This message is not an elementary argument against abortion. It is a very thorough and thought-provoking view, which begs for common ground on the issue of abortion. Yet, those who (though understandably) find the most compelling insult of abortion in the death of the child resent the words of this phrase.
The message "Abortion Harms Women" does not neglect the unborn child, but on the contrary, it emphasizes the fact that the mother and child are inseparable. In fighting for the lives of unborn children, it is vitally important that we address the concrete needs of the pregnant woman through recognizing her motherhood. After all, it is not the unborn child that we see, but the woman, and it is that woman's final word that will determine the fate of the child. By addressing her needs, we are able to intervene for the sake of the child.
The message "Abortion Harms Women" has a two-fold purpose here. First, it speaks to the pregnant woman by warning her that abortion may seem like a quick solution to a problem pregnancy. Pro-abortion forces vigorously pursue these frightened mothers that abortion is a good option for them. Abortion providers even recognize that the unborn child is a life, but they argue that the child's life is may be ended for the sake of the mother.
But, abortion is not good for women; the after effects of abortion are physical, emotional and mental. Physical risks include intense pain, sterility, future tubal pregnancies, excessive hemorrhaging, infection, risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, an increased risk of dying during future pregnancies, blood clots/stroke, perforation of the uterus, future miscarriages, and possible death. Emotional and mental after-effects (commonly referred to as Post-Abortion Syndrome) include depression, thoughts of suicide, inability to forget the child's birthday, nightmares, sexual dysfunction, guilt, inability to bond with future children, instability in future relationships, inability to have romantic love,
Crying at the sight of a pregnant woman, eating disorders, alcoholism, and more.
Secondly, this message reaches out to women who have suffered from an abortion with a message of hope and forgiveness. After abortion, our Faith guides us to trust that the soul of that child is now enjoying Eternal Life, however the mother is now in danger of loosing her soul due to the grave sin she has committed. For the sake of her mental and spiritual well-being, we must be attentive to her needs after an abortion by providing counseling and pastoral care. This assistance is provided by specific post-abortion ministries such as Rachel's Vineyard and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.
Pope John Paul specifically addressed post-abortive women in his 1995 encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae in the following words.
“I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and to his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life” (Paragraph 99).
Women who have suffered from abortion must know that the pro-life movement does not judge them for their decision, but that we are eager to help them heal from this tragedy. For this reason, the message from Pope John Paul II is also a message for all Christians. It is a message pleading with us to be patient, forgiving and understanding of women who have suffered from abortion. It is our responsibility to act with deep compassion toward these women in hopes of bringing them back to Jesus Christ in forgiveness and mercy.
In her book, Real Choices: Listening to Women; Looking for Alternatives to Abortion, Frederica Mathewes-Green explains the devastating effect of abortion on women. The introduction to the book provides a glimpse of the treasure held within this book.
“…Pregnancy and birth are a healthy process that should be, as much as possible, left alone. Pregnancy and birth link together women all over the world and throughout all time; that earthly, vital process is the most elemental symbol of women’s strength. Disrupting it by thrusting tools deep into a woman’s body is an obscene as pouring dirty motor oil into a pristine mountain lake” (p. 15-16).
Let us reach out to one another in love!
Action Item: Rachel’s Vineyard has a coffee mug available through Priests for Life that says “From Grief to Grace. Ask me about Rachel’s Vineyard.” This mug is a great conversation starter, and ought to be proudly displayed in offices, kitchens and other public places.