Helping Those Who Are Hurting

Support After Abortion Models Essential Abortion-Healing Ministry

Jill Waggoner

While the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, has been left in our nation’s recent past, abortion and its effects still plague our nation. Although exact statistics are hard to determine, over 63 million abortions have taken place in our nation since 1973, according to the National Right to Life. While adamantly affirming that abortion is wrong, it’s important to acknowledge that each one involves a mother who has been preyed upon, and often an orbit of other concerned individuals including partners, family members, and friends. 

The pro-life movement that rose up after Roe quickly understood that they must care for those left in the wake of an abortion, whether that was two weeks or two decades later. As we enter into a post-Roe future, we must not forget about women and men like these. Their stories may even be essential to understanding the shared experiences of so many in our nation and in charting a way forward. 

Support After Abortion began in 2016 to provide compassion and hope to those affected by abortion. Its focus is abortion healing, defined by the organization as “working through your emotions and behaviors connected to your abortion experience and finding healing through the journey.” Today, its research and methodologies are carving new ground through an options-based approach. 

While we know that true freedom is only found in full surrender to Jesus Christ, the work of Support After Abortion is connecting thousands of hurting people to abortion-healing providers and equipping many to care for this population, leading individuals toward better decisions and healthier lifestyles. 

Kylee Heap, the organization’s chief operating officer, provides us insight into this life-changing organization and how it seeks to inspire compassion and promote collaboration from a diverse group of organizations.

Jill Waggoner: What is Support After Abortion? 

Kylee Heap: Support After Abortion is at the forefront of the abortion-healing movement, uniting providers and connecting them with those hurting from abortion to help them find hope and healing. With the awareness, national recognition, and credibility we have achieved, Support After Abortion is a catalyst leading a global change in thinking and best practices for options-based abortion healing.

JW: How did your ministry begin?

KH: Janine Marrone, Support After Abortion’s board president, attended a Luncheons4Life event and was moved by a speaker’s testimony about the emotional pain of her abortion experience.1https://luncheons4life.com/ Realizing millions of people are hurting from abortion, Janine began collaborating with leaders in southwest Florida to formulate a strategic plan to better serve those hurting after abortion. She undertook field and consumer research to get to the ‘why’ of the fact that 8 out of 10 people impacted by abortion do not know where to go for healing. 

The results revealed a need to unite the hundreds of abortion-healing programs available to build and strengthen abortion healing worldwide. Support After Abortion was founded. We were invited to partner with the movie Unplanned to create and lead a network of abortion-healing providers to support individuals seeking help after watching the movie.2https://www.unplannedfilm.com/ By the time of the movie’s release, our network included over 1,400 abortion-healing providers. 

While anyone can go directly to an abortion-healing provider for help, our matching program unites someone hurting with the program best suited to their needs. It’s called an options-based approach, and options include one-on-one vs. group, in-person vs. virtual, retreat vs. weekly, religious vs. secular, single-sex vs. not, as well as options by gender, faith (e.g., Catholic or Protestant), and language. 

As a result of providing options-based healing programs and our partnership with the movie Unplanned, Support After Abortion grew from serving 52 clients in 2018 to serving over 900 clients in 2019. They were flooding in from all over the world, searching for safe, confidential, and compassionate help. 

What we learned through this process was that, as a whole, the nation was underserving those affected by abortion by largely providing a one-size-fits-all program. Experience and research revealed that a majority of people affected by abortion wanted to remain anonymous and preferred secular support.

JW: Based on your experience, what effects do those who have participated in an abortion struggle with?

KH: Our experience shows that both men and women hurt after abortion. After an abortion experience, a person may feel relieved. Later, some of the feelings experienced are regret, hopelessness, shame, anger, guilt, and anxiety. It is complicated to feel both relief and grief.

In our research on the impact of medication abortion, we found that 34% of women reported an adverse change in themselves, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide.3https://supportafterabortion.com/resources/research/ Our research on the impact of abortion on men will be released in early 2023. We have also uncovered that the emotional wounds of medication abortion exceed those of medical abortion due to the physical and visual experience.

JW: How has the Dobbs case and the national attention on the topic of abortion affected the people you serve?

KH: The Dobbs case and the national attention on the topic of abortion has affected the people we serve in a variety of ways. Abortion has become a common topic, but it is often being spoken about in polarizing and shame-inducing ways. It’s not a conversation; it’s broad-reaching statements posted on social media, spoken about in the news, etc. Clients are reaching out who are learning for the first time how their co-workers, family, friends, and community think about abortion. Those statements are being received personally, despite them not being made personally. 

One client felt a great deal of shame in her workplace as she was newly aware of how her co-workers felt about abortion and their not knowing she experienced abortion. Can you imagine the ripple effect this has had on her well-being, let alone (and less importantly) her workplace relationships and productivity? 

We also have clients who have re-entered abortion healing, newly re-hurting from the conversation, and new clients who are reaching out for the first time because they have learned loved ones had an abortion that they didn’t know about. One, for example, learned her sister had an abortion from a social media post, and she is currently grieving the loss of a niece or nephew.

We’ve seen a tremendous amount of social media discouraging those who are thinking about or experienced abortion from reaching out for help for fear it would be used in legal proceedings and prosecution. We know people are hurting and need help. It’s heartbreaking to see Reddit communities advancing black market abortion pills, social media tutorials on avoiding using apps or logging details on a woman’s cycle (likely to create more unplanned pregnancies), and ways to remain anonymous in seeking abortions. In light of these worries, we have created a completely anonymous Client Healing Center where those hurting after abortions can experience self-guided healing resources, as well as hear stories of those who have walked in their shoes.4https://supportafterabortion.com/client-healing-center/

JW: Many women who have had abortions might have been hurt by or feel suspicious of those in the church. How can we make inroads with these women?

KH: We can make inroads with men and women who have experienced abortions by being a safe place for them. What a simple sentence, yet complex implementation! That begins with our language before and after abortion experiences. Right now only 7% of people approach a church with an abortion decision. They cite fear of judgment and lack of visible support as the reasons. 

Check your signs, listen to your voices, assess how the church is reaching both inside and outside its community, and recognize that an abortion-experienced man or woman may be sitting in the pew next to you. Let us help you. Without challenging our perspectives, we can’t see what we’re doing that makes us unsafe to those hurting.

JW: What do those who carry the scars of abortion need from the church? How can someone learn more about how to better minister to women who have had abortions?

KH: Men and women who have scars from abortion need a church that equips its community to see and speak about abortion as a human issue not a political one. The experience people label as “the church” often is the experience they have with a person who is church-going. If we equip our communities, can you imagine the ripple effect each Christian witness would have? 

A woman we supported entered into healing a decade after her abortion experience and shared that she felt silenced in her grief and pain all those years by one side telling her she was a murderer and the other telling her nothing happened at all. Her life had unraveled, and she only experienced isolation within community. Another recently shared with us that she lied about her abortion as having had a miscarriage because she didn’t know how else to receive the care and comfort she needed in her grief from her community. 

I, personally, through working at Support After Abortion, had a friend of mine step forward to share her abortion experience because she heard my language change and felt ready to speak to me six years after. I had become a safe space. Our CEO experienced the same story.

We invite all men and women who want to learn about how to have a conversation about abortion and how to engage in abortion healing to our monthly webinars and to our training platform. We also have tools to equip people in having a successful conversation. Contact [email protected].

JW: Why should Christians care about this?

KH: As Christians, we should care about our hurting brothers and sisters in Christ, as well our unbelieving neighbors. Many who are Christians are experiencing distance in their relationship with Jesus around their abortion experience(s). We know 50% of abortions are repeat. Our ministry knows that freedom from trauma-informed decision-making is found through healing. Breaking the cycle of trauma has infinite possibilities in downstream decision-making. Breaking generational trauma is vital to healthy families.

JW: What steps might someone take who is interested in starting this kind of ministry, whether inside their church or as a parachurch organization?

KH: Here are a few of our professional training options:

On our website, we share certificate-level courses on demand for new and existing providers. We also provide a resource called Keys to Hope and Healing, an introductory healing program that anyone can incorporate into their ministry with our training. This has been done in partnership with The Word Among Us. And, we offer a book called Unraveled Roots: Exposing the Hidden Causes of Damaging Behaviors that is a wonderful starting place for someone who wishes to unpack damaging behaviors rooted in childhood trauma. We often see, for example, that abortions are rooted in co-dependency. And, while our work is “after” abortion, we also know that we are called to help people experience the fullness of healing and prevent their next abortion.

Jill Waggoner serves as a communications and PR strategist, writing and developing content for the organization’s online and print resources. She has served the ERLC since 2005, including as brand manager for Global Hunger Relief from 2014-2018. A graduate of Union University, she and her family reside in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24