Through a Mirror Darkly: Graphic Images of Aborted Children…and the Graphic Anguish of their Parents

Through Glass Darkly

For now we see as through a mirror, in darkness, but then we shall see face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I also am known. –Corinthians 13:12

In this Advent season Fr. Frank Pavone  reveals the powerful connection between the images of aborted children and the incarnation and wounds of Christ:

The first Christians…saw and touched [Jesus]…This contact with the humanity of Christ speaks to us of what we are to do now for the unborn. It is the contact with the human reality of their lives, and the human tragedy of their deaths, that is to impel us in our self-sacrificing love for them.  That is why we need to look at the pictures… of what abortion does to that baby…

The use of pictures of abortion victims in pro life efforts is clearly consistent with the strategies of other social justice movements.  These movements used graphic images of social injustice to expose evil (e.g., racism, genocide), raise awareness and stir the lukewarm to take action.   While there are reasonable differences regarding the proper context to display such images, there is clearly a strong resistance to exposing this evil.  Sometimes we find outright hostility toward those who attempt to reveal the true nature of the abortion procedure in their communities.

However I invite you to consider expanding our understanding of graphic images to also include the graphic experiences of emotional and physical pain shared by thousands of women and men after abortion loss.  As we shall see, exposing this graphic suffering can also cause controversy, and even hostility to those that try and reveal this truth.

What does this type of graphic image look like?

From the British Newspaper the Sentinel:

Throughout university I was in a relationship with a girl…Just before our finals she left suddenly and seemed to disappear. Fifteen years on she contacted me through Facebook and suggested we meet. She eventually told me why she left, that she was pregnant with our child, knew I wouldn’t support her, had an abortion and became very depressed and attempted suicide…

The images of aborted children are inescapably gruesome and disturbing.  They reveal the true nature of the actions hidden behind the obfuscating rhetoric of “choice.”  But note in this father’s anguished letter the depression and attempted suicide of the mother of their child who suffered for years after the procedure before finding help.  Consider the despair that would lead this woman to attempt an abortion of her own precious life. (Two studies from Finland(1)show that women who had abortions were 6 to 7 times more likely to commit suicide than women who gave birth. )

This mother’s despair reveals to us an equally disturbing graphic representation of the consequences of choice.  In a very real sense, the graphic image/memory of this mother’s abortion, the unresolved complicated grief and pain, is etched into her heart, soul and mind.  The images of aborted children often surge up from the unconscious of their parents in graphic nightmares, similar to those on pro life graphic displays.  These images of suffering and death between child and parent reflect back upon one another as they are intimately connected.

The graphic images of aborted children and their wounded parents reveal to us an impassioned plea for justice, healing and reconciliation.

A Father’s Graphic Pain

The letter from this father shared in the Sentinel reveals that this is not an event for him buried in the past, but a present reality that came crashing unexpectedly into his life like a blind-side car wreck.  He struggles with the shame, guilt and depression that many men silently suffer after participating in the death of their unborn child.  This is a father that has matured and moved away from the selfishness of his youth so he now understands the full gravity of the child’s death, the effect on the mother and now his own complicated grief.  As he tries to absorb this shock, he struggles to keep up with the normal functions of his day to day life…and keep up appearances that everything is just fine:

I was shocked that she had gone through all of that, on her own and largely because of me. I feel so guilty that I treated her so unkindly. Since she told me I have been off sick from work and my friends are worried about me, but I’m too ashamed to tell them what is going on.

This isolation and shame are such deadly traps for men and women dealing with grief and loss after abortion.  Without a program to share, recover and reconcile this loss men can turn to anything that will bury the pain; drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, work.  But depression and grief can also find expression in a seething anger that may submerge for a time, but will surface like toxic steam bubbling to the surface of their lives, bringing additional pain and heartache to men and their loved ones.

The Truth Will Set You Free

There is often controversy and hostility to the use of graphic images of abortion victims.  But you will find a similar opposition to exposing the graphic images and truth of those wounded by abortion loss.

Three women physicians, Donna Harrison, Mary Davenport and Martha Shuping, were invited to give lectures on complications of abortion for the MWIA, the Medical Women’s International Association.  Pro abortion agents within the conference forced a cancellation of their presentation which offered compelling and legitimate research confirming there are significant health risks for women after abortion.   This type of denial by professional health care providers is a cruel form of malpractice toward those that need this information as well as resources for recovery.

There is Hope and Healing After Abortion

Parents can come to see the paschal mystery of Christ reflected in their own journey of suffering and death caused by sin.   Through an abortion recovery program centered in the saving power of Jesus and His resurrection, parents can embrace their aborted child – not as a dismembered nightmare baby – but as a unique son or daughter, whole and safe in the embrace of a loving God.  They can be lifted out of the pit of despair by the hope of seeing their child face to face one day in heaven:

For now we see as through a mirror, in darkness, but then we shall see face to face…then I shall know even as I also am known. –Corinthians 13:12

Marching for Life

As we once again prepare to gather as a national movement of social justice at the March for Life in Washington, DC, may we pray for an even greater conviction to expose (with humility, prudence and sensitivity) the graphic image of what abortion does to the unborn child, and the graphic suffering of their parents after abortion loss.

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