Abortion's Aftershocks. Interview With Author Michaelene Fredenburg By Karna Swanson
SAN DIEGO, California, JULY 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- When a woman decides to abort, she mistakenly believes the procedure will erase the pregnancy and that life will return to normal, says the founder of a forum for those affected by abortion.
Michaelene Fredenburg is the author of "Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One's Abortion Experience," and founder of AbortionChangesYou.com, an Internet site that seeks to help those who have been affected by abortion to face the tragic truth of their actions.
In this interview with ZENIT, Fredenburg talks about why the affects of abortion are often unexpected, and how she is working to help others begin the process of healing.
Q: The first part of your book consists of testimonies from people whose lives were changed by an abortion. Why is it that abortion is normally seen as an answer, and that the negative consequences of the procedure are unexpected?
Fredenburg: Any number of reasons can contribute to a sense of urgency to "erase" a pregnancy including the desire to keep the pregnancy a secret, the abandonment of a partner, or the lack of economic resources.
Although one out of three women of childbearing years have had an abortion in the United States by age 45, we rarely talk about our abortion experiences with even our closest friends and family members. Because we don't talk about our experiences, most couples have no working knowledge about how an abortion may impact them in the future.
Q: Many women wrote that even though they were sure the decision to abort was the right one, they immediately regretted it. How should we interpret that immediate regret?
Fredenburg: There is often the expectation that life will go back to the way it was before the pregnancy. However, when a man or woman realizes that this isn't possible, he or she may experience powerful feelings of regret. The reasons for choosing abortion that were compelling before the procedure may appear weak or very different after the procedure.
Of course, not all women will experience immediate regret. In fact, men and women have a variety of reactions after an abortion ranging from relief to paralyzing guilt and grief. Many individuals experience conflicted emotions that are both positive and negative. While I had an immediate reaction after my abortion, there are others that will experience a delay of months, years, or even decades.
I spoke with a man recently who told me he pressured his girlfriend into an abortion 35 years ago. He didn't think about the abortion at all until 5 years ago. For some reason, he began to think about the fact that he would have an adult child that might possibly be married with children, making him a grandfather. The more he thought about this, the more concerned he grew about his ex-girlfriend. The concern turned into guilt -- something that has become a bigger and bigger burden for him.
Q: In the second section of the book you give those affected by abortion the opportunity to tell their story, which you say is an important part of beginning the healing process. Can you take us through that process?
Fredenburg: An important part of beginning the healing process is to validate your experience -- to acknowledge that your experience is real and that it's significant. Documenting the events that led up to and took place during and after the abortion will help you to start making sense of your own abortion or the abortion of someone close to you. I recommend completing this activity privately as this will give you the freedom to express the truth of your experience without worrying about what other people think about you or how your words may impact those involved. However, if you begin to feel overwhelmed, please reach out to a trusted family member, friend, or spiritual leader for support.
There isn't a right or wrong way to tell your story. The important thing is to start and, over time, finish telling it. If you've experienced or been touched by more than one abortion, it's helpful to explore the story of each one separately.
You may find the process of documenting your experience to be extremely painful, or you may feel relieved as you express thoughts and memories that have been buried deep inside. Although your story will be unique, it is important to remember that you are not alone. I have included questions in "Changed" that can help you to tell your story.
Q: There is also a Web site that goes along with the book. What do you hope through the book and the Web site? What services do you offer those affected by abortion?
Fredenburg: The book "Changed" is a gentle invitation for men, women, family members and friends to begin the healing process. Individuals who haven't been personally touched by abortion, but who wish to gain a better understanding of what others are experiencing, can also utilize the book. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to face the loss and pain that my abortion created. That is why I wrote the book in a friendly informal manner -- just like we're sitting with each other having a conversation. I included space to write or draw as you move through the "Healing Pathways." The Afterword by Dr. Gary Strauss paints a picture of what the healing process looks like and includes special notes for men.
AbortionChangesYou.com is a safe confidential place that can be visited any time of the day or night. The interactive content allows visitors to anonymously explore at their own pace while still feeling a sense of community. The "Find Help" locator -- at the top right hand on each page -- allows visitors to enter their ZIP code and find after abortion healing resources in their area.
Q: You also speak frankly of your own abortion. What was the key for you to begin healing from an abortion? Does one ever fully heal from an abortion?
Fredenburg: My healing process began when I reached out for help and learned that I wasn't alone. Just knowing that my reaction was "normal" and that what I was experiencing after my abortion had a name -- reproductive grief -- gave me hope that I could heal. Finding compassion and understanding, instead of the judgment and condemnation that I feared, also gave me the courage to continue my journey to wholeness. Knowing that I didn't have to make the journey alone kept me going when I felt discouraged.
You can find a place of peace and wholeness after an abortion. As Dr. Gary Strauss says in the Afterword of "Changed," "It is not a matter of 'if' we can find healing, but 'when' we will begin the healing journey."
Healing doesn't mean forgetting, rather it is a process that allows us to let go of the pain and keep moving forward.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to a young woman, or someone involved in some way in an abortion, who is just beginning to heal?
Fredenburg: Healing is an unpredictable process -- each person's timeline for healing is unique and varied. Be patient with yourself and know that you are not alone.