One of the common concerns priests have in regard to speaking about abortion is that they don't want to hurt the women in the congregation who have had abortions. They feel that the presence of such women is a reason to be silent about it.
Just the opposite is true, however. Experts in post-abortion syndrome tell us that the first step toward healing is to break out of denial, and silence does not help to do that. Silence motivated by the best of intentions, moreover, does not interpret itself. The woman suffering from abortion may think we are silent because we do not know her pain, do not care, or have no hope to offer. In truth, however, we speak because we do know, do care, and do offer hope.
There are two things that the post-abortive woman does not need to hear.
One is, "It's no big deal." In reality, she knows abortion is a big deal and experiences a natural grief for her child who has been killed. Yet many in society make her feel silly for feeling sad. Her grief, therefore, cannot be adequately expressed and processed. The process is short-circuited.
Moreover, she may well be quite angry with those whose message about "no big deal" got her into the mess of abortion in the first place. To hear that message again, and to be given more excuses, is the last thing she needs.
The second thing the post-abortive woman does not need is someone who will condemn her and drive her deeper into the despair which the act of abortion is all too capable of generating on its own.
Our message, the message of the Church and of the pro-life movement, holds exactly the right balance. Our clear identification of abortion as an evil which is never morally licit corresponds with the deepest truth she is hearing in her mind and heart. It cuts through the rhetoric, empty excuses, and terrible pressures others have heaped upon her. It breaks through denial and assures her she has a reason for her grief.
Then, at the same time and in the same breath, we give the message of hope. The doors of the Church are open. We are not here to reject or condemn, but to welcome back to the peace and mercy of Christ whoever has been involved in abortion. I even know of someone who had 24 abortions. Even she can be forgiven. We long to welcome her back. So does God.
The process of healing is delicate and long. Sometimes it begins with pain. The availability of compassionate post-abortion counselors in the parish goes a long way.
I always recall the words of the post-abortive woman who, after a pro-life homily I gave, said to me, "Father, I have pain when I hear about abortion…But please, please keep preaching about it, because it consoles me greatly to know that through that homily, someone could be spared the whole journey of grief I have had to go through."
Indeed, let us speak.