Healing from the Trauma of Abortion

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It’s been 16 years since my abortion. I’m married now with three children, and I’ve been walking with Jesus for nearly eight years. But, some days, I feel like I’m playing house. Some days, I’m 16 and lying in a sterile room, staring at an ultrasound screen, wishing I’d looked away—that oval forever etched into my memory. I’m running home while blood trickles down my legs. I’m staying home from high-school hangouts pretending to be sick. I’m hiding, hoping no one will find out.

Some days, I wonder if I’m still hiding.

Today, on the 45th anniversary for Roe v. Wade decision, it feels like I’m trying to slink down in my seat. The scorn and judgment are palpable, even if they’re imagined.

I didn’t immediately understand why this anniversary makes me fearful. My abortion isn’t a secret anymore. I’ve shared my story, hoping to be an example of God’s abundant mercy to the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15–17). Yet even as I’ve experienced increasing measures of healing, there are days, like today, when the pain is as fresh as ever. It’s feels like an open wound, and the headlines like an unrelenting salt shaker.

One in four women will have an abortion by age 45. Women like me are hidden in our churches—your church—grappling with haunting cycles of shame and regret despite what we know to be true about sin, forgiveness, and grace.

Here are three things I’ve learned in the midst of my struggle toward healing. I hope they offer a helpful perspective for those trying to minister to post-abortive women. And I hope they encourage those silently suffering. You’re not alone.

1. Abortion Is Both Sin and Trauma

Abortion is sin. Like all other sin, it’s a grievous offense against a holy God. Our only hope is to repent and believe the gospel. And when we’ve done so, we must stand firm under the assurance of pardon, even in the face of our doubts and Satan’s accusations (1 John 1:9; Rom. 8:1).

But abortion is also trauma, devastating body and soul. It takes a knife to our image-bearing nature as life-givers—and no one walks away from a knife fight without being at least a little mangled. It requires not only repentance, but also healing.

I’ve been afraid to admit the shame that so often haunts me still. Afraid to consider the far-reaching implications of this sin. So when something triggers the pain, I’ve pressed down the doubt, sealing it with platitudes. I’ve applied the truth of justification shallowly, like a band-aid. I’ve hoped it would stop the bleeding, but really it’s just covered the infection festering beneath.

Forgiveness for my abortion came quickly, but healing didn’t.

Forgiveness for my abortion came quickly, but healing didn’t, and the hidden shame manifested in ways I couldn’t understand. Unacknowledged pain bears bad fruit in so many forms: anger, depression, anxiety, endless striving.

These issues aren’t solely the fruit of my abortion. The reality of my story and many others’ is that abortion is only one small piece in a large, broken puzzle. Sin’s destruction—and the mess in its wake—is vast.

But we don’t need to be ashamed of our need for healing. The Lord Jesus welcomes us, gently asking, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6). Maybe we just have to respond, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

2. Healing Is a Process

Returning to a Christian counselor years after my abortion was difficult and humbling. But with her help, I learned to acknowledge my past alongside the truth. Now, instead of running from my pain, I bring it to Jesus in prayer, trusting his truth will comfort my heart (2 Cor. 1:3–4) and renew my mind (Rom. 12:2). Through his Word and his Spirit, Jesus gives me grace and courage to face what I fear. And with his help, I find room to grieve my abortion and the effects of sin honestly.

I grieve the ways my brokenness has crept into my marriage, my parenting, my relationships with others. When I’m not afraid to deal with the past by God’s grace, I’m able to confess and repent of the sin that surfaces. It’s not about confessing my abortion over and over again to pay some kind of penance, but rather unpacking the layers that led me to there and from there: my misplaced hope, my arrogance, my fear of man.

The truth that Jesus has made me blameless before God isn’t a platitude but my deepest source of hope.

As he’s promised, God sends out his Word to heal (Ps. 107:20). It shines light on these places I’ve kept hidden in darkness (Heb. 4:12; 1 John 1). It convicts and assures, beckons and comforts. When carefully applied to my past and present thoughts, feelings, and actions, the truth that Jesus has made me blameless before God isn’t a platitude but my deepest source of hope.

This process hasn’t taken away the pain my memories hold, but I’ve noticed they feel less haunting. I’m growing in patience for the process—slower to condemn myself, quicker to bring my memories to Jesus. I’ve noticed that when I let them drive me to his mercy, they can be an occasion to marvel at grace, not to slink down in my chair or yell at my kids.

3. God’s Grace Is Sufficient

The blood of Christ is sufficient to pay for sin in full—even the sin of abortion. His grace is sufficient to bring healing (Isa. 53:5), even if it takes a lifetime (Phil. 1:6).

Acknowledging the trauma of abortion and embracing the process of healing doesn’t mean we have to spend our lives as wounded women. But we also don’t have to pretend the scars don’t exist.

But God’s all-sufficient grace is also tangible. As I share my struggles with my husband and trusted members of my church community, their compassion, kindness, and reminders of truth further Christ’s healing work in my heart. When I hear the gospel preached and receive the Lord’s Supper, I’m further assured of his forgiveness, and through these weekly means of grace he continues to heal me.

Acknowledging the trauma of abortion and embracing the process of healing doesn’t mean we have to spend our lives as wounded women. But we also don’t have to pretend the scars don’t exist. Instead, we can live in more honest awareness of our brokenness and, as we do, live more dependent on grace. The more God reveals our sinfulness, the more glorious the cross of Christ becomes. There, we’re reminded that God is a compassionate Father (Ps. 103:13), that he’s near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18), and that, by Christ’s wounds, we are healed (Isa. 53:5).

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