On January 24, 1972, reproductive justice took place in the highest court of the land. The controversial case Roe v. Wade resulted in women having the agency over their bodies. The Supreme Court decided in favor of pro-choice, giving women the right to have legal abortions. Forty-nine years later, state politicians continue to challenge women’s reproductive rights by blocking significant healthcare for abortions and criminalizing women who obtain them despite extenuating circumstances. In August 2021, the state of Texas passed laws that established an unreasonable timeline for abortion and gave random citizens the right to sue a person or anyone aiding and abetting in the termination of a pregnancy, beyond the window of time outlined by state law. The state of Mississippi tightened abortion laws for it’s citizens just months later.
In spite of, pro-life legislators’ attempt to turn back the hands of time and disrupt progressive reproductive history, women continue to have abortions by choice or out of necessity. Loved ones who are coping with the emotional, physical and psychological aspects of seeking abortion care and terminating a pregnancy continue to need support more than ever. It is up to be there for a friend after an abortion procedure. Here’s how:
This can be difficult to hear but unless you yourself have had an abortion there isn’t really much that you can say right now that will be very useful – at first. And, even if you have had an abortion, no two experiences are the same. Everything from the circumstances leading up to it to the aftermath to the procedure itself is completely different for every individual. Instead of racking your mind for something useful to say, just say less. Say very little. Your friend is the one who just had this complex experience so she is the one with a heart and head full of emotions and thoughts and information that need to spill out. To be the one talking a lot right now would be a mistake.
It’s As Serious As She Makes It.
It can be difficult to know exactly how much gravity to give to the situation. You want your friend to know that you understand this was a big deal. But you also don’t want to come in so hot that you make her feel that it’s an even bigger deal than she originally felt it was. Ultimately, the person who had the abortion gets to decide how much weight this event carries. So mirror her feelings around it. The one caveat is this: it can be difficult for someone who just an abortion to fully know, immediately, how serious it feels for them. Sometimes that catches up to them later. So even if your friend is taking this very lightly, do err on the side of expressing that this was an event. Even if she’s currently laughing it off, you’re better off not mirroring that. She’s likely still processing.
Know The Timeline Is Abnormal
This is not the type of thing where you get coffee one time and talk about it and never again. The emotional processing of an abortion doesn’t fit into a neat or predictable timeline. Emotions can come to the surface like a tidal wave or something. There would be months when this doesn’t happen, then a bad week, then more months of peace. Know that at any time, for years or forever, your friend might have feelings about this.
She Decides What She Reveals
Your friend has a right to privacy. Like with any medical procedure, what took place in the operation room was very personal. The recovery period is also personal. Don’t ask detailed questions about the actual procedure itself. It can come off as casual curiosity rather than genuine care. Furthermore, some of the details may have scarred her and can be difficult to talk about. It’s up to your friend to disclose as much or as little as she wants about her abortion. If you want to know about it, you can do your own research. In fact, that might be useful so you can approach the conversation with more knowledge.
There’s So Much More Than The Procedure
An abortion is about so much more than a visit to a doctor’s office. An abortion can be a multi-week, multi-month or multi-year event in a person’s life. Remember that there was a partner involved. There could have been a fallout or complications or conflict with that relationship surrounding this decision. This abortion may have come with a breakup or a divorce. There are family members who also feel entitled to their feelings and opinions. She may have family she had to hide this from. She may have family who’ve since distanced themselves from her. While it would be nice if everyone could just support and not judge, that’s probably not what your friend experienced. Acknowledge that this was bigger than a procedure.
Go with her to follow-up visits
This is a simple but very meaningful gesture. Your friend might need to go to follow-up visits following her abortion. She might appreciate it if you accompany her. Each and every visit can re-stir up the feelings around the abortion. The visits might take place at the same clinic where the abortion did, which can come with its own feelings. She’ll probably need someone to talk to after her follow-up visits and will appreciate that you’re already there.
Not Everything Needs A Response
In a conversation, it’s common to feel like you need to respond to everything the other person says. And your friend will say a lot. She’ll say some things that sound concerning. She may not sound like herself. She may sound very negative or even delusional at times. But this is the process. She doesn’t need you to agree with, disagree with, affirm or deny everything she says. This isn’t really a conversation – it’s a monologue. If you feel you need to respond to everything, the chances you say the right thing every time are very, very small.
Handle Errands For Her
This is another simple gesture that means so much. In the days and weeks following her abortion, your friend might feel very tired – physically and emotionally. What she really needs is time to rest and time to process her emotions. The boring and tiresome tasks of the day like grocery shopping, doing laundry, picking up prescriptions and dropping her dog off at the groomer can take away precious time she needs right now to process. So take some of those tasks off of her hands. To you, it’s no big deal to do a 30-minute grocery run, but to her those 30 minutes to herself are everything.
Simply being around and available goes a long way. Don’t shy away for fear that you won’t nail this experience. It’s better to show up imperfectly than to not be there at all. You can simply offer to stay a few nights on your friend’s couch, in case she finds she needs help with something, needs someone to talk to or needs someone to cry to. If you don’t live nearby, you can call frequently. You don’t need to put any pressure on her to talk about the abortion, but just let her know that you’re always a phone call away if something comes up. Be a presence.