After abortion and coping: Overcoming female and male grief
Fetus photo: Ed Uthman, MD
Fetus photo: Bill Davenport.
"Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing."
Hebrew King David (1000 B.C.)
When Does Life Begin? After Birth, in the Womb at a Certain Point, or at Conception?
Is an embryo a life? Does life begin at birth—or at conception, as some religions teach? Does life begin at some other time in the womb? The ancient Jews believed that an embryo was a life. King David wrote poetically in the Psalms, "My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was woven in the lowest part of the earth. Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book, all its parts were down in writing" (Psalms 139:14-16). The ancient Jewish view was that life began at conception. Jeremiah was a Jewish prophet who stated that God knew him even in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5).
There is scientific evidence that this is the case. A baby can remember songs he or she has heard in the womb from as early as three to four months of age (Huotilainen, M., et al. 2013). A fetus recoils at a needle, having already developed a sense of touch and pain, at only four months. All of the genetic code of an embryo, the full DNA sequencing for a life, is present at conception with the first cell that was created from the sperm and the egg before the zygote becomes a fetus. The Chinese count age from the time of conception rather than the time of birth.
Having an Abortion is a Serious Decision
While many governments have given the right of decision-making regarding abortion to the pregnant woman, it is that woman who will have to live with the consequences of that decision for her entire life. Some who have had abortions experience remorse or experience depression afterwards.
A mental health professional confided in one of her clients some years ago that she had entered the mental health field because she herself gone through a very difficult time of depression and had to resort to seeing a psychiatrist. The reason for her depression is that she had had an abortion and felt pangs of conscience afterwards. She quoted the words "Thou shall not kill," and felt she had killed the life in her womb. She needed professional help afterwards to help her out of depression, but still had sorrows and difficulties in dealing with it over a decade later. Some women experience sorrow for decades after they have had an abortion as young women, looking longingly back to who that baby might have been or become.
These are serious things to think about before making the decision to have an abortion. You will have to live with that decision for the rest of your life. There are consequences for major decisions that we make, especially those involving life and our ability to procreate.
If a Woman has had an Abortion and Needs Psychological Help
If a woman has had an abortion and experiences sorrow or depression beyond what she can handle on her own, then talking things out with a therapist or psychologist can be of help. We need to realize that no matter what we may have done in our lives, we can't undo the past. There is only one way to go with time, and that is forward.
All of us wish we could go back in time and make changes, but unfortunately, this isn't possible. So take comfort in the fact that you are not alone; many have serious misgivings about mistakes made in the past. However, if you are experiencing inner turmoil, guilt, or sorrow concerning an abortion, it is best to speak to someone in whom you can confide rather than keeping it to yourself.
Abortion and Male Grief
While we might think of grief in terms of the female who had the abortion, male grief after an abortion is another psychological/spiritual phenomenon that is often overlooked. In the well-researched book, Women's Health After Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Evidence
author Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy discusses the impact of abortion on men.
While some men are emotionally detached and think only of the practical aspects of caring for a new life, other men develop an attachment to the fetus, and for them, the decision to have an abortion is emotionally distressing. Psychotherapist Kim Kluger-Bell reports, "In my practice I have known a number of women (and men, as well) for whom the psychological consequences of abortion were surprisingly long-term." (Ring-Cassiday, Gentles. 2003).
Social Worker Ava Torre-Bueno, in her book Peace after Abortion
, devotes one chapter to the effect abortion has on men. After an abortion, men often feel anger over their own lack of control of the situation, "guilt about contraceptive
failure," as well as "empathy with their partner." At times, "men are confused" with their "partners" apparent ambivalence with an abortion, and while the female handles it in stride, they "themselves are depressed, guilty, grieving or shame-filled" (Ibid).
Therefore, both male and female psycho-spiritual and emotional needs have to be considered in addressing or coping with an abortion, as well as the decision to have or not have an abortion.
Abortion and Spiritual Concerns
Additionally, for those who might have misgivings due to their thoughts about God's view of abortion or God's view of them for having had an abortion, we should realize first that even though abortion is very serious, it is forgivable. If we believe in God and are concerned about our relationship with Him, then we need to come to terms with our actions. Working things out spiritually will help us to go forward with our lives despite any errors we may have made in the past. Communication with God through prayer about the specific situation is of value.
Our view of God is of importance. Do we view God as a harsh, unforgiving master, or a kind-hearted and a href="help_for_depression_bible_psalms.php">merciful father? The latter view will help us to approach our spirituality positively, and gain the benefits of healthy spirituality, as opposed to self-flagellation. With that in mind, we need not have a morbid fear of the Lord, but rather seek always the love, help, and forgiveness that all of us need. This can help any of us leave the past behind and go forward. Picturing God as the keeper or assigner of a fiery hell is both morbid and depressing.
Before the fact, we can ask ourselves: How does God feel about abortion? This can help us look towards a future of with wise decisions that will result in lasting happiness.
From a religious perspective, if we talk to God, we can openly confess errors and mistakes to Him. And if we humbly pray for help, we can recover from the guilt or depression
that might be associated with having an abortion or any other transgression we may have been guilty of or that is tormenting us. Many psychological problems result from the cries of our inner conscience.
All guilt is not bad. Sometimes it can help us to change. Sometimes it can move us to come to terms with God. However, beating ourselves up endlessly for real or imagined sins can be self-defeating. Beating ourselves up emotionally puts us farther down a hole and doesn't result in any type of penance for our sins. At times we need to throw ourselves upon God's mercy throne and not expect perfection of ourselves.
Regarding God’s personality, the Apostle John, one of the twelve with Jesus at the Lord's Supper and the one who is referred to as Jesus' closest friend, wrote simply, "God is love." If this is an accurate picture of God's personality, it draws us to the Almighty even when we are hurt due to our own mistakes in life.
Psalm 103:7-10 is a beautiful scripture
, embraced by three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It highlights the merciful qualities of God as a heavenly Father rather than a fierce punisher or tormentor. Reading this psalm can help us draw close to God and find mercy rather than condemnation. This can help us spiritually and psychologically. God is love, and He is merciful towards our failings. He forgives even when we might not forgive ourselves.
Conclusion of Help for Abortion
Think seriously before making major decisions such as whether or not to have an abortion. Think beyond the immediate inconvenience, and think about the long-term consequences rather than short-term considerations. If you are a teen, don't worry about what others might think if you have the baby. You are the one who will have to live with your decision, not others. If you feel you will not be able to care for the baby, there are other options available, such as putting the baby up for adoption.
If you have had an abortion, you may need to talk things out with a confidant, whether it is a sympathetic listener in the form of a good friend, a minister, or even a professional. Additionally, your view of God is important. If you desire a relationship with God, don't run away from yourself or from Him. Looking to the Lord as a God of love and mercy rather than one of punishment can help you be balanced in your view of yourself.
Abortion Help References
1. Abortion 'leaves mental legacy'. (2005, December 12). BBC News.
2. Harmon, A. (2007, May 9). Prenatal Test Puts Down Syndrome in Hard Focus. New York Times.
3. Huotilainen, M., Partanen, E., Kujala, T., Tervaniemi, M. (2013, October 30).
Prenatal Music Exposure Induces Long-Term Neural Effects. PLOS One.
4. Kalish, S., (2004, May/June). Psychology Today.
5. NJ Supreme Court Strikes Down Parental Notification for Abortion Act, (200, August 15). ACLU.
6. Ring-Cassidy, E., Gentles, I. (2003). Women's Health After Abortion: The Medical and Psychological Evidence
. New York: The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research. http://www.deveber.org/text/chapters/Chap16.pdf
7. Statistics in Adolescent Pregnancy. (Retrieved October 5, 2008). Teen Shelter Org.
8. When Does a Human Life Begin
? (2009, June). Awake!
Other AYCNP Pages on Abortion
Psychological effects - Male grief - For how long do females grieve after an abortion?
Teen abortion - Down Syndrome and abortion
Late Term Abortion
- Information and Procedures