Shouting, Protests, and Pain, Roe’s legacy of Trauma

By Olivia Gans Turner, Director, American Victims of Abortion

“Being Traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on–unchanged and immutable–as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps Score

Trauma, noun

1.a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

“a personal trauma like the death of a child”

The long hoped for day that so many have worked for may happen in the next few days or weeks. Roe v. Wade and the companion ruling Doe v, Bolton, which together made abortion essentially legal for any reason in America, may be dismantled. Abortion has divided Americans and scarred our society.  Millions of preborn children have died, and their mothers, fathers, families, and our society are left damaged by their deaths. 

Understandably, the drama unfolding around the Supreme Court and the possible removal of Roe v. Wade has stirred up emotions on every side of the debate.

It has caused fear among some women who have come of age after Roe. Their perception is that legalized abortion is the best answer our fractured society can offer in the face of poverty, abuse, lack of education, real health concerns, or fear of the responsibility of parenthood. They are not convinced that there are better answers, often because they have never encountered the broad and comprehensive help that has been developed and offered by the pro-life movement since the 1970s!

Following the leak of a draft opinion which called for Roe’s reversal, there has been a steady drumbeat of shouting and near-hysterical protests across America. With that in mind, it is time to have yet another deep conversation about why women have abortions and whether or not they can be victims along with their children.

The loud outcry would have you believe that the majority of women involved have little or no remorse about their abortion experiences–that abortion did not leave scars on the hearts of the women who have them.

The shouting is itself an example of the trauma caused in the individual’s life. People don’t shout about things that bring them peace of mind. In this case, the shouting is a statement of stress.

Even as they demand that abortion remain legal, the women shouting now expose the listener to a depth of injury that few can ever understand. These women and some of the men with stories to tell expend so much energy continuing to justify a decision that ended the lives of their own children, trying to make something awful seem reasonable.

I myself was one of the very first women to go public with the story of my own child’s death by abortion in 1981. I helped to form Women Exploited by Abortion, the first peer-to-peer program created by women for women to create safe spaces to talk out loud about how we really felt about our abortion experiences. Many in the pro-life movement were supportive. They had always been convinced that women could not undergo something as disruptive as an abortion without physical or psychological consequences.  Since that time in the early 1980s there are now a wide variety of post-abortion support programs in all fifty states.

Even with all that has been done to recognize the damage done by abortion to the well being of the women, there has never been any long-term, non-biased, large-scale studies into the after-effects of abortion on women’s health. This allows the media to suggest there are no serious consequences! 

Fortunately, there are numerous smaller studies pointing to evidence that abortions do cause a wide range of complications. There is even evidence in public policy reports highlighting the negative effect of abortion in women’s lives, including substance abuse, marital problems, sexual or physical abuse, high risk behaviors, links to breast cancer and other gynecological issues, and even premature death due to violence or injury. 

Nonetheless, the myth persists that abortion is safe and relatively easy to go through with little or no negative aftermath.

Women who seek help after abortions are confirming what we know thus far. The results of abortion for thousands of women are feelings of depression, grief, confusion, doubt, anxiety, even thoughts of suicide. These responses vary for every woman but the data we do have indicates that the majority of women who have abortions will experience one or all of these problems at some point.

Because they have been told that abortion was a smart decision, women often repress or deny their feelings. Few women have anyone they can talk to honestly about their experience because many abortions are kept secret. Shouting in the streets with other women in denial only reinforces the narrative that women need abortion because being pregnant is such a threat.

The result is the blind leading the blind and the tragedy continues.

What does make women turn on themselves and their unborn children? Dangerous mental gymnastics are required to believe that being pregnant is the problem we must solve at any cost. Most women don’t even realize they have drunk the Kool-Aid.

Women don’t want to feel like victims, but many still are when they are pregnant.

The loneliness so many women face when pregnant is deep. The father doesn’t want the baby. Maybe pressure from family or friends to see the baby as a “problem” to be dealt with. Along with fears that women still face loss of employment or education are all the very real reasons that make women believe abortion “makes sense.” Add to that the deliberate manipulation of abortionists to convince women to pay them to kill their children, and you begin to see the way abortion becomes routine in our culture.

Sadly, also, women are aware that our society sometimes does fail to provide the help that many need during and after a pregnancy. Paying to have our children killed because society is broken only adds to the brokenness and failure.

Abortions only hide the problems women face. It is 2022; it’s time for our institutions to come to terms with the grim facts of life and death. Women/girls get pregnant. Pregnancy is not a disease, nor is it a “problem” to be “solved” by killing our children. It is a challenge that our society has failed to meet, leaving thousands of mothers to feel the need to end their pregnancy because they don’t have access to the support they need.

Our society claims to respect women and children but far too often only offers one answer: “This is a bad time for you to be pregnant, so just get rid of this one and someday you can try again. Do the smart thing.” That is exactly what I was told and hundreds of other women, too. It is what so many of the women shouting and protesting in the streets right now heard as well.

So, what does all this mean?

It is apparent to me and others who have been active in post-abortion care for many years that what we are seeing now is the result of the damage and stress that 50 years of legalized abortion has caused: in every abortion, a baby is killed, and a woman wounded.

So, after decades of relentless propaganda from the abortion industry and millions of abortions performed in American, we see the result:  some women, who have spent years rationalizing why they had their abortion, shouting and carrying signs and threatening the very institution that created the tragedy to begin with in 1973. 

Instead of finally reckoning with the reality of what abortion really does and who gets hurt, we are witnessing the desperate attempts to preserve the awful nightmare that was inflicted upon them in the name of freedom. Unfortunately, traumatized people too often avoid the details of their injuries because it is too frightening to confront the pain of the original wound, especially a self-inflicted one like abortion.  

Punishing the mothers who have abortions, if Roe is overturned, would be tragically wrong and would ignore the role that others play in why some women get abortions. Parents, fathers, and others are often able to convince a mother that abortion is a rational or even smart thing to do in the face of her situation. Punishing women condemns the second victim.

I fear that all these shouting voices and negative stories based on propaganda from the abortion industry may scare so many women away from getting the help they need to make life-affirming decisions for themselves and their precious babies. It may also be sending negative messages to women desperately in need of healing after abortion and keeping them from seeking help and coming to terms with their role in the events that ended their own children’s lives.

We must meet anger with love and authentic compassion which has always been the true strength of the pro-life movement. 

The over 3,000 pregnancy care programs all over America belie the narrative that pro-lifers wish to judge women.

If Roe v. Wade does fall this summer, it will be a reason to rejoice. The people shouting in the streets right now may not understand that due to decades of self-inflicted injury and the successful campaigns of abortion promoters, but it will be a good day. The question is this: will Americans be ready to finally comprehend how cruelly legalized abortion has altered the society we live in?

The protests happening now are fraught with the pain of generations of families wounded by the death of one or more of their members whose names they’ll never know. Everyone has been touched by these deaths. We are going to need to open our hearts with compassion, and prepare for many more years of work to repair what we have done to each other.