The Witness of a Post-Abortion Woman
One Mother’s Day I was selling carnations outside my church to raise money for a local right-to-life group. Children bought them for their mothers, husbands bought them for their wives, and I was there feeling empty and heartsick. I had had an abortion about nine years earlier, and was longing for someone to give a flower or card to me, to do something, anything, to affirm my motherhood.
I had been speaking publicly for a number of years of my intellectual and religious conversion and my regrets about my abortion. But Mother’s Day was the day I realized I would need some counseling to finalize this abortion experience. At that time I also recognized a need for the churches and the prolife movement to do more than just be open to hearing aborted mothers’ standard stories of exploitation by the abusive abortion industry. I got a strong sense that parents are parents forever, even of a dead unborn child. I needed to parent my child, commit him to the care of God, and have other people be aware of this need. Only after this would I see the need, and acquire the ability, to move forward into penitential action.
What do I mean by penitential action? An attempt to bargain for God’s forgiveness by prolife workaholism? Not at all. I did that long ago — it was stage three of Post-Abortion Syndrome — and it didn’t work. It brought me no peace. We can’t heal ourselves out of our own strength. What I mean is that public acts of atonement should be the fruit of true contrition and forgiveness. Rescues led by post-abortion women, for instance, are a loving penitential response to Christ rescuing us, by his direct action on the cross, from the pain of our abortion guilt. So once we accept God’s forgiveness we help rescue other unborn children as we wish we had rescued our own.
Before I was ready to exercise this fruit of penance, I really had to begin to let go of the trauma of my abortion, let go of the pain that is really a form of unresolved guilt and self punishment. I did this in post-abortion counseling by piecing my child together in my mind, giving him a name, then picturing him in the arms of our Lord. I imagined him whole, instead of scattered aborted flesh laid to rest God knows where.
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