As the founder of the Abortion Changes You outreach, I was interested to read about people’s responses to the ad campaign. Many of the articles, as well as the comments posted by their readers, debate whether men and women experience negative or positive emotions after an abortion. Others speculate about the hidden agenda behind the ads. Dialogue on most pro-choice and pro-life blogs was accusatory, disrespectful, judgmental, and at times cruel.
Because of the polarizing nature of abortion, I’m not surprised that some have been quick to label the Abortion Changes You outreach as political. However, this rush to negatively categorize it—as well as the tendency to politicize a person’s pain or lack of pain after an abortion—merely illustrates some of the obstacles people face in reaching out for help after an abortion.
Over the past two decades, I’ve spoken to thousands of individuals from ages 18 to 80 who’ve expressed feelings ranging from relief to guilt to profound grief. Some are troubled because they simultaneously feel positive and negative emotions about either their own or a loved one’s abortion experience. Others are confused when their emotions change or when new ones are triggered by life events such as the birth of a child, the death of a family member, or the onset of menopause.
After my own abortion at age 18, my strong emotions shocked me. At first I tried to ignore them and move on with my life. But as they grew more intense and intrusive, I thought about talking to someone. Yet my desire to reach out was checked by my fear of how people might react. What if they minimized my feelings? What if they condemned me? What if they treated me differently afterward?
With nearly one in three women in the United States having had an abortion, the need exists for women, men, and families to connect, find support, and share their personal experiences outside the arena of controversy and debate. That is why I started the Abortion Changes You outreach.
The intent of the outreach is simply to convey to men and women who’ve been changed by an abortion experience that they are not alone and that resources to help them better understand the range of emotions they may feel are available to them. Granted, not every man and woman will feel the need to heal after an abortion. But for those who do, our goal is to offer a safe, nonjudgmental place to address their needs.
I’m hopeful that the NYC subway posters will not only help hurting men and women, but also help us all to start a new conversation—one that goes beyond the slogans and focuses on the real people involved. If we can do this, then men and women will be able to safely share their abortion experiences and find the support they need.
Michaelene Fredenburg is the creator of the Abortion Changes You outreach and author of Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience.