by Sara Dominguez, Heartbeat International
Did you know that April is Abortion Recovery Awareness Month? In a culture where abortion is framed as a “quick and easy” solution to a “temporary problem”, we in the pregnancy help community know that regret is a common experience after an abortion. At times, the regret can be immediate leading women who have taken the first abortion pill to call the 24/7 Abortion Pill Rescue® Network to receive help and healing with the hope of continuing her pregnancy. For others, the experience of hurt and regret may emerge years after the abortion. Regardless of whether the regret after an abortion is immediate or appears later in life, we know that there is hope for healing and recovery after the loss of abortion.
Many organizations affiliated with Heartbeat International either provide abortion recovery programs or point to abortion recovery organizations offering a wide array of opportunities for healing ranging from support groups and retreats to bible studies and one-on-one counseling.
You can explore resources related to Abortion Recovery and the amazing organizations that provide them here.
Abortion recovery resources are not only available to women, but to men as well, and we know the need for abortion recovery healing for men is ever-growing. This month on the Pregnancy Help Podcast, we were blessed to be joined by Jeff Joaquin who shares his story of healing after abortion. The amazing theme that seemed to carry throughout our conversation was about God’s mercy. At times, it can be difficult for me to wrap my mind around the perfect love that we are offered by the One who created us – a love that far surpasses my own feeble attempts at loving. But what hope can be found when we let go of our preconceived notions about the sort of love we “deserve,” and allow ourselves to receive the healing love that our Father offers to us every single day!
You can listen to Jeff Joaquin’s story here.
And so, let’s spend the month of April sharing the wonderful news that there is hope and healing after an abortion. That the God who created us and who loves us perfectly is ready to meet us right where we are to heal our broken hearts and bind up our wounds (Psalm 147: 3). We can take our time to tell our stories, whether on paper, in the confidence of a loved one, or confidentially in a small group or counseling room. There is powerful healing to be had when we step into the light of His mercy and allow Him to reveal to us how perfectly loved we are in His eyes.
by Sara West, MSHS-PH, Director of ClinicsInstitute of Reproductive Grief Care
October is officially upon us! Although this month coincides with cooler weather, pumpkins, and harvest festivals galore, it also is a month of special awareness. It is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
The Institute of Reproductive Grief Care helps families and loved ones honor and remember those impacted by reproductive loss.
With 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage, these - and other types of pregnancy and reproductive losses - have a profound effect on millions. Everyone knows someone who has experienced this unique, and often very painful, loss. Yet the grief and emotions of pregnancy loss are typically underestimated and marginalized in our culture.
Emotional reactions after pregnancy loss are as unique as fingerprints. However, those who grieve can feel this pain for years - even decades, according to our study. In addition to this pain, there is the worry that others have completely forgotten about the loss, forgot that the pregnancy even happened, or simply don't think that this kind of grief is as important as "traditional" grief.
Reproductive loss surrounds us, and yet we do not talk about it. And, if we do talk about it, we tend to focus on the mother, ignoring partners, family members, and other loved ones, even though we know it impacts the whole family.
One person wrote on our healing website, MiscarriageHurts.com, “My sister has had three miscarriages. Each time she feels worse. Each time I feel worse.”
These losses are outside of the normal rules of grief in society. We do not know what to do or say, therefore, very often, we do or say nothing. It is hard to know exactly what to say, but simple phrases like: “I am so sorry – that must be hard. You are not alone, and I am here if you want to talk. How can I support you?” are helpful in that you have acknowledged that person, their loss and their grief. Just this acknowledgment can be an invitation to healing.
The Institute of Reproductive Grief Care brings to light the widespread need for help that is faced by the millions impacted by miscarriage and other pregnancy and reproductive losses. We change the way that people think and talk about reproductive loss, and create traditions that focus on healing, remembrance, and hope. We offer a safe place for all impacted by pregnancy and reproductive losses, to receive the support that they need in kindness and without judgment.
As experts on grief after pregnancy loss, we are leading the charge to “Wear and Share” the “Forget Me Not” flower in October. The “Forget Me Not” flower honors those impacted by pregnancy and reproductive loss, raises awareness for the millions of people impacted, and gives those grieving a way to tell their story and process their loss. The "Forget Me Not" flower assures those impacted that we are remembering them, and remembering their children with them.
We at the Institute encourage everyone to wear a "Forget Me Not" flower in October to show your support, care and compassion for anyone impacted by pregnancy and reproductive loss.
Are you, or do you know, someone impacted by pregnancy and reproductive loss? Not sure what to say or do? The Institute of Reproductive Grief Care and Life Perspectives’ Helpful Toolkits are free resources for anyone who needs help, hope and healing after this unique kind of loss. These toolkits, on our website at https://www.LifePerspectives.com, include resources, videos and helpful lists. Special “Helpful Toolkits” are also included for: women, men, family and friends, as well as for healthcare professionals and faith leaders.
Please join us in honoring Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month – we remember with you.
by Sara Littlefield, Life Launch Grant SpecialistHeartbeat International
With one in four women in the U.S. having an abortion by age forty-five,1 it is not uncommon for Heartbeat affiliates to be called upon to serve a post-abortive client. Walking with a client, a friend, or family member on their healing journey after an abortion can seem daunting but learning about resources that can serve as springboards to healing can offer encouragement. One such resource comes from Life Perspectives®. Life Perspectives provides education, research and expertise to health professionals and other care providers to offer support after reproductive loss including miscarriage and abortion. Life Perspectives also offers a safe place, without religious or political affiliation, for those impacted by abortion at AbortionChangesYou.com® and miscarriage at MiscarriageHurts.com®. As laborers in the pregnancy help movement, we all serve as that invitation to heal. Focusing on our post-abortive clients, friends, and family, we will take time to explore AbortionChangesYou.com – a web-based tool serving as an invitation to begin the after-abortion healing process.
Web-based healing resources are helpful for hurting individuals as they can help to reduce the feeling of social isolation, provide round the clock and meaningful activities to work through the grieving process, as well as empowering visitors to tap into their emotional resilience, encouraging a sense of control during a time when many may feel they have no control. Life Perspectives has developed Healing Pathways for those suffering after reproductive loss and those who want to support others in their loss. The Healing Pathways include spaces to tell your story, build support, explore emotions, identify losses, recognize unhealthy behaviors, and begin healing.
The flexibility of the healing website, also available in Spanish, offers people with the choice to work through healing concepts with a pregnancy help organization representative or in private. The Healing Pathways provide tangible tasks to work through which can provide the feeling of progress. They do not require a particular order, giving people permission to grieve in an authentic way. When visiting or introducing the healing website, advocates may find it helpful to first share the stories section, allowing the individual to see how others have shared their stories and quickly see that they are not alone. They may also read something that is relatable and start to think about their own story. Each healing pathway also includes prompts or tips to assist you, the care provider, to help you best describe the task.
Another feature included on the healing website is a list of life-affirming hotlines for immediate client care:
The healing website also includes a resource finder, allowing online visitors to search for after-abortion support by zip code, address, or city. These referral sources include trained peer counselors, professional therapists, individual and group counselors, and weekend-retreat workshops. Individual care providers and organizations, clinics/centers, practices, and health institutions who have obtained the Reproductive Grief Care Certification from Life Perspectives and have attended Reproductive Grief Care training courses may be listed on the “Find Help” directory of AbortionChangesYou.com. Click Here to learn more about the Life Perspectives certifications and trainings. Life Perspectives offers all Heartbeat International affiliated organizations a $100 Certification Application Fee Waiver to be used toward the total cost of the organization certification program as well as discounts on available training courses! We encourage you to become acquainted with Life Perspectives’ Healing Pathways, consider opportunities for training and certification in your organization, and for qualified care providers to become a referral source on the “Find Help” directory of AbortionChangesYou.com.
AbortionChangesYou.com can mark the beginning of an individual’s healing journey. Keeping in mind that there is no fixed end point in grief, this web-based resource can help you to journey alongside individuals on the path that is right for them. The hope is that while moving forward through this process of healing, we can help individuals to create a connection that will prepare them to let go of the pain.
by Andrea Trudden, Senior Director of Communications & MarketingHeartbeat International
ThisIsChemicalAbortion.com is the site featuring a new docuseries that seeks to inform about the “dangerous new frontier for the abortion industry,” chemical abortion.
Produced by Charlotte Pence Bond, daughter of former Vice President Mike Pence, the This is Chemical Abortion project also has Heartbeat International and Students for Life of America (SFLA) as partners.
Through the docuseries and the website, we hope to educate and inform the general public as well as call individuals to action to stand against big abortion and the threat of chemical abortion.
Combining educational information with personal stories, the docuseries is designed to inform the general public of this popular new form of abortion. As use of the abortion pill has severely increased over the past three years – aggressively during the pandemic – it is more important than ever to ensure that our staff and supporters understand the dangers of such a drug.
Magazines and television shows increasingly promote “self-managed abortions at home” and even mail-order abortions. All the while, women are left alone throughout the entire abortion process. This is heartbreaking and we need to be equipped at our pregnancy help organizations to serve these women.
For the women who have taken the first abortion pill and immediately regret their abortion choice, we can point them to AbortionPillReversal.com. Here, they will be connected to a healthcare provider who can help them try and reverse the effects of the abortion pill, giving them a second chance to choose life.
For the women who completed their chemical abortions, we can provide healing and hope through abortion recovery services.
We know that the best alternative to abortion is a supportive person. While the methods of abortion may be changing to omit the human element altogether, our work remains. We are here to care for women and help them make positive choices for their lives.
If you have not yet done so, we encourage you and your staff to watch the docuseries. Share it with your supporters on your social media and via email. This is the world in which we live and we must be ready to combat these new weapons of the enemy to save these women from the pain of abortion.
The five short videos (about 10 minutes each) are housed on the ThisIsChemicalAbortion.com site and can also be accessed via Heartbeat’s website.
Thank you for your heart to serve! You were called into this movement for such a time as this.
by Wendy Giancola, Guest Writer
As I was reading in my Bible the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-30), I was drawn to verse six: “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.” (NLT) Jesus, the Son of God, was tired and weary from the long walk from Judea to the well in Samaria. I thought of how we who serve in abortion recovery grow tired and weary from the long walk with those who have been broken by abortion to their healing place at the well of Living Water.
Did the Divine Man’s human flesh crave a break from the pressing Pharisees, or the work of teaching, discipling, and healing? Don’t I sometimes crave a break from the pro-abortion rhetoric or listening to the pain of someone who experienced abortion?
I continue to read that when this woman from a different cultural view came to the place where Jesus sat wearily, he did not close his eyes, hoping she would go away. Instead, he engaged her in conversation, acknowledging her humanity. As he spoke with her, he recognized her deeper thirst or need for Living Water and stepped into her brokenness. He validated her deeper thirst without denying the truth of her reality.
I don’t know exactly what led this woman from Samaria to have five husbands or a current live in boyfriend. Perhaps she was fearful of the judgment around her, perhaps she was pressured by others or the culture, perhaps she was looking for love. I don’t know, but I think Jesus knew. Yet, he did not judge or condemn her for those life choices, but instead looked deeper into her heart and saw her thirst and need for something greater. Something that perhaps propelled those choices. As he listened deeply to her heart, he offered her hope. The hope of a savior who entered into her world of brokenness to reveal a new kingdom full of living, healing water for her to drink deeply and be fully satisfied forever.
Can I model Jesus in my weariness? Can I acknowledge a broken person’s story without judgement, recognize their deeper needs and offer the hope of living water? The hope of transformation found in a Messiah who has entered her world to reveal a new kingdom of healing?
In the wake of New York’s new abortion law and other legislative threats, I believe the number of individuals in need of hope and help after an abortion experience will be increasing. Even though the enemy, the culture and the law tell people that abortion is good, the human heart which is created by God may feel otherwise after an abortion experience.
The Lord reminds me that even He needed to withdraw and pray to be ready to meet more needs (Luke 5:16). We, too, need to rest and pray to be ready to meet more of those who are wounded from abortion and offer them Hope.
Wendy Giancola will be presenting a workshop at the 2019 Heartbeat International Annual Conference titled "Path to Life After Abortion Recovery." She has also written a book called Transforming Your Story: A Path to Healing after Abortion.
"Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."Nehemiah 2:17
Nehemiah is an amazing book that depicts the pathway to personal restoration. The story opens with Israel having rebuilt their Temple in Jerusalem, yet living within the ruins of the rest of the city for over 100 years.
The broken down walls and burned gates around the temple represented a structure without any external defense against oppression. We may identify with a restored Temple (rebirth), but also acknowledge our vulnerabilities, some of those broken places in our soul that have been around for a long time.
The Lord wants to "secure our borders" so that we can carry His presence and walk in the Spirit unhindered!
The Lord is the Glory and Lifter of our heads. He does not want us to live in a place of disgrace, rather He desires to bring us into a place of restoration. Nehemiah was chosen by God to do just that for Israel.
Interestingly, Nehemiah's name means, "Comforted by Yahweh". The Lord knows how painful the restoration process can be, so He provides comfort through His Spirit to assist us in our journey to wholeness.
When Nehemiah first heard of the condition of Jerusalem, we are told that he sat down, wept, fasted and prayed for days. His grief is a picture of the Spirit's concern and tender mercies over the broken places in our lives.
His prayer begins with worship. When we view the Lord as greater than anything that stands like a mountain before us, we will gain security in His ability to deliver us. Not by might or by power, but by His Spirit! (Zechariah 4:6)
Nehemiah faced intense opposition from the moment he began the restoration process until the last stone was in place, and we can expect the same; but here is what he declared to the enemy from the very start; "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it." (Nehemiah 2:20)
Nehemiah declares success to the rebuilding process and puts a stake in the ground for future dealings with his opponents. He uses legal terminology to inform the enemy that he had no share, claim, or historic right or remembrance in Jerusalem. Satan, the accuser is legalistic, so Nehemiah let the enemy know that he knew his rights to claim full restoration!
Be encouraged if circumstances have brought to light a breech in your wall. Redemption includes not only rebirth, but the restoration of our souls (our full identity as God intended).
Whenever we take a step in the direction of our promised land, opposition will arise and attempt to turn our attention to the hopelessness of the situation. That is when we must see what God sees, and say what God says about us.
The God of all hope intends to see us fully restored!
by Debra Neybert, Training Specialist
A book by Michaelene Fredenburg
The book Changed, by Michaelene Fredenburg, strikes your heart in a way that’s similar to Jesus asking the woman at the well for water. It opens things up. It provides a pathway for conversing about abortion trauma with those not ready to discuss it from the Christian worldview. Like a head-on car crash, abortion changes you. Some are ready to discuss this life-changer from a biblical perspective. Many need to start with their own hurt. Changed helps you discuss this truth in therapeutic rather than theological terms.
Alcoholics Anonymous developed a similar approach. Many ministries teach abstinence from the perspectives of Changed and AA, depending on the situation and opportunities available to them. Scott Klusendorff, a pro-life apologist, and others have taught us how to make the case for life with those for whom the Scriptures are not the starting point. Changed does the very same thing.
Michaelene’s Changed is unique among abortion recovery books. Other books go straight to the living water of Scripture. Changed allows more room for you to start with H2O and the common ground of thirst for healing to open a new pathway.
In that sense, Changed could be seen as incomplete where other books on abortion recovery are self limiting. Changed is incomplete in that it does not directly reference the Bible or Christ. Most other abortion-recovery books are self limiting to Christian-only audiences because they explicitly introduce the spiritual, Christ-centered nature of healing. But for the secularist, nominal Christian, and those of other faiths, Changed will be a good place, even a safe place, to begin.
Like the free-flowing, inexhaustible, living water that Christ offered to the woman at the well, those who don’t know this common grace of God may be helped through the teachings of Changed. The grace-filled cure offered in Changed could set them on a journey towards Christ the Healer.
Changed is part and parcel of the integrated outreach of “Abortion Changes You,” a program of Life Perspectives. They combine an interactive website (AbortionChangesYou.com), the book Changed and a new leader’s guide for Changed called Grief & Abortion: Creating a Safe Place to Heal. For more information visit AbortionChangesYouResources.com.
Book review by Rev. John Ensor, Heartbeat International Executive Director of Global Initiatives
Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. and the largest and most expansive in the world. Since 1971, Heartbeat has supported, strengthened and started pregnancy help organizations, including pregnancy medical clinics, pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies all over the world. Currently, Heartbeat serves over 3,000 affiliate locations on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion.
We are a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian association of faith-based pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies endorsed by Christian leaders nationwide.
...is a world where every new life is welcomed and children are nurtured within strong families, according to God’s Plan, so that abortion is unthinkable.
...is to Reach and Rescue as many lives as possible, around the world, through an effective network of life-affirming pregnancy help, to Renew communities for LIFE.
To achieve our mission, we do the following:
We REACH those who are abortion-vulnerable through Option Line's® 24-hour call center and cutting-edge website, www.OptionLine.org.
"Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me..." - Psalm 144:7
We RESCUE those who are reached through our life-support network of pregnancy centers providing true reproductive health care, ministry, education, and social services where lives are saved and changed.
"Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence. " - Psalm 140:1
We RENEW broken cities around the world, by developing pregnancy centers where abortion clinics are the only alternative for abortion-vulnerable women.
"He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor... They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." - Isaiah 61:1-4
A message from Michaelene Fredenburg
As a Heartbeat affiliate, you regularly see clients’ pain from past abortions. You offer support or refer women to a healing group, but so many things -- including shame and fear -- may prevent them from attending.
I can certainly relate.
At 18 I had an abortion. I believed it would erase my pregnancy and allow me to move on with my life. Instead, I experienced regret and sadness. I was confused by these emotions. At first I tried to ignore them, but the emotions only grew stronger and more intrusive. I thought about talking to someone, but the desire to reach out was checked by my fear of how people might react.
What if they denied my feelings? What if they condemned me? What if they treated me differently afterward?
I seriously wondered if anyone could understand what I was going through. I also wondered if other women were experiencing similar, troubling emotions after their abortions. Or was I the only one?
Even after learning of an after-abortion healing group and realizing I wasn’t alone, I still resisted reaching out for help. My secret would be revealed if I attended a program affiliated with my church. I also wasn’t sure I wanted to heal -- suffering and punishment seemed like more appropriate consequences.
As my unresolved emotions gradually developed into unhealthy behaviors, my desperation to find help finally overcame my fear. When I shared my pain with a friend, her compassion gave me courage to reach out to the after-abortion healing program. Finally, I could grieve the loss of my child and find restoration. I was fortunate to have a friend help guide me out of my years of silent suffering.
However, many women aren’t as fortunate. As a result, after-abortion services are woefully underutilized. Although many pregnancy center clients have experienced a past abortion, only a tiny percentage of them will take advantage of the excellent resources offered through the center or by an affiliated organization.
Sue Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Women’s Resource Centers in New Jersey, related how difficult it is for clients to attend the center’s after-abortion healing group: “We lose women if they sign up for the group. It is too difficult to send them to ‘strangers’ to talk about their abortions, especially when they are already bonding with their client advocates. I began to realize that it would be best to equip each client advocate to begin the healing journey with her client.”
Sue’s search for an appropriate resource led her to the book Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved one’s Abortion Experience. “Changed is an important piece in the healing journey…it’s an excellent first step for someone who hasn’t talked about it yet. This gives the girl a starting point, and the client can stay with her client advocate.” By working through Changed one-on-one, more women will receive assistance, and it will be easier for client advocates to help those women who’d benefit from additional support to transition into an after-abortion support group or attend a healing retreat.
Lise Klassen, founding director of North Peace Pregnancy Care Centre in Canada, found Changed to be a “great start to begin your healing process. I really like how there is a combination of stories (communicates that you are not alone) and a section to write in the book as you heal (tasks of grieving).” Lise offers the book as a take-home resource. However, the client also has the option of talking through the book with center volunteers.
Lise also likes that the book is written for a wider audience -- men, women, and family members, as well as for those with or without a faith background. “The book is beautiful. I like how it is spaced out so people can read a little at a time. I hope many people will get the book.” Sue shares Lise’s enthusiasm, “We believe in it so much that three churches have purchased a total of 65 books—one church kept 20 for themselves, and the rest we are using. Each client advocate will be able to have her own copy as she works with her clients.”
I am delighted that Changed and the companion interactive website, AbortionChangesYou.com, are effectively being used as tools in after-abortion healing programs. While they in no way replace the resources and programs that are currently available, they do offer a unique place to begin the healing process for women who would otherwise continue to suffer in silence.
I invite you to browse through Changed and to visit Your Abortion Experience.
I am very honored and excited to be working with Heartbeat International.
Michaelene Fredenburg is the creator of the Abortion Changes You® Outreach and author of Changed
by Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant
I recently had the opportunity to share dinner with Michaelene Fredenburg, creator of AbortionChangesYou.com. While our conversation covered a wide range of topics, it was filled with insights about grief, loss, and the healing journey.
Here's a few that have implications for maternity homes:
In Michealene's experience, she has found the term reproductive loss and grief to find more resonance with a widespread audience than would other terms we commonly use with clients. By using reproductive loss and grief to describe the suffering of abortion, people intuitively understand that the loss resembles the pain associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility.
"When I am talking to therapists and other health professionals from a variety of backgrounds and belief systems,” Michaelene said. “I have seen the light blub go off as they make the connection between the grief of miscarriage—which is commonly acknowledged—and the loss of abortion."
Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience
By conveying the real experiences of real people, Changed teaches providers to sensitively and compassionately communicate with others about abortion as well as offering interactive suggestions for those affected by abortion to begin the healing process.
Grief & Abortion: Creating a Safe Place to Heal
Grief & Abortion introduces abortion in the context of human grief and loss. It is a guide for counselors and leaders who walk with clients on their healing journey and is a natural companion to Changed.
The experience of a woman who is grieving in the days following an abortion varies significantly from the grief of an abortion carried in secret for 15 years. The models of healing programs vary accordingly, often having been developed to address the needs that were becoming evident.
Because of the pro-life movement’s awareness of this dynamic over the years, those affected by abortion can choose between a variety of wonderful programs with different formats, models of healing and philosophical foundations.
Our role in the maternity home setting is to help a woman find the most meaningful program or method in her particular stage of grief.
Representing a time of safety and community, the context of the maternity home may be an ideal environment for entering into deep healing work. But, a woman must have the freedom to face her grief according to her own timeline.
To prevent adding additional trauma, our role should always be information and invitation.
Resources such as AbortionChangesYou.com use a self-directed approach with online tools and a moderated sharing format to give women from various backgrounds an opportunity to begin exploring their grief.
Resources like these can often bridge the gap between unacknowledged grief and the road to healing, which, we know, often takes place within the setting of a maternity home.
“At Abortion Changes You, we understand ourselves as a gateway, or a starting place," Michaelene said.
Since the process of healing from reproductive loss and grief is at the same time essential and unique for each woman, here are some helpful tips to use in your maternity home ministry, starting today.
For more information about Abortion Changes You, visit www.AbortionChangesYou.com or www.CreatingASafeplace.com.
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