National Catholic Register

Commentary

Church, Have Mercy ... on Post-Abortive Women

BY Jim Cosgrove

Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2003 Issue | Posted 9/28/03 at 12:00 PM

 

I disagree with Ginalynne Mielko's view (Letters, Sept. 7-13) that the Register “put a spin on sin” by referring to “loss” rather than “murder” in Joseph Pronechen's Prolife Profile of Project Rachel (”The Other Church Abortion Teaching: Mercy,” Aug. 24-30).

As a freelance writer, I have recently completed several abortion-related assignments. I also worked with Catholic singer-songwriter Michael John Poirier and his wife, Mary, on their Healing After the Choice CD project. These opportunities have allowed me to witness the pain [experienced by] post-abortive women. To write about their stories with reference to “murder” would have been contextually inappropriate and grossly insensitive.

Abortion is loss and post-abortive women do suffer intensely, often after being deceived about fetal development during a time of crisis, despair, isolation and coercion. In post-abortion ministry, a focus on this aspect of the experience — loss — is a necessary part of therapeutic healing. Identifying loss means recognizing the value of human life and the extent of abortion's harm. Isn't this what pro-lifers want?

In Evangelium Vitae [the 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life], referring to aborted children, Pope John Paul II tenderly tells post-abortive women “nothing is definitively lost.” He encourages them to become “among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life.” To label wounded, fragile and possibly even suicidal women as murderers is to ignore the Holy Father's compassionate example and stifle potential “eloquent defenders.”

Pro-life activism proclaims the nature of the sin. Pro-life mercy ministers unconditional love to the agony of self-inflicted loss and proclaims, “Neither do I condemn you.” Both aspects must use contextually appropriate language in striving toward the goal of helping our disordered world to “sin no more.”

Pronechen and the Register deserve praise for working to promote a culture of life with integrity and sensitivity.

NANCY MONTGOMERY

Edmond, Oklahoma

“The Other Church Abortion Teaching: Mercy,” (Aug. 24-30) mentions a woman who could not forgive herself for her role in the loss of her baby's life. In response, one letter-writer insisted that the reporter should have called it murder rather than loss (“Stop the Spin on Sin,” Letters, Sept. 7-13). She warned the Register not to “lessen the severity of this sin.”

When a baby dies, it is a loss, one the mother has a need and right to grieve. Speculation about personal culpability can be especially cruel to the many women who were coerced into unwanted abortions. Some were just girls at the time — threatened, blackmailed and even driven to the clinic by their parents. Others did not fully comprehend that they had killed their child until they saw their first ultrasound years later. Still others were raped and further violated by being pressured by family to submit to abortion. Regardless of circumstance, however, assessments of culpability are best left to her priest. In any case, the reason this woman, like so many others, cannot forgive herself is because she clearly understands the severity of the sin.

Being sensitive to her loss has nothing to do with the seriousness of the sin. Jesus didn't “lessen the severity of the sin” by failing to condemn the adulteress. He simply discouraged sinners from throwing stones at other sinners. As St. Ambrose observed, the Pharisees, in their great disgust for sin, kept sinners from God.

Women who abort are six times more likely to commit suicide. Too many of these women believed they had committed an unforgivable sin and that they'd find only accusers, not friends, in the pro-life movement. When women lose hope, they remain trapped in self-destructive lifestyles or kill themselves. Satan wins.

Pope John Paul II advocates a more Christlike approach and considers post-abortive women and men to be some of the most “eloquent defenders” of everyone's right to life.

The epidemic of post-abortion grief, injury and death is denied by abortionists and censored by media for a reason: They know it will be abortion's downfall. Polls show that Americans (finally) understand that abortion kills a child, but they still support legal abortion because they think abortion helps women. Americans don't realize that abortion is killing women, too. We'll end abortion sooner by expressing concern, not condemnation, for women, and by publicizing the peer-reviewed research available at http://www.afterabortion.org

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M. COLLINS

Central Illinois