More than half of all abortions are medication, rather than surgical abortions, according to research by the Guttmacher Institute.
Medication abortions are performed with pills that women usually take at home.
According to a new study by Support After Abortion, a Florida-based organization that provides post-abortion resources to women across America and the world, many women who have medication abortions struggle with their decision weeks—or even years—later.
The suffering of abortion goes “beyond the physical suffering,” Janine Marrone, the group’s founder, says, adding that many women experience “grief, regret, shame, [and] remorse” after having an abortion.
Marrone joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the findings of its new study and the work of Support After Abortion.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: Today we are joined by the founder and board chairman of Support After Abortion, Janine Marrone. Janine, thank you so much for being here today.
Janine Marrone: Thank you for having me. I look forward to this.
Allen: Explain a little bit about what you-all do at Support After Abortion. What is your mission?
Marrone: Our mission is to bring healing to men and women who have suffered from abortion for the real purpose of ending the demand for abortion.
Allen: It’s simple and it’s straightforward and there’s such a need for that. You-all have been doing this work, I know, for quite some time. What was the moment when you realized, “You know what? We need to found an organization like this. There needs to be resources for women after abortion”?
Marrone: Virginia, I think you’re asking me for my aha moment and I’m so happy to say that because I think many of our listeners or people that are going to be part of this interview are in that same space or place that I was.
I was at something called Luncheons 4 Life, which is a grassroots networking luncheon for like-minded people. There was a counselor for one of the abortion recovery programs and for the first time in my life, in pro-life, I realized that there was more than one victim to an abortion.
The woman had had an abortion herself and there were about 60 people in the room and you could have heard a pin drop. But for me and for Support After Abortion, that was the impetus. That was the defining moment where I realized that the way I was looking at abortion might have been more narrow than it really needed to be or should be.
Allen: You have recently put out a new study specifically looking at how medication abortions impact women. When we say medication abortions, that’s the abortion pill that women usually take at home. So share a little bit about these findings. How many abortions are usually done via the abortion pill?
Marrone: Thank you. So, that’s such a great question. This is the fourth research study that we’ve done. We’ve started with just looking at all reproductive loss and then now to most recently in 2021, we did the medication abortion.
I do want to do one clarification because I hear this with people that I talk about. There is a Plan B pill. It’s a pill that’s taken after someone has had intercourse and it’s usually done the day after. The medication abortion is completely different from that and I think that deserves at least some definition.
The medication abortion, over 50% of abortions today are done with this series of pills. It … became [Food and Drug Administration]-approved in 2000, 2001, and that might have been maybe 2% of abortions at that point and it’s now over 50%.
If you look at the trend line, and particularly because of its ease and convenience on how you can acquire these pills, it could be as high as 70% by the end of this year or early next year. So it’s a growing abortion that is done by an individual in the privacy of their home and it is growing in its comparison to surgical abortion. So there’s a lot to fear from it.
Allen: As you-all did this study and looked into the use of abortion pills, of medication abortion, what exactly were you trying to learn? What were you trying to uncover?
Marrone: Just like the first one, we moreover wanted to be able to size it to understand, who are these people demographically, what are they experiencing? To understand the magnitude of whether we want to look at it from a marketing perspective or, how do we reach these people? What are they inclined to hear?
So knowing that it’s this growing concern, what can we do as a healer, as a healing provider, as a healing leader to get to the most amount of people with the most appropriate thing … or program or process that they will listen to or be inclined to want to embrace? Indeed, do they want help at all?
Allen: About how many women did you-all survey for this study?
Marrone: There were over 4,000 that were part of the study and we talked to over 100 that actually had the abortion in this particular fashion. This is part of, as I mentioned, a larger body of research that we did in the same way so that we had a lot of things that we could compare it to.
Allen: I’m just curious to know what you-all learned about the women. How do women fare who have medication abortions?
Marrone: There’s a couple of real key numbers that I want to bring out.
Marrone: Remember, we could also compare this to women who have had all abortions, which included surgical abortions. Women are suffering after medication abortions. Thirty-four percent indicated some negative response to the medication abortion and that is higher than the all-abortion study that we had done previous to that.
Over 60% of the women sought help. Mostly they went to their friends. They went to someone to find out, to get some kind of consolation or help, but only 18% knew where to go and not all of them were necessarily abortion help locations. We also learned that more than, and I told you this earlier, that over half of abortions are medical abortions.
But the biggest, too, is that there is a huge demand of women who want help after their abortion and they truly don’t know where to go. By the way, that’s very similar to all abortions, in both men and women, the knowledge of that there is help after abortion is not out there.
Allen: So when a woman walks into Planned Parenthood and they send her home with pills to have an abortion at home, they’re not also giving her any sort of flyer that says, “Depression is common after having an abortion. If you need help, call X”?
Marrone: That is correct. That is not what is happening inside abortion facilities. I can’t say that for 100% of them, but for those that we encounter, that is not happening.
Allen: In all the numbers and the data that was uncovered through this survey and through your research, was there anything that really surprised you?
Marrone: Since this was the fourth one, I’m going to go back to the first one. Many of the same things were the same. There were just, the magnitude was just larger when it came to medical abortion.
The biggest findings that I think that were for me were that most of the programs that are out there—there are 200 different types of abortion healing programs. There are retreat models, there are bible studies. They tend to be all with a big faith-based leaning and our response was that that is not what these women wanted. That’s not just the medical, but it’s also all surgical abortion.
So that was a big surprise to me. Although, with so many abortion recovery or healing providers that were out there, I’ve always been surprised and why aren’t more people looking for healing because wasn’t what they were looking for?
The other one is that anonymity is so important to women and, quite frankly, men in a healing process. Based on what I just told you, those types of healing processes are not necessarily anonymous. So those are the biggest.
I think the other one is that we are hearing from both men and women. Women are saying that it is their decision alone. So 78% said it was their decision. We hear so much about how men and others are maybe manipulating that decision and that’s not what we heard in the survey. Similarly, we heard from men that they weren’t part of the decision. So I think those are the biggest things that I got from this—
Allen: Those are interesting.
Marrone: … that we gleaned from this.
Allen: It is believed that the number of medication abortions, like you said, is going to increase, especially after the overturning of Roe. What happens during a medication abortion? Just kind of walk us through what is entailed in this, if you would.
Marrone: Well, in most states, and also because of the way it works, a medication abortion will only work up to something like 15 weeks. So it’s in the early stages of pregnancy.
So what should happen is there should be an ultrasound that should be conducted to make sure that the woman is within that time period. They are given a series of pills. The one is—I can’t even say it—mifepristone, which, it blocks the body’s progesterone, which is the hormone that’s necessary to continue a pregnancy. And in a sense, that causes the death of the child.
From there, between 24 and 48 hours later, there’s going to be cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. Then that’s necessary for additional pills that will basically create the abortion.
So this process is not pleasant. The abortion provider will say that, “Oh, it’s just going to be like a heavy period.” That’s not what happens.
In many cases, the woman will actually see what this baby, the fetus, whatever you want to call this child that’s being eliminated, they will see this and it will be—sometimes we’ve heard things that just like a flushing a goldfish, and we know that’s not true. But what happens is that it’s happening in the home. It may be happening in the shower, can be happening in the toilet.
But what is happening is this is not happening between a doctor and a patient. This is happening at home and the need then to eliminate the fetus, the child is happening at home, and largely it can be happening in a toilet. The bleeding and the spotting can happen for several weeks. There certainly should be a follow-up ultrasound or there should be something else that goes on to make sure that all the baby is removed.
… I’m not a doctor, let me just say that first off. But knowing this process that goes on and how little the woman that’s involved in making this decision probably knows about this whole process is limited—I’m just talking about the physical impacts, not to mention what our focus is, certainly on the emotional, the psychological, and certainly the spiritual impacts that can come from making a decision like this.
Allen: Go ahead and dive into that if you would. What were some of those takeaways as far as how women fare two weeks after having a medication abortion or five years down the road?
Marrone: Part of this is going to be from the study and part of this is going to be from what we see from women. We’re seeing people or women weeks later and typically that has been unusual just compared to surgical abortions, because of what I just told you. It’s hard for me to even say it because I don’t even know the words to choose.
One of my favorites is, if you see Abby Johnson’s “Unplanned” movie, she has the outcome of a medication abortion in the movie. She says it’s nothing like what really happened. But anyone who’s seen the movie or has heard anything about this can know that this is now a really up-close and personal experience, that there’s no anesthesia involved. So if you can imagine that, we’re going to see women much sooner in the process.
But the suffering beyond the physical suffering is, oh my gosh. Anger in not understanding what this process is about. Anger in their own involvement in the decision. The grief, regret, shame, remorse, and abortion at large is, I mean, it’s one of those places that we don’t permit grieving. The need to grieve a loss is so imperative and the absence of being allowed to do that, so many unintended consequences can come for any individual, both men and women.
I know … we’re specifically talking about medication abortion, but I can’t not say that the impact of abortion goes so far beyond just the individual involved in the decision or having the abortion.
Allen: For anyone listening who has had an abortion, whether a medication abortion or not, or maybe they have a loved one or a friend who’s had one and they’re thinking, “I need help. I need support,” whether they live in Texas or Kansas or New Hampshire, can they call upon the resources and the folks at Support After Abortion for help?
Marrone: The answer is absolutely yes. They can go onto our website at supportafterabortion.com. What we do is we are an intake, but … we’ve [also] vetted so many different programs and providers that can provide the type of assistance that the individual would need. We say there’s no one-size-fits-all and there’s no one and done to abortion healing.
So whether it’s wanting a faith-based program, starting somewhere else, needing to just text or to have a phone call, to be part of a group, or to be part of something much more anonymous—all of those things that we can help provide and meet the individual where they are for what they need at that particular moment to start to begin the healing process that is so necessary.
Allen: Janine Marrone, the founder of Support After Abortion. And again, if you want to check out their resources, you can visit supportafterabortion.com. Janine, thank you so much for your time.
Marrone: Thank you, Virginia. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about this important topic.
This story was updated after publication to clarify that more than half of all abortions are medication abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
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