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Want to help post-abortive moms? New study suggests pro-lifers are missing opportunities

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

A new study has revealed that when it comes to talking about past abortions, women are more likely to confide in friends they know support abortion, as opposed to talking to people who are pro-life.  If true, that could mean pro-lifers are missing key opportunities to connect with post-abortive women and help them to heal from their experiences.

“Americans who are opposed to abortion are less likely to hear that their sister, mother, or friend had an abortion than their pro-choice peers,” said study author Sarah K. Cowan, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Sociology. “Abortions are often kept secret both by women who have had them and by their confidants. Moreover, abortions are especially likely to be kept secret from those who are pro-life. These disclosure differences affect who hears about others’ abortions and may help explain the relative stability of Americans’ opinions on abortion.”

Cowan asked 1,600 American adults whether they, a partner, or someone else they knew had ever had an abortion.  She found that the more pro-life a person is, the less likely they were to report knowing someone who had procured an abortion.  In particular, people who believe abortion should be illegal without exception were 21 percent less likely than supporters of legal abortion to have heard about another person having an abortion.  People who supported abortion only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother were 12 percent less likely to have had someone confide in them about an abortion.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who became pro-life after witnessing an abortion on ultrasound, told LifeSiteNews that if pro-life activists want post-abortive or abortion-minded women to feel safe talking to them, they must be careful with the words they use to describe women who choose abortion, and even abortion industry workers.

“This points directly to our language and behavior towards women who have had abortions,” Johnson said. “How do we talk about women who have had abortions? What words do we use? It also points to a gross misunderstanding of why women feel the need to have abortions.”

“In our zeal for the unborn, we forget that there is a scared and confused woman who needs our help,” Johnson added.  “She won't come to a movement of people who use words like ‘murderer’ and ‘baby killer’ at every opportunity. We reach post-abortive women with our kindness, compassion and gentleness. It is heartbreaking to think about the amount of women who suffer in silence because they fear shame and judgment from the prolife movement...the movement that should be promoting mercy and forgiveness.”

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Johnson knows from experience how a loving and conciliatory approach can change hearts and minds when it comes to the life issue.  In her memoir, Unplanned, she recounts how volunteers with 40 Days for Life treated her with kindness and respect as she arrived at the clinic each day, and prayed for her constantly.  When she decided to get out of the abortion industry, it was them to whom she ran, showing up at the backdoor of their offices and asking for their help.

Today, Johnson runs And Then There Were None (ATTWN), a ministry dedicated to helping abortion workers leave the industry.  On her website, she advises people to take the same loving approach that 40 Days for Life did with her.

“Remember, abortion workers are human beings, with friends and families who love them, bills to pay and children to feed,” Johnson writes.  “Treat them like you would any other friend of yours.  Smile and say ‘good morning’ when they come to work, and offer them an ATTWN flier.  If abortions are being performed that day, you can say something like ‘I know procedure days are very difficult for the women you see, but I know it’s hard on you, too.’  Tell them you care about them and if they ever need anything, to come talk to you.”

For more information on how to talk to people about abortion, check out the following resources:

How to Help Others After Abortion (PDF)

How to Listen to Someone Who Is Hurting From Abortion

How to Talk to a Friend Who’s Had an Abortion

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