January 22 was the 40th year landmark of legalized abortion in our nation. While voluntary pregnancy termination or “vpt” (as I like to refer to it) is not anything women set out to do as a goal “per se, it is a road that millions of women have found themselves on the last four decades.
If you have an abortion secret in your past there are four things you need to know about your choice decision.
You are not alone. After my abortion, I kept my “dirty little secret” for many years. I really thought no one else around me had been in such a place. Now I know that abortion choices touch thousands of women in our nation each year. Picture every professional football stadium in the U.S. full of women at one time. Keep that picture in your mind and you will have imagined around a million women…all of them having something in common each year, an abortion. So if you’ve had an abortion, you are not alone!
Women don’t talk. One of my clients once told me, “There is a conspiracy among the sisterhood not to tell each other about the sadness they feel about their abortion. Our society doesn’t talk about abortion. We are not allowed to grieve our loss because there is an implication that we should buck up and get over it.”
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.”
Sadness can be normal and is often delayed after abortion. Women can be caught off guard by the sadness they feel after abortion. There is a normal delayed reaction. After the crisis is over, the sense of relief can be so impactful that it overshadows the sadness that can eventually set in. This sadness is unpredictable and can be after one month, one year or even in the case of myself, several years later.
The abortion isn’t always the closure. Processing the grief is. Professional therapists know to assess for unprocessed grief when clients present with emotional problems like depression, anger or anxiety. Grief after abortion is disenfranchised grief.
Disenfranchised grief as defined by Dr. Kenneth Doka, an expert in this area, as “a loss that cannot be openly acknowledged, socially validated or publically mourned.” Disenfranchised grief whether connected to the loss of an ex-spouse, a gay partner, a pet, or even an abortion can have a profound effect on an individual.