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Churches urged to help healwomen’s post-abortion scars

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BP)–It’s been 21 years since Linda had theabortion, yet she still hasn’t gotten over it. But, she hastens to add,she has been forgiven and healed. Yet Linda is in the minority. Mostpost-abortive women are stuck in the grieving process — emotionallyexiled by their family and church community’s disinterest and refusal toadmit their need for recovery.
“I will never be a woman who didn’t have an abortion,” said LindaKeener, director of AAA Women’s Services, a crisis pregnancy center inChattanooga, Tenn. “I have a scar, but I can point to it and give Godthe glory that it doesn’t hurt to touch it anymore.”
The church has been crippled in denying the reality that abortionhurts not only babies but also women, men and families, Keener stated.”If we have not dealt with the grief and the hurt, giving peoplepermission to walk through this thing, to experience the freedom offorgiveness, they are not going to be able to be free to be who Godwants them to be.”
Pastors must dismiss their fears of offending church members andspeak the full truth about abortion, said Keener, a member ofChattanooga’s Woodland Park Baptist Church. “Maybe pastors feel if theyspeak the truth strongly they are putting these women undercondemnation, but what they don’t understand is that these women whohave had an abortion are already living under condemnation,” she said,noting one-third to one-half of all the members in an averagecongregation have been touched somehow by abortion.
Many churches do a good job of talking about guilt, that Jesusforgives them, Keener said, but they don’t know how to deal with thegrief.
“We find so many men who don’t want to deal with the issue,” addedRita Sigler, post-abortion services director at the center and a memberof Stewart Heights Baptist Church in Chattanooga. “They want their wivesto just get over it. They can’t see if the abortion is in the past andif (their wives) have given it over to Jesus, why do they keep pickingit back up again and again?”
There is a difference between guilt and grief. The post-abortivewoman has asked for forgiveness of her sin, but the biggest hurdle isforgiving herself, said Sigler, who had an abortion 24 years ago –almost a year to the day after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. “Shehas never been allowed to grieve. She doesn’t know what to do with thegrief. It’s not something you can get over just like that.”
“Until we deal with the pain, we are never going to see the truth,because it hurts so much,” Keener said. “There are a harvest of peopleout there who think they have committed the unforgivable sin.”
Keener said most post-abortive women who say they are fine arereally in denial. “They have never gone through the grieving process andare stuck in the first stage, so they are still telling themselves overand over again, ‘It was the best thing to do; it wasn’t a baby.’ Theyhave to reinforce that, constantly having to prop up that system ofdenial, using all their emotional energy to keep that thing down.”
It’s like trying to hold a beach ball under water, Keener said.The woman in denial remains numb against the pain and numb against thejoy. “They can’t deal with it; they cut those nerves off, but it reallycripples them emotionally.
“I have never talked to anyone who did not have to deal with thereality of what that abortion really did to that child,” Keener said.
Until pastors and other church leaders become willing to broachthe subject, these women will not be able to experience the freedom tobegin to deal with their repressed past, Keener said. “We as a churchdon’t have to put on a happy face and say that we have never been hurtand that sin doesn’t occur.
“God isn’t into keeping things in the closet,” Keener said,readily admitting, “I have a child who is in heaven … .”
David Rearson, author of “The Jericho Plan: Breaking Down theWalls Which Prevent Post-Abortion Healing,” notes that women who try toshare their grief with someone who is pro-choice are likely to be told:”Just forget about it and go on with your life. It really wasn’t a babyyet.”
“Grieving over abortion is not socially acceptable,” Reardon said.”People don’t kow how to handle it. They just want to say, ‘It’s OK, youdid the right thing.'”
Yet those suffering in silence over an abortion are just as leeryof turning to someone they perceive as pro-life, Reardon said. “They areafraid of judgment because of their own judgment on themselves,” hesaid, speculating that those dealing with the aftermath of an abortionjudge themselves so harshly they seek to avoid at all costs the risk ofbeing condemned by another person.
“It is extremely important for people who are pro-life to admitthat people make mistakes and that we love and care for those who areexperiencing pain over a past abortion,” Reardon said.
General talk about God’s forgiveness and that God can heal allthings, which is true, is really not enough for many people, Reardonsaid, noting it must be addressed explicitly.
“They tend to segregate abortion as different from everythingelse, so they have to hear very specifically that there is forgivenessfollowing an abortion,” he said.

Reprinted from the November/December issue of Light, published by theSouthern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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  • Dwayne Hastings