Madeleine Albright apologized in the NY Times on February 5, 2016 for her statement supporting Hillary Clinton, where she outlined, “There is a special place in hell for women that don’t help each other.”
Albright’s comment struck a chord in my post-abortive heart. Leaving my own abortion clinic in 1981 certainly ushered me into a special place of hell—starting life as the mother of an aborted child. Shame, guilt, anger and grief all consumed me. I made my bed among these emotions and felt I deserved hell or, at least, life imprisonment.
As a believer when I chose abortion, God stayed by my side, protecting me from my own dysfunction and eventually helping me find my way back to his peace. Psalms 139:8 outlines this truth: If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
In working with tens of thousands of post-abortive individuals, shame and self-loathing are the toughest emotions to address in attempting to open the self-imposed prison of abortion’s pain. Sentiments of embarrassment, unworthiness and/or disgrace keep the prison door well secured.
Abortion’s deep humiliation can be more damaging than guilt. While guilt can motivate a person to make positive changes, shame leaves us remorseful, disgraced and dishonored. Until we obtain the key of God’s compassion, we are often trapped in the hell of our own silent prison.
Triggers often intensify abortion’s shame. These include:
The birth of a subsequent child
Anniversary dates of the abortion or aborted child’s due date
Learning the details of fetal development
Losing another child through abortion/miscarriage
Breaking up with the father of the aborted child
Holidays—Mother and Father’s Day
Everyone has their own set of triggers based on their memories of this past choice. The deepest shame appears when denial is broken and the realization comes that they actually allowed their own child to die.
Even if these hearts were coerced or harassed into the abortion clinic, many believe they could have fought harder to have made a better choice. Post-abortion emotions are hard to understand for those who do not reside in this special place in hell.
Post-abortive shame often produces thoughts of worthlessness. Many feel unworthy of love at any level. Who could want them after they made such a horrible choice? Some abandon newborns because they are terrified they could cause this child’s death as well.
Unhealthy shame is often called, “the sorrow of the world.” It can be a major enemy in the effort to healing, especially if it binds us to maintaining secrets.
Abortion’s disgrace can initiate great fear of parents, spouses, children, or friends discovering an abortion secret. Even when loved ones show OBVIOUS compassion towards women of choice, the post-abortive often believes they DO NOT deserve to be accepted and/or forgiven for this choice.
Self-destructive behaviors often encircle the shame emotion. Women who endure physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of others often believe they “deserve it” for their abortion action. They can feel they need to be punished for their crime.
Pro-choice rhetoric often insists that post-abortive shame likely ONLY occurs in faith-based hearts. While God’s hand of conviction may bring the truth of the loss of a child to a clearer level, there is no proof that only faith-based hearts suffer from the emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical consequences of abortion.
Shame can be deeper for those who chose abortion multiple times. These women often believe they are much worse than anyone else. This shame can be problematic when they barely remember the details of their abortion(s).
Whenever the abortion topic is discussed, be sure to vocally outline your understanding and compassion towards post-abortive people whenever possible. Overt compassion often cracks open our prison door, allowing God’s light to shine in.
Should you be struggling today with feelings of shame surrounding your abortion, understand that you are not alone. Millions of us have wrestled this emotion after abortion. There is a way to peace.
Within the one third of American society that has experienced abortion are a beautiful network of abortion recovery leaders who can identify and understand each post-abortive emotion. They can help untangle abortion’s dysfunctional elements from your soul in these confidential programs that can free you of this hell. Have the courage to locate your local abortion recovery program and begin your path to freedom from this false imprisonment.
God’s hope of healing is always there, no matter what the sin. As Romans 5:5 outlines, And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Sydna Masse is the President and Founder or Ramah International and the author of the book, Her Choice to Heal Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion. To contact her, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.