Many proponents of abortion believe it is a reproductive right that helps women maintain good psychological health, escape poverty, and pursue their professional goals. I would advise these individuals to spend some time volunteering at a pregnancy resource center (often called a crisis pregnancy center).
Even if I did not believe that human life should be protected from conception, I would not be able to embrace the pro-choice viewpoint, given what I have witnessed after working at a pregnancy center serving hundreds of low-income women and families in the Washington DC area.
Many see pregnancy resource centers as places where women are simply pressured not to have abortions. Others see these centers as places to “evangelize” or merely to “save babies.”
Fortunately, both characterizations are nothing like the experience I had. First of all, most women did not come to the center for pregnancy options or for a free pregnancy test. They came to get material resources like diapers or baby clothes for their already-born children. Dozens of women told me how much our pregnancy center had helped them over the years, and how they told their friends about us.
Every day, smiling community members would stop by the center with donations for us. There were also dozens of volunteers of all ages working at the center on a regular basis. (Who says pro-lifers don’t help “babies who are already born” and their families?)
When I wasn’t manning the phone or managing donations, I was meeting with clients. I was surprised by how quickly women would open up to me, and the long conversations we would often end up having.
I soon realized that many of my clients trusted the pregnancy center. Even if they had never met me, they knew I was safe to talk with simply because I worked there. New clients opened up to me just because they had few (if any) healthy relationships and needed someone to talk to.
Through these conversations with my clients, I witnessed the emotional toll abortion had taken on many of them.
I lost count of the number of times a client broke down crying when recalling her abortion.
The deep depression that many women experienced after their abortions often negatively affected their relationships with their partner and other children, as well as their ability to meet their professional goals.
Frequently, women would think they had healed from their abortion—only to have their pain rise up on the anniversaries of the procedure. I was also surprised by how many women (including several who identified themselves as pro-choice) expressed interest and in the post-abortive counseling the center offered.
Several women I met with vowed to never have an abortion again after their bad experience. Other women who had an unwanted pregnancy later decided to go through with another abortion—although several of them fully understood how emotionally (and often physically) painful the procedure would be.
I will never forget sitting across from a young mother who was pregnant again. She began to sob after she saw the positive pregnancy result. I have never seen someone cry so much (and, as a mental health professional, I have seen a lot of people cry).
I asked her what she was considering doing. She told me that she was going to get an abortion. She had just finished telling me about the deep depression she experienced after her last one. She told me she knew having another abortion would be painful, but she could not bear the thought of being pregnant again.
As far as I know, she went through with the second abortion procedure. But I shudder to think of the emotional repercussions she is likely experiencing as a result.
I quickly learned it was commonly understood in the non-politically correct population that I worked with that abortion hurts women. Even clients who did not think abortion was an immoral choice knew that abortion was a difficult choice that could have serious and long-lasting consequences.
My clients, and their friends and families, did not celebrate abortion. They knew how much their community had been hurt by it.
It is true that other clients of mine reported that they did not suffer emotionally from their abortion or that their emotional pain was short-lived. For example, I noticed that clients who had a medical abortion early on in their pregnancy were less likely to be traumatized. And, of course, if a client was not suffering from a previous abortion (or perhaps, just wasn’t ready to talk about it), I focused on her other needs or concerns in our time together.
Nevertheless, I cannot ignore the haunting stories that women shared with me about their abortions and the pain they later experienced from them. I have personally witnessed that the psychological consequences of abortion are not rare or minimal. The psychological wounds of abortion are common and, often, deep and long-lasting.
Through my work, I also realized that the demonization of pregnancy resource centers by many in the pro-choice movement is misleading and frankly unconscionable. The people at the pregnancy center where I worked, and other centers around the country, help women in a way that no government check or abortion provider ever could.
Staff members and volunteers at pregnancy resource centers provide true charity by supporting their clients materially and emotionally as they navigate the scary and stressful world of an unplanned pregnancy—and also by seeking to heal the wounds of abortion, left by a world that tells them that killing their child is the only way out.