Abortion: What if We Started to Listen?

woman-depressionI came out of the abortion closet in 2008 and I sometimes deal with religious Pro-Lifers who consider that I have committed the unforgivable sin and who lecture me about the past (you were selfish, you should have kept your legs closed etc…).

I also deal with secular Pro-Choicers telling me I’m Pro-Life because I’m a “religious fanatic who wants to take away women’s rights and control their bodies“.

-Twitter conversation about reaching out to women who had an abortion:
Me: “Women need hope and healing after abortion #RachelsVineyardRetreat“.
Pro-Life user: “They need not to have abortions to begin with. Try abstinence
Me: “I can’t go back in time and undo the past. I can learn from my mistakes and help others.”
Pro-Life user: “That’s not a mistake, that’s a choice. Sorry choices have consequences.”

-Secular Pro-Choicer about my support of a Pro-Life bill on Facebook: “You cannot force me to give a kidney to my living child and you cannot force me to bring one to term. I’m not a vessel for your religious commitments. Full stop. I have rights which you cannot take away.”
Same Pro-Choicer, commenting on my essay about the satanic aspects of abortion (in which I indicate that I experienced Satan’s presence as an atheist): “Oh you ARE a fundamentalist who believes in supernatural things… that helps clarify your position.”

Do these people actually listen to women’s stories? Maybe they don’t have time to read and listen because in this age, everything has to go fast and conform to one’s culture and preconceived ideas.

It’s too bad they don’t see the women among us who struggle, who are not “reproductive rights” activists but had an abortion and need to know that they are not alone and that help is available.

Not everybody was raised with Conservative values or high moral standards and no one can change the past. We can only meet people where they are at, both those considering abortion and those who had abortions. Focusing on a person’s sins with a lack of empathy can discourage post-abortive women from seeking help and move them to rationalize their abortion and live in denial.

Jesus forgives and heals. However, there are always dates, sounds, smells and places that may trigger memories and symptoms. Three years ago, I had a mental break down as the 10th anniversary of my second abortion was approaching. The 20th anniversary of my first abortion is coming in January. Honestly, I don’t know how I will feel at that time but I know I have friends who will pray for me.

Abortion doesn’t end when we leave the clinic, it stays with us always and healing is a long process. It’s hard but it’s liberating to not lie to ourselves anymore. Abortion recovery programs help us to remember our abortion with less pain (in the words of a counselor on my Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat), but we can never forget.

Experiencing abortion is a lot different than “supporting choice”. Countless pro-life women had one or more abortions and have experienced regret, addictions and depression as secular women, even if some of them had a religious conversion years later.

As an atheist, I knew that abortion is humiliating, traumatizing, that it benefits immature men who use it against us. I had a conversion to the Catholic faith in recent years, but in the past, I admitted that abortion was evil; only, I was repeating to myself, “it’s a necessary evil,” to justify my abortions and to not completely lose my mind. But now I’m not afraid to say that abortion is an unnecessary evil. I named my aborted children Alicia and Gabriel and I was able to say goodbye and grieve, but nothing could bring them back.

Despite the mean comments and straw man arguments, I will continue to be a Pro-Life advocate because what is important is the pregnant woman who need information, support and alternatives to abortion. What is important is the post-abortive woman locked in her bathroom right now, crying and considering suicide. What these women need is not condemnation, not somebody defending a political “right to choose”. What they need is hope and love, not judgement and indifference.

Beatrice Fedor blogs at 400 Words for Women