Post-abortion pain: the mental health issue hidden by politics

depression, loneliness, mental health
Unsplash/Yuris Alhumaydy

Less than a year after the end of roe x wade, The battles against abortion in America are intensifying at every level. Legislators in red states are trying to restrict access, legislators in blue states are trying to expand access, and the federal government is considering a public health emergency.

Amidst the rancor, it’s time for a new path that bridges the partisan gap, putting people before politics and compassion over criticism. Post-abortion healing elevates liberal support for more public and private mental health resources, while acknowledging conservatives’ concern that women (and men) may suffer after abortion.

The story of one woman, who came through the Support After Abortion helpline, shows the depth of the problem on a human level. She was caught between two worlds, hiding her abortion from pro-life parents while also hiding her abortion-related mental health issues from pro-choice friends. She told our team that she was “hurting…depressed… [and] very alone.”

But this woman is not alone. Our recent studies show that sentiments like hers are represented on a national scale. Designed to address policy with open-ended questions and a national random sample, one study found that many women find temporary relief after a medical abortion, which is the most common form of the process. However, one-third of women experienced adverse impacts such as negative self-image and depression, while nearly two-thirds (63%) of women said they sought post-abortion help or would have benefited from outside support.

These results are difficult to accept because of the same abortion policy that hides post-abortion suffering. Last year, Dr. Phil told Live Action’s Lila Rose that women who suffer have pre-existing mental health issues. That may be correct in many cases, but that doesn’t negate post-abortion pain and suffering. The woman mentioned above already had financial and relationship problems, and she told my team that her general personal problems got worse after her miscarriage.

Accepting the reality of post-abortion suffering is the first step towards a compassionate path of common ground. Next is to create research-based safe spaces for women and men to begin their healing journey, because the symptoms of post-abortion distress are so wide-ranging. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Millions of women regret abortion, according to selected audiences of The Turnaway Study. Our randomized studies show that women often suffer from depression and sadness, while men suffer from emptiness and anger.

Regardless of symptoms, only 18% of women and men knew how to access post-abortion healing. Sixty-three percent of women and 80% of men said they sought or could have used postabortion support, including 55% of women who identified as pro-choice. While most post-abortion healing is based in face-to-face groups and uses religious approaches, nearly all women and 40% of men say they prefer secular approaches, and nearly three-quarters of both groups prefer anonymity in seeking an abortion cure.

These findings illustrate that our culture needs a new approach to healing. We can’t just tell women to “scream about abortion” and dismiss men from the conversation by telling them their opinions don’t matter. People with post-abortion pain need personalized options that meet them where they are – such as anonymous or individualized healing for those who prefer that approach – or counseling that only validates the abortion experience.

If 2.5 million women (The Turnaway Study) or 22 million women and men (Support After Abortion’s studies) suffer post-abortion pain, it is clear that a real human problem is buried by a culture that often sees only politics and religion instead of people.

Dedicated resources are the final step towards healing. America spends billions of federal, state and private dollars on mental health. If just a fraction of these resources were directed toward post-abortion healing, we would see restored women and men who build stronger relationships and become healthier versions of themselves. Your ripples of pain would become beams of hope. Abortion would not be the first or last option, because they would not be in the traumatic states of life that Guttmacher Institute research makes clear is often the launching pad for terminating a pregnancy.

As America navigates the new legislative, cultural and political realities of abortion, we have a choice. We can continue to create chasms that prevent solutions, or we can build bridges to create safe and compassionate places in our homes and communities to achieve true human healing.

Originally posted on RealClearPolitics.

Lisa Rowe, LCSW, is CEO of the abortion healing organization, Support After Abortion.

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Post-abortion pain: the mental health issue hidden by politics

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