In our society, an experience like abortion regret is almost as mythical as the rights of a distinct human being in its mother’s womb. We’ve somehow allowed abortion regret not to be an issue pertaining to recovery and healing but to legality. The apparent logic is if women don’t regret their abortions, then they’re not naturally harmful and should be legalized and encouraged.
But the truth, despite what abortion advocates have to say, is inconvenient. Women do regret their abortions, but they’re embarrassed, angry, shamed, and coerced into silence. It’s also important to recognize that even if, by some miracle, women everywhere were to never express one shred of regret, abortion would still be reprehensible because it ends a vulnerable human life.
Abortion regret is real, but seeing statistics on a page doesn’t make it feel real to us, so here are four stories from women who have experienced it firsthand.
I first met Sasha in college, when we were seated next to each other in class. I remember being struck by her beauty and intelligence; she was the girl in class everyone wanted to be friends with. I also remember the first time she opened up to me about her abortion because, although I’m sure I knew many women who had one, she was the first one who ever talked about it.
By the time she opened up to me, we were good friends, and still are to this day. “I don’t remember being like, ‘today is the day I’m going to tell her,’ but I knew that I had to tell someone,” she reminisces when I called her to talk about this article. Sasha and her boyfriend had ended their relationship a few months earlier, and she was still hurting from the breakup. They were on-again many times before they were finally off-again, this time for good. We were seniors at the time, and she told me that a few years earlier, when they’d met and started dating, she’d gotten pregnant.
“There was no discussion,” she remembers. “My dad was furious, his parents were upset. I was so scared because everyone around me basically said, ‘You’ve ruined your life.’ I got the abortion pill and took it at home, and I remember shaking the entire time. The abortion provider said that because I was so early, this would be the best option. They said it would be like period cramps. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, for over 24 hours. It was unimaginable.”
And every day, I just wake up with this gaping hole in my chest. It’s been close to ten years, and I think about it every day.
“And then after it happened, I was just supposed to go back to normal,” she says. “Everyone around me acted like nothing happened, and I felt crazy. For the first few weeks, I would start crying out of nowhere, and then later, I just became a shell. I had no emotions. I didn’t talk about it. My boyfriend didn’t know what to do or how to help me feel better, so we broke up. And every day, I just wake up with this gaping hole in my chest. It’s been close to ten years, and I think about it every day. I can’t not think about it. What could I have done differently? What could I have said? Is there any way I could’ve not gone through with it? That’s what is the most painful thing – wanting to go back in time.”
Sasha says that over time, she felt the need to open up about the abortion, to remember that her baby was real and that the abortion happened. She also has this to say: “If someone in your life has had one, you might think you know what they’re feeling, but you don’t. Listen to them and support them however you can. Having that would’ve changed things for me, I think.”
Sasha is an attorney married to an attorney, and lives in the Midwest.
At 16 years old, Albany had an abortion. She was approximately eight or nine weeks along, and at her initial appointment at Planned Parenthood, she asked to see the ultrasound – which the tech would not let her see. Later, she received paperwork documenting that she had asked to see the ultrasound and that she had gotten a printed copy of the image, which she never did.
She thought about adoption; she didn’t know what a pregnancy resource center was until several years later. She received no support from her family members or from anyone else, and in an act of self-preservation, she had to convince herself that the abortion was the best thing that could’ve happened.
The world can pretend that an abortion is as simple as removing a tooth, but none of us regret removing that one impacted molar.
When I contacted her about contributing to this piece, she had this to offer: “Regret is a festering boil, an endless cavern. There is no one-size-fits-all for anything, and abortion is no exception. The world can pretend that an abortion is as simple as removing a tooth, but none of us regret removing that one impacted molar. We do, however, have a sea of raging regret when we interrupt a normal, biological, and natural surge of physical and emotional changes. To pretend as though this is not a serious concern diminishes the seriousness of everyone on all sides of the abortion discussion.”
“My recovery and healing came from talking about it,” Albany tells me. “I told my story into a camera and put it on YouTube where I didn't think anyone would really see it. It blew up and allowed me to find my tribe. My healing was brutal, ugly. Healing publicly is a weird feeling I wouldn't recommend, but for myself, it is what needed to be done, even if I didn't realize it at the time. Now I honor my son by working to help other women who are where I was.”
Emily, now a wife and mom, has had two abortions. When I asked her what she would want others to know about abortion regret, she had this message to offer: “The main thing that I would want people to understand is that abortion regret is far more common than pro-choice people would like to admit. There are a lot of post-abortive mothers and fathers who are deeply wounded from abortion. Some carry this pain around and never tell anyone else. I’ve met many post-abortive men and women who live with regret, shame, grief, anxiety, and depression because of an abortion they had or took part in. It is something that you never truly get over. Many of these people live in silent pain because they fear being judged if they speak out, or because it’s too hard for them to talk about it.”
I have found such healing in being able to love these women and show them that we are more than our past mistakes.
Emily continues, “I think the two things that have helped me the most to heal from my regret was humbly asking God for forgiveness for what I had done and speaking out about my abortion regret. I felt so alone in my pain for a very long time. Once I began to speak about my abortions, I met other women who had had abortions and realized that I wasn’t so alone. Being able to connect with someone who understands what you’re going through is so important. Being able to be there for someone else who is in pain and struggling has been a blessing in my life. I have made what I hope to be some lifelong friends. I have found such healing in being able to love these women and show them that we are more than our past mistakes and that we can use this pain for God’s glory to help others and to speak truth about abortion.”
“I never want any other mother or father to have to live with this regret. It’s something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But God can heal and in those moments when I am feeling heavy with regret and grief, I call on Him and He never fails me. Our babies deserve better than a death sentence. Mothers and fathers deserve better than abortion and a lifetime of pain and regret,” she says.
Emily is a wife, mom, and abortion abolitionist who offers insight and resources to women through her social media. You can find her on X @_emilyrarick.
Nichole became pregnant at 15 and knew right away she would have an abortion. “I believed everything that my family, teachers, the media, and celebrities said about abortion,” she writes. “‘It’s just a clump of tissue. Abortion is a right, an act of resistance even. Mature, independent, liberated women have abortions all the time. Afterwards life will return to normal. Abortion is no big deal.’ That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I expected abortion to be a footnote in my life, but instead, it derailed the entire plot.”
“The first sign that something was wrong happened just days after the abortion. I felt this terrible emptiness, this sense that something was missing. It never crossed my mind that I might be missing my baby, because as far as I knew, there had been no baby in the first place. Over time, things got worse, not better. I began struggling with depression and panic attacks. I was plagued by overwhelming dread, and found myself triggered by things like being around babies or hearing people talk about abortion. Sadly, I was so convinced that abortion was harmless, I couldn’t recognize the source of my own grief and trauma,” Nichole says.
She continues, “Years later, by a chain of miraculous little events, I found myself in counseling for abortion-related trauma. There my intellect finally discovered what my body and heart had known all along: abortion was a physically, emotionally, spiritually traumatic experience that caused the death of my baby, and I was grieving. Through extensive counseling, spiritual support, and relationships with other post-abortive women, I have worked through much of the grief and trauma and experienced significant healing. Today, I am actively involved in bringing a message of hope and healing to other post-abortive women and men.”
“It’s especially important for anyone experiencing abortion-related grief and/or trauma, to find a counselor or therapist who recognizes the validity of their pain and can help them in the healing process. There are also a variety of retreats and small group communities that focus on healing post-abortion. The most important thing I want people to know is that they are not crazy, they are not alone, and there is hope for healing!”
Nichole is a mom, wife, pro-life activist, and advocate for women and men with abortion-wounded hearts. You can find her on X @nicholelizaq.
Post-abortive women have undergone a traumatic experience, and they’re grieving. Because of the stigma around abortion regret, they receive little to no help or understanding from the same voices that encourage women to “shout” their abortions and to take pride in their choice. These women are then left to face their pain in isolation and misery. Their voices are drowned out by those who openly celebrate the death of their children, and for one specific reason: As long as there are women who are brutally honest about their abortion regret, the abortion industry’s very existence is under threat.
Women everywhere deserve better than anxiety, depression, and despair. They deserve better than being told their child would be better off dead, or that their lives are over. They deserve better than being told they made the right choice, even if they can’t bear to look in the mirror or get out of bed every day. They deserve better than being coerced into it by their family members or boyfriend. They deserve better than regret, and if our aim is to truly educate women on both sides about what abortion is, honesty about the existence of abortion regret (and recovery) isn’t just helpful, it’s absolutely essential.
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