The story of Dr. Gosnell and the details of his gruesome “Women’s Medical Society” have been released by the media. For many women and men this news has triggered intrusive symptoms linked to their own abortion experience. Even one Philadelphia reporter begged the lead investigator to stop sharing the gory details. She accused him of spreading “hearsay” and instructed him to stick to the facts -- Dr. Gosnell must remain innocent until proven guilty! She declared. The investigator replied: “These are the facts. I was there. I saw them with my own eyes!”
Even so, it’s hard to absorb the reality and comprehend the horror. Abortion causes conflict. It fragments political parties, churches, schools and neighborhoods. It divides families. Husband against wife. Mother against daughter. Sister against sister. Mother against child. These conflicts reflect the discord that occurs within individuals. After abortion, many women face a daily internal battle between condemning and defending themselves. Too often, society imagines that abortion is a quick fix that will turn back the clock and allow a woman’s life to go back and be the same as it was before getting pregnant. But this is a very superficial view. Once a woman is pregnant, the choice is not simply between having a baby or not having one – the choice is between having a baby and having the experience of abortion. Both are life changing experiences. Both have significant psychological consequences, either contributing to or hindering a person’s mental health.
A person’s immediate emotional response to a traumatic event does not solely determine whether or not that person will suffer the symptoms of trauma. A considerable period of time may intervene between the trauma-causing event and the traumatic reaction. For many women, the traumatic nature of their abortion is not fully released until some subsequent event triggers a fuller understanding of everything that has happened. In the case of abortion, PTSD symptoms can obviously be triggered by exposure to the ghastly image of a dismembered fetus. But a similar sense of horror can also be triggered by what are normally wonderful experiences. Any experience that arouses a sense of awe about the value of life can trigger the release of a traumatic reaction to a past abortion. From such a summit of awe, the memory of having been involved in an abortion may suddenly appear to be a terrible horror. This can occur when one holds their “wanted child” for the first time, or views a picture of an ultra-sound, or struggles with the heartache of infertility many years later.
The recent news of Dr. Gosnell’s “house of horrors” in Philadelphia is one such event that is triggering abortion trauma in women and men. Dr. Gosnell had been performing late term abortions in his “Women’s Medical Society” clinic for four decades. Gosnell has been charged with murder, performing barbaric abortions and operating an illegal enterprise. The gruesome story depicts a disgustingly unsanitary clinic littered with the remains of dismembered fetuses in every place imaginable, unsterilized instruments and broken equipment, unlicensed “medical workers” administering potentially lethal amounts of painkillers and anesthesia and a laundry list of illegal activity resulting in complications and death for the women who visited this so called “Women’s Medical Society.”
Unfortunately, the reality is that even when abortion takes place in pristine clinical setting moms and dads who regret their choice may still suffer nightmares, intrusive imagery, depression anxiety and addictions. There is no doubt countless mothers and fathers in the Philadelphia area are left wondering if the images they saw in the media were actually pictures of their own children lost through abortion. This experience is certain to stir up feelings of grief, shame and guilt that have been dormant or ignored for years.
Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats for healing after abortion can help. This program is a nonprofit organization with over 8,500 volunteers who offer this unique opportunity for emotional and spiritual healing in 48 states, reaching to 30 countries and conducted in 10 languages. The first retreat was held in 1995 in Philadelphia by the program’s founder, Dr. Theresa Burke, who is a resident of the Philadelphia area. Clearly, there are women and men throughout the world who are haunted by the memory of abortion. In fact, a study carried out by Rachel’s Vineyard indicated that 65% of those coming for help had frequent thoughts of killing themselves and another 17% had actually made suicide attempts.
For many, when these feelings are stirred up by abortion in the news or some other triggering event, they are left with nowhere to turn. Rachel’s Vineyard offers a safe, non-judgmental and confidential place for women and men to express their shame and guilt and grieve the loss of their child.
If you or someone you love is hurting after abortion, please contact Rachel’s Vineyard, healing ministry of Priests For Life. You can visit their website at www.rachelsvineyard.org or call 1-877-HOPE-4-ME (1-877-463-3463) for more information.