I am a Pro- life Catholic woman who was raised in
a strong, pro-life Catholic family, I went to Catholic schools,
I worked in a Catholic convent, I have always attended Mass at
least once week, -and I have had two abortions. It is not easy
for me to reveal my life to you today. As I do so now, there is
a certain pain that I feel - a pain that I will feel for the rest
of my life. It is this pain that gives me the strength and the
courage to choose to speak out and make myself vulnerable in hopes
that many men, women, and families will be made whole again.
The first abortion took place when I was 19. 1 had
moved out of my parents home and became involved with a man in
the business world. He had money and paid lots of attention to
me. I wound up getting pregnant and I was scared. He took my fear
and worries away by telling me would get married and keep the
baby. Everything was smooth for a few weeks until he gradually
stopped talking about marriage, and started talking about abortion.
My instincts told me "no" to abortion and
my Catholic faith told me "no". I fought it as best
as I could in the two short weeks legally given to me at the time
because I was 10 weeks pregnant-but I lost. My defenses were down
and my power was down. Two weeks later, in November of 1975, 1
walked into an abortion clinic and aborted my first conceived
child. I was never the same again. After the abortion, this man
abandoned me and I was left alone. I felt very much like a dead
person. No life-I just functioned. No purpose---I just existed.
When I was 22 I met another man, this time forming
a serious relationship with him. Six months later I became pregnant.
I did not want another abortion, but he kept saying "what
would our families think, especially his mother, about my pregnancy".
The pleaser in me took over and eventually I gave into the pressure.
I walked into an abortion clinic in January 1978 and aborted my
second conceived child.
My relationship to that man changed immediately.
I contradicted everything he said, I resented him, my stomach
ached every time he touched me. I withdrew from him and more into
myself refusing to deal with either abortion. I was totally numb.
I never smiled nor could I have fun. I did not know how.
The next ten years were very difficult and painful-only
I never knew why. I just knew something was wrong and on many
occasions I felt like committing myself to a mental hospital.
For years I had a strong urge to cut myself while cooking and
when I did I passed them off as accidents. I had to fight with
myself to control my car because I wanted to crash into the side
of the freeway wall. I have three children I was unable to bond
with. I was unable to hug them or tell them I loved them. I did
not have the love for myself to knew how to love them. What I
did not know then is that these are SOME classic symptoms of self
abuse stemming from an abortion experience.
What gave me the most pain was the my ability to
forgive myself. I had been going to confession for years over
the same sin but I was unable to grasp onto the gift of forgiveness.
I left feeling as empty as before I went in, but at least I knew
I could receive our Lord in Holy Communion. Eventually, the voices
of guilt and shame would scream at me so loud again that I would
feel the need to go confess once more.
I lived this way until I found a priest to help me.
Through counseling and praying with this priest, I was constantly
reassured that I was not a rotten person. This was the hardest
thing for me to accept, but I made a conscious decision to work
on it and then I finally got it in my heart. Through this decision
my healing had begun.
My search for healing within our Catholic Church
continued but I could not find proper help from anyone in the
Church to deal with post abortion so I joined a Protestant based
support group called Heart to Heart. It was there that I began
to learn that I was not crazy, that others had experienced the
same feelings and behaviors as I did. I felt that I was finally
being understood. When I finished the support group I had a new
outlook on life although I still had not completely forgiven myself,
and I needed desperately to connect with someone in my own faith
who had similar experiences.
Six months later I began attending healing weekend
retreats and as a result I began to have a deeper outlook on life.
My self esteem began to rise rapidly. The fog and confusion were
being lifted and I was experiencing a new spring, a new resurrection.
I was able to grab the truth that I was a child of God and my
spiritual life was deepening. Still, there was a deep hunger within
me for my Catholic faith, to know I was accepted 'in the Church,
to believe deeper in our Lord as the Great Healer, to believe
EVERYTHING He said. On retreat I was 'inspired to look deeper
into the Mass, to understand its meaning 'in power and healing.
I knew there was a meaning behind every word that was spoken at
Mass. There were four specific phrases which kept inspiring me:
I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE LORD THE GIVER
LAMB OF GOD, YOU TAKE AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD,
HAVE MERCY ON US
LAMB OF GOD, YOU TAKE AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD,
GRANT US PEACE
LORD, I AM NOT WORTH TO RECEIVE YOU, BUT ONLY SAY
THE WORD AND I SHALL BE HEALED
The power of these phrases were telling me that the
Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, did not desire me to live in death.
That the Lamb of God has taken away my sin, He has had mercy on
me and He would grant me peace in my heart, and even though I
was not worthy to receive Him, our Lord was healing me. Through
the Mass I rapidly became a changed person, I became in love with
life itself, finding new meaning in everything I did. I began
bonding closer with my three children and having fun, the fun
that I did not know existed before. I was finally learning how
I finally believed I had a purpose and that God loved
me unconditionally. Yet, I found I desperately needed to connect
with women who had similar experiences. Through these connections
I came to realize that many women and men who leave the Catholic
faith do so because they have had an abortion experience and feel
in some way alienated and/or rejected by the Church. I felt pain
for and with these women and men, knowing that up to 35-40% of
all abortions are performed on Catholics. Knowing, they often
feel abandoned by family and friends as well as Church, my desire
to do something for our Catholic people grew even stronger, so
I began working on starting a support group.
With the support of Archbishop Murphy, I began working
with a team of lay and clergy members to bring Project Rachel
to Seattle. Project Rachel provides referrals to trained priests
and professional counselors. Volunteer facilitators lead women
and men through a 12 week process of healing which culminates
in a Healing Mass of Dedication. Project Rachel also has a facilitator
able to lead a group for grandparents of aborted children. Project
Rachel gave me hope that has been turned into a reality. A reality
that other Catholic women and men would have an opportunity to
heal the wound of abortion and that families would be made whole
again and, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, people would
believe that they had been completely forgiven.
As I look back on my life twenty three years ago
when I had my first abortion, and the isolation that I experience
through not being able to talk to anyone, along with the years
of life that I lost, I am convinced that if I had heard another
Catholic woman admit she had an abortion I would be twenty three
years ahead in my healing now. Also, by hearing her story I would
have realized that abortion is never the right choice. It is a
choice that will affect the rest of your life and all of your
relationships- especially with God.
Of greatest importance to me now is the quality of
bonding I have with my children. I am enjoying them more, hugging
them more, and loving them more. One lesson I have learned is
to keep open communication with them and teach them to respect
themselves enough to remain abstinent until marriage. I continue
to work on accepting them where they are, and encourage them so
that they can tell me anything, no matter what.
As I said in the beginning this pain will be with
me for the rest of my life, but the major obstacles have been
overcome. My hope and prayer is to continue growing deeper in
my faith and accept where God is using me *in helping other men
I have one final message for the entire family of
God. Never judge a woman who has had an abortion. This decision
was not made on her own. More often than not, she has been pressured,
forced, and walked to that clinic. So many others are always involved,
whether it's the boyfriend, husband, parents, in-laws, grandparents,
or doctors and nurses. But more often than not, it's the woman
who is the first to suffer the guilt, shame, and self-hatred.
Nobody knows where each woman has been in her life, what previous
abuses she may have suffered, or what damage had been done to
her self-esteem. A woman who has lost a child through abortion
needs to be made whole through time, love and patience. This will
happen by changing stumbling blocks of judgment and condemnation
into love-filled stepping stones of understanding and forgiveness.
I want to thank you for allowing me to share myself
with you today for the sake of other men and women. Most importantly
I want to thank God for the whole of my life. For all the blessings,
graces, and gifts He has given to me. For guiding me in my struggles.
For rising me up when I was down. For bestowing such great and
generous amounts of mercy upon me. And for holding me in the palm
of His hand.
More on Post-Abortion Healing and Project Rachel