For more than 10 years, Exhale has focused on creating a social climate where
each person's unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma.
By Kassi Underwood
I had an abortion when I was nineteen years old, and I immediately told any stranger who made eye contact with me. I refrained from telling certain family members, but I told almost anyone else.
I needed somebody to acknowledge that I
had been through a huge ordeal that was impossible to know just by looking at
me. I wasn’t sad, just exhausted. But, three years after my abortion, a depression did set in, and I was so
embarrassed that I sought counseling from a guy named
Larry instead of talking to my friends.
Larry was the nicest guy, but he seemed
unprepared to discuss my abortion. I ultimately stopped seeing Larry and set out into the underground world of rituals for healing
after abortion. I ended up traveling the country with a group of women in hopes of bringing peaceful conversations to people affected by the abortion war.
I have met and interviewed hundreds of people
who’ve had at least one abortion. They are die-hard feminists, fiercely
observant religious women, mothers, friends, and
people I know intimately through email exchanges, but whose faces I have never
I can tell you how to talk to us. The first thing to know is that each person
experiences abortion differently. Some have no lingering emotions, but still think of their abortion every day or consider it a turning
point in life. There are feelings of relief, regret, confusion, doubt, apathy, curiosity, contentment. All of these
feelings — and any I didn’t mention — are normal.
It takes a sympathetic and, sometimes, a courageous
friend to listen to someone share about an abortion, without checking out of
the conversation or trying to talk that person into feeling any differently than she is at that moment. I am loath to
make generalizations about people who’ve experienced abortion, but I am almost
certain that those who share their stories with you will appreciate your
effort. So, here they are: eight things not to say to someone
after abortion — and what to say instead.