Malafronte’s abortion came with both mental and physical trauma: When she came out of anesthesia, the nurses told her she was bleeding internally. They put her back under. The second time she woke up the bleeding still hadn’t stopped, so they anesthetized her yet again. After the third procedure she stayed in a dark recovery room for 3½ hours waiting for the bleeding to subside. Desperate to get home, she finally walked out without waiting to learn what injury she’d suffered. (The abortion facility didn’t respond to WORLD’s interview request.)
In the weeks following, Malafronte became so depressed she had visions of shooting herself in the head. Her doctor advised her to check into a hospital, but she refused because she had no insurance.
Malafronte now works for Amazon.com and lives in an apartment with Ben. He’s a Star Wars fan, so they named their aborted baby Luke.
GEORGETTE FORNEY, CO-FOUNDER of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, estimates there are now about 40 post-abortive programs and groups in the United States. The largest have hundreds of chapters, while many churches and pregnancy care centers also offer post-abortive counseling. Programs for post-abortive fathers are increasingly common as well.
The number of women seeking post-abortive help is “definitely increasing,” according to Sheila Harper. She founded SaveOne, one of the largest networks. Its 300 chapters help about 2,500 women annually, offering abortion and sexual abuse recovery training. “I believe as abortion recovery grows, men, women, and families are learning that they have a place to turn for help,” she said.
Even with the vast network of low-key recovery programs, such ministries reach a fraction of the millions of American women who have had an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 24 percent of U.S. women will have an abortion by age 45.
Pro-life counselors hear many reasons women give for choosing abortion—and the reasons are often more complicated than a desire not to have children: Fear, financial hardship, or family and romantic pressures often play major roles.
The pressures aren’t limited to unbelievers. Sometimes even Christians make a bad decision to abort. SaveOne estimates that 2 out of 3 women who choose abortion profess to Christianity.
Nece Fernandez experienced a lingering fear of childbirth after a difficult delivery in 2017. That year she was lying dazed in a Boston, Mass., hospital bed, waiting to deliver her fourth child, when she heard the anesthesiologist tell her husband: “You need to speak to her. Her oxygen’s dropping. She’s not responding, but she can hear you.”
At one point, the doctors thought she had lost the baby. They had to perform an emergency cesarean section.
So when Fernandez became pregnant again in 2019, she and her husband decided to have an abortion. “I knew that it was wrong to do it,” Fernandez said. “I panicked so bad.”
Two weeks after the abortion, Fernandez began having heart palpitations, muscle spasms, headaches, and severe diarrhea. “It’s like if you took my body and you flipped it upside down,” she said. She eventually discovered her uterus still contained pieces of her baby.
But to punish herself, she refused to have an emergency D&C. Fernandez passed huge blood clots—the size of her fist—sometimes passing out at home from the blood loss. She went to emergency rooms and walk-in clinics five times over the next month before finally getting the D&C.
By then Fernandez was so depressed she wanted to kill herself. She reasoned she could see her little one in heaven.
She only began to believe God could forgive her after she participated in a Bible study for post-abortive women from SaveOne.
“I felt that God delivered me from so many of [the emotional and physical consequences] …while I was digging into His Word,” Fernandez said.
ABORTION PROPONENTS CLAIM the psychological effects of abortion are minimal, but post-abortion ministries know otherwise.
Women who have an abortion are 81 percent more likely to have mental health problems, according to a 2011 review in The British Journal of Psychiatry. That includes an increased risk for depression, substance abuse, and suicidal behaviors. A 2002 study in Southern Medical Journal of 173,000 California women on Medicaid found that, compared with women who gave birth, women who aborted had higher risks of death from all causes, including a 154 percent higher risk of death from suicide.
Despite attempts by abortion proponents to destigmatize the procedure (for example, the #ShoutYourAbortion campaign), many women keep their abortions secret. Some do so for years, according to Karen Ellison, the founder and president of Deeper Still, which hosts post-abortive recovery retreats for men and women.
“Your life becomes about managing,” Ellison said. “You manage your secret. You manage your shame.” When women do seek help from post-abortive ministries, they are often reluctant to tell their stories. Ellison said abortion-wounded women ultimately must answer two questions: “Do you want to be healed? And, are you willing to receive it God’s way?”