February 26, 2014

Cornell Forms Post-Abortion Support Group

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A new support group that aims to address issues of post-abortion distress will begin meeting on campus March 16, according to professionals involved with the group.

The support group is intended to be a “safe space” for women who have had abortions to share their stories without judgment, according to Laura Weiss, director of the Cornell Women’s Resource Center, which co-sponsors the group.

“There is a lack of open dialogue about individuals’ experiences with abortion, most likely due to the tremendous social and political tension and stigma,” Weiss said.

Weiss said that the group’s overall presence, in addition to its services, is important on campus.

“I hope that just knowing that it’s being offered helps to break down the stigma that surrounds abortion,” she said.

“There is a lack of open dialogue about … ­experiences with abortion.”

— Laura Weiss

Stephanie Haskins — a birth and postpartum doula that counsels pregnant women and new mothers — will run the support group.

She said she has recently refocused her attention on abortion issues due to “various personal interactions” in her work.

Haskins said she was involved in a post-abortion support group when she was a student at the University of Massachusetts; this is the first time she will run the support group at Cornell.

The post-abortion support group at the University of Massachusetts was in high demand, according to Haskins.

“There were always more women interested in participating in the support group than we had space for,” she said.

Cornell’s support group will be limited to twelve women and those who wish to participate are encouraged to sign up early, according to Haskins.

“The size is limited to create intimacy, trust and enough time and space for everyone to be heard,” she said.

Women who have just had an abortion can experience conflicting emotions such as “grief, relief, joy and sadness,” Weiss said.

All the personal factors involved in a woman’s decision to have an abortion contribute to such varied emotional reactions, according to Haskins.

“There are so many different reasons abortions happen,” Haskins said. “Those myriad reasons create a myriad of possible emotions and responses.”

Haskins said the group will be tailored to meet the needs of participants.

“I will be feeling out the participants for what it is they need,” she said. “I think there is a great need in the community for such a group.”

Weiss said she hopes the group will meet a need in the community that is often goes unacknowledged.

“Too often, people are silenced about their experiences with abortion,” Weiss said. “I believe that creating supportive spaces that help people navigate their experiences is beneficial and meets a real need, one that is rarely voiced.”

The support group will follow a seven week schedule, meeting weekly on Sundays.