Sanctity of Human Life
Silent Suffering After Abortion
By Father Paul C.B. Schenck
Founding Director and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center
I was paying for my gasoline while carrying on a conversation with another pro-life advocate when the clerk blurted out, “My child would be eight years old now if I hadn’t had an abortion. I know I’m going to hell for that!” The proprietor had to step in for her as we turned aside and I prayed and counseled with her. I assured her of God’s desire to forgive her and reconcile her to her child.
Pope Benedict, speaking about the Church’s ministry to men and women who have been involved in the abortion of a child, has said, “The Church’s first duty is to approach these people with love and consideration, with caring and motherly attention, to proclaim the merciful closeness of God in Jesus Christ.” Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has observed, “Most women do not have abortions because they are pro-choice, but because they feel they have no choice.” Studies of women who have made the decision to have a child aborted show that they did so for complex reasons. Their desperation is evident in the reasons they give for having abortions; fear of interrupting school or career, unreadiness to care for a child, inability to provide for dependent children and lack of support from the child’s father. These otherwise sterile statistics evince deep personal turmoil and inner suffering.
According to the pro-abortion research group the Guttmacher Institute, about half of all children conceived in the U.S. were unexpected. Forty percent of those children had their lives ended by abortion. Each year, about 2% of the 70 million women of childbearing age get abortions, and almost 50% of them have had at least one previous abortion. This all adds up to a very large number of post-abortive women. According to Theresa Burke, Ph.D., founder and director of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, “women who abort are at higher risk of subsequent substance abuse, suicide, depression and mental illnesses.” Among the symptoms of post abortion trauma are fear and ambivalence toward pregnancy, sexual problems, promiscuity, panic attacks, difficulty with relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, intense grief and sadness, guilt and rage.
The suffering caused by abortion extends far beyond the death of the child. Mother Teresa observed, “There are two victims in every abortion: a dead baby and a dead conscience.” That women suffer this way is itself cause to reach out to them with forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. Whether she is a perpetrator, a victim or both makes no difference. She is created in God’s image and as such she is the object of God’s love and mercy.
The vast numbers of women in the aftermath of abortions means that no ultimate resolution will come in our society until they find healing and reconciliation.