little better at PR jumped in and says “Well we
wouldn’t want to be hurting a woman. We wouldn’t want her—if she has unresolved
issues with her abortion—we wouldn’t want to be re-wounding her by having her
share that story. We would want to get her into a healthy place before she
shared her story.” And I was like, That’s
kind of a cop out
, but that was a much better answer.
So then this session wraps up and nobody was escorted out. None of us
started any trouble, right? And the next day I’m meeting with that reporter. So
we’re down at the little hotel coffee shop and she had her recorder on because
she was interviewing me. And all of a sudden Coco walks up. And she says, “Hey,
I hate to interrupt you guys. I’m so sorry. But I just wanted to say thank you
so much for asking your question yesterday. I get that question all the time
and I never know how to answer it. Thank you for doing that.” And I’m just
like, “Of course!” Clearly she has no idea who I am or she would not be
thanking me for doing this.
And I said, “You know, at the end of the day, I am a feminist. And I
hate women’s voices being used as propaganda. And I think there’s a much larger
conversation we need to be having about the nuance within abortion and the fact
that there are women who are pro-choice out there who feel like it was the
right decision for them to make. But they still have these wounds. And I know
this because they’re my friends. I have many pro-choice friends who don’t
necessarily regret their abortions, but they still know exactly how old their
child would be today. They still think about it. They still wonder what their
life would have been like if they would have had that child.”
“And when we don’t allow women the ability to express that because we
label them as ‘stigmatizing abortion,’ I think that’s incredibly cruel. And I
think, especially as a feminist, I don’t believe we should be in any type of
bondage. I don’t think we should be chained barefoot and pregnant to a stove,
but I also don’t think that we should be in emotional bondage from an abortion
that we’re not allowed to talk about unless we put a smile on and say it was
the best thing we ever did. Because for so many women, it’s a very complex
multifaceted issue, and we have to let them talk about it. We have to hear
their stories.”
So with that, I’m really excited to see these new groups cropping up
that do after-care, you know, abortion healing, that’s not religious, and is
more wide-ranging. I spoke to a woman on the phone today that I’m just really
encouraged by, because she was saying she has pro-choice friends who are
post-abortive, and they want to be able to talk about their abortions. And
she’s pro-life but she wants to be able to offer them a safe space to do that
as well. And I think that is just one of these ways that we can really break
down this divide between the pro-life and the pro-choice side, where it’s
constantly dehumanizing the other side and not looking at them fully, but then
expecting them to understand the humanity of the unborn person when so often we
disregard their humanity.

NWF attends “Abortion Stories” panel at The Women’s Conference

About a year ago, Destiny of New Wave Feminists attended The Women’s Convention in Detroit. Recently she created a video (FB, Youtube) talking about attending the “Abortion Stories” breakout session. We’ve transcribed the video below. Phrases in italics signify thoughts not spoken out loud.

*****
Okay so I don’t have a ton of time but I want to tell you guys real
quick about something that happened last year at the women’s conference in
Detroit. This was a conference that was put on by Planned Parenthood—that was
one of the big sponsors—and the Women’s March. So the people who had removed us from the Women’s March. They had a conference and I registered with my full
name and everything and they accepted it. And so I was able to go, and it was a
fascinating experience.
Obviously I was surrounded by a lot of very pro-choice women. I did not
go there in any way to protest them or start trouble. I really kind of just
wanted to be in dialogue with them, and to talk to these people who I think so
many of us in the pro-life community maybe even without realizing we’re doing
it, we have dehumanized them. You know, we made them the enemy. So I thought it
would be a great opportunity to just go and sit and hear them. And listen to
them, listen to why it is that they think abortion is such a necessary
quintessential part of feminism.
Abby Johnson also went with a couple people from her organization. So I
was not planning going to this one particular panel, but at the last minute I
decided to go. And it was called “Abortion Stories.” And I walk in, and Abby
was there with her people, and of course Abby’s very recognizable. So she’s
sitting a little bit away from me. I saw people kind of pointing at her. They
knew who she was. So at the beginning of this session, somebody went to the
front and said “We know that we have some people in here who disagree with
this. And we want to make it very clear that if anyone disrupts, you will be
removed immediately.” And Abby was like What?
Me? Nooo.
It was really funny because we really weren’t there to disrupt!
We just kind of wanted to listen. Luckily I was sitting far enough away I don’t
think anyone realized that I was also like a “pro-life spy” or whatever.
[Laughs] Is that what they thought was going on?
So I listened to this panel. It was 4 or 5 women. A couple of them had
had multiple abortions. One of the more outgoing women on it, she was
hilarious, but she kept talking about how she had had this Etsy shop where she
posted abortion related stuff. So she had this flask that she takes with her to
all her speaking engagements and it says “I love my abobo.” And she says “I’m
going to sell these on my thing.” As someone in recovery myself, I kept
thinking Why do you take a flask to all
your speaking engagements?
That—I don’t know—that’s a signal to me that
maybe something isn’t resolved with you about your abortion.
So anyway I listened to them tell their stories and answer all the
questions. They started doing a Q&A. And there was a young woman who stood
up. She said her name was Coco and she was with a Planned Parenthood actually
here in Texas. “How come Planned Parenthood is constantly saying ‘It’s only 3%,
it’s only 3%’?” Because a big part of what they had talked about during their
presentation was how we stigmatize abortion and how there’s a stigma around it.
So she said “Aren’t they in turn actually adding stigma to abortion by saying
‘It’s only 3%’?” And everyone in the room agreed. The outspoken woman on the
panel said “That’s why I say go work for a small, independent abortion
provider.” And everyone starts cheering, like they were kind of anti-Planned
Parenthood. And all of a sudden I’m like Am
I in on some weird pro-choice secret? Like people don’t actually love Planned
Parenthood as much as Planned Parenthood would like us to think they do?

And so the woman was like “Okay, okay” and she sits down.
So at this point there was a reporter who had said she wanted to come
with me if I was going to ask any questions or anything. And she said “If I
can’t be at the session with you, if you could just record it.” So I had
literally just turned my phone on to record and caught the Coco thing. Because
I thought I don’t know if I’m going to
ask a question.
Again, I didn’t go to this to start trouble. But before Coco’s
question they had said “Does anybody have any questions?” And it was just kind
of a long silence, nobody in the room did, and so I almost asked at that point.
And then Coco got up. And so then it was my turn because now the same thing
happened: they were like “Do we have any questions? Any questions?” And it’s
kind of silence. And I thought You know
what? I might as well.
So I raised my hand. All the stories we were hearing
were very positive abortion stories. And I said, “What if a woman’s abortion story
is not positive? What if she was coerced into an abortion? One that she didn’t
want. Is she allowed to be a part of your campaign as well? Or would that be
considered stigmatizing abortion?”
And I remember the outspoken woman who had called on me looks at me,
straight in the face, and she says “Do we have any other questions?” And starts
looking around the room. And the coolest thing happened at that moment. A woman
right in the front row—her hand shoots up—and she says “No. That’s a good
question. Answer it.” And so I’m assuming this woman in the front row is
probably post-abortive and definitely pro-choice, and here she was advocating
for my voice to be heard, which I thought was just kind of beautiful. 
So the woman looks at her and she goes, “Well I guess I really just
didn’t understand the question.” And the woman behind that lady says my
question! Explains it. Which was also really cool. Here these women were saying
“No, we want an answer to this.” So she says, “She’s asking if a woman had a bad
experience and was coerced into an abortion, can she tell her story as part of
your campaign?” And the lady goes, “Well, first of all, if a woman comes to us
and she wants to have her baby, we send her on her way with a pack of prenatal
vitamins and a picture of her sonogram and we say ‘Go be a mom.’ This does not
happen. There are not coerced abortions.” And of course she thinks she’s
putting it to rest with that.
Another hand shoots up from a third
woman in this room who says “No. She’s saying if a woman was coerced, can she tell her story?” And at this point, somebody
else on the panel who’s a little better at PR jumped in and says “Well we
wouldn’t want to be hurting a woman. We wouldn’t want her—if she has unresolved
issues with her abortion—we wouldn’t want to be re-wounding her by having her
share that story. We would want to get her into a healthy place before she
shared her story.” And I was like, That’s
kind of a cop out
, but that was a much better answer.
So then this session wraps up and nobody was escorted out. None of us
started any trouble, right? And the next day I’m meeting with that reporter. So
we’re down at the little hotel coffee shop and she had her recorder on because
she was interviewing me. And all of a sudden Coco walks up. And she says, “Hey,
I hate to interrupt you guys. I’m so sorry. But I just wanted to say thank you
so much for asking your question yesterday. I get that question all the time
and I never know how to answer it. Thank you for doing that.” And I’m just
like, “Of course!” Clearly she has no idea who I am or she would not be
thanking me for doing this.
And I said, “You know, at the end of the day, I am a feminist. And I
hate women’s voices being used as propaganda. And I think there’s a much larger
conversation we need to be having about the nuance within abortion and the fact
that there are women who are pro-choice out there who feel like it was the
right decision for them to make. But they still have these wounds. And I know
this because they’re my friends. I have many pro-choice friends who don’t
necessarily regret their abortions, but they still know exactly how old their
child would be today. They still think about it. They still wonder what their
life would have been like if they would have had that child.”
“And when we don’t allow women the ability to express that because we
label them as ‘stigmatizing abortion,’ I think that’s incredibly cruel. And I
think, especially as a feminist, I don’t believe we should be in any type of
bondage. I don’t think we should be chained barefoot and pregnant to a stove,
but I also don’t think that we should be in emotional bondage from an abortion
that we’re not allowed to talk about unless we put a smile on and say it was
the best thing we ever did. Because for so many women, it’s a very complex
multifaceted issue, and we have to let them talk about it. We have to hear
their stories.”
So with that, I’m really excited to see these new groups cropping up
that do after-care, you know, abortion healing, that’s not religious, and is
more wide-ranging. I spoke to a woman on the phone today that I’m just really
encouraged by, because she was saying she has pro-choice friends who are
post-abortive, and they want to be able to talk about their abortions. And
she’s pro-life but she wants to be able to offer them a safe space to do that
as well. And I think that is just one of these ways that we can really break
down this divide between the pro-life and the pro-choice side, where it’s
constantly dehumanizing the other side and not looking at them fully, but then
expecting them to understand the humanity of the unborn person when so often we
disregard their humanity.