If you feel you may be facing issues relating to a past abortion, please contact Debbie Laws at The Crisis Pregnancy Center. We're available to listen to you and to assist you with the help you need.
The CPC offers post-abortive stress healing peer counseling and
related Bible Study. All services are free of charge and completely
In 1987 God laid on Debbie Laws' heart a special burden for women who were alone and suffering silently because of abortion. As a result The Crisis Pregnancy Center, Inc. was the 10th crisis pregnancy center in the country to put a post-abortion counseling ministry in place. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, ministers and lay people from up and down the East coast, and as far west as Kansas, came together for an intensive 3 days of training and teaching.
Q: What is Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)?
A: This is a term we use to describe a host of painful reactions a woman may have following an abortion.
Q: What triggers PAS?
A: PAS arises from a woman’s inability to process the fear, anger, sadness and guilt surrounding her abortion experience. Due to the secretive nature of abortion, a woman is unable to grieve the loss of her baby, or to come to peace with God, herself, and others who were involved in the abortion decision. A woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy feels a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety, and some women seek what seems like the fastest solution to the dilemma -- abortion. Immediately after the procedure, she will likely feel great relief that the crisis is over. But any ambivalence she may have felt prior to the abortion will eventually resurface. At that point, she will begin to question her decision. In many cases, a woman goes into the abortion uninformed about fetal development. She may find a book or see a program explaining the developmental stages, and for the first time see what her baby looked like at the time of her decision. This will also add to her uncertainty about her past choice.
Q: What are some of the symptoms of a woman experiencing PAS?
A: The most common sign is a sense of guilt -- guilt for not being strong enough to have the baby, for hurting the baby, for violating religious or moral convictions. There may be survival guilt when a woman recognizes she was in a heartbreaking situation in which her choices seemed to be, “It’s you or me, and I choose me.” Another common symptom is anxiety. This can manifest itself with physical symptoms such as irritability, dizziness, headaches. She may experience panic reactions, or develop phobias. For instance, touching a newborn baby or seeing TV commercials showing children or infants may elicit a sense of panic. She may avoid going to baby showers or walking into a children’s department in a store. A woman may experience psychological numbing, the inability to feel joy or sense of well-being, keeping her emotions on a very flat level, experiencing no highs or lows. She may relate her story in therapy as if it were happening to another person because of her inability to connect emotionally with what has happened to her. She may find herself depressed, with or without thoughts of suicide. Sudden uncontrollable crying episodes may seem to come out of nowhere. Her self-esteem may deteriorate, along with sleep and appetite disturbances. A routine gynecological exam can trigger a re-experiencing of the abortion. She may have recurring nightmares about the abortion experience. Alcohol and drug abuse may begin or increase. She may develop eating disorders or other self-punishing behaviors such as cutting herself. There can be problems long after the abortion has taken place. We often see an “anniversary reaction” with an increase of symptoms around the time of the anniversary of the abortion or the aborted child’s due date. Because of the guilt and pain for having killed a child’s sibling, a woman may not allow herself to become properly bonded to another baby.
Q: When a woman starts to experience these things, how does she cope?
A: She will develop common defense mechanisms, such as rationalization where she tells herself, “It wouldn’t have been fair to bring my baby into the world because I couldn’t give it all the things I wanted it to have.” She may resort to repression: “Sure, I was upset for a while, but I’m OK now.” We might see compensation where she tries to be the super-mom or the super-successful businesswoman. Or she may find herself professing the exact opposite of her true feelings; this is called reaction formation. An example of this might be a woman becoming militantly vocal in the pro-choice movement, when actually she feels great pain over what she has done but is too frightened or threatened by the feelings to allow them to surface.
Q: These sound like major issues, Debbie. How do you help a woman begin dealing with all of this?
A: The first thing I work on is making a woman comfortable. Because there is so much shame and fear involved in the abortion, it takes a great deal of pain and courage for a woman to admit her experience and then expose her trauma. We spend some time talking about the abortion, and I get some background information. Then I spend a good amount of time explaining how PAS symptoms develop. Educating a woman about PAS can help to minimize her feelings that she is crazy or bad or somehow flawed. This usually will fill up our first meeting which will run about 75 minutes. I will explain that, at our next meeting, we will begin to map out where she has been affected by the abortion. In subsequent visits we will put together a road map of her life prior to and after the abortion. Issues such as grief, anger, shame, and forgiveness will all be covered.
Q: How long does this take?
A: This is not a process or a journey that can be rushed. It would be nice if I could tell you that it takes 4 months or 6 months. But for most women, in order to adequately deal with all of the issues, we need to look at a period of no less than 18 months, but usually it is more, and this is quite normal. These are painful and traumatic issues that need to be worked through at her own pace. The grieving process should not and cannot be rushed.
Q: It must be quite expensive for a woman to stay in counseling that long.
A: No. This service is provided free of charge to everyone. It is very important for women to have a safe, nurturing, non-judgmental environment in which to heal. And it is our number-one priority to provide that free of charge for as long as needed.
Q: That’s wonderful! How long have you been providing this service?
A: Since June of 1988. Eleven years ago it became apparent that this area of healing had been sorely neglected. At that time, the Crisis Pregnancy Center became the 10th center in the United States to offer a professional seminar training therapists to do this work. This seminar drew therapists from up and down the east coast, and as far west as Kansas.
Q: How can you afford to provide long-term counseling service for free?
A: Through the generosity of concerned individuals, groups and churches who donate financially on a regular basis. No women ever need be concerned that she cannot afford help. All our services are free.
Q: You’re a pro-life Christian who seeks to help women choose life. How do you feel about working with women who have chosen abortion?
A: You know what? We’ve all sinned. If Jesus had turned and walked away from every person suffering from the consequences of his or her sins, rather than offering healing and forgiveness through repentance, there would be no Gospel. I can only follow His example.
Amazing Grace - One Woman's Journey from Post-Abortive Devastation to Redemption.
The Power of Friendship - "I don't think her mom told her about the choice she made so long ago."
Jacob's Story - "He is the joy of my life and you are the reason he is here!"
The Next Chapter - "Sue made it clear to me that she had already made her decision..."
Glory in the Place of Despair
A testimony about post-abortive regret and healing.
Grace - The Favor of God -
A personal testimony about post-abortive regret and healing.