By Debby Efurd
You hear it everyday … TV, radio, internet, newspapers. Forty years after legalization in the United States, abortion remains a hot and divisive issue. But in the wake of the over 55 million abortions having been performed in the United States since 1973, remain the multitudes of “silent sufferers,” for whom abortion has been a traumatic life-changing experience.
Who are these “silent sufferers”? They are family members, neighbors, co-workers, those sitting next to us in church. With 43% of American women having had an abortion, there is a strong likelihood that half of the people you come in contact with have been affected from their decision to abort, many exhibiting symptoms of Post Abortion Stress.
Haven’t heard of Post Abortion Stress? Not surprising. We hear about the effect on babies that are aborted, but little attention is paid to what happens after to those that are left behind living with the decision. Post Abortion Stress is a term first coined in 1981 from a group of researchers who reported, and peer-reviewed research increasingly confirms since, that abortion functions as a stress that places women at higher risk for developing a range of mental health problems, such as depression, loss of self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, self-hatred, drug and alcohol abuse, sleep disorders, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, chronic problems with relationships, dramatic personality changes, anxiety attacks, guilt and remorse, difficulty grieving, increased tendency toward violence, chronic crying, difficulty concentrating, flashbacks, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and people, and difficulty bonding with later children. It is not uncommon that symptoms lay dormant until later in life.
Fortunately, revival is beginning. The unavoidable talk in the media is churning discussion about the consequences of abortion and spurring the “silent sufferers” to seek out recovery programs. Every time the word “abortion” is featured, the inner pain of the post-abortive is triggered. This is the revival we have prayed for. But to whom do the “silent sufferers” turn and do they all seek help?
Some will dig deeper into their pain, refusing to consider their past decision has any correlation with the agony they are experiencing. The inner turmoil, never addressed, can be agonizing. But quite often post-abortive will seek help within their church, since 79% of post-abortive profess to be Christians, 43% identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% identify themselves as Catholic. Ministry leaders unequipped about the needs of the post-abortive are learning first-hand the particular agony that has festered within their congregations for many years. Churches are now seeking resources and training to begin ministries to help the post-abortive to find God’s healing.
What can your church do to reach out to the Post-Abortive? Here are a few suggestions:
● Understand the many factors that lead to an abortion decision: pressure from others, lack of information, and the feeling they have no other choice. This understanding enables us to avoid condemning.
● Understand that because abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, our society now considers it normal and acceptable. People believe it is their right and bears no consequences. Most importantly, realize that no one is addressing the severe emotional and physical effects of abortion.
● Understand the cost our society has paid for legalized abortion. If we fully realized the cost, in human suffering, abortion has caused since 1973 (suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, abuse of women and children), we would be shaken to our core.
● Understand the pain someone experiences from an abortion. Be compassionate and loving.
● Understand the need to make your church a place where people can feel safe to share their pain caused by an abortion. The post-abortive often sit in silence for decades, afraid to share their experience for fear of judgment. Testimonies of individuals who have life-changing experiences from abortion are powerful tools to reach others in similar situations.
● Understand their need for forgiveness. Many believe that because they knew it was wrong and did it anyway, abortion is a sin too big for God to forgive and often are unable to forgive themselves.
● Understand and address the need to develop a specific ministry for post-abortion healing within your church.
● Understand the power of love … where they are … as they are. Allow the post-abortive to see the love, hope and healing power of Jesus Christ. When the hurting have walked through the healing process, they then can speak out, impassioned to take their message of pain and healing to the world around them, perpetuating the truth of the harmfulness of abortion and the healing found only in Jesus.
Debby Efurd is Director of Post-Abortion Support for Involved for Life, Inc., Dallas, Texas (Downtown Pregnancy Center, Uptown Women’s Center, Sonograms-On-Site), leading post-abortion Bible studies and facilitator training.