Three Amazing Stories of Post-Abortion Healing

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), “Rachel Weeping”
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), “Rachel Weeping” (photo: Public Domain)

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence that women who have abortions often suffer emotional and psychological consequences as a result. Kevin Burke, co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, and Janet Morana, co-founder of Silent No More, recently wrote about this issue at The Public Discourse. Rachel’s Vineyard is a post-abortion recovery program, and the Silent No More campaign seeks to raise awareness of the issue of post-abortion suffering.

In the past twelve months alone, Rachel’s Vineyard has held over a thousand weekend healing retreats all around the world. While the culture presents abortion as merely a choice, many who have experienced it know better. Burke and Morana write that the stories they’ve heard from thousands of women and men who’ve experienced abortion loss reveal the deep wounds left behind. For some the pain is clear and immediate, for others it’s revealed over time. I interviewed three women about their post-abortion experience for Salvo magazine. Here are their amazing stories.

Cynthia was strongly pro-choice when she had her abortions. As a practicing psychologist, she’d had her share of psychotherapy and had no reason to think she was suffering psychologically or emotionally as a result. Soon after her conversion to Catholicism, a friend who knew about her past abortions urged her to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. After some initial skepticism and resistance, Cynthia agreed to go, figuring she’d learn something about that type of intervention. Instead her life was forever changed. “I had no idea I was harboring a very sizeable amount of pain—a real psychological woundedness—around my own abortions. The pain that came out of me was astounding,” she told me. And keep in mind that Cynthia is a psychologist. “It was so powerful that I made the decision to dedicate the rest of my career to helping women heal psychologically from abortion.” She became a volunteer for Rachel’s Vineyard.

Kristen remembers being told at the time of her two abortions that it was nothing to worry about, that she’d be fine. “I really didn’t even know it was a life. That’s what I was told and I believed it for about ten years,” she told me. Then one day, completely out of the blue, she had a panic attack and felt compelled to tell someone about her abortions. “It just came out of my mouth. I didn’t even think about it till then. I’d never talked about it, never thought about it.” Like Cynthia, Kristen was reluctant to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. “I was having emotional issues in my life, but even after the panic attack I refused to believe it was related to my abortions.” After the retreat she returned to the Catholic Church, and was able for the first time since her abortions to look a priest in the eyes. Kristen also became a retreat volunteer.

Margaret had suffered more than forty years of guilt and shame over the abortion she had when she was 25 years old. For years she saw therapists, but never found peace. Her mother’s death was the impetus for her decision to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. “I realized my mother was now in the presence of my unborn child,” she told me. The retreat allowed her to accept God’s forgiveness and begin a journey of self-forgiveness. “It’s a grief that’s often unacknowledged, and you’re not supposed to cry over it. It’s complicated by the fact [that] you made that choice.”

As Burke and Morana write, “Abortion is fundamentally about relationship, a relationship that is broken by the procedure—and one that desperately needs to be healed.”