The following is a witness written by Annie Banno, originally published in the Lumina Newsletter for Winter 2003. Annie's story is one of mercy and grace and finding one's voice after abortion.
Twenty-four years ago, when I was twenty years old, no one gave me real help of any kind when I found out I was pregnant. Abortion seemed to be my only way out even though I was raised a strict Catholic. So, I walked the same walk that two out of every five American women have walked: into an abortion clinic. I knew it was a baby, that it was wrong, but I could only feel afraid. My parents would toss me out of the house. I'd have to quit school, living in a state that was not my home. My boyfriend, though he said he loved me, really wasn't likely to stay having no job himself. He offered me the $500 to have the abortion. If I didn’t, I thought I’d be homeless with no job, supporting a baby all alone. I bought into the promise that abortion would allow me to revert back to exactly who I was before. It was a lie. It did not happen. I had become a Mom, and that truth was just too painful to bear.
I thought my life was over, numbing myself, refusing to think, look at, or listen even to those with the scary signs in that parking lot. What some of those protesters still don't realize is that I was terrified for myself only. Nothing the picketers said or tried to make me look at, in the final few minutes of my baby's life, stopped me. And nothing the abortion clinic people said or did showed me the truth of what I was doing. They were giving me “credit” for being so decisive about my “reproductive rights.” Everyone made it all too easy to run away from what I was really doing.
If someone had shown they cared about me or offered to pray with or help me, maybe I wouldn't have done what I did. But no one did. Outside the clinic, there were some people yelling. I heard them say, “If you go in there, you are guilty of murder!!” I even heard one shout, "If you die in there on that table today, then you deserve to die!" How could I have turned to them for the help I needed?
To this day, I can’t tell you much about the actual abortion. I only remember two things: the sound of the suction machine and the physical pain afterward. That sound was like standing next to an airplane engine. I numbed myself completely. It was as if I went into shock. I shut down, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Afterwards, I went back to my dorm and I curled up in a ball and didn’t talk to anyone or eat for 3 days. I could not face what I was doing, and I blocked out every detail, as though it was happening to someone else and I was only having a nightmare. All I could think was, “This really isn’t happening to me.” It was the only way I could get through it. To deny it fully, as though it wasn’t my baby, as though I wasn’t really pregnant.
Twenty-four years later, I still cry over how wrong I was. It took 10 years for my grief and shame to start surfacing, and a full 22 years for it to break through my denial completely. Now, every day, I live with the sorrow of that "choice" that I can never undo.
And now, for all that I have -- life, education, house, car, career -- I'd throw it all away if I could go back and change my “choice.” But I can't. I am healing, but it never stops hurting. I am the voice that hasn’t been heard, and needs to be heard. I regret choosing abortion and I know that there are millions of other women who feel the same way. We know we are living examples of how abortion hurts women, but we also know too well who are the first victims: our unborn children.
I leave you with a final word about God’s mercy: I once got into a discussion with some teens at a religious event. One young girl was very depressed about all the bad things she was guilty of and how she was sure she was going to go to hell, that God could never love or forgive her. I said to her, “You’d be surprised. There is nothing that God cannot forgive, if you ask Him sincerely. There is nothing you could do that’s worse than what some of us grown-ups have done.” She thought I was the “good Church-goer” and couldn’t possibly understand her fear. She shot back sarcastically, “Oh, yeah? What could you have possibly done that was so horrible? What, did you kill someone??”
I had a choice to make at that moment: lie, or tell the truth. This was before I had told anyone but my son and my priest. I knew, at that moment, that God had asked me to tell the truth, to let this girl know that God’s mercy was in fact infinite, and that I was the living proof of that. I told the group, all intently listening to my silent pause, “Well, since you asked…yes, I did.” I told them that I aborted my child when I was young, selfish and immature, that I was sorrier for it than they could ever understand and that I had come to know God’s forgiveness and that if any of them ever found themselves or a friend in that kind of trouble, to please contact me, and I would help them. I don’t want them to make the same mistake I made and then have to live in fear, shame and grief the rest of their lives. They had so many questions. They really wanted the truth.
Saint Faustina Kowalska's diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, tells of words spoken to her by Christ Himself: "Let the greatest sinners place their trust in my mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. 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.”
This is certainly a “contest” I did not want to “win,” but truly, I am among “the greatest sinners.” I trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the abyss of His Mercy.
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