By Elise Harris
.- After an abortion,men and women can experience deep feelings of sadness and emptiness, suicidal thoughts, dreams of the aborted child, trouble with intimacy and difficulty bonding with future children, according to an expert in the field.
Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel and the National Office for Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, told CNA Jan. 11 these experiences are “a big secret” nobody wants to address, which sometimes prevents women and men who have been involved in an abortion from talking about their difficulties.
“There’s a lot involved there,” she said, explaining that many abortion clinics and post-abortion websites will tell women that having an abortion was a good thing, but minimize adverse reactions by saying “we understand you might be feeling bad.”
However, Thorn – a certified trauma counselor and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life – said that despite apparent reassurances that feelings of sadness and regret are no big deal, the reality is that post-abortion, men and women both are “haunted by this experience.”
According to a recent report from the Guttmacher Institute, some 56 million abortions were performed globally each year between 2010-2014, with 25 percent of all pregnancies during those years ending in abortion.
The highest number of abortions took place in developing nations, as well as many eastern European countries. While the number of annual abortions in developed nations dropped significantly during the years of the study, it rose in underdeveloped nations, mostly due to population growth, according to the study.
But despite the relative silence on the post-abortive experience, some celebrities have spoken out about the profound pain and regret they feel over past abortions, some of which took place years ago.
Among the high-profile personalities who’ve addressed the issue are Eminem, Sinead O’Connor, Nicki Minaj, Kid Rock, and Kenny Rogers.
In his new album “Revival,” released Dec. 15, 2017, Eminem includes a song called “River,” telling the story of a man who had an affair with a woman, and the couple’s choice to end a pregnancy through abortion.
The chorus of the song talks about the pain he feels, and his desire for forgiveness from the “sins” of his past: “I’ve been a liar, been a thief/Been a lover, been a cheat/All my sins need holy water, feel it washing over me/Well, little one/I don’t want to admit to something/If all it’s gonna cause is pain/The truth and my lies now are falling like the rain/So let the river run.”
Later, in the last verse of the song, he speaks to both the woman and the baby, saying: “I made you terminate my baby/This love triangle left us in a wreck, tangled/What else can I say? It was fun for a while/Bet I really woulda loved your smile/ Didn’t really wanna abort, but – it/What’s one more lie, to tell our unborn child?”
Similarly, in her 2012 track “Autobiography,” Nicki Minaj refers to an abortion she had at 16. In the song, she asks her child for forgiveness, saying “I’m trapped in my conscience/I adhered to the nonsense, listened to people who told me I wasn’t ready for you.”
“But how the – would they know what I was ready to do? And of course it wasn’t your fault (no)/It’s like I feel you the air, I hear you saying ‘Mommy don’t cry, can’t you see I’m right here?’ (yes)/ I gotta let you know what you mean to me, when I’m sleeping, I see you in my dreams with me.”
In his song “Abortion,” released in 2000, Kid Rock talks about the grief of a father after an abortion that is so great he contemplates suicide, saying “I’ve never heard you cry I’ve never seen you whine…I must die to get to you…where’s my gun…”
Kenny Rogers released the song “Water and Bridges” in 2006, in which he sings about decisions that are “much too late to change…/How a father could have held his son/If I could undo what’s been done/But I guess everyone is living/With water and bridges.”
Thorn said Sinead O’Connor was the first artist she ever heard sing about abortion in her 1990 track “My Special Child,” which talks about the sadness she experienced after she had an abortion after a relationship broke down.
Each of the sentiments expressed by these artists “are common experiences,” Thorn said, explaining that men and women can have different reactions to abortion based on their biology and experiences of pregnancy.
For women between the ages of 11-19, Thorn noted that their brains haven’t finished developing, and they operate mostly out of the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain. Many young women who have abortions, then, “make this decision out of fear.”
A woman’s brain can’t fully process trauma until 25, when the corpus callosum, which is “the linker between the right brain and left brain,” becomes fully active, Thorn said, explaining that in the early years of her pro-life work, she couldn’t understand why most of her calls were from women around 25 years old.
“I thought that was the weirdest thing in the world,” she said, noting that it wasn’t until several years later when she learned more about brain research that she understood women were calling “because now they can process it.”
For the woman who’s had an abortion and is struggling with the decision, “we have to remember that she’s a mother who lost her child in a traumatic and unnatural fashion,” Thorn said. “Society says abortion is a simple medical procedure, but we don’t talk about what really happens.”
In terms of biology, Thorn said pregnant women go through something called “microchimerism,” in which cells from the child pass to the mother. And in cases of abortion or miscarriage, women carry more cells from those children than children they give birth to.
“These cells are part of biological knowledge, someone’s missing,” she said, explaining that the feelings could come up at any time, even years later, but at a certain point there is a “trigger-incident’, and I’m suddenly aware that that abortion was an offending event.”
The sense of loss that comes after is enormous, she said. And while globally abortion is discussed as something that “solves a problem” as simple as a fixing a bunion, “it’s much, much deeper, and that knowledge of the cells makes a difference.”
“The sadness, this sense of responsibility, ‘I did this.’ Those are all parts of her experience,” Thorn said, adding that many times a woman will have a second or third abortion because “she’s compelled to get pregnant again. It’s a biological thing. She started the cycle of pregnancy and all the changes that go with it, and didn’t finish it.”
And it’s not just women. Men also have a biological experience, she said, and can tell that a woman is pregnant before she herself knows “because our scent changes…at four weeks we smell different.”
If the woman is with her partner during pregnancy, his body also undergoes “the whole raft of changes, hormonal and other things.” Men, she said, frequently experience “couvade,” also called “sympathy pregnancy,” in which they have some of same symptoms as the expectant mother.
As the end of the pregnancy gets nearer, the man’s hormones “go crazy,” Thorn said. “His testosterone drops, his estrogen goes up, he gets more of a bonding hormone and he gets a nursing hormone for at least six weeks. We don’t talk about that. But those are real, physiological changes.”
She said there are many men who would have tried to stop the abortion of their child if they’d had the chance. “They would have put their life in front of a car, and they grieve deeply, deeply.”
There are the men who wanted the abortion and later regret it, there are men who wanted to keep the baby but were told it wasn’t not their decision, and there are men who were never told about a pregnancy and didn’t find out until years after the abortion and are “blown out of the water,” Thorn said.
“For men, in a sense the grief for men is difficult because they’re told that they should have no feelings about this. It’s her body, it’s her life, it’s none of your business, so he doesn’t have a place to turn,” she added.
In the end, “they turn to drugs, they turn to pornography because they swore they’ll never touch a woman again, depression, all kinds of things.”
She said it’s important for men to have a voice in the discussion because “biologically they are changed by the pregnancy, there’s a physiological thing going on here. He can’t control that, that’s biology. God is turning him into a father.”
Suicide is also frequent and strong temptation for both men and women post-abortion, she said, recalling stories she’s heard of men with seemingly perfect lives who jumped from bridges and no one understood why until a friend or relative revealed that there had been an abortion that the man “had never recovered from.”
Thorn said that just a few years ago in Milwaukee there was a murder-suicide prompted by an abortion in which a man killed his girlfriend and then killed himself after she had an abortion he did not want.
Many men who would have tried to stop the abortion of their child but couldn’t do it at times confess to having “violent thoughts” because “they couldn’t protect” their baby, Thorn said. “It’s this sense of male impotence, not sexual impotence, but that men are protectors, and they really struggle with that.”
Women, especially during the teen years, “are ten times more likely to attempt suicide after an abortion in the months that follow, that first six to eight months,” Thorn said. “That tells you the depth of the woundedness.”
After those first months, “denial kicks in,” she said, noting that while women will say they are doing fine, “they’re emotionally very numb.”
Commitment also becomes an issue for men and women after abortions, she said, explaining that “only about 30 percent of couples survive abortions as a couple.”
If they move on to another relationship, they often won’t tell their partners about feelings of betrayal or regret, “and that’s going to be an intimacy killer in the bedroom, because she doesn’t trust men – the one she was with forced her to have an abortion – and he doesn’t women, it was his fiance that had his child aborted, so this is a huge wound.”
Women suffering from an abortion loss will often go into a “shut-down” phase, she said, noting that it is these women who become staunch defenders of abortion, and are the loudest voices arguing that it’s a woman’s right.
“That’s another way to cope,” she said. Pointing to various stories of people who have left the abortion industry, Thorn noted that “almost all of them had their own abortions first or during that time. It’s a way to cope with what they’ve done; I need it, other women must need it, so I’m going to protect that right.”
“It’s a very incredibly deep sadness and women never forget. They have the biology that makes it impossible to forget, it’s always a part of them,” she said, adding that in her experience, the people who have found help and healed from past abortions “never support abortion again.”
Abortion can also affect parenting and one’s relationship with future children, because women who don’t heal after an abortion “don’t bond very well in a different pregnancy. They’re very over protective, but sometimes they’re emotionally distant from their child.”
Fathers, on the other hand, “are overly committed to the child and become enmeshed, they really sort of take the role of the mother and push the mother away.”
Other family members, such as siblings or cousins, are also affected by abortion, she said, noting that she has met many people who grew up with a strong sensation that they should have had a brother or sister, and only later found out that an abortion had taken place.
In her view, Thorn said there is not enough discussion or awareness about the effects of abortion “because it’s an uncomfortable piece, because there are so many abortions and people do not want to talk about it.”
“But what we’re seeing in these songs is people are finding a way to tell their story to somebody in hopes that somebody’s listening, and that’s part of the healing process, is an opportunity to tell the story,” she said.
The fact that so many songs are being sung about the topic is “an indication that people are looking for a way to speak the truth about what happened,” she said, “and that’s a way to do it if that’s your talent and your gift.”
If you or someone you know is suffering after abortion, confidential non-judgmental help is available:
Call Project Rachel’s national toll-free number: 888-456-HOPE(-4673) or visit HopeAfterAbortion.org.
Spanish-speakers may visit EsperanzaPosaborto.org”
Help is also available for men at http://menandabortion.info/