I used to be pro-choice. I want to tell you the story of how I became pro-life. It is a journey that lasted many years.
I think I need to start by telling you that as an infant, child, teen, and young adult, I was a victim of abuse. I was physically and emotionally abused by both of my parents. I was sexually abused by my father, my maternal grandfather, and my maternal uncle. The family abuse didn’t happen just occasionally, it was constant. I lived as a victim in an environment of constant and pervasive abuse. This type of family life can be pretty confusing and I think it was part of the reason that I didn’t notice some warning signs, and became a victim of date rape my freshman year of college. It is remarkable that despite all of this, I never became pregnant.
Are you still with me? I’m not looking for pity. I’m just trying to make it clear that when I was young and vulnerable, I was a victim. And as I grew older, it became a life goal for me to never be a victim again.
The first time that I remember being aware of abortion was as a junior in college. It was the mid 80’s and I heard a woman say, “A woman should have the right to control her own body.” This was the first pro-choice rationalization that I had ever heard. I was 20. It sounded logical and so I thought I must be pro-choice. I didn’t want anyone else controlling my body, certainly not the government! And so it was, I was pro-choice.
On some level I knew that I had not completely thought it through, but I didn’t see a need to think it through. Through the lens of my victim experience, I knew that I never wanted to be a victim again. I knew that if I had become pregnant from any of my prior abuse, it would have lengthened and increased my trauma. Also, I was too busy going to college and hanging out with my friends. I was busy enjoying the freedom of having left the house of horrors that I grew up in. I don’t remember meeting or knowing anyone that was pro-life. I don’t remember any pro-life slogans. It had never been a subject of discussion in my family. It was never mentioned at church.
I met my husband in college. Although we were both Catholic, neither of us was well-formed in our faith. We married in the church shortly after graduation. Before long I became pregnant. After 13 weeks of nausea and vomiting I started to feel better, but unfortunately I found that I had miscarried. Through God’s grace I was given the understanding that my pregnancy, my child, was a real baby, not some blob of tissue. I remember thinking that if my pregnancy was a baby, then it followed that all pregnancies were babies, including those pregnancies conceived in rape. I had heard politicians saying that abortion was wrong except in the case of rape. I finally understood this as a false logic. I wish that in recognizing this false logic, I had become pro-life. Instead I dismissed the pro-life movement for that false logic and of course I had been influenced by the media coverage of violent pro-lifers; I didn’t want to be a part of what I saw as a hypocritical movement that wanted to save babies but bombed abortion clinics.
Following my miscarriage, my husband and I were blessed with three healthy beautiful babies. Amidst the chaos of child-rearing I was blessed with a conversion to a much deeper faith. I was no longer comfortable believing just parts of Catholicism, I wanted to embrace all of it. I did on the surface, but deep down I still had my doubts about abortion. What if one of my daughters was raped, wouldn’t I want to be able to obtain a safe abortion for her? Wouldn’t I want to be able to end the trauma for her? I knew I would want to be able to end her victimization. Thinking about this caused a deep conflict within me – so I didn’t think about it.
As a wife and mother I began having great difficulty dealing with my past. I sought counseling but I also went to a one-day seminar in my diocese that was given by Dr.Theresa Burke. The seminar was on helping women recover from abortion and from abuse. My focus was on abuse and I continued to push abortion out of mind.
It was an excellent seminar. To my surprise, with the exception of a few counselors and clergy, I was surrounded by post-abortive women. I was seated at a table of 10 women. During the course of the day, 8 of these women revealed that they were post-abortive. Their stories were different in some ways but there was a recurring, resonating theme of victimization. Some of them were victims of violence like I had been, some of them were victims of ignorance or poor decisions, but they were all victims. They found themselves pregnant and had nowhere to go. They had no family support and no support from the father. Or, the family and father offered the misguided support of paying for an abortion.
Our culture and judicial system led these women to believe that abortion was a legal, safe, viable solution to their problem. These women suffered greatly from their decision to abort. Some said that they were fine for many years before the trauma of their actions hit them, but it did hit, and it hit hard. They had struggled for years to forgive themselves and find healing. It was ultimately through the Catholic Church that most of them did find healing.
It was sometime during that seminar that I became 100% pro-life and I have never wavered since. It is abundantly clear to me that women who choose abortion are not ending their trauma or victimization but instead are extending and repeating it. My heart broke for these women. As they shared their stories I could easily see how I could have been one of them.
I know that the ultimate victim of abortion is the innocent baby who has had no choice in the matter at all. However, in a society that approves of abortion, the mothers and fathers are victims as well. In a society that considers abortion a right, can we even see the other choices that we have?
I pray for these victims daily. I am so grateful that in a period of life when I might have joined the ranks of these suffering and victimized women, seduced by the convenience of abortion, by God’s providence I did not.