No one, whether a mother, father, or family member touched by reproductive loss, deals with grief and loss in the same way. “I was completely unprepared for the emotional fallout,” says Michaelene Fredenburg, author of “Changed: making sense of your own and a loved one’s abortion experience” about her abortion in a new book on loss experienced from abortion. “For years I suffered in silence,” she remembers.
A victim of abortion herself, Fredenburg, a speaker and commentator on abortion and loss, based her book and website on personal experience, and testimony from others touched by abortion. Fredenburg has spoken before the US Congress on depression caused by abortion and appropriate responses. She has also begun a national outreach effort “Abortion Changes You™” and as well as writing “Changed.”
The first nine chapters of the 275-page book are dedicated to testimonies of women who have undergone abortion, as well as those touched by it, including the fathers of aborted children and siblings of the aborted.
Fredenburg’s own story of abortion is featured at the beginning of the book. She recounts that she was 18 years-old and had 28 year-old boyfriend when she became pregnant. Confronting the father of her child with the news, Fredenburg was rebuffed, like so many other women. The manager of the dance studio where she taught offered abortion as the “only logical option” and arranged for a place and time for the procedure.
Her experience at the abortion clinic was painful and humiliating “like nothing I had imagined”, writes Fredenburg. Her grief began immediately after the abortion and precipitated self-destructive behavior and a breakup with her boyfriend. Imagining suicide, she finally got help from a therapist and friends to end her “time of self-condemnation and self-punishment.”
Regarding the website and the book, Fredenburg said “It is our hope that the space we’ve created online and in the book will help people know they are not alone and healing resources are available.” According to a press release from the Maximus Group, more than one out of every three women in the US has experienced an abortion by the age of 45; there is therefore fertile ground for counselors and other concerned parties to address.
Abortion can cause a range of emotions for those involved. Women who experience abortion may have reactions that are entirely different from the fathers of their aborted children, just as do family members and friends. Fredenburg notes the need for social networking for those facing the aftermath of abortion. Finding compassionate listeners is a key to addressing the effects of reproductive loss; men and women with little social support are at an increased risk of distress or unhealthy coping behaviors.
Fredenburg stresses that building a compassionate cultural dialogue surrounding abortion, and equipping friends and family members to support loved ones who have been touched by abortion is long overdue. “I believe many people are tired of the polarization,” says Fredenburg, “More men and women are starting to ask ‘How can I be a safe place for my loved one?’ Abortion Changes You is a starting point for our family members and friends, a safe place away from politics, labels, and debate.”
Abortion is indeed a choice, and the emotion and psychological results of such a choice differ from the sense of grief and loss experienced because of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant mortality. As recounted in her book, abortion frequently results through social pressure brought to bear upon the expectant mother