When the word “abortion” appears in news stories, millions of women secretly cringe.
When the word “abortion” appears in news stories, whether it is from a position of advocating for or against, millions of women avoid that news story all together.
The most recent news story “Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban Becomes Law” is an example of how abortion in the news, while promoting the political information, causes women hiding in their secret shame and grief to push down their emotions. From the perspective of news agencies there is now way for them to realize what a woman with a choice decision in her past feels when her eyes come face to face with the words “12-week-abortion-ban.”
Avoiding the word abortion, including any news story regarding the legalities of it is a common reaction for women who are hiding their abortion secrets. No matter how the authors paint the picture, a trigger or automatic emotional reaction occurs for women who have unprocessed grief from their abortion experience.
Abortion choices create a situation of disenfranchised grief in a woman’s life. According to Dr. Kenneth Doka, disenfranchised grief is grief experienced by an individual that is not openly acknowledged, socially validated or publically observed. The loss experienced is real, but survivors are not accorded the “right to grieve” by anyone around them. Disenfranchised grief can be a leading cause of depression.
In cases of choice decisions, the paradigm is even more complicated. The grieving process is complicated by a woman’s inability to talk about her experience. Very few women tell anyone they’ve had an abortion. As a professional, it typically takes my clients nine sessions before they will talk about “the A-word” – an abortion in their past. There must be a huge level of safety and trust before women will share their abortion secret.
Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of the New York Times bestseller, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom recognizes the need for women to talk about their abortions. “If every woman who ever had an abortion, or even one-third of them, were willing to speak out about her experience---not in shame, but with honesty about where she was then, what she learned, and where she is now---this whole issue would heal a great deal faster.”
The answer is not to stop the news about the legalities of abortion choices. The answer is to give women permission to grieve their losses connected to their choice. If you are one of the thousands of women who avoid abortion news stories all together you can choose to stop running from your abortion grief.
Avoidance never heals, it only makes the hole bigger. Abortion after-care in the 21st century is an idea whose time has come. Your deep dark secret wants to be taken out, looked at and processed. What’s hidden needs to be revealed. We would do our women in the nation such a wonderful service if it were culturally acceptable for them to face their grief after abortion without fear of invalidation or condemnation.
Trudy M. Johnson, MA, LMFT, CSPII is the author of “Choice Processing and Resolution~ Facing Grief After Abortion Without Fear.” She presented on the topic of Helping Clients Face Abortion Without Fear at the American Counseling Association National Conference in 2012. She is the author of the first resource to help professional therapists understand the issue of grief after abortion. This e-book, Choice Processing and Resolution Therapy is a tool professionals can use to walk their clients through the grief in a completely confidential setting.