An Abortion at Georgetown

This week Georgetown University is hosting two speakers on opposite ends of the abortion spectrum.  Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and Abby Johnson, perhaps the country’s best known former abortion worker, will both speak on the campus today (Wednesday).  Their visits come on the heels of a revealing piece in the school newspaper.

The Hoya recently published an account written anonymously by a student about the abortion she had.  The piece, titled “The Choices We Carry”, is painful to read for anyone who believes in the humanity of unborn children.  But it’s also a window into the mindset of a young woman for whom abortion is simply a choice, without moral weight or consequence.

“It has been eight months and 15 days since it happened and I still cannot say the word out loud,” the piece begins.  Yet despite that tone of seeming regret, or at least ambivalence, she claims to feel nothing of the sort.  She speaks of having an abortion in the passive voice, writing about “what happened to me,” not what she did.  For her, she writes, it was purely a medical decision.

She remembers the moment when she found herself sitting on her bathroom floor reading the positive results of the home pregnancy tests she took.  She writes that no emotional wave came crashing down on her, but that “there were definite surges of confusing feelings and some tears that fell to the dingy tile.” 

The young woman explains that she and the father “were not, are not and never been in a relationship.”  They are friends and nothing more.  Friends with benefits, as the expression goes.  And she chose not to tell him, believing that he didn’t play a part in the story and not wanting it to weigh on his conscience.  She writes that they did everything they were “supposed to do as two consenting and educated adults…I just happened to come face to face with ‘guarantee’s’ spiteful and ugly cousin, ‘effective 98 percent of the time.’”

“I left [the abortion clinic] carrying a weight in the back of my brain,” she writes.  But goes on to say that she “recovered both physically and mentally,” jumping back into her busy everyday life.

She is the quintessential modern, secular young woman.  She believes what the culture has taught her:  that sex is a recreational activity, not necessarily connected to love or to babies.  And that the risk of contraception failing is a risk worth taking because there is, after all, always the option of abortion.

Yet there are signs that she knows deep down that her abortion was not a meaningless medical decision.  The mere fact of remembering the date so clearly, of her tears, of her concern for the father’s conscience, of feeling a weight as she left the clinic all point to an awareness on her part of something that perhaps she cannot name.

Sadly this well-educated young woman may not know that abortion can be emotionally and psychologically devastating for women, even women who choose it freely and without moral compunction or religious concerns.

Michaeline Fredenburg was 18 years old when she had an abortion and was totally unprepared for the emotional fallout she would suffer.  In an interview with me for Salvo magazine, I asked if she believes that post-abortion suffering is imposed by the outside world or comes from within.  “When I had my own abortion, I didn’t have any problem with it,” she told me.  “In fact, I felt that it was a good idea for women in particular to reach their education and career goals.  So the feelings that I had afterwards were completely unexpected.  It did not fit into my own philosophy around abortion.”  Fredenburg is the founder of Abortion Changes You, and the author of Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience

While training to become a therapist Theresa Burke found herself working with many post-abortive women suffering with serious emotional and psychological issues – but not making any connection between the two.  Burke went on to found Rachel’s Vineyard, which holds over 750 retreats a year in 48 states, 29 countries and in seven different languages for women suffering from abortions they may have had decades ago. 

Actress Jennifer O’Neill went public a few years ago about how the abortion she had at the age of 22 scarred her both physically and emotionally.  She became the spokesman for Silent No More, and wrote about her experience in her book, You’re Not Alone: Healing Through God’s Grace After Abortion

No one in their right mind would wish suffering upon this Georgetown student.  But I fear that she may experience, as one commenter on her piece put it, “a slow, dim ache that ebbs and flows over a long period of time.”  And if that happens I hope she finds relief and peace, perhaps through one of the growing number of post-abortion outreach programs.  And I echo the sentiments of the same commenter who points her to Jesus Christ:  “He loves you as if you were the only being in the universe, regardless of what you do.  He seeks you relentlessly…”