Her choice To Heal: Finding spiritual and emotional peace after abortion by Sydna Masse and Joan Phillips (Chariot Victor Publishing, 1998). Softcover, 122 pages. Distributed in Canada by Cook Communications in Paris, Ont.

Reviewed by Deborah James-Josipovic
The Interim

“We are everywhere. We are in churches. We are in shopping centers. We are in grocery stores. We are in daycare centers. We are high school dropouts. We are high school graduates. We have bachelor degrees, masters and PhD degrees. We work well below our capability. We work at the top level of government and corporations. We are the women who have experienced abortion.”

This is the introduction of a book entitled, Her Choice To Heal, which offers hope and a step-by-step approach to inner healing following abortion.

Is it possible for a woman to find forgiveness and recover after abortion? I was eager to read this book hoping to find a small tool that may help a friend I know as well as myself and many other women, who are struggling with the fact that they have had an abortion, and wondering what they can do to ease the guilt and shame they may be feeling. This book gives an in-depth look at just what exactly post-abortion syndrome (PAS) is, how to dismantle denial, and how to begin the healing journey.

Masse and Phillips speak from personal experience which connects to the reader from the introduction right on through to the last page of the epilogue. Sydna Masse is president and founder of Ramah International, Inc., a post-abortion ministry and was previously manager of Focus on the Family’s Crisis Pregnancy Ministry. Joan Phillips is a grandmother of five who has worked for Focus on the Family’s Crisis Pregnancy Ministry for several years.

Masse begins the book by revealing her own experience with abortion. She was young, a teenager in high school who upon discovering she had become pregnant was pressured by her boyfriend to have an abortion. Following the abortion she turned to a life of drug abuse and promiscuity.

Phillips story is a much different one. Married to a verbally and physically abusive man for four years with two small children, when Phillips discovered she was pregnant for the third time she was paralyzed with fear. She wanted to have her baby, but she felt that she was being selfish to bring another life into such a hostile environment, so on the day after her husband put his fist through the wall next to her, she made an appointment for an abortion.

After the abortion had been performed she felt such hatred for her husband she left and took her two boys to start a new life. But the worst wasn’t over. She met another man, and had a second abortion. She turned to drugs to ease the pain and guilt she felt inside.

This book has many similar stories. I found this a great tool in allowing the reader, who may have had a related experience, to identify with the testimonies. The authors don’t burden the reader with scientific facts and opinion polls. I like that – it gets quite irritating when I’m reading a help-orientated book and the author insists on quoting endless researchers and institutions. Just cut to the chase please, and that’s exactly what Masse and Philips do.

The first chapter encourages the reader to get her abortion experience out, by writing it down, by beginning a private journal. Journalling is in fact a very widely used and effective method in the healing process and the book encourages this throughout. The authors go on to describe symptoms of PAS and focus in on shame, guilt and denial. In chapter five they offer help to the reader who needs to grieve the loss of her unborn child. The authors gently walk the reader to healing, recovery, and at last, “Letting Go.”

This book allows the reader to face the ugly aftermath of abortion. One passage I feel is especially worth noting is a section on remembering your unborn child. Masse writes, “Choosing a memorial as a way of remembering your child is an integral part of healing, although the tears may flow for days or weeks. Initially you may recoil from the thought of it. However before you reject the idea, read this chapter. There are many ways to memorialize a child. You may want to hold a small private funeral service; you may want to plant a tree; you may want to write a poem; make a donation is his or her name to charity; or tell his or her story in a journal … the choice is purely personal.”

My only problem with this book was the almost too- strong religious overtones. Even though I personally agree with the authors view on God’s role in forgiveness and admire the beautiful choice of scripture references, I feel that the high stress on religious content may intimidate some women who are not of the Christian faith or have not yet come to an understanding of faith and its role in their lives in general.

However, in conclusion I will say if you are experiencing post-abortion syndrome, or know of someone who is, relief and peace can be found in the pages of this book, and I will be personally giving a copy to a friend who is suffering. I pray it will help her and comfort her, as it did for me.