Healing From Post-Abortion Syndrome


     Since 1973 over 35 million abortions have been performed.  It is estimated that about 43 percent of women in America  will have an abortion sometime during their lives. Over a million abortions will be performed this year.

     Unlike the death of a born person in which there are comforters, friends, relatives, and family,  the death of this unborn baby will go unnoticed, perhaps unknown,  but not without  personal suffering on the part of the mother.  This has been described as A Solitary Sorrow by Teri Reisser, in her book published in 1999. After 15 years of counseling she writes of her experience in counseling women who are going through  post-abortion syndrome.(or PAS).

      PAS arises because the experience of abortion is not as easy as the abortion movement would have us believe.    There are painful thoughts expressed in guilt over the deed,  anger toward whoever was encouraging the abortion, and grief over the loss that has occurred.  In many cases there is alienation from all involved as well as a sense of alienation from God.  They come to feel that they are damaged persons that nobody could love,  and certainly God could not.

     Many abortions come about because of Coercion.   The boyfriend argues for the abortion on the grounds that they cannot continue together if the abortion is not done. In many cases he drops her after the abortion anyway.  A husband may coerce by saying we cannot afford the child, we have enough, it is not the right time, etc.   A parent may coerce a young daughter into aborting because of youth, inability to support herself, and the need to finish an education.

     The steps leading up to and surrounding the abortion process are shrouded with a great deal of emotional and rational ambivalence,  half truths and deception, "this won't hurt, etc. When women come to understand the real nature of the life growing within them,  when the facts are known the woman may respond in anger, "I had an abortion at ten weeks, and what they sucked out of me looked like THAT?  Why didn't they tell me that what I was about to abort was a baby and not a blob of tissue?" (p.32)

     Reisser gives some of the steps that lead to Post-Abortion Syndrome.
      a. crisis.   Any unwanted pregnancy is a crisis.
      b. moral dilemma.  For most women aborting the baby violates the moral code that has been a part of our culture.
      c. Temporary relief.   The  abortion solves a short term problem but creates other long term problems.
      d. the moral dilemma returns with questions like, was this the right thing to do?
      e. Avoiding the issue leads to:
           l. denial of the problem
           2. rationalizations  to justify the abortion
           3. repression of the terrible experience
           4. Avoidance of the topic, babies, things to do with babies,
           5. compensation, trying to make up by being super good.
           6. reaction formation,  affirming the abortion mentally but emotionally feeling guilt about the abortion.(pp.43-47)
 This pattern of behavior  makes healing impossible and postpones real healing for sometimes years, or decades.

     Reisser describes some of the symptoms that arise out of the not dealing with post- abortion syndrome.   They are:
        "1. guilt
        2. anxiety
        3. psychological "numbing:"
        4. depression
        5. re-experiencing  events related to the abortion
        6. fertility, pregnancy, and bonding issues.
        7. self-abusive/self-destructive behaviors
        8. anniversary reactions
        9. brief psychotic disorder." (p. 49)

     Many of these crop up in the lives of the post-abortion syndrome persons.
The real goal of the book, however, is not merely to describe a condition but to lead to healing.
There are a number of steps a woman must go through to come to healing.

     She must face the real facts of what has happened. Admission of the fact is important
Second, she must seek forgiveness for what she has done.  Ultimate forgiveness can only come from God, and noone will be turned away when God's forgiveness is sought.  Third, it is absolutely necessary to make  a distinction is made between  punishment (which God does not do when there is forgiveness)  and consequences (the abortion can never be undone).

     The Good News of the Gospel is that  God came in Christ seeking to reconcile a sinful world to Himself.  Abortion is only one of the many sins of mankind..

     Anyone suffering from post-abortion syndrome will be benefited by securing  Reisser's book, A Solitary Sorrow, Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers. ($11:99)   The intent of this article is to outline some of the issues women face in post-abortion syndrome.  The help needed is more detailed and involved than what we can do here.   The book is specific in what can be done, what should be done,  and  sources that will help either privately or in a group.