A psychologist who cares for post-abortive women has emphasized the need to help women who have had abortions heal — and that these women have their own stories to tell.

Peruvian psychologist Luz Marina Araoz Chavez said post-abortive women endure “difficulty in healing the wound caused by the loss of the baby.” They also face difficulty in “being at peace with God, oneself or others that were involved in her decision to abort.”

Chavez is a Peruvian psychologist and coordinator of Project Hope, which accompanies women who have aborted and are suffering from abortion’s harms.

Her comments follow a statement from the committee on gender and sexual diversity at the Chilean Psychological Association which said that post-abortion syndrome does not exist.

The statement came out at a time when the country is debating a bill backed by President Michelle Bachelet that would decriminalize abortion.

“Post-abortion syndrome” is a phrase often used to refer to the emotional state of people involved in abortions. It refers to the inability of a woman or man to process their anguish, fear, anger, sadness and guilt stemming from their experience of one or several abortions.

Two women who have had abortions and were helped by Project Hope spoke to CNA anonymously.

One of them, 59-year-old “A.A.,” recalled that after her abortion she went through “nights of crying, days of not wanting to get out of bed.”

For her part, “C.G.,” a 52-year-old psychologist, told of the difficult situation she went through when she was young and her mother forced her to have an abortion.

“I cried a lot and experienced a lot of sadness for years,” she said. She also showed “very aggressive behavior.”

“I didn’t understand where it was coming from,” she said. “The most profound consequence was an anxious, depressed frame of mind I carried around with me for years.”

The Chilean Psychological Association’s committee said that post-abortion syndrome has nothing to do with the practice itself, but rather the social “criminalization” of the act.

But A.A. challenged this.

“I suffered from the need to see and caress my child. No one ever judged me. I’m the one who judged myself, feeling I was the worst of mothers,” she said.

The reason she was suffering, she said, was that she knew “I had been capable of killing my child who couldn’t even defend himself. My other children were able to play, cry and laugh, but their brother could not. That was the source of my pain.”

C.G. also rejected claims abortion grief is a result of social conditioning.

“What I went through had to do with the relationship I formed with the presence of that child that was developing within me, whether wanted or not. He was a child, not a ‘something’.”

“Not protecting that child and not having had the courage to resist having the abortion, developed into a profound sense of sadness that accompanied me for many years.”

Despite the many problems and sufferings the abortions caused, both women said they were able to go forward and rebuild their lives with much spiritual and psychological support.

“I spoke with a priest when I hit rock bottom because of the pain and regret. He counseled me to make reparation and said that the death of my child had a meaning for the other children in danger of being aborted,” A.A related.

“It was very difficult and exhausting. I had to travel a long and painful journey, full of regret and grief. I was only able to do it with the help of Project Hope, in the person of someone who accompanied me for three years,” C.G. said. “Thanks to their dedication and the care provided by the project’s professionals I was able to overcome.”