Eleanor Borg is a psychotherapist, in charge of the HOPE programme for the pro-life foundation Gift of Life in Malta, which supports women in crisis pregnancy situations.
She is against abortion, but also helps women who have experienced abortion to deal with the trauma she says it involves on the long term.
I think that the main concern is that first the person who is going through a crisis pregnancy is very lost at the time that it takes place. Because they’re not expecting the pregnancy. So the first experience is that they’re very confused, anxious, maybe they don’t have the person to turn to because they’re afraid to share this particular experience. Especially sometimes in Malta, if the person’s young for example , if the girl is still young she might feel uncomfortable sharing the fact that she’s pregnant.
Sometimes the situation is a bit more complex. The person might be an adult and she had a short term relationship and she’s not ready for the child. So they’re lost. Sometimes there are situations where it’s social issues. Whereby they don’t have the financial means to have the child even though they might have children already.
So they do consider the possibility of aborting. But I think they come up with this solution because they’re so much in the dark at the time, so much filled with a lot of thoughts, they’re so anxious that they might find that the only way to deal with this situation is by terminating the pregnancy so there’s no after effects. Which I understand. I understand that when we’re not clear about what’s going on around us, when we can’t see beyond our situation, then the tendency is to find the fastest solution.
“The aftermath of abortion is very hard on women”
But unfortunately, from what I have read through research and through my experience with the women, the aftermath of abortion is very hard on them. It causes a lot of turmoil. They suffer for many many years. And the issue as well is, if you’re in a country where it’s legal and you have been told that this is your choice, then its very hard to say, I’m going through difficulty because of the abortion I have done. Because the other people might turn around and say but it was a choice, it’s legal to do it, it’s ok, you’ve taken the right decision. So the person doesn’t have the possibility to grieve. And they carry this for many years And they experience possibly post traumatic stress disorder.
They have a lot of flashbacks. They’re carrying the turmoil all the time, apart from the fact that they have to carry on with their daily life. Which is already sometimes difficult. Relationships start to deteriorate. So does their family fabric, eventually even the experience within society. If you have a lot of women going through this and we’re not aware that they’re going through this, but they are the ones going through this and then it has implications on the relationship. It can cause a lot of harm. So the woman goes through a lot of difficulty, the family goes through a lot of difficulty. Ultimately society goes through this.
And I think that ultimately the person that goes through abortion needs to seek help. Because if they don’t experience the grieving process with somebody, the symptoms will get worse most of the times. I’ve had women come to me and they’d been suffering for 20 years. Or for example they would have been determined to have the abortion and they believe it’s ok because that is their understanding. And then a few years down the line, there’s a sense of unrest inside themselves, they might go through a depression, they’re not relating to life the way they used to, and they seek help.
And hopefully the person they seek help with might help them to understand the possibility that those symptoms are also coming from the abortion. So then once the therapeutic process starts and the person is allowed to come to terms with the fact that yes, I am grieving my own child , even though I decided to take it away at the time because that is what I felt was the best solution, and then healing can start to take place.
But unfortunately even for instance in Malta, because abortion is illegal, and there’s a lot of fear of judgement possibly… If for example I went for the experience I might be afraid to share that I have been through the experience of abortion. So then I keep it to myself and I don’t have the possibility of healing, because I don’t grieve. Normally when we grieve, when we lose somebody, even if somebody dies, the normal situation is the society come together, we stay with the person, we support the person, we understand their pain. There’s a supporting process. Whereas with abortion this doesn’t happen. The pain is kept within, the symptoms get worse over the years, and there are a lot of implications on the woman’s life.
And there’s always this debate of “it’s a woman’s choice”. On the intellectual level I can understand somebody saying that. But ultimately, beneath that, beneath the intellectual ability to say “yes I have the choice to keep the child or not”, there’s a very very deep experience the woman goes through. And the thing is we’re not getting in touch with the experience of these women. Because they’re afraid to talk. And sometimes when they do talk, the other person listening finds it hard to understand their experience. And also to contain. Because from my experience with the women, the intensity of the pain , the intensity of the thought processes that they go through , the visualisations that they have of what they’ve been through… They might have seen pieces of the child at times. Even some blood could have affected them. They keep going back to the experience and it floods them, for many years to come. And then even for example if they don’t have children and they have a child this might bring the trauma back up, because they feel guilty that now I shouldn’t be loving this child because I had an abortion in the past. It becomes very complex.
“Looking at the human being as a whole, we are made as mothers”
I myself am not in favour of abortion. First of all because I do believe that life starts at conception and there’s a process to that. And secondly also because from a psychological perspective, from looking at the human being as a whole, we are made as mothers. If I have a child the process has already started. Even though it might not be conscious, or even though I might believe it’s not a child yet, the process has started.
So when I terminate something on the physiological level, the biological level, something psychological is going to happen too. Even though I’m not aware of it intellectually.
So then the process starts and the difficulties arise.
I do not believe in abortion because I see that the women suffer. And most of the time the women suffer alone.
“I would not want any woman to go through the experience these women share with me”
And I’ve often heard, I’ve had people who have come for help to HOPE. Some have kept the child, some have opted to abort. But then I would have them come back and tell me “I really wish that at the time that I decided to go to the other country to have the abortion I was held physically. I was not allowed to go. Because now my sense of peace has gone, I’m distraught, what I believed I could continue, I cannot continue anymore. I just keep having these thoughts of my child and how old she would be and what happened on the day.”
I would not want any woman to go through the experience these women share with me.
Like I said, I’m not in favour of abortion. But when women do come and seek support I’d like them to know they are not judged if they would have opted to take that decision. Because ultimately I believe that when women decide to go through abortion it’s because they are not seeing the situation in a clear manner.They’re confused, they’re anxious, and sometimes they just need support to be able to take a decision. Even though they might opt to take the abortion. But like I said, it’s not about judging people here, it’s about ultimately helping them to find their life back again.