Grace and Strength after Abortion -- UPDATED
Rebecca Turner printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 05:55:34 PM EST
We are very pleased to welcome Rev. Rebecca Turner, the executive director of the Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, as a guest front pager. She will appear on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN on Monday, April 9, at 11:00pm EDT. (the show runs from 10-12) They will discuss what it means to be a Christian in matters of science and sexuality. They will also address the religious right's pseudoscience of post "post-abortion syndrome." The religious right does not own religious or even Christian perspectives on these things, as the RCRC demonstrates every day. -- FC

In the days immediately following an abortion, a woman may experience dramatic shifts in her emotions. She may feel relief, joy, sadness, shame, freedom, and fear all at once or within a short time span. She may be quite confused by the conflicting emotions. Some of this can be attributed to pregnancy hormones, but she may interpret it as regret or even as God trying to tell her something. It is very important that a woman have trusted people to whom she can turn during these days.

Helping her identify these people before the abortion is critical. She needs to know there are friends, family, and/or clergy who do not judge her, who will listen to her feelings without interpreting them, and who will give her encouragement to plan her future.

If she does not have this system of support and instead shares the abortion with no one, she may view the event as a dirty secret. Such secrets increase one's sense of shame and worthlessness. Spiritual health cannot be achieved when a woman is afraid to share her secret and lets it fester for years.

Women often ask if God will ever forgive them. Some women have trouble forgiving themselves. An older woman, confessing her long-held secret, may renew this question as she considers her own mortality. It is a tough question for those of us who do not see abortion as sin, and therefore not requiring forgiveness. But I do believe that God is always forgiving. The Bible says For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39) I believe that God knows that a woman has done the best she could with her difficult life choices, and that God is always ready to welcome her with open arms. I believe that God loves her and watches over her every day of her life, including the day that she had an abortion.

Spiritual health, like mental health and physical health, fluctuates over the years and is impacted by the changing circumstances of our lives. Every spiritual question is an opportunity to help women face the difficulties of their lives with grace and strength.

It is profoundly important to help women connect with supportive clergy. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and its state affiliates offer counseling to women who are considering abortion, and those who want to discuss their feelings after an abortion. RCRC offers specialized training for clergy to counsel women who have experienced any reproductive loss.

Is there such a thing as Post Abortion Stress Syndrome?

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have reviewed all of the research concerning women's mental health after an abortion, and they have concluded that abortion does not put one at an increased risk for mental disorders. They do not recognize PASS as a diagnosis.

This is not to say that having an abortion is not a major event in a woman's life or that she may not express difficult emotions about the abortion. Most women consider their options very carefully and the decision to have an abortion is not easy. A crisis pregnancy is a crisis because of the problems that surround it. These problems may be related to family, finances, health, or relationships. The problems were not created by the abortion experience and they do not go away after an abortion. The woman must still find ways to cope with the difficulties in her life.

If a woman is not mentally or emotionally healthy prior to an abortion, research indicates she may be at high risk for emotional conflict following the procedure. This is even truer if her normal support system of family and friends articulate strong religious values that condemn abortion. Trained counselors often advise women experiencing severe emotional difficulties or engaging in destructive behaviors to seek medical attention.

Many women say that although the decision to have an abortion was painful and caused them grief, they still know it was the right decision for them at that time. With spiritual support, an unwanted pregnancy and an abortion can provide a unique opportunity for a woman to take charge of her life and to come to more mature understandings of the nature of God and God's role in her life. Religious support can and should comfort and strengthen.

Is the abortion clinic a place of prayer?

For many women, the beginning of spiritual health might happen in the abortion clinic. This is a radical concept for many.

The unwanted or problem pregnancy is first and foremost a spiritual crisis. It is a spiritual crisis because a woman may connect the pregnancy with God's purpose for her in the world, her morality, her ability to create a future, her satisfaction with her life circumstances, and her beliefs about life and death. Many clinics now provide chaplains who can speak to women about their concerns. Others invite clergy to train their counselors to be sensitive and responsive to religious issues presented.

No clinic will pressure a woman into having an abortion.

What is the purpose of PASS programs and retreats?

Women should beware of programs and retreats that say they have the solution to post-abortion stress syndrome. They attract women who have had abortions and are eager to talk to other women about their experience. These programs all begin with one assumption: every abortion is a sin that must be confessed. Once in these manipulative programs, women are encouraged to say they feel guilty, to see themselves as victims of the culture, and then to take action against the abortion providers. This is not a respectful approach. It preys upon the questions a woman may have and may promote a protracted and unhealthy sense of guilt. .

The religious leaders of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice respect women and take all of their experiences seriously. We want women to be happy and healthy and to gain strength from their religious beliefs in all circumstances.

It's about time -- actually long past due -- for the mainstream media to take greater notice of the fact that all religious people do not oppose abortion.  The broad brush, or sheer sloppiness, in painting anyone religious as anti-abortion is one of the reasons why people are so confused about reproductive freedom.  It's also flatly untrue, as this blog shows.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice fills an important gap and should be on every political reporter's instant dial, as should the Missouri chapter of RCRC.

by cyncooper on Wed Apr 04, 2007 at 01:50:39 AM EST

of the "abortion hurts women" strategy being used to great effect in statehouses around the country.

Here in Texas, both Catholic and Protestant groups are active in the movement to further restrict, and eventually end, access to abortion care, and often their claims go unquestioned.

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, now building a new order of warrior priests and lay members in the Diocese of Amarillo, is a major proponent of the idea that any woman who doesn't regret her abortion is simply waiting for Jesus to snap her out of denial.

And on the Protestant side of the aisle, many groups across the country are working in concert with the Texas Justice Foundation's project, Operation Outcry.

A troupe of well-schooled "women devastated by abortion" -- most of whom now run their own "abortion recovery ministries" -- shows up at every legislative committee hearing to testify that "the fact that abortion was legal let me murder my child," and that the only way to save America is remove that choice from all women as soon as possible, and by any means necessary.

The Free Market Foundation, another political powerhouse with extensive ties to both Catholic and Protestant religious right groups, lobbies relentlessly against legal abortion care.

Only last night, in support of a bill requiring the reporting of personal information about women who had abortions to the state, FMF attorney Jonathan Saenz testied in a Texas House committee that the US Supreme Court has upheld the collection of such data when the records related to the "preservation of health" -- including PASS.

Other witnesses included Ann Younger of A New Song Ministries, who testified that she recovered "15 years after i made the choice to have my daughter, Charity, murdered. I am so grateful for my deliverance from the bondage that abortion put me in. That does not make it OK that i was given the legal right to murder my daughter." And compared the statements of other witnesses, her testimony was on the mild side.

A woman has no personal responsibility for her own decisions. It is society's fault for making abortion legal.

There seems to be little public awareness of how this well-funded operation is being used as a political weapon against women who don't even suspect that their own rights are under concerted attack.

Thanks so much for all you are doing to counter its influence.

by moiv on Wed Apr 04, 2007 at 03:44:48 AM EST

Did you see that Catholics for A Free Choice filed a complaint with the IRS against Priests for Life?  Raising issues of partisan politicking by a nonprofit organization?  Glad that someone is taking the group on.

See the release here

by cyncooper on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 02:13:40 PM EST

They are very bold in their politicking.  They aren't working in some gray area of the law--they are breaking it without apology.  Other organizations have lost their non-profit status for far less.

by Rebecca Turner on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 05:06:05 PM EST

To read what the American Psychological Association says about the effects of abortion on women, go to issues/womenabortfacts.html.  

by Rebecca Turner on Wed Apr 04, 2007 at 10:22:15 AM EST

on religion to  be shown in mainstream TV is difficult, given the preference of bookers/ producers for loud extremists (eg, Falwell v. Harris). May this be one of many bookings to come. Cooper is better than most, in that he doesn't have the bully persona, but almost all reporters/ interviewers have a specific script and outcome in mind for guests. Guests should have a certain stubbornness in staying on THEIR OWN message, and many a novice has been outmaneuvered by the interviewer.

by NancyP on Wed Apr 04, 2007 at 09:22:16 PM EST

Readers may notice that the date and time of the showing of my interview with Cooper keeps changing.  The special program on religion and science did begin last night.  They ended up with so much material that they have expanded it to three nights.  Last night (Wed 4/4) began with the subject of evolution.  Tonight the subject is sex.  The last segment, including abortion, will be aired on Monday (4/9).  Cooper didn't bully anyone, editing is done with a light touch, and I think the progressive religious voice comes out strong and clear in these specials.  

by Rebecca Turner on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 05:01:37 PM EST

Great to have you writing with and for us here. You will bring a touch of class, to be sure.
Shalom, Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer "Time makes ancient good uncouth; we must onward still and upward who would keep abreast of truth." from Lowell, "The Present Crisis"
by John Dorhauer on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 06:42:58 PM EST

For the third time in a week, the segment on the so-called "Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome" was cut from the Anderson Cooper show.  They keep citing "time restraints" but manage to show reruns of previous programs.  They still insist that it is going to be aired, but this time they aren't giving a date.  

Thanks for the kind words, John.

by Rebecca Turner on Tue Apr 10, 2007 at 05:17:14 PM EST

If the time comes, and you would like to tell us what you would have said about the bogus post abortion stress syndrome, (if the segment had been not cut); you are welcome to tell your story here, and anything else you would care to share about the experience.

As Moiv and others detail here every week, it is often difficult to get medically accurate information about abortion to patients; not to mention fair representation of the views of prochoice Christians -- as distinct from those of the religious right.

This site is not here to promote Christianity or religion per se. Nor is it here to promote atheism or any form of skepticism. We are here because of our shared concerns about the religious right.  Because that is so, the problem of progressive, mainline Christians being shut out of the national conversation, and false portrayals of the religious right representing all Christians is a political problem for everyone concerned about the power and influence of the religious right.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Apr 10, 2007 at 09:52:09 PM EST

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