Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

Are you Changed?

Kathryn Jean Lopez

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Helping and healing women who have had abortions.

Michaelene Fredenburg is president of Life Perspectives, a San-Diego-based group which has recently launched abortionchangesyou.com, a resource and safe haven for anyone suffering from the aftereffects of abortion. Fredenburg recently took questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez about the efforts and her book, Changed.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: When did you decide you had to create this Abortion Changes You outreach?

Michaelene Fredenburg: Although there were many events leading up to the creation of the Abortion Changes You outreach, there was one specific person who inspired it.

About five years ago I went to a body piercing salon to get my ear pierced. The body piercer — I call him Zach in the book Changed — sensed how nervous I was and attempted some small talk.

When he learned that I lecture in college classes about abortion, he told me his story. He told me about how much he loved his girlfriend, their unexpected pregnancy, and his desire to support her no matter what. She made the decision to abort, and they both had difficulty afterwards. He talked about his pain and the guilt when they broke up two years later. He kept repeating, “abortion forever changes you — it’s changed my girlfriend, it changed me, and I’ve seen it change other women I know.”

When he was done telling me his story I thanked him for being willing to talk about something so personal, but he stopped me and said, “No, thank you. I enjoyed talking with you. It’s hard to talk about abortion. I can’t talk to people who are liberal because abortion is supposed to be okay. And the people on the Right are scary. But I can talk to you.”

I was deeply impacted by his sense of isolation and his desire to have his experience validated. I began to think about a way to create a safe and inviting place for Zach and all the other men and women who are having difficulty after either their own abortion or the abortion of someone close to them.

Lopez: What is your most important goal?

Fredenburg: The most important goals is to communicate to men, women, grandparents, family members, and friends who have experienced abortion that they are not alone, that their pain is real, their loss is real and that healing is possible.

Lopez: Promotional material refers to Changed and abortionchangesyou.com as “a place that is set apart from politics, from labels, from debate.” Is that even possible?

Fredenburg: The book Changed and AbortionChangesYou.com were created specifically for people who have already made the difficult decision to abort. The outreach meets each person as he or she is and gives them the space to express and work through their emotions. Not only is it possible to create such a place, it is necessary for the person who is hurting or confused after an abortion.

Lopez: What was it that made you realize you had to do this?

Fredenburg: I noticed that when I shared my own abortion story and the stories of other men and women in the college classroom, the students began to set aside labels and share their own stories - sometimes about their own abortion, sometimes about a friend’s abortion, and sometimes about their mom’s abortion.

They freely expressed emotions ranging from relief to grief. They wondered aloud about their missing brothers or sisters or how they could help their mother who was clearly affected by the abortion. As they shared their stories most would say, “this is the first time I’ve ever talked about this” or “I didn’t know anyone else felt this way.”

I was grateful that they were able to break their silence but I was very concerned that unless the students had a faith background, I didn’t have any referrals to give them if they needed more help. Abortion Changes You provides a safe place to begin the healing process for people with different backgrounds and beliefs.

Lopez: About one in three women in the U.S. have had an abortion by age 45. Are they all hurting?

Fredenburg: Men and women have a variety of reactions after an abortion ranging from relief to paralyzing guilt and grief. Many individuals experience conflicted emotions that are both positive and negative. While I had an immediate reaction after my abortion, there are others that will experience a delay of months, years, or even decades.

I spoke with a man recently who told me he pressured his girlfriend into an abortion 35 years ago. He didn’t think about the abortion at all until 5 years ago. For some reason, he began to think about the fact that he would have an adult child that might possibly be married with children making him a grandfather. The more he thought about this, the more concerned he grew about his ex-girlfriend. The concern turned into guilt — something that has become a bigger and bigger burden for him.

Lopez: If I know someone might be hurting from an abortion she’s had or he’s been involved in, what the heck can I do?

Fredenburg: It is very painful to see a loved one struggling, especially if they don’t reach out to you for help. One thing to keep in mind is that each person’s timeline for healing is unique and varied. Healing is unpredictable — it shouldn’t be forced or interrupted. However, when a family member or friend is ready to begin it will be important to be prepared.

Read the entire article on the National Review Online website (new window will open).

Posted: 25-Jun-08

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