By Theresa Burke, Ph.D., and Kevin Burke, LSW
Seeing a new medical provider means you get handed the brown clipboard from the receptionist with that tedious multi-page new patient form. Or perhaps you’ve done it online before you arrive.
Some questions are quite detailed. Some can make us squirm a bit; weight, smoking, daily wine intake?
But for some women, one question can trigger some deep feelings and painful memories.
“Have you ever been pregnant?”
Lauren experienced abortion and was unable to conceive after that as a result of complications from the procedures.
During previous exams, her answer had always been, “No.”
This is the denial that marks the daily lives of millions of women and men who have experienced surgical or chemical abortion.
Lauren attended the abortion healing program Rachel’s Vineyard in March 2013.
Lauren shares, “The program gently allowed me to lower my denial defenses built up over many years. The experience cleansed the gaping spiritual and emotional wounds left from participating in the death of my unborn children.”
A few years later Lauren went to see her primary care physician who had recently moved her practice into a hospital that provided abortion services.
Lauren was in conflict: “I have been with this doctor for over 15 years and did not want to be hasty making the switch. And I have always felt very comfortable with her.”
With a newfound peace and confidence rooted in her healing experience, Lauren decided to go ahead with the appointment. But this time, it was going to be different.
In the process of her evaluation, Lauren told the physician, “There is something very important in my medical history that should be added to my records.”
Lauren went on to share with the doctor about her two abortions and some of the common emotional and physical complications many women suffer after the procedure.
“The doctor looked at me with compassion, but she did appear bit taken aback,” Lauren recalled. “She agreed to add it to my records. I was pleased when she told me, ‘In the future, if a patient shares with me a history of abortion, I will be sure to ask them how they are doing emotionally.’“
Lauren gave some pamphlets and contact info to the doctor for anyone looking for emotional and spiritual healing after experiencing an abortion loss.
A year later, Lauren returned for her annual check-up.
But this time, she saw a nurse practitioner, Susan. The nurse pulled out her laptop and began to ask Lauren a series of questions.
As she worked through her evaluation Susan asked her, “Have you ever had surgeries?”
Lauren: “I am thinking major with general anesthesia…so I answered no. Then she asked me, any surgeries? Wisdom teeth? Yes, I had my wisdom teeth out 30 years ago.
But then the truth broke through and I told her, “Susan, there are also two surgeries that I had that should be in the records … I had two abortions.””
The nurse was clearly taken aback as she fumbled at the laptop.
She nervously responded, “No I do not see them…but they do not need to be in the records.”
Lauren replied, “I had requested them to be there.”
Avoiding any eye contact, Susan went on to the next question on her form, which providentially was, “How many children do you have?”
Lauren shared with the nurse that she had lost two children to abortion – and that the reason she did not have living children today is very likely due to the physical damage caused by those abortions.
Lauren reported that Susan seemed irritated and horrified at the same time. But being professional, she composed herself and said, “We don’t need that information,” and went on to the next question.
Lauren left there feeling sad and angry because when it comes to abortion, “abortion rights” take precedence over “the right to complete, accurate medical information and care.”
Abortion, unlike the removal of a wisdom tooth, is looked at by some medical professionals as a medical “non-event.”
Yet abortion, like childbirth, is a life-changing experience, and a medically significant part of the medical history of millions of women and men.
The power of denial
Let’s take a closer look at the nurse practitioner’s response to Lauren’s abortion history.
It is quite possible, given her role working in a practice with an abortion provider, that she may have helped in some way to facilitate the death of preborn children.
Perhaps a family member, even her daughter, had one. Or maybe she herself had lost a child to abortion, and what Laruen shared touched this sensitive wound in her heart.
These courageous women and men shine the light that comes from sharing the truth of their lived experience, to shatter the darkness of denial.