by Gail Quinn
January 8, 1999
Everything I read on abortion before I experienced it told me that women do not suffer from depression or regret afterwards . . .I could expect to feel relieved . . .Where did they get that from? I will never be the same again.
Simple words that expose a truth our society wants to ignore. While their author does not wish her name used, they could easily be the words of the young girl down the street, a co-worker, a daughter, a niece.
Most who have had abortions, however, remain quiet. They don't talk about the depression. They don't talk about the deep regret or the anguish that keeps them awake nights. Nor do they talk about the destructive behavior that can come from judging themselves harshly, from thinking that because they did not see the value of a child's life their own has no value. Many try hard to rationalize, but it doesn't work forever, and often not at all. Having read and heard that abortion is "no big deal," and even the responsible thing to do, they begin to think that something is wrong with them. Why do they feel so different about it? The fact is that their reaction is not at all uncommon. They just don't know it. They are not alone--just lonely.
When a woman is most vulnerable and under pressure from all sides to abort, she is eager to believe those who tell her that abortion is no big deal, simply a "choice," or, at worst, a necessary evil. The bravado of the industry lobbyists and clinic counselors, the arguments that echo "I am woman hear me roar," can drown out the silent tears and the unspoken prayer that someone--family, boyfriend, anyone--will stand by her and help. Really help.
A woman or girl who is pregnant, and wishes she were not, faces tough choices that none should trivialize. She sees the long-term responsibilities of motherhood, for which she feels ill-prepared and scared and the likely disruption of her school or career path. Or she could give birth to the baby and make arrangements for adoption. So many good couples would love to raise her baby. But instinctively she knows that would be difficult. By the time the baby was born she would already love it. Then there's abortion. All the talk shows and the women's magazines talk as if it were the responsible thing to do. Her friends, even parents, may jump on the bandwagon. After all, they have her best interests at heart. They may, in fact, mean well, but don't know the trauma she will suffer. And afterwards she doesn't tell them. She followed their advice, and tells them she is "fine"--if she tells anyone at all. Instead she cries into her pillow, drowns her sorrow in a bottle, or even, in rare instances, takes her own life.
Acknowledging the difficulties does not mean accepting a solution that results in a child's death and a woman's heartache. It means lending a hand to give good advice, moral support, and practical help that a woman and her child can both live with.
There are thousands of centers throughout the United States that provide help to pregnant women. Most are run by professionals and well-trained volunteers. Because of the great demand, there are also now hundreds of programs across the country, most called Project Rachel, that help women and men heal from the pain of abortion. With the help of psychologists, psychiatrists, and clergy, Project Rachel offers healing and reconciliation.
During January, People of Life, the pro-life action campaign of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops will join with the Knights of Columbus, to run radio spots in several major cities. The ads highlight the pain women suffer from abortion, and the promise that the pro-life movement will not go away until "not one more child dies, not one more woman cries." A full-page ad with the same message will also appear in the national Catholic newspaper, Our Sunday Visitor.
These ads are not just directed at women who have experienced the trauma of abortion. They are a reminder to all of us. Many parishes "adopt" local pregnancy aid centers helping out with funds, supplies and volunteers. Each of us can reach out to women facing these situations who need a friend. Make a resolution for the New Year: get involved.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.