Post-abortion counseling can offer mental health support to people who’ve had abortions. But it’s important to avoid receiving “counseling” from crisis pregnancy centers.
Research has repeatedly shown that abortion doesn’t cause mental health conditions. But complicated feelings are still possible. Stigma, a lack of support, and difficulty accessing abortion compound these feelings.
Post-abortion counseling may be a good idea if you need mental health support after terminating a pregnancy.
Be sure to get post-abortion counseling from legitimate professionals, not crisis pregnancy centers. Crisis pregnancy centers are anti-abortion organizations disguised as clinics.
They’re unlicensed, unregulated, and often share disinformation about abortion. One 2014 study found that 80% of crisis pregnancy center websites shared false or misleading information.
“Post-abortion counseling” is an informal term describing a mental health service for people who’ve had abortions.
Sometimes, post-abortion counseling involves talking with the partners and loved ones of people who’ve had abortions, either individually or together.
There isn’t an industry standard or formalized process for post-abortion counseling. But post-abortion counseling should be:
- provided by a trained professional or peer counselor
- nonjudgmental, compassionate, and nonstigmatizing
In fact, being denied an abortion links to worse mental health outcomes than having an abortion.
But there’s nothing wrong with feeling regret, sadness, or other negative emotions around your abortion. And if you do have complex feelings after your experience, mental health counseling may be helpful.
Post-abortion counseling is for anyone who’s had an abortion and feels they need mental health support.
You may find it particularly helpful if you feel:
- alone, guilty, regretful, or ashamed after your abortion
- a sense of loss or grief
- your abortion affects important relationships in your life
You may also find post-abortion counseling helpful if you’ve experienced:
- difficulty processing your feelings and experiences
- medical complications around your pregnancy or abortion
- discrimination or shaming around your abortion
- distress around getting an abortion
Post-abortion counseling might help you:
Post-abortion counseling shouldn’t:
- make you feel ashamed of your choice
- discourage you from getting an abortion in future
- force a particular moral or religious view on you
Post-abortion counseling is also different from mandatory pre-abortion counseling. In some states, people can’t get abortions before receiving state-designed counseling.
Many of these laws require healthcare professionals to give inaccurate information to dissuade you from getting an abortion.
It’s important to note that many crisis pregnancy centers claim to offer post-abortion counseling. The American Psychological Association explicitly suggests people avoid approaching crisis pregnancy centers.
If you Google “post-abortion counseling,” “post-abortion therapy,” or “post-abortion support groups,” many of the results on the first page will likely be from crisis pregnancy centers.
Because they’re disguised as legitimate clinics, identifying a crisis pregnancy center can be tricky. Reviewing the organization’s website or promotional materials can help.
Common red flags include claims that:
- there’s such a thing as “post-abortion syndrome”
- abortion commonly causes emotional and physical health conditions
- you can “reverse” an abortion
- abortion is dangerous or unsafe
Other common red flags include:
- encouraging readers to “choose life”
- referring to the morning-after pill as “abortion”
- using language that shames sex outside marriage or discourages contraception use
- framing abortion in terms of religious beliefs
- refusing to offer referrals for abortion or contraception
You can find post-abortion counseling by:
- asking for a referral or suggestion from the abortion professional you used
- looking for a pro-abortion mental health professional
- speaking with your current therapist, if you have one
To verify whether a therapist or counselor is a good choice for post-abortion counseling, you can ask the following questions:
- “What are your values surrounding abortion and reproductive care? Do you feel that your values affect your ability to counsel others in a nonjudgmental way?”
- “Do you have experience providing post-abortion therapy?”
- “Do you offer therapy to people who are considering abortion?”
You can also try the following resources:
- All-Options, which offers pre- and post-abortion support. Reach them at 888-493-0092.
- Exhale Pro-Voice, a text line and hotline offering peer counseling for people who’ve had abortions and their loved ones. Call 866-439-4253 or text 617-749-2948.
- Planned Parenthood, which offers mental health services and can refer you to a counseling service near you.
Remember that you’re well within your rights to switch to another therapist if you feel judged for having an abortion (or even if you just don’t get along with your therapist). You deserve to feel safe and comfortable in the therapy room.
Post-abortion counseling can give you a safe, nonjudgmental space to process your feelings after terminating a pregnancy.
However, it’s important that you do your homework before choosing a post-abortion therapy professional, as many crisis pregnancy centers claim to offer it.
Post-abortion counseling should be compassionate, nonjudgmental, and confidential. Your counselor shouldn’t shame you for your choice or discourage you from getting an abortion in the future.
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.