Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Believe in Post Abortion Syndrome

My job is so amazing.  I really do feel privileged to be able to hear and be a part of the stories of so many awesome kids.  There is no better place to do that then in the public schools. There are times, though, when it is very difficult to be a psychologist in the public schools and be a Christian.  It is my job to be unbiased, to not impose my belief system on the "client." Usually, this is no problem. 

When a young girl comes to me to discuss abortion, however, I really struggle to work with her in an unbiased way.  I do believe abortion is wrong. Even stronger than that belief, though, is my great compassion for women who have experienced an abortion.  Although much secular research has shown that there are few long-term psychological effects of having abortion, I have consistently seen differently.  Many young girls have come to me after having an abortion and expressed great shame, regret, and depression.  I sat with one young lady that cried for two days in the nurse's office after having an abortion.  Others, after having an abortion, quickly filled their regret with a new pregnancy.  Although many girls I see are relieved that the burden of an unwanted pregnancy is gone, they struggle with the idea that they have ended a life.  Having personally seen the effects of abortion on young women, my negative personal stance against it has grown.  My heart aches for the pain they feel.  Still, I am obligated professionally to provide an unbiased point of view. 

I fall back on the research. The research in this area is very politicized.  Most researchers also work from their own biased point of view, and this is evident in their writing.  Most research has indeed shown that usually there are few negative psychological effects following abortion, but large meta-analyses of the research pinpoint several factors that increase the risk of poor outcomes for women. 
  • Religious or moral beliefs against abortion. Women who go against their belief systems when choosing abortion are more likely to experience poor psychological outcomes.
  • Late term abortions. As a mother, after that first time you feel the baby kick, it would be very difficult to end the pregnancy. It gets harder and harder to claim that the moving baby inside is not "life."
  • Coercion. Having to end the life of a baby you'd like to keep can be devastating.
  • Multiple abortions. It becomes more and more difficult to cope emotionally with each abortion.
  • Little social support.
  • Previous history of mental health issues.
Even the most pro-choice researchers and organizations acknowledge these risk factors (including the American Psychological Association). I feel comfortable sharing this list with students to help them see if they are at risk of post-abortive psychological distress prior to choosing abortion.

For young ladies (and men) who are having difficulty following the choice to end their pregnancy, I recommend post-abortive counseling. I strongly believe in Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS), as I've seen it many times.  This is not a popular stance in the secular mental health field today.  But, it is not uncommon for a young lady to come to me feeling guilt, depression, numbness, or anger following an abortion. Many also become promiscuous or perfectionistic.  The experience of an abortion can be even be traumatizing, causing unwanted re-experiencing and avoidance. These hurting women need help.

If you are, or know of, a woman who is having difficulty dealing with a past abortion I highly recommend Rachel's Vineyard.  Rachel's Vineyard is an organization with locations across the world that are dedicated to helping woman and men heal following an abortion.  They hold support groups and weekend retreats designed to help post-abortive people find healing and peace.  I have attended one of the local retreats, and found it to be an amazing, healing, supportive, non-judgmental, loving experience.  There is healing for the grief of abortion!


Remember the merciful words of Jesus, "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing the link. I hope to be able to find a support group near me. I hope to get my bestie to go too. I have been looking for something like this for a long time. It is a hard issue and most people don't want to talk about it.

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    1. So sorry about your hurt. My heart and prayers go out to you. If you'd like to contact me via email at anoellem (at)gmail (dot) com, I would be glad to help you and your bestie find some resources in your area. And remember, God loves you no matter what!

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  2. This post was so wonderful and well-written. I'm glad you stopped by "Mama Leisha" so that I could come visit you too! You are a beautiful mama and your blog is ADORABLE. I'm returning the follow, Dr. Momsie! Hope you have a lovely week. --Aleisha at callmemamaleisha.com

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  3. I am glad there is a resource out there for young people who suffer after making such a challenging decision. I have worked with alternative school students for 15 years, and deciding how to respond to teen pregnancy is a constant issue. I always ask first how the teen feels, and then offer hugs. I want to support them no matter what they decide.

    Personally, I believe in a woman's right to choose, but it is not my decision to make on their behalf. I do not counsel one way or the other, but let them talk out their feelings. If they ask for resources one way or the other, I help them find those resources. It is such a huge, monumental, life-changing decision for anyone that I don't feel comfortable pushing teens in one direction or the other. Suppose they abort and feel so guilty later that they harm themselves? Or suppose they keep the child and then abuse a baby because they feel so much resentment over that choice? I could not live with myself if harm came to one of my students or to their child as a result of some advice I gave. It is a very personal choice, with lots of repercussions either way, so I just support my student in any way I can.

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  4. Thanks Jen! I appreciate your point of view :) Pushing someone into a decision is never helpful! Oh, and don't forget about the beautiful option of adoption. It is often stimatized, but it is really an amazing choice and one a person can really feel good about. It's definitely worth sharing some accurate information about. I suggest myadoptionplan.com for resources and information for birth moms.

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