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Healing My Post-Abortive Patients

by Grattan Brown, STD, and Monique Ruberu, MD

When a woman has an abortion, it becomes a part of her medical and personal history. Her ongoing gynecological care may become part of her healing process. Stories from women who have had abortions, like the ones shared by Dr. Ruberu below, reveal that having a child after an abortion can also play a part in her healing process. Some women may have questions about a past abortion’s effect on future fertility and feel relief upon becoming pregnant; others may express the feeling that bringing a child into the world makes up for the child she chose not to bring into the world.

Many women suffer from fear and shame after their abortions. Some suffer from physical symptoms for months or years after the abortion procedure, and some might even try to hide their past abortions from their OB/GYN. But compassionate professionals can help draw those stories out to be able to provide the best care possible for such women. A pro-life OB/GYN is one of the best people that a post-abortive woman can have as part of her story because they can use science and medicine not only to help women further understand their bodies, but also help them to embrace the beauty of fertility and their value as women.

Dr. Monique Ruberu is a board-certified OB/GYN and is staunchly pro-life. She is compassionate and non-judgmental and is deeply committed to her patients’ spiritual and physical healing. Here is her approach to treating such patients, in her own words.

How have you been?

During her very first visit to my office, I'll always find out if a woman has had an abortion. I ask “How many times have you been pregnant in your life?” and “How many living children do you have?” If some of her children are no longer living, I ask if they were miscarriages or abortions. Then, they will tell me whichever it was. Regardless, I always say “I am so sorry for your loss.” If a child was lost to abortion, I ask if anybody has ever offered my patient abortion recovery services. Nine times out of 10, she will say no. Then I will tell her about services like Rachel's Vineyard, Project Rachel, Surrendering the Secret, and Silent No More. Most of my new patients are very surprised that these services are available and are interested in learning more.

As we talk, my patients who have had an abortion often share more about the situation that led to the abortion or what the procedure was like. I am always blown away by the fact that most of these women have been holding on to their abortion stories for years. There was one woman who shared with me that she had her first abortion at the age of 15. Her parents did not know about it – and still don’t. Her boyfriend at the time coerced her into having the abortion and told her not to tell anyone about it. To this day, nobody knows about it except her boyfriend, me, and one other friend who talked her into keeping her next baby from the same boyfriend. As you might expect, she left that guy, but she has carried the guilt of this abortion and the sadness of having lost that first child for over 20 years.

Doctoring the Spiritual Burdens

As well as guilt, post-abortive women carry heartbreak, depression, sadness, anxiety, and fear. Some of them share with me that on the anniversary of their abortion, they look around just to see children of the same age that their child would be. Some have also said they are not able to go into dental offices because the sound of the drills is the same as the sound of the suction machine. Others even mention that they will have recurrent nightmares with little babies reaching out to them. Some of these women belong to the pro-life community and have thrown themselves into pro-life service, but suffer silently because they don't want anybody to know that they themselves had an abortion. They are doing the work, but they are afraid to share their experience and to receive healing.

Then there are the women I am treating for infertility. For some, a past abortion makes them ask, “Did that abortion cause me to become infertile?” For example, I had one patient who would always deliver early because she had cervical incompetence. That means the cervix cannot hold the pregnancy because it dilates early, which can occur after trauma from prior dilation of the cervix. During an abortion, the doctors have to dilate the cervix very widely, so I could not honestly tell this woman, and cannot tell women like her, that there’s no relation between their pregnancy loss and prior abortion.

Fifty years of Roe-facilitated abortions have left some of my patients with emotional and spiritual conflicts that affect their physical and mental health. The good news is that they can receive healing. Healing begins with listening in a non-judgmental way and offering to care for the whole person. Thanks be to God there are so many opportunities for these women, but they have to learn about these opportunities and, sadly, the majority of post-abortive women have no idea about what is available for them.

Dr. Monique Ruberu is a board-certified practicing OB/GYN in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

This article was adapted from a two-part podcast series at Bioethics On Air.

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