Check it out... a pamphlet everyone should read from the Elliott Institute - Ending Abortion with Compassion.
Check it out... a pamphlet everyone should read from the Elliott Institute - Ending Abortion with Compassion.
In the 1960′s, when abortions were available only for “therapeutic” reasons, it was not uncommon for persons with the means and know-how to obtain an abortion on psychiatric grounds. In some states, all that was necessary was to find an agreeable psychiatrist willing to diagnose every woman with a problem pregnancy as “suicidal.”
Yet all the studies done on this issue show that pregnancy is actually correlated with a dramatic decreased rate of suicide compared to non-pregnant women. This has led some psychiatrists to suggest that pregnancy somehow serves a psychologically protective role. The presence of another person to “live for” appears to reduce the suicidal impulses of a mentally disturbed or deeply depressed woman.(1)
Although pregnancy weakens suicidal impulses, there is strong evidence that abortion dramatically increases the risk of suicide. According to a 1986 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota, a teenage girl is 6 times more likely to attempt suicide if she has had an abortion in the last six months than is a comparable teenage girl who has not had an abortion.(2) Other studies have found similar statistical significance between a history of abortion and suicide attempts among adults. Thus, the actual data suggests that abortion is far more likely to drive an unstable woman to suicide than is pregnancy and childbirth.
This abortion/suicide link is well known among professionals who counsel suicidal persons. For example, Meta Uchtman, director of the Cincinnati chapter of Suiciders Anonymous, reported that in a 35 month period her group worked with 4000 women, of whom 1800 or more had abortions. Of those who had abortions, 1400 were between the ages of 15 and 24, the age group with the fastest growing suicide rate in the country.
Sometimes a post-abortion suicide attempt is an impulsive act of despair. For example, 18-year-old “Susan” writes: “Two days after the abortion I wrote a suicide note to my parents and boyfriend. I just couldn’t fathom how I could possibly live with the knowledge of what I had done. I killed my own baby! I went down to the basement and figured out how to shoot my father’s pistol. Hysterical and crying I put the barrel of the gun into my mouth. All of a sudden I heard someone upstairs. For some reason my father had stopped by to pick up something. I stopped what I was doing and went upstairs. He saw that I was upset and asked me if I wanted to have lunch with him at noon. I felt I at least owed him lunch. By the time lunch was over I was too scared to do it.”
Other times, the suicidal impulses result from years of repression, depression, and lost self-esteem. A 1987 study of women who suffered from post-abortion trauma found that 60 percent had experienced suicidal ideation, 28 percent had attempted suicide, and 18 percent had attempted suicide more than once, often several years after the event.(3)
Sadly, in at least one documented case, an 18-year-old committed suicide three days after having a suction abortion because of guilt feelings over having “killed her baby.” Later examination of the clinic’s records revealed that she had not actually been pregnant.
Perhaps one reason for the strong abortion/suicide link exists in the fact that in many ways abortion is like suicide. A person who threatens suicide is actually crying out for help. So are women who contemplate abortion. Both are in a state of despair. Both are lonely. Both feel faced by insurmountable odds.
Some “right-to-die” groups argue that we should legalize suicide and even create suicide clinics where facilitators would ease people through their suicide decisions. If we did so, there would be no shortage of desperate people willing to exercise their “freedom to choose.” Promised a “quick, easy and painless” solution to their problems, suicide rates would skyrocket just as abortion rates did in the 1970′s.
Like the suicide clinics described above, abortion clinics also exploit desperate people. They promise to release clients from the darkness of their despair. They appeal to our consumer society’s demand for instant solutions to all our problems. They pose as places of compassion, but they are actually reaping huge profits through the harvest of the lonely, frightened, and confused people who are “unwanted” by society. In place of life, they offer the “compassion” of death.
Granting the wish for suicide or abortion is not an aid to desperate people. It is abandonment. It is a false compassion that protects us from getting entangled in the “personal problems” of others. It is “cheap love.”
To those who look deeply, and care deeply, it is clear that people who express a desire for suicide or abortion are really crying out for help. They are crying out for the support and encouragement to choose life, cherish life, and rejoice in life. They are crying out for an infusion of hope.
Just as a suicidal person is crying out for help when she tells others she wishes she were dead, so a woman who is distressed over a pregnancy is crying out for help when she tells others she is considering abortion. In both cases, the desperate person is reaching out in the hope that someone will announce they truly care, and will truly help them. They need to see the value of life, their own as well as their child’s, reflected in the love of those who would help them preserve that life. They need to hear that they are strong enough to triumph in the life that is theirs, and that whenever they grow weak, we will be there to strengthen them and even carry them.
This requires us to engage in “costly love,” a love that demands a real sacrifice of time, energy, and resources. Anything less, they will interpret as “You don’t really care.” Anything less, and they will be right.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 1(2) Summer 1993. Copyright 1993 Elliot Institute
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 3(2) Spring 1995. Copyright 1995 Elliot Institute, this 3 part article by David C. Reardon, Ph.D., is still one of my favorite series of articles on abortion from the Elliot Institute.
Here is the 3rd and final installment...
Aborted children have been deprived of baptism. They never had the opportunity to know or accept Christ as their Lord. How sure can we be that they are really in Heaven? Though seldom discussed, this is a theological question that is extremely important to the parents of aborted children and to pro-lifers in general. The answer to this question will shape how we view ourselves, others, and our priorities in the pro-life movement.
As previously discussed in this series of articles, a history of abortion can be a major stumbling block for women and men who turn back to God. At first, Satan will seek to deprive women and men the peace of God’s forgiveness by aggravating their fear that God cannot forgive them.. If this temptation to despair fails, Satan will attack the repentant parent’s peace of mind with the fear that even if God can forgive them, their aborted and unbaptized children have been deprived of Heaven.
This fear that unbaptized infants will be denied Heaven is also used by Satan to build a wall of separation and prejudice between pro- lifers and women and men with a history of abortion. Not a few Christians have coldly turned their backs on women and men who have had abortions, believing that by their sins they have forever deprived God of the souls of their unborn children. Such Christians do not wish these parents ill, but they cannot quite bring themselves to offer them comfort, either. Their hearts are simply so burdened with dismay over the “lost souls” of aborted children that they have no sympathy left over for their guilty parents. It is important for such believers to open their hearts to the possibility, or even the convincing evidence that God has saved the unborn victims of abortion.
A greater faith among believers in God’s salvation of aborted babies is important for two reasons. First, once all members of Christ’s Body accept that aborted babies “live in the arms of Christ,” the lingering sense of anger and resentment toward those who have aborted will finally be dissipated. Second, as the dead are entrusted to God’s providence, there will be a renewed concern for the living — for those women and men who suffer the guilt of abortion. It is then that our efforts to promote post-abortion healing will not only be easier, they will also be more compelling.
The question of salvation for the unborn arises from an interpretation of Christ’s solemn pronouncement to Nicodemus that “no one can enter into God’s kingdom without being begotten of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The necessity of baptism is further supported by Christ’s statement, “The man who believes in it [the good news] and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Note, however, that condemnation is pronounced for those who refuse to believe. Nothing is said regarding those who have not had the opportunity to believe. Indeed, we are also told that no one will be judged guilty simply because of his or her ignorance (John 9:41).
What are we to make of this, then? Baptism by water is clearly the way God has given the Church for bringing new members into His Body. When it can be done, it ought to be done. However, God’s mercy is not limited by human failings, nor are His means limited by the physical reality which defines human interaction. Indeed, it is clear in Scripture that God has at least one other way of bringing sanctifying grace to those who have died without having the opportunity to receive baptism by water.
The most obvious example of unbaptized persons who were saved is that of the Old Testament saints, including the patriarchs, the prophets, and untold others. For the sake of these departed, Christ went in death to preach to them “in prison” (1 Peter 3:19) so that they “might live in the spirit in the eyes of God” (1 Peter 4:6). Yet another example is shown in the good thief, who followed Jesus into Paradise (Luke 23:42-44) without the benefit of baptism by water.
In fact, early Christians generally recognized that martyrs who died for the faith before they have the opportunity to be baptized are reborn in a baptism by blood rather than water. Baptism by either water or blood was recognized as having the same efficacy and the same source. This view was defended by the prominent Christian apologist Tertullian around 203 A.D., who wrote:
We have one and only one Baptism in accord with the Gospel (Eph. 4:4-6)…. [But there is] a second font, one with the former [water]: namely, that of blood, of which the Lord says: “I am to be baptized with a baptism” (Luke 12:50, Mark 10:38-39), when He had already been baptized [by water]. For He had come through water and blood, as John wrote (1 John 5:6), so that He might be baptized with water and glorified with blood. He sent out these two Baptisms from the wound in His pierced side (John 19:34), that we might in like manner be called by water and chosen by blood, and so that they who believed in His blood might be washed by the water. If they might be washed in the water, they must necessarily be so by blood. This is the Baptism which replaces that of the fountain, when it has not been received, and restores it when it has been lost.
Tertullian’s argument that baptism by blood can be a substitute for baptism by water is further supported by the fact that Christ offered the sons of Zebedee the baptism of suffering as one with the cup of salvation (Mark 10:38-39). Furthermore, Scripture tells us that before Christ’s death, John’s baptism by water was only a baptism of repentance (Acts 19:4, Luke 3:3). It was only after Christ’s baptism in blood that the baptism of water was raised up to become a baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, John 16:7). Clearly, then, the understanding that God has a means to save those who through no fault of their own have been denied the opportunity of baptism by water is not novel. Indeed, it is revealed by Scripture. Therefore, if we are to properly interpret Christ’s insistence on baptism by water, we must admit that it is a binding command on the living, while recognizing that this precept does not preclude God from offering some other spiritual means of rebirth for those who die without this opportunity. What this way is has not been fully revealed. On the other hand, since it is a spiritual baptism which is outside the responsibilities of believers on earth, it is not something about which we need to know the details. It is enough for us to know that it is possible. Once this truth is recognized, we can then confidently trust God’s mercy and justice.
We know as part of our revealed faith that God desires the salvation of all (1 Tim. 2:4, Rom. 8:32) and that His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136). Though all are stained by original sin, all whom Christ claims for Himself will live in Him (1 Cor. 15:22-23). That Christ should not claim the unborn as His own is unimaginable, contrary to both reason and revelation. Furthermore, Paul teaches that God’s mercy and providence extend even to the unborn, who have done neither good nor evil (Rom. 9:11), and Christ himself repeatedly expressed His special love of infants and children.
And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them, and said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16).
See how Jesus describes Heaven; it is filled with infants such as these! And are not His words a warning against those who would forbid these children entry into His heavenly kingdom? And look at yet another occasion: [The disciples asked Jesus:] “Who is of greatest importance in the kingdom of God?” He called a little child over and stood him in their midst and said: “I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God…. See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, their angels in Heaven constantly behold my heavenly Father’s face…. Just so, it is no part of your heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief” (Matt. 18:1-2, 10, 14).
Other renderings of this last line are that none of these little ones should ever “perish” or be “lost.” These passages suggest a promise of universal salvation for the innocents, for (1) they are numbered among those of greatest importance in God’s kingdom, (2) their angels pray for them before the Father, and (3) the Father wills that none of them should be lost. Notice also that the small child standing before Christ, to whom He pointed as an example, was unbaptized.
Reason, too, demands our acknowledgment of God’s saving grace for the unborn. Christ’s love is so great that He died to bring salvation to sinners who deserve nothing (Romans 5:6-9). Yet, if He would save sinners like us, would He not do at least as much, if not more, for the unborn who have not sinned? Of course He would. Those who doubt it must defend the absurd notion that God’s judgments are less merciful than human judgments.
While the method of salvation for the unborn is not revealed, there are some theories which are useful to consider, remembering always that these are only theories. Some Christian theologians speculate that at the moment of death, God enlightens the minds of the “incompetent” so that they can freely choose for or against Him. This possibility would be analogous to the free choice for or against God which the angels made at the time of their creation.
Others believe that children who die without formal baptism, or other incompetents who are incapable of understanding or freely choosing baptism, acquire salvation through a “vicarious baptism of desire”–that is, through the desire of their parents, the Church, or someone else. Along these lines, it is a common practice within the post-abortion healing movement to encourage mothers and fathers of aborted children to offer a solemn prayer in which they entrust their children to the care of Jesus. This is an important part of the healing experience for many women and men. There have also been reports of mystical experiences in which the dedication of the aborted child was prompted by an interior voice of the Holy Spirit. Others who have prayerfully dedicated an aborted child to God have reported remarkable healing for the mother, father, siblings or other relatives of the aborted child who were not even aware that the prayer was made.
Another theory, which was once widely taught in Catholic parochial schools, is that of Limbo. Contrary to popular belief, this theory has never been a dogma of the Catholic Church. It has always been nothing more than a theological speculation which offers one possible solution to the puzzle of God’s judgment of unbaptized innocents. Still, the idea of their aborted children being confined to Limbo can be very troubling to Catholics and former Catholics who were raised with this teaching. It is an important issue to address then, even for many former Catholics.
According to the Limbo theory, God’s justice precludes punishment of the innocent, but the requirement of baptism precludes the unbaptized from enjoying the actual presence of God, Heaven. Given these two constraints, one can conclude that God must at least supply these souls with a place where they enjoy a state of natural happiness, free of all suffering, where they would lack only the beatific vision of God. This place would be analogous to the place where the faithful who died before the coming of Christ awaited the salvation of the Messiah. In theory, Limbo would be the same or a similar place to that where Abraham and Lazarus were at rest (Luke 16:22) and to where to, after his death, Christ went to preach and to bring the faithful who had gone before into heavenly life (1 Peter 3:19, 4:6).
While Catholics are free to believe in Limbo, the official Catechism encourages believers to hope for more, trusting that God has another means for admitting unbaptized innocents into Heaven. Indeed, the teaching documents of the Catholic Church exclude any theory which would hold that salvation of unbaptized innocents is not possible. Most recently, in fact, Pope John Paul II has written in a major encyclical on abortion that “nothing is definitively lost and you [the women and men who have procured abortions] will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord.” [Italics added.] In short, while the Catholic Church does not teach the salvation of aborted children as a dogmatic certainty, it strongly encourages believers to hope for this, confident in God’s mercy.
Finally, for those Catholics who might still choose to hold to the theory of Limbo, I would offer two more observations. First, the story of Lazarus and Abraham who communicating with the rich man in his place of torment (Luke 16:20-31) provides ample reason to believe that it is possible for the departed souls to communicate with each other even if they are not in the same place. This suggests that even if aborted children were confined to a “Limbo,” this would not necessarily mean that the parents of aborted children could not communicate with, or even to visit, their unbaptized children in Limbo.
Second, it is clear that Christ Himself is not confined to Heaven. This is proven by the example of Christ’s birth into the world and also by His subsequent spiritual journey to preach in “prison” where the souls of the faithful resided before His death on the cross (1 Peter 4:6). Christ has personally attended to sinners and even the unsaved, both before and after their deaths. Thus, while theologians might argue that unbaptized persons must be denied entry into Heaven, they can never argue that Christ can be deprived entry into Limbo. Thus, even if God’s justice somehow demands that unbaptized babies must be denied the fullness of Heaven, in God’s mercy these same souls could still rest in the arms of Christ, if it is His desire to be with them. Furthermore, if these aborted children are confined to Limbo yet “living in the Lord,” because Christ comes to them, we must also remember that, as Christ told his apostles, “whoever has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9). So, even if the unbaptized are unable to see our Triune God, in all his glory, face-to-face like the sun blazing in the fullness of the day, it appears likely that in the face of Jesus they can at least enjoy the glory of the dawn.
In short, we have circled back to our original argument: if the unbaptized cannot go to Heaven to be with Christ, Christ can go to them . . . and in doing so, bring Heaven with Him. And is this not the way in everyone’s salvation? No one is saved by the merits of his own deeds, not even by the act of baptism. Our faith and salvation are always gifts from God. Baptism is one of His gifts. In the final analysis, it is extremely hard to imagine that our Lordâ€” who Himself came into the world as an innocent babyâ€” would have no gifts to offer the innocent babies who have died to abortion.
Nancyjo Mann, the founder of Women Exploited by Abortion, once suggested that the slaughter of infants has always preceded the coming of a savior. Infant boys were slaughtered by Pharaoh before the coming of Moses. The infants of Bethlehem were slaughtered by Herod, who sought to prevent the Messiah from gaining his throne. Perhaps, she speculated, the slaughter of millions of babies by abortion throughout the world is a precursor to Christ’s return.
No one knows when the Second Coming will be (Mark 13:32). This prophecy suggests that the moment we begin to feel certain that we do know, we are almost certainly wrong (Mark 13:33). Throughout the ages, Christians have looked at the world’s sinfulness and said, “Certainly He will come to judge us now.” Our age is no different
Few Christians would doubt that the horrors of our generation demand judgment. But while we should all pray for Christ’s return tomorrow, we must never neglect our task of building up His Kingdom today. Unfortunately, it is not unusual to find some Christians who are so convinced that the Second Coming is just around the corner that they have become complacent. Sadly, more than a few Christians who support pro-life principles neglect to take a stand, much less to make sacrifices, for the pro-life cause because they believe the world is condemned. They feel we are powerless; therefore, we might just as well wait for Christ’s return. With the approach of the numerically significant year 2000, we sadly see more and more people submitting to the temptation to sit down at the sidelines.
It is true; this sinful age, with its own slaughter of innocents, will not be allowed to go on forever. God will not be mocked. So there are only three possibilities: (1) Christ will return; or (2) God, who is the Lord of History, will crush our modern civilization, adding its dust to the ruins of all the other proud empires which have gone before us; or (3) to glorify God’s own Mercy, the Holy Spirit will conquer our love affair with death by bringing about a time of awakening, healing, and spiritual renewal.
I do not know which of these God has ordained, His return, our culture’s destruction, or our culture’s spiritual renewal. I do know that we, His followers, can only contribute to the latter. This is our task now, as it was from the beginning, to spread the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
But I have strayed a bit. My real reason for bringing up the Holy Innocents who were slaughtered by Herod is that these children have been traditionally considered as assured of heavenly repose by virtue of the fact that they died in an attack on Christ. This was a form of martyrdom. They did not die in defense of their faith, for they did not know it, but rather as victims of mass murder directed against the Messiah.
If we believe the Holy Innocents are in Heaven, then this belief, too, should encourage us to believe in the salvation of the unborn who die by abortion. For whether Christ’s return is imminent or not, abortion in our culture is clearly the result of a diabolical attack on Christian values. In the larger scheme of things, it is an attempt by Satan to usurp the Lord of Life and install a Cult of Death. It is an attack against the Body of Christ, His Church, which includes the vast majority of aborting women and men, who belong to the Church by virtue of their own baptisms. In this attack on Christ’s body, unborn children are the innocent casualties. It is therefore reasonable to assume that, like the Holy Innocents, they too are baptized in their own blood, and, in this way, will be brought into a share of Christ’s own bloody baptism.
We must be confident of God’s mercy, not only toward us, but also toward the unborn. If God has mercy on anyone, certainly He will be merciful with them. Those who seek post-abortion healing must recognize that fears about the salvation of their unborn children are a temptation toward despair–a temptation which must be resisted. If they desire to be reunited with their aborted children, they must not worry about the salvation of their children, but rather about their own salvation, to which end they must build up lives of faith, hope, and charity. Of these, the virtue of hope precludes doubts about whether God will have mercy on their unborn children. For those who seek an end to abortion, confidence in God’s mercy toward the children killed by abortion should undergird our efforts to minister to those who have lost their children to abortion. By helping them to find spiritual healing, we will be helping them to become instruments of God’s will. As His instruments, it is they, speaking with the wisdom of their own experiences, who will bring an end to abortion. We must remember that this is their battle even more than ours. They will fight it to honor the memory of the children they have lost and to redeem their own honor. By helping them, especially by our acceptance, understanding, and compassion, we will be helping to restore respect for all human life.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 3(2) Spring 1995. Copyright 1995 Elliot Institute, this 3 part article by David C. Reardon, Ph.D., is still one of my favorite series of articles on abortion from the Elliot Institute.
In part one of this three-part series, “The Devil’s Bargain”, we examined the role of despair in the lives of women before and after an abortion. We observed that most women who choose abortion feel trapped by their circumstances or the demands of others. While their maternal side may want to nurture their child, at the same time they fear that if they do not submit to abortion, they will lose something, or even “everything” they already have–the love of their parents, their husband or boyfriend, their career, their freedom, or whatever.
Abortion, then, is an act of despair. And because despair is the opposite of hope, the abortion decision encompasses the woman in a spiritual battle. On one side is Christ who asks the woman to hold onto hope by trusting that He has a plan for her life and the life of her child. On the other side is Satan who insists that the only way to save the life she already has is to seize control of her situation and make the choice to give up this one thing (her child) for the sake of saving everything else.
But once she has chosen abortion, Satan turns on her and becomes her fiercest accuser. He charges her with the crime of an unforgivable murder, a secret shame of which she can never be free. His goal is to build up despair in her life for three reasons: to generate misery, to encourage more sin, and to create doubt in the unfathomable mercy of God. Christ, on the other hand, continues to invite post-aborted women to embrace the virtue of hope by trusting in His mercy and forgiveness.
Now, in the second part of this series, we will look more closely at how despair is an obstacle to post-abortion healing and how this despair can be replaced with hope.
For many post-aborted women, the forgiveness of God is a precept which they can mouth, but which is difficult for them to digest. How can they be forgiven? The horror of their sin is so great. Many know that they must believe in God’s forgiveness, and they do so in an act of faith. But how can they feel forgiven, when every instinct in their nature says they cannot be forgiven, even should not be forgiven?
I certainly do not have a complete answer to this complex question, but I do believe we can offer more than simply the truth that “God can forgive any sin, even abortion.” While this is a revealed truth, it is also a conclusion for which we can develop a greater appreciation if we look at some of the reasons behind this truth. As we look, I believe we will discover not only truths which must be shared with post-aborted men and women, but also truths which explain why our focus must be on ministering to them, not accusing them.
Assume that I am on a joy ride, speeding along for thrills. I see a flash of light. A bump. And I know I’ve killed someone. I run to the victim. He’s dead. An innocent man has been killed because of my negligence. My guilt is very real and well deserved. But a moment later my victim jumps to his feet alive and uninjured. Now the guilt is gone! I am spared, not by my virtue, but by his immortality.
In just the same way we have all been forgiven of murder. Because of our sins, of whatever type, each of us is guilty of crucifying Christ. Because of our sins, He was killed on the cross. His blood is on our hands. Yet on Easter Sunday, He rose from the dead. He is not dead at all! The guilt has been lifted.
Words to a Grieving Mother
“But my child did not rise from the dead,” a post-aborted woman complains. “She is truly dead, and I am guilty of her death.” But to such a woman I would respond that this is another example of her guilt being twisted into despair.
Death is an experience, not a state of being. For “God is not the God of the dead but of the living. All are alive for Him (Luke 20:38).” When your child was killed by abortion, he or she experienced death. But your child is not dead in the sense of destroyed. Your child, like all of us, is immortal. Death cannot keep her down.
C.S. Lewis explains it well when he writes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Damned or glorified, all people live on (Matt. 25:46).
Therefore, like Christ, your child lives. Your guilt can be removed precisely because God has already preserved your child from destruction. He lives! She lives! They all live in Him!
Remember, your abortion was a result of your failure to trust God. In giving you that pregnancy, God was giving you the opportunity to love. But you rejected this gift because you did not trust God’s plan for you. This lack of trust and obedience is at the root of all sin, yours and mine.
So it is only right that the reparation for abortion is found not by clinging to guilt and despair, but by trusting in God’s love. You failed once in rejecting His gift of a new life. But now He has a new plan for you, a second gift which He passionately desires for you–the gift of His forgiveness, the rebirth and renewal of your spirit.
To refuse God’s mercy is to refuse His love. Don’t insult Him by refusing His forgiveness. Accept God’s forgiveness, not because you deserve it, but so that God can use you as an instrument for showing the abundant glory of His mercy. Accepting the gift of God’s forgiveness is actually a humble thing to do. It is your first step toward an obedience which is rooted in both faith and hope, and it is your only escape from the tar pit of despair.
The Worst Evil
In a sense (and I write this asking the reader’s forbearance for my inability to express this more precisely), since immortal persons cannot be destroyed, the greatest tragedy in killing is what this sin does to killers. This does not deny that the killed have been unjustly deprived of life, but we know that God will be merciful toward these innocent victims. We should be more concerned about the eternal fate of killers.
Even Socrates, a pagan philosopher, recognized that, in terms of preserving the nobility of our character, inner virtue, and our very souls, it is better to suffer evil from others than to do evil ourselves. Specifically, Socrates argued that those who do unjust acts are becoming unjust; those who reject their obligations to others are becoming irresponsible.
Because he believed that moral character was more important than physical well-being, Socrates believed that harm which is done to one’s body is less important than harm done to one’s “inner self” as the result of immoral choices. In the case of abortion, he would argue, the harm done to the mother’s soul is a greater moral evil than the physical wrong suffered by the unborn child, who remains innocent.
There is nothing in this argument which is contrary to Christian thought. Indeed, Scripture teaches not only that it is preferable to suffer evil than to commit evil but that those who suffer from wrongdoing can even rejoice in being called upon to share in the suffering of Christ (1 Peter 4:13-16). As we have suggested above, the unborn child who suffers physical harm from abortion is an immortal being whose innocence will be recognized and rewarded by God. But the spiritual damage done to those who are involved in abortion, directly or indirectly, individually or socially, is immeasurable.
Let us look at the spiritual meaning of abortion from another perspective. We begin by recognizing the Judeo-Christian teaching that children are always a gift from God. Because God is the author of all life, no child is conceived by accident. Each has a part to play in God’s design. This providential purpose includes not only the child’s destiny, but the destiny of those whom the child’s life touches. For parents, the conception of a child may be intended to lead them to greater generosity, responsibility, and understanding of the meaning of unconditional and sacrificial love. (Even in the case of experimentation on in vitro human embryos, God allows these human lives to be conceived so that scientists and the eugenicists who fund them can prove their depravity and thereby justify their final judgment.) No life is created without a purpose. It is our role to simply find and cooperate with that purpose.
Thus, whenever we reject the gift of new life, we are rejecting a gift from God! Obviously, this is an insult to the Giver. But it is an insult which will be mercifully forgiven. And, as members of the body of Christ, we are called upon to be mirrors of God’s mercy and ambassadors of His forgiveness. While we can do nothing for the unborn children in heaven, there is much we can do for the women and men who have been so morally wounded by abortion.
In brief, without in any way diminishing the horror of abortion, I am confident that children killed by abortion are in the enviable position of living in the glorious presence of Christ. (The Scriptural and theological basis for this confidence will be discussed in a future article.) Furthermore, if the salvation of souls is the greatest of goods, then the damnation of souls is the greatest of evils. Thus, the greatest evil of abortion lies in the spiritual damage it inflicts on the women, men, and families (and politicians) who are ensnared by it. It is these bleeding, bruised, despairing, and even rebellious souls who are most at risk. It is they to whom Christians need to reach out with the good news of forgiveness and hope.
In summary, the greatest tragedy of abortion is that it separates men and women from God. The despair which drives women to abortion is also used to make them doubt God’s mercy. This fear, in turn, leads many to embrace atheism. For such as these, the fear of hell makes them hope for a death of annihilation: “When it’s over, it’s over.” For those trapped by despair, this is their only hope, the annihilation of self.
The yearning for peace, even in annihilation, at least partially explains why so many post-aborted women are suicidal. Others court death’s semblance in abusive relationships or the mind-deadening effects of drug or alcohol abuse. Still others just run from life, burying themselves in everything from pointless work to joyless parties–anything that distracts them from reflection.
Abortion is, of course, not the only sin which separates us from God. But to those who have had one, it almost always creates the biggest rift. To return across this chasm, they need our help, offered graciously and abundantly. In giving them hope, we will be giving them back to God.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 3(2) Spring 1995. Copyright 1995 Elliot Institute, this 3 part article by David C. Reardon, Ph.D., is still one of my favorite series of articles on abortion from the Elliot Institute.
The idea that “abortion is an act of despair” is one of the key points I have always tried to stress in my writing and speaking engagements. Despair is not only the driving force behind most abortion choices, it is also the greatest obstacle to post-abortion recovery. Until more pro-lifers understand this, they will be handicapped in their efforts to help women in crisis.
In describing the despair which leads women to abort, Frederica Mathewes-Green of Feminists for Life of America, gives us this compelling word-picture: “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
This quote is so powerfully accurate that it has even been reprinted by Planned Parenthood. Why? Because pro-abortionists have long wanted to diffuse the notion that women abort for selfish or casual reasons. They want the public to sympathize with the desperation of women seeking abortions because they want to convert sympathy for women into support for abortion.
Actually, the fact that most women agonize over the decision to abort is one of the few areas for finding “common ground” in the abortion debate. Most, if not all, counselors and researchers on both sides of the political issue would agree that most abortion decisions involve elements of fear and despair.
But simply because women agonize over their abortion decisions does not make the decision morally acceptable, not even to the women themselves. In fact, post-abortion research suggests that the more a woman agonizes over making an abortion decision, the more she is likely to agonize over the abortion afterwards. Maternal desires, moral doubts, and feelings of being exploited do not disappear after an abortion. They continue. They grow. They become sources of constant reflection, or stifling avoidance. They can even become the source of crippling self-condemnation.
Escape Through Self-Destruction
Returning to Mathewes-Green’s analogy of an animal gnawing its leg off to escape a trap, we see that abortion is actually an act of self-destruction. When pro-abortionists view a woman in this desperate situation, their solution is to offer the woman a clean, legal way of cutting off the offending leg — after all, they believe there are too many unfit “legs” in the world already.
But what abortion counselors fail to tell women who are choosing abortion is that the loss of their “leg” will leave them crippled. Just as many amputees, they will experience the feeling of a “phantom leg.” This missing part will leave them less whole and less capable. And at times this missing piece will cause an indescribable ache and a flood of uncontrollable tears. In escaping the trap, they will have lost a part of themselves.
Contrast this approach to that of crisis pregnancy centers where pro-lifers are committed to finding a way to open the jaws of the trap to save both the woman and her “leg.” Pro-lifers insist that there is always room for hope. There is always a way to avoid a destructive amputation — a way which in the long run will be appreciated by both her and her “leg.”
What we see in these two perspectives is the difference between despair and hope. Despair inevitably leads us to accept abortion. Hope always leads us to embrace life.
Hope is a virtue. It is centered on God, the source of all hope. Despair is a sin against hope. It is one of Satan’s greatest weapons.
The Weapon Of Despair
By fanning the flames of despair, Satan can lead us into the greatest of sins, because desperate people do desperate things. At the moment a person gives in to despair, one has suffered a loss of faith and trust in God. In the case of abortion, the desperate woman has lost faith in the promise that God has a plan for her life, much less a plan for her child’s life.
Desperate people try to take control. They try to save whatever they can by doing whatever needs to be done — which may include betraying their own values. For example, when the Nazis undertook the extermination of millions of Jews, the sheer magnitude of their task required them to develop ways of soliciting the cooperation of the victims. There were too few soldiers to contain millions of rebellious Jews. So it was necessary to manipulate their victims so that they would choose to cooperate for at least one day at a time. The Nazis did this by exposing the Jews to limited threats; the victims were always left with the bit of hope that by submitting to the present indignity, there was something else which could be saved. According to sociologist Zygmunt Bauman:
At all stages of the Holocaust, the victims were confronted with a choice (as least subjectively – even when objectively the choice did not exist any more, having been preempted by the secret decision of physical destruction). They could not choose between good and bad situations, but they could at least choose between greater and lesser evil… In other words they had something to save. To make their victims’ behavior predictable and hence manipulable and controllable, the Nazis had to induce them to act in the ‘rational mode.’ To achieve that effect, they had to make the victims believe that there was indeed something to save, and that there were clear rules as to how one should go about saving it.1
These choices were presented in a way that discouraged reflecting on the decisions from a moral perspective. Instead, the victims were pressured to make rational decisions based on the rational need to “save whatever we can.”
Using this demonic strategy, the Nazis encouraged the empowerment of ghetto Jewish leaders who would see to the needs of the people, coordinate distribution of medicine and materials, maintain morale, etc. These same leaders were then manipulated into cooperating with the Nazi extermination program. They were confronted with the agonizing choice of cooperating with the Nazis or witnessing the slaughter of their people. At first the cooperation was in “small” things, maintaining a ghetto police force, providing lists of names, selection of ghetto residents to be sent to “resettlement” projects, providing transportation to pick-up points, and the like. In some cases, when the Nazis wanted to punish the entire community for some infraction, Jewish leaders were even forced to select and arrest the desired number of victims who were to be publicly executed by the Nazis. And always–no matter what the request–the leaders were told that by cooperating they were saving the lives of the majority who remained. Leaders who didn’t cooperate were eliminated. Leaders who did cooperate saved their own lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of the dwindling majority of Jews under their leadership–at least for a time–and were left to agonize over their complicity.
The similarity between Nazi manipulations of the Jews and the abortionists’ manipulation of women faced with crisis pregnancies is striking. Just as the victim-Jews were forced to choose between losing everything, or just a little, so abortion counselors encourage the victim-woman to view “this pregnancy” as a threat to everything she has, her relationships, her family, her career, her entire future. She is assured that by sacrificing this one thing (a tiny unborn child), she can save the rest. During this process, the victim-woman is urged to view the abortion decision not as a moral choice, but as a rational choice of “saving what you can.”
But in fact, just as those who reluctantly cooperated with the Nazis discovered, the bargain is a false one. The demands on ghetto leaders to sacrifice more and more victims never stopped. And so it is with the post-aborted woman. After her child is destroyed, she faces self-condemnation, lower self-esteem, difficulty with relationships, substance abuse, career problems, a cycle of repeat abortions, and more. Often she experiences an intense desire for replacement pregnancies to atone for her lost child, and she becomes a single parent, the very problem she sought to avoid in the first place – but now she also has to deal with the emotional scars of an abortion.
The Devil versus Christ
It is significant how differently Christ and the Devil appear before and after any sin, in this case, abortion. Before the abortion, Christ stands, with his arms outstretched to block the way, saying, “Do not do this thing. The sacrifice you make now will be rewarded a hundredfold. I offer you life, so that you may live life abundantly. Place your hope in me and I will not abandon you.”
The Devil, on the other hand, insists, “You must get rid of it. Look at all you will lose… You have no choice. You have already gotten yourself into this problem. Now you must get yourself out. Do this one thing and then you will be back in the driver’s seat of life. Things will be the way they used to be.”
Christ asks us to trust in a plan which we do yet fully understand; Satan urges us to act now to save what we already have. Christ asks us to make a moral decision rooted in hope; Satan asks us to make a “rational” decision based on present needs, desires, and fears.
But after the abortion, how do they appear? Afterwards, Christ continues to offer hope: “Come to me. I want to share your tears. I want to comfort you. Know that all is forgiven. See, your child is in my arms waiting for you to join us when your day is completed.”
Satan on the other hand continues to fan the flames of despair. He who pretended to be on her side now stands as her fiercest accuser. “Look at what you have done! You have murdered your own child! Can there be anything worse than that? There’s no hope for you now. You are nothing. You’re beyond redemption! You may as well seek what little comfort you can in the embrace of an affair, in the bottom of a booze bottle, or in the silence of suicide. And if you get pregnant again, you’ve already had an abortion once, so you might as well do it again–it may even help you to get tougher and more immune to this pain. It makes no difference now. You’ve proven you can murder. Nothing can be worse. And, oh, how you must hate those people who led you to this. Your boyfriend, your parents, your doctor. There is no one you can trust. There is no one who can love YOU — a murderer. You are alone. Your best hope is to bury your past. Hide it from others. Hide it from yourself. But remember it will always be yours alone to bear.”
Before the abortion, Christ condemns it and Satan makes excuses for it. After the abortion, Satan is the one condemning it while Christ wants to forgive it.2
This is the Devil’s bargain. He encourages women to submit to abortion in order to avoid losing what they already have. But once they have chosen it, he tries to keep them trapped in despair so as to strip away everything else. Indeed, Satan pumps as much despair into her life as he can generate. And not into her life alone, but into the lives of the child’s father, grandparents, siblings, and everyone else he can touch with the poison of abortion. His purpose is threefold: to generate misery, to encourage more sin, and to create doubt in the unfathomable mercy of God.
Despair and Forgiveness
For many post-aborted women, the forgiveness of God is a precept which they can mouth, but it is difficult for them to digest. How can they be forgiven? The horror of their sin is so great. Many know that they must believe in God’s forgiveness, and they do so in an act of faith. But how can they feel forgiven, when every instinct in their nature says they cannot be forgiven, even should not be forgiven?
This is the question I will try to address with a few thoughts in part two of this series.
I caught this post a few years ago on the souls of aborted babies on the blog "V for Victory." The full article is no longer available online, but here is a short excerp.. For a start, needless to say, point #B is a pretty wide assumption. How can someone make a blanket statement like that? "There is no desire on the part of their mothers that they be baptised." I think the author needs to speak to some post abortive women. Here it is, in part...
A recent conversation turned to the character of baptism as essential to salvation, and from there, to the fate of unbaptized babies -- and particularly the souls of aborted babies. A friend and fellow Dominican posited the following for consideration:
a. The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is essential to salvation.
b. Aborted babies are not baptized, and there is no desire on the part of their mothers that they be baptized.
c. The ferocity with which Satan fans the flames of abortion – with roughly a million and a half in the United States each year – suggests that the souls of aborted babies may be lost to Heaven. Otherwise, the reasoning goes, the Enemy would not be so keen for Americans to favor abortion, and for the abortion mills go on churning out so many dead babies year after year.
I think it is important to bring up "The Gospel of Life" here, and what Saint Pope John Paul II wrote about aborted babies, "You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord."
Afterwards, I felt the need to write further on the topic...
Be Not Afraid
There has been a lot of progress over the years, in understanding the impact of abortion. I personally, will always be so grateful to the Elliot Institute for understanding exactly how I felt and putting it into words before I knew how to.
I also am grateful for post abortion research that increases awareness of the many factors which influence an abortion decision. Pressure from boyfriends, or husband, parents and even doctors are often a contributing factor, and although there may be some women who abort for no apparent reason, I have found that most people make the decision because of some outside influence.
Abortion is always wrong, but it does help to understand the reasons and the fact that no matter what the who’s, how’s and whys, abortion is never a solution, but the beginning of a whole new set of problems.
In spite of this progress however, there are still times when those post abortive feel stuck in the middle of the debate. The majority of those who favor abortion still fear acknowledging the harm to women and pain and suffering they go through. They continue to deny the existence of post abortion stress and blame it on other things, as if killing your own child were not enough reason to suffer. They refuse to accept the suffering as a direct result of an abortion.
There are also pro lifers who fear by allowing the suffering to end or by showing compassion and mercy to those who have had an abortion, you would somehow be saying abortion is ok. For some reason, they think by showing mercy, the pain will end too soon, or maybe, will not be felt at all.
Ironically, this can apply not only to the mothers, but to the aborted baby as well. Many pro choicers think the unborn feel no pain in spite of evidence to the contrary, and some pro lifers believe that heaven is closed to aborted children, as if God’s Mercy can be limited. In truth, in many ways, mother and child are still joined in the craziness of the societal battle of abortion when instead, they need to be reunited in the God of life.
I recently attended a mass in which the priest focused on the message of the Holy Father’s visit to the Unites states, “hope." He spoke of this “hope” being rooted in reality. That it is not a wishing like earthly hope, but a knowing. A knowing, because of the life, death, resurrection and ascension, of Jesus Christ.
In the Catholic faith, we who are post abortive have the beautiful Encyclical written by Pope John Paul II, “Evangelium Vitae," “The Gospel of Life." I am certain, like me, many women and men searched it s pages to find the words of the Holy Father to those of us who had aborted a child. What a gift of understanding, compassion and mercy it was! It was as if he knew everything…our difficulty in the decision, our pain and guilt after, while still standing firm to the wrong of abortion. Like the God of Mercy he represents, the Pope also addressed our desire for knowledge as to the care of our children.
As we dealt with our sin, there was a fear to think of our children’s fate and the possibility of their closure to heaven because they were not baptized, but Saint Pope John Paul the II assured us even of this.
“To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.”
A “sure hope” not found in earthly terms, but in reality. The reality of Jesus Christ who is Mercy Himself.
Some people unfortunately have trouble with the thought of our children in heaven. They fear that if we know they are in heaven it will somehow make abortion okay, or not as painful, as if the thought of our child living with Christ makes the killing justified.
They seek to close off heaven to the unborn as if a baptism of blood, in their innocence, where not allowed by God. They reject the comfort it may give to those who have participated in abortion, fearful that this comfort would make them believe abortion is all right.
With Saint Pope John Paul II, I say to those people, “Be Not Afraid!" No one knows more than a mother's heart, no matter what she says, that abortion is wrong. It is their child, tied by a motherly bond even abortion cannot dissolve.
And the thought of their children in heaven brings hope. Not a hope that focuses on them or reduces the seriousness of their sin, but a sure hope in Jesus, and His mercy, allowing them to be reunited with their unborn children.
Sanctioning people to a life without hope is not something of God who sent His son into the world for the forgiveness of all sin. Even the sin of abortion.
I assure you, there will still be suffering. The thought of a child in heaven does not negate the act of abortion, nor the loss of that child to this world. But it does accentuate the Mercy of our God. A God who desires the salvation of all sinners, even women and men who participate in abortion. If they can get to heaven, why would this same God omit their children? He wouldn’t. As another translation of the Gospel of Life states , they are “living in the Lord."
Post abortive people do not need others to make sure they suffer, they suffer enough on their own. You may not always see it, they may cover up or hide in denial, guilt, shame or maybe even arrogance, but it is there, for God alone, who knows our hearts to judge.
May we all look to the mercy and grace of God that alone saves us all from sin. May we not limit His goodness, who died on the cross for our salvation, and may we never take for granted the remission of our sins but humbly follow Him with gratitude for the mercy He has shown us all. Be not afraid!
The following is an updated version of an article by Amy Sobie & David C. Reardon, Ph.D., that was originally published in The Post-Abortion Review, 8(1), Jan.-March 2000. Copyright 2000, 2010 Elliot Institute.
Gaylene was 14 when she became pregnant. She turned to her high school guidance counselor for advice. She writes:
[The school counselor] was sympathetic and understanding. He felt there was no need to worry my family. He also explained about having a child, how tough it would be on me and that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do. He said that the child would suffer because I was much too young to be a parent. He pointed out that the best thing for me to do was to abort the fetus at this stage so no one would be hurt. No mention was made of talking to my parents about this or carrying the baby to term. He indicated that adoption would be difficult and not an option for me.
. . . I felt as though I had no control over what was happening to me. I started to question what I was doing, but in my logic I’d refer back to what the counselor had told me, and then I would think he was right. But still today, I feel like I did not decide to have the abortion. 1
Gaylene’s traumatic reaction to her abortion experience included suicide attempts, alcoholism, drugs, crime, involvement in a cult and a major break with her family. Sadly, Gaylene’s story is not unique. For teens, the possibility of developing psychological and emotional problems after abortion is substantially higher than for more mature women.2
One reason that teenagers are more vulnerable is because their psychological defense mechanisms are not fully developed. Their emotional immaturity leaves them more susceptible to events and circumstances that can profoundly damage their view of the world, other people, and themselves. Consequently, abortion can be especially harmful for teens because this major, traumatic experience occurs at a critical time in the development of their self-identity. 3
Researchers have found that teenagers who have abortions face a number of higher risks. For example, teens are more likely to feel pressured into abortion, to report being misinformed in pre-abortion counseling and to experience more severe psychological stress after abortion. 4 They are also more likely to experience more intense feelings of guilt, depression and isolation after an abortion. 5 Teens who abort are 6 times more likely than their peers to commit suicide. 6
Further, a study of teens with “unwanted” pregnancies found that teens who aborted were more likely to have subsequent trouble sleeping, to report using marijuana after abortion and to undergo treatment for psychological and emotional problems compared to those who carried to term.
Manipulation and Coercion
Many teens are simply not mature enough to understand the information they need to make such a life-impacting choice. As a result, they are extremely vulnerable to manipulation and coercion by counselors, medical personnel, and other adults in positions of authority.
Even some pro-abortion groups have acknowledged that teenagers need extra guidance when it comes to abortion. For example, a Planned Parenthood counseling guide stated that teenagers have few or limited problem solving skills; are more likely than adults to lack responsibility; are more vulnerable; are more anxious and distrustful; are lacking in knowledge; and have difficulty in communicating. As a result, “counselors need to be aware of and appreciate the fact that pregnancy counseling with teenagers can be very different from counseling adults . . . pregnancy counseling with teens is often a crisis situation.” 8
Unfortunately, while Planned Parenthood counselors recognize the vulnerability of teens, they oppose laws that would require parents to be informed before their minor daughter undergoes an abortion. For counselors who seek to promote abortion as the best or even only solution, keeping teens away from loved ones who might support continuing the pregnancy is an important part of maximizing their own influence.
This situation leaves teens vulnerable to pressure, abuse, manipulation and coercion to abort. Over and over, women who had abortion as teenagers use phrases like the following to explain how they ended up having an unwanted abortion.
My school counselor (abortion clinic counselor, teacher, pastor, boyfriend’s mom, etc.) told me that if I didn’t want my parents to find out, I would have to have an abortion …
My boyfriend threatened me if I didn’t abort.
Everyone told me I was too young to have a baby and that my only alternative was abortion.
My parents locked me in the house and made the appointment.
I wasn’t given any information about fetal development or alternatives to abortion.
The situation is further exacerbated when a teen is involved in a sexually abusive relationship. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of many abortion businesses and the documented failure of clinic staff to report cases of suspected abuse means that sexual predators can use abortion to hide the abuse and, in many cases, continue preying on their victims.
If a teen has an abortion in secret, this disrupts family relationships. A teen who has a secret abortion must hide feelings of depression, sadness, and even thoughts of suicide that might otherwise alert their parents to the problem. If they cannot repress these feelings, the source must remain hidden or their emotions transformed into anger and rebellion. This overarching need for secrecy accentuates their feelings of shame and will often lead to withdrawal from family intimacy and excursions into drugs, alcohol and destructive relationships.
Any of these problems can dramatically exacerbate normal family tensions. Kept in the dark, parents cannot know that their child is struggling to cope with his or her abortion experience. With no frame of reference for understanding their child’s disturbed behavior, parents are likely to become increasingly frustrated at being held at a distance. In turn, the parents’ frustrations are likely to fuel the distrust or rebellious nature of the teen because she feels alone and unsupported by those around her.
If a teen experiences physical complications from abortion, keeping the abortion secret may have deadly consequences. The teen may be afraid to seek medical help or hide symptoms for fear that their parents will find out about the abortion. There have been several reported cases of teens who died from complications after undergoing abortions that their parents did not know about.
Unfortunately school counselors, social workers and others in positions of authority can exert tremendous influence over a vulnerable teenager, steering and even coercing her into an unwanted abortion.
For example, William Hickey, a high school guidance counselor in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, was sued by the parents of a 16-year-old girl for circumventing the state’s parental consent law by arranging for the teen to have a secret abortion in New Jersey. The girl’s parents subsequently filed a lawsuit against Hickey and the Hatboro-Horsham school district, charging that Hickey pressured their daughter to have an abortion despite her expressed doubts and beliefs against abortion.
The parents said that Hickey “engaged in a course of conduct which was inherently coercive, was intended to and did exert undue influence upon [a minor], and ensured that she refrain from discussing with her parents her pregnancy and whether to obtain an abortion.” They said that when their daughter told Hickey she had doubts about undergoing an abortion, he told her, “Someday you’ll look back on this and laugh.”
The lawsuit also stated that school officials refused to cooperate when asked to investigate the situation. Instead, the parents say they were told that the school district “has deep pockets” to defend itself from a lawsuit. The case was eventually settled out of court. 9
Other examples of manipulation and coercion abound. In 2002, a judge found Planned Parenthood negligent for failing to report the case of an abortion performed on a 13-year-old girl who was being sexually abused by her foster brother. The 23-year-old man took the girl to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in 1998, but Planned Parenthood did not notify authorities until the girl returned six months later for a second abortion. A lawsuit alleged that the girl was subjected to repeated abuse and a second abortion because Planned Parenthood failed to notify authorities of possible abuse when she had her first abortion. Her abuser was sentenced to five years in prison and lifetime probation. 10
Unfortunately, there are few safeguards currently in place to protect teenagers from coerced abortions. For example, in states where parental consent is needed for an abortion, the judicial bypass system is seriously flawed.
Without a mechanism to provide for cross-examination of witnesses and the introduction of witnesses who would testify that the abortion is not in the girl’s best interests, how can judges make an informed decision? How can we be sure that the adults seeking permission for the young girl to abort without notifying her parents are not themselves manipulating, pressuring or even forcing her to seek an abortion? The only way to protect these teens is to pass laws that will make abortionists liable for failing to screen women and teens for coerced and unwanted abortions.
Learn more: Read our special e-mail report on Teens and Abortion.
Share more: Download and share our Teen Abortion Risk fact sheet.
1. Reardon, D.,Aborted Women, Silent No More (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2002) 37-38.
2. Rue, V. & Speckhard, A, “Post Abortion Trauma: Incidence & Diagnostic Considerations,”Medicine & Mind, 6: 57-75 (1991).
3. Deutsch, M., “Personality Factors, Self-Concept, and Family Variables Related to First Time and Repeat Abortion-Seeking Behavior in Adolescent Women.” Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Washington, D.C.: American University, 1982.
4. Franz, W. & Reardon, D., “Differential Impact of Abortion on Adolescents & Adults,”Adolescence, 27(105):162-172.
5. Biro, F., Wildey, L., Hillard, P., & Rauh, J., “Acute and Long-Term Consequences of Adolescents Who Choose Abortions,” Pediatric Annals, 15(10):667-672 (1986).
6. B. Garfinkel, et al., “Stress, Depression and Suicide: A Study of Adolescents in Minnesota,” Responding to High Risk Youth (University of Minnesota: Minnesota Extension Service, 1986); Mika Gissler, Elina Hemminki, Jouko Lonnqvist, “Suicides after pregnancy in Finland: 1987-94: register linkage study,” British Medical Journal 313:14314, 1996; Campbell, N., Franco, K. & Jurs, S., “Abortion in Adolescence,”Adolescence, 23:813-823 (1988).
7. PK Coleman, “Resolution of Unwanted Pregnancy During Adolescence Through Abortion Versus Childbirth: Individual and Family Predictors and Psychological Consequences,” (2006).
8. Saltzman, L. & Policar, M., The Complete Guide to Pregnancy Testing and Counseling (Alameda, CA: Planned Parenthood, 1985) 113-114.
9. “Settlement announced in Pennsylvania Teen Abortion Case,” press release from the American Center for Law & Justice, March 15, 2000.
10. “Planned Parenthood Found Negligent in Reporting Molested Teen’s Abortion,”Pro-Life Infonet, Dec. 26, 2002.
Excerpted from No One Told Me I Could Cry: A Teen’s Guide to Hope and Healing After Abortion, by Connie Nykiel, RN. Copyright 1997 For Teen Moms Only. Available from Young Family Press, PO Box 962, Frankfort, IL 60423 or Life Cycle Books at (800) 214-5849. Published in The Post-Abortion Review 7(1) Jan.-March 1999.
I teach childbirth education to pregnant teenagers. My job is to prepare young parents for parenthood. This includes the possibility of parenting a baby with a birth defect or being the parent of a baby that is miscarried, stillborn, or dies soon after birth.
This is the hardest class for me to teach. Young mothers don’t want to talk or think about it. It is their worst fear. I usually end up telling them that if it is too painful to think about their own babies dying, then listen and learn how to help others who have lost a baby.
We talk about the stages of grief, the feelings of those who are mourning, what to say and what not to say. We read poems and letters that mothers have written to their babies.
Despite their protests I taught the class and before I knew it, the girls were talking about an aunt, cousin or friend who had lost a baby. They said they wished they would have known what to do and say before. They realized that they had said and done some of the things that hurt these parents.
One of the young mothers-to-be, Maria, bravely told us how her little boy died only a few hours after birth. I do not know how or why her little boy died because it seems no one ever told Maria. She didn’t get much sympathy and the only way she new how to cope was by becoming pregnant again. She thought that would make the pain go away, but it didn’t.
The girls in the class hugged her, comforted her and said all the right things. They had listened well and I was proud of what they did for Maria. They decided to have a memorial service for Maria’s baby.
There were four girls in the class who had miscarriages. They were slow to mention their miscarriages at first. It seemed they weren’t even sure that it was normal for them to mourn for their babies. We listened with horror as they told about some of the cruel things that were said to them.
They received little comfort. They were told to get on with their lives. They were told that their baby’s death was for the best, that they shouldn’t have been pregnant anyway, and that their baby’s death was a punishment from God. Few felt comfortable crying in front of family and friends. They had learned to hide their feelings and hold back their tears.
By the end of the class we all had stuffy red noses from crying. We were tired. We had shared and grown closer. At the end of class I casually mentioned that girls who have abortions or make adoption plans for their babies can also grieve deeply. Little did I know what that one statement would do.
Three girls came to my office that afternoon. Every one of them had had an abortion. Each one had a story that tore at my heart. They were all mourning for their babies and didn’t know it. Their trust in me led me to love them even more than I already did.
Tiffany was a young girl whose face full of tears I will always remember.
You couldn’t help but notice her. She was a troublemaker. She was large and loud. She caused fights wherever she went. She questioned everything her teachers said. Her own mother, brothers, and sisters didn’t want to be around her. She complained about the teachers, lousy food, being poor, stupid boys, stuck-up girls, an unfair world, and the color of the walls.
Tiffany was also a top student. She was fair and honest and she defended students that were picked on. She was streetwise. Mostly, she was angry and just plain raving mad. Her temper got her in trouble and she was always being sent to the principal’s office.
I could never figure out why Tiffany was always so angry, until she came to me after the grief class. She practically knocked me over as she came rushing into my office. “Ohhhh, Connie, have I got something to tell you. You won’t believe this, but I’ve got to tell you.”
I had always admired Tiffany for her openness and now I was admiring her big beautiful brown eyes. She looked anxious, scared and angry all at the same time. It seemed she was trying to catch her breath, and then she blurted out, “I had four abortions.”
I closed my eyes, felt her pain, and in sadness I said, “Tiffany, I’m so sorry.”
Before I could ask her if she wanted to tell me about it, she started yelling. “I was fourteen when I had my first abortion. When I got pregnant, I told my mother right away. I did what I was supposed to do. I knew she would be upset, but I never thought she would make me get an abortion. We’re Catholic.
“One morning she woke me up early and told me to get ready. She told me I had an appointment for an abortion. I couldn’t believe it. I did what she said, but when I got to the abortion clinic, I cried and begged them not to do the abortion. My mother made such a stink about being poor and not wanting any more babies in the house that they listened to her instead of me. They did the abortion anyway.
“They didn’t even put me to sleep. They said it would cost more. It hurt! It hurt, and they didn’t even care! My mother, the doctor, the nurse, nobody cared!”
A look of agony spread across her face. Catching her breath she went on again, “Dalvon was the baby’s father. I loved him and I wanted him to be the father of my children. I never told him about the abortion. I just got pregnant again with our second baby.
“I told my mother as soon as I knew I was pregnant, because I never thought she would make me have another abortion. But she did the same thing and it happened all over again. I begged her not to make me get an abortion. No one listened to me. No one cared.
“I cried all the way home on the bus and I was cramping. Dalvon and I broke up after that. I couldn’t tell him about the abortions. I felt bad because his babies were dead and he never even knew he was a father.”
Calmer then, but stone faced she said, “After that I didn’t care what happened to me. I partied. I drank. I did crack. I had sex with anyone who asked and I got pregnant again. I waited until I was five months pregnant before I told my mother. She brought me to the doctor and he said it wasn’t too late to have an abortion. Why did they keep doing this to me?
“I had to go to the hospital that time because I was further along. They put something called saline into me. It was awful. I could feel the baby kicking and fighting. Then the baby stopped kicking and I knew it was dead.
“I started having labor pains the next day. The pains were awful. I didn’t want my mother in the room with me because I thought she was evil. We fought the whole time. I told her to go home. I wanted to have my baby alone. A part of me kept hoping that the baby would be alive and then they’d have to save it.
“The pains kept getting longer and stronger. I pushed and then my little boy was born dead. They all left me alone again. No one cared. I cried for about a minute and then I wrapped him in the sheet and put on the light for the nurse. It took fifteen minutes before she even got there.
“I’m not even sure who the father of my little girl was. I was six months along before I told my mother about the fourth pregnancy, but it didn’t stop her from beating me and pulling my hair. I had another abortion by the same doctor and at the same hospital. I didn’t cry. I guess I just got used to it.”
Then Tiffany stood there in silence, with a look of hatred on her face, her mouth quivering and twisted as if she were daring me to pass judgment on her. She was ready to lash out at me. She was holding back the tears that were welling in her eyes.
“Tiffany,” I asked. “Have you cried for your babies?”
A puzzled look crossed her face, as if it were the last thing she was expecting me to say. “No one told me I could cry,” she said with surprise in her voice.
Then I realized why Tiffany had told me her story. What she wanted from me was permission to cry like the other girls did in class that day. So I gave it to her.
“Tiffany, you can cry all you want. It’s normal to cry. You have a right to cry. Your babies are dead and you miss them.”
Hearing those words, the tough, city smart Tiffany turned into a hurting broken child. She held out her arms to me and sobbed, “Hold me. Hold me.” I hugged her, rocked her and smoothed her hair. Together we wept.
I knew I had to do something special for Tiffany. She was seven months pregnant and this time she insisted on having the baby and raising it herself. I didn’t know much about post-abortion counseling then. What I did know was that if I didn’t do something soon it would affect her and her baby for the rest of their lives.
That night I stopped by the library. I took home every book about abortion that the library carried. I read pro-choice books, pro-life books, and the stories of women of all ages who have suffered from abortion. I sent for studies from professional journals and for information from organizations. I spoke with women who had abortions and women who led post-abortion support groups. This book will tell you what I learned and what I shared with Tiffany.
Shame is something we all go through–yet everyone who experiences it feels isolated and alone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Dr. Edward T. Welch presents a path that will allow us to halt shame in its tracks in his book Shame Interrupted.
You and I can walk free of shame and the trailing emotions of feeling worthless and rejected. It’s really important that you and I know how to interrupt a shame attack. Because shame leaves us delusional about ourselves, about others, and worst of all, as a result of shame we become delusional about God.
I was subject to an overriding feeling of shame for most of my young adult life until I met Jesus Christ when I was thirty-eight. Accepting him as my Saviour was a blessed relief. But the holiness I needed to lift the shame completely eluded me. In large measure this was due to a common misconception: I thought I had to clean myself up before I could go to God without my shame. That thinking is a dead end–we can do nothing to ascribe worth to ourselves–and the harder we try with accomplishments, relationships, material possessions, etc. the more shame dominates our self-concept. Overcoming shame is one of the biggest barriers to post-abortion healing. Yet if we can learn to apply this lesson to our abortion-related problems we will find ourselves equipped for facing shame wherever it may intrude.
Kim and Ed's conversation on Cradle My Heart is worth a listen for all of us who suffer from a past abortion. Click here to listen to the podcast.
From his bio:
Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He has counseled for thirty years and is the best-selling author of many books including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest; and When I Am Afraid: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Fear and Anxiety. He and his wife Sheri have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren.
The following is my own testimony which I wrote for the USCCB in 2000.
“We are to show to those in need His goodness to ourselves . . .”
This phrase at Mass speaks to my heart. It reminds me of the despair, the grief, the pain of abortion from which Christ delivered me. It reminds me also of my duty to give hope to those still suffering, to help point the way to a place of shelter and peace in the heart of Jesus. And so, I relate my experience–unique and personal, but not unlike the stories of many other women. But this story is not, finally, about me. It’s about our good and merciful God . . . always there, wanting to forgive us and to make us whole again.
* * *
At 18 I honestly believed I was the only one not having sex. I gave in to peer pressure and slept with someone I was seeing occasionally. I remember vividly the day I phoned the doctor for my test results and learned I was pregnant.
After months of denial, I was nearly four months pregnant, so I knew the answer long before the word “positive” was uttered. I was overwhelmed by a range a feelings: happiness at the thought of a child growing within me, but also fear of telling my parents–the reason I had “denied”it for so long.
I immediately told the father of the child, and we decided to get married. Although we planned to tell our parents together, I blurted the truth to my mother and father. Their reaction took me by surprise. Shocked, angry and disappointed, they told me to leave the house and forget that I was their daughter.
In retrospect, their reaction was understandable. They believed that premarital sex was wrong and thought it would be a disgrace to have a child out of wedlock. At least, I thought, my parents were practicing Catholics and would never ask me to abort my child. I left the house with no job, no money, no home and nowhere to turn, feeling utterly abandoned and alone. It wasn’t long before the babys father and I broke up. Still, I was certain I would not get an abortion. I wanted my child.
A friend’s mother invited me to stay in their home. I had no idea how I could support the baby and myself, and things began to feel hopeless. During this period, my father sent several messages urging me to have an abortion. He even offered to pay for it. I refused. But as I began to feel more desperate, I decided, finally, to let the abortion happen. I shut down my feelings and went through the motions, functioning more like an observer in a surreal world than someone in control.
Thirty years later, I still can’t remember how I got to the hospital. But I do remember being alone in the hospital room when a doctor entered, and I’ll never forget the sadistic look on his face as he injected saline into my abdomen.
No one explained to me the baby’s development or what the abortion would be like. I had no idea what was going to happen. I lay there just wishing that I could die. I could feel the baby thrashing around as his skin and lungs were burned by the saline. He was dying. Labor began. After twelve hours of labor, alone in the room, I gave birth to a dead baby boy.
I looked at his tiny feet and hands. All I wanted to do was pick up my son and put him back inside of me. I couldn’t fathom what I had done. I rang for the nurse. She came in, picked up my son and dumped him in what looked like a large mayonnaise jar, a jar marked 3A. Then she left the room and I was alone again, filled with hatred for myself. The thought of death seemed comforting. My downward spiral had only just begun.
After the abortion I flew to California to spend time with my sister and her family so I could get my bearings again. I wasn’t the same person anymore. I went through the motions of daily living, but I had no desire for anything. At night, in the room I shared with my two-year-old niece, I’d lie awake asking God over and over again to forgive me.
Three months later I returned to the New York area. Although I was not in contact with my father, my mom would slip out to meet me occasionally. Still trying to run away from myself, I moved to Florida. During my two years there, I called my dad and we began speaking again, although never mentioning my abortion.
When I returned to the area, I found a job and outwardly things seemed fine. But nothing was as it seemed. I tried hard not to think about who I was and what I had done. When I thought about my dead child, I would become depressed and despairing. Desperate to be loved, I became involved with the man I would marry, even though he was emotionally and psychologically abusive to me.
Two years later I was thrilled to be pregnant with our first child. But I was also afraid that God would punish me for the abortion, that something would be wrong with my child. I prayed constantly that the baby would not have to suffer for my sins, and was immensely relieved when he was born healthy.
The marriage began to fall apart soon after the baby’s birth. My husband was abusing alcohol and we were arguing all the time. We tried counseling to salvage our marriage. Knowing that my abortion was at the root of my problems, I told the counselor about it. He told me to just forget about it. It was in the past. I could not make him understand that the abortion was very much in the present because I was living with the consequences every day.
For a while my husband stayed sober, and I became pregnant with our second child. By the time I was to give birth, however, his addiction was again full-blown. The night our second child was born, I did not expect my husband to be there. By the time he got home, I was well along in labor and we barely made it to the hospital in time.
The birth of my son was anything but joyous. I didn’t know how I was going to care for two children, living with someone addicted to alcohol. Unlike the husbands of mothers around me, my husband did not show up the next day; he was recovering from a hangover. I lay alone in a hospital room, but this time my child was alive.
Soon after I brought the baby home, my husband overdosed and had to be rushed to the hospital. The incident helped me to begin breaking the cycle. During his two-week hospital stay, I began to enjoy my children for the first time. I didn’t have to worry about where he was or what he was doing. I gave the children my full attention. I promised myself that I would not let them grow up in an abusive home, and that if he didn’t straighten out, the children and I would begin a life for ourselves.
I kept my sanity by praying and reading the Bible. My husband stayed sober for two years before it began all over again. The day my older son, then four, told me to hide in the closet when he saw his father coming home, I knew we would have to leave.
For myself, I may well have stayed in that abusive relationship forever, but I did not want the boys to experience abuse. One day when my husband was drinking again, I took the children and walked out the door. Once again I found myself with no job, no money, no home. This time, thank God, I had my children.
My sister took me in to her already full apartment, and with my family’s help (in this crisis I had their full support), I began to get my life together. Shortly after I walked out, my husband ended up in rehab, so the boys and I were able to move back into our apartment. I found a job. Within a year or two I returned to school to train as a substance abuse counselor. My family helped me both financially and by helping to care for the boys. I could not have made it without them.
After graduation, one of my teachers offered me a job. I thought I had finally gotten it together. Little did I realize how fragile this new life was.
By this time I had grown in my spiritual life and had a relationship with God, even though I did not truly know Him and still kept a distance from church. I still suffered from depression, entertained thoughts of suicide and had very low self esteem; the fact that I had been one of the few from my class offered a job did not raise my self-esteem.
In time, as I struggled with my personal problems, my professional work began to suffer. I experienced “burn out.” It was devastating to have worked so hard to achieve what I had and then become unable to function. I realize now that it was God’s way of drawing me closer to Him.
I quit my job and struggled to stay out of the hospital. My dad supported me and the kids. I just moved through life. Every day it was a challenge just to get out of bed and take care of the boys. I did, however, begin attending Mass again, sitting in the back of the church, certain that everyone knew I had had an abortion, certain that the walls would come crashing down on me. But I went, listening for some word of hope that I could be forgiven for my terrible, “unforgivable” sin.
By then my older son was seven and ready to make his First Penance. At a meeting for the parents, a priest talked about God’s mercy and His desire to forgive any sin, even the sin of abortion. I remember thinking: Can this be true? Did I hear him correctly? Will God really forgive abortion? That evening I left with the first inkling of hope I had known in ten years.
It took time and courage, but I decided to contact that priest and ask him to hear my confession. Scared and nervous, I made my first confession in many years. The priest was gentle, trying to make it as easy as he could for me. He showed great empathy and support. At last, I was on my way home.
I began to see the priest regularly for spiritual direction. At first, all I could see was darkness. It was an effort to do the things he asked, like examining my life, because I was sure I would uncover only what a terrible person I was. But I was tired of the depression and desperate enough to try. I felt sorry for my children who had a mom who cried a lot and simply couldn’t cope with life. I wanted more for the three of us. And so I prayed, went to Mass every day and spent time before the Blessed Sacrament. I needed so badly to trust in this God I had been told was so good.
Still I could not forgive myself. I continued to struggle with depression. I would beg Jesus for healing. I felt bad that I had not reached full healing, and my confessor’s eyes showed his own sadness over my continued struggle. I understand now that the fullness of healing must come in God’s time.
One night I felt depressed and suicidal again, but despite these feelings, I also somehow felt a deep trust in God. I didn’t want the children to see me crying again, so after putting them to bed, I closed myself in the bathroom, crouched on the floor, and repeated over and over, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
I don’t know how many hours I did this, but well into the night I had an experience that changed my life. I experienced being on the cross with Christ. But instead of experiencing suffering, I felt love so intense that it was capable of taking away that pain. I felt His love wash away my sin and I knew my healing was complete.
I have never since felt the despair of abortion, only the profound love and forgiveness Christ gave me. I’ve watched my life be transformed, miraculously, as I’ve been privileged to help countless women and men suffering from abortion’s aftermath. Christ’s love transformed not only my life, but the lives of those I love.
Before my mother died, I learned that my abortion had caused her great suffering, although she had never told me. One day when we were watching TV, abortion was mentioned. She said, “Well, sometimes it’s all right to have an abortion.” I said, “Mom, it is never all right.”
God gave us this moment of grace. She told me that my abortion was her sin and that she would take it to the grave with her. I was able to comfort her, telling her that we both bore responsibility for it. I told her that I forgave her and asked her to forgive me. After that my mother went to confession to the same priest I had seen for direction, and she felt that her terrible burden was lifted.
Most difficult was telling my children. I felt that God was calling me to speak out about abortion, but I knew I couldn’t unless my children knew first. I was terrified they would hate me. It took me years to muster the courage. By now I was active in the pro-life movement and they had been brought up to respect human life.
I planned to tell them many times, but each time I backed out, afraid to say the words. Finally one day I knew I was being given the grace to talk to them. How can I describe that day? I trembled as I told them of how our lives had come to be as they were. If not for my abortion, they would not be living in a fatherless household or seeing the strained relationship between my father and me.
The boys wrestled with their feelings. They were angry at me. They grieved for the brother they never knew. They felt guilty for surviving. It took time, a lot of talking, and the grace of God, but they understood finally why things were as they were, and why I had spent years crying. They grew closer to God, and we grew closer to one another.
I didn’t speak publicly right away. The boys needed time to deal with their feelings and cope with the loss of their brother before I would do that. I was even resigned and at peace with the fact that the day might never come. But a few years later, they gave me their blessing. To say I am proud of them is an understatement. They have become great advocates for life.
I’ve now worked for some years with the Sisters of Life, conducting Days of Prayer and Healing for those suffering abortion’s trauma. I am grateful to be able to stand alongside the Sisters at the foot of the cross and minister to these children of God, and blessed to watch them be transformed by His love and forgiveness. I have witnessed countless miracles of His mercy and am convinced that God is marshaling an army of once-wounded women and men to dispel the lies of abortion.
Saint Faustina Kowalska’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, tells of words spoken to her by Christ:
Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than asked. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.
I know that this is true.
Jesus I trust in You.