by Deirdre A. McQuade
February 23, 2007
In the past year, there has been a noticeable effort to mainstream the abortion experience and downplay its negative effects on women. A recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine, for example, denies any increased psychological risk from abortion compared to giving birth ("Is There a Post-Abortion Syndrome?" by Emily Bazelon, 1/21/07). The author balks at the need for healing after abortion, associating it solely with those who have particular religious misgivings about "the procedure."
Ms. Bazelon's piece is deeply flawed, citing only articles that favor her position. She does not take into consideration the many peer-reviewed studies that show, time and time again, that abortion can have serious effects on women – both short- and long-term.
The testimony of countless women and men grieving their abortion losses tells us otherwise. The wounds of abortion go to the core of a woman. Many men regret their lost fatherhood as well. Life is never the same. As one woman put it on a post-abortion website, "It has burned a hole in my soul and changed me forever."
True peace after abortion cannot come from denying the need for healing. The spiritual and emotional wounds from abortion must be acknowledged and given over to God through wise counseling and, for Catholics, sacramental reconciliation. God is like the father in the story of the prodigal son. He eagerly awaits our return so he might welcome us back, regardless of what we have done to offend him. No sin falls outside the scope of God's mercy, not even multiple abortions.
God's plan is to offer us the fullness of life through Jesus Christ. Just as a bride prepares to meet her bridegroom before they consummate their marriage, God wants to make us beautiful and pure so we might come into the presence of his love without any trace of grief, regret or shame. There is no room in heaven for tears.
This is the "Good News." Lent is a good season to embrace it more deeply than ever. As we heard on Ash Wednesday: "Repent and believe in the gospel!" Do we believe that it's true for our neighbors as well as ourselves? Do we trust that God's mercy also extends to those we may see as our enemies – including those most committed to abortion and the culture of death? Through our prayers, even the hardest hearts can soften enough to let God love and heal them. If a major abortion advocate were to repent, let go of her pain, and be healed, imagine what an amazing ripple effect it could set off! On strictly human terms, it seems impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.
If you or a loved one is grieving the loss of a child to abortion, you're not alone. And you need not suffer alone. Project Rachel is the Catholic Church's outreach to those suffering after abortion. Call the nationwide referral line at 800-5WE-CARE (800-593-2273), or go to www.hopeafterabortion.org and click on the heading "Where to Find Help."
Deirdre A. McQuade is director of planning and information, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.