The recent news reports on Pope Francis and his statements on confession and abortion in the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, focused exclusively on the mother of the aborted child.
Most people see abortion as primarily a women’s issue. Pro-abortion apologists emphasize that abortion is a private, personal decision between a woman and her health care provider. Sometimes it seems that when the Church talks about abortion (repentance, confession, and healing) they are also focusing exclusively on the mother of the unborn child.
The Pope is coming to Philadelphia later this month for the close of the World Meeting of Families. This is the perfect time to invite the Church and our nation to view the issue of abortion through a much broader lens.
The Shockwaves of Abortion: The Impact of Abortion on the Family
You might be wondering, how does an abortion that happened 1-5-10-20 years ago have any effect on marriage and family life today?
The Family Shockwaves:
- We know that when someone is intimately wounded by a traumatic experience of abuse or loss, the symptoms they experience after that event are not suffered in a vacuum. The anxiety, depression, behavioral and relationship issues, physical and psychological symptoms they experience, will naturally impact their families, marriages, school and work life.
- Abortion is often a closely guarded secret and a complicated grief; the isolation and shame associated with the abortion event do not allow a healthy expression and resolution of the loss as you normally experience with grief that can be publicly acknowledged.
- Secrets (like other hidden wounds such as abuse, addiction, affairs etc.) seriously impact intimacy, trust and communication between family members, and create an environment that prevents those hurting from seeking healing.
- In such an environment various addictions and destructive communication patterns can develop as ways of coping with and expressing painful feelings and the complicated grief that follows abortion loss. If these problems existed prior to the abortion…the abortion can intensify and exacerbate previous dysfunctional dynamics.
It’s a Family Affair
Family members and friends are often influential players in a woman’s decision to abort. Family members can share in the emotional conflict and complicated grief from their role in the child’s death. Like other public health concerns, without education and information, people fail to connect their painful personal, marriage and family symptoms to a previous abortion loss.
Yet the symptoms can be expressed in a variety of ways in a family:
- The insomnia and depression of the grandmother who could not prevent her daughter’s abortion and her grandchild’s death.
- The grandfather of an aborted child, that forced his daughter to abort and suffers from anxiety and depression.
- A mother self-medicating her anxiety and depression with alcohol after she felt pressured to abort because her husband was laid off from his job.
- A father with anger issues and affairs plaguing his marriage after they aborted a child with Down Syndrome.
- A sibling angry and disillusioned to learn that he is not his mother’s first born; he has a sister lost to abortion.
When parents are weakened emotionally, spiritually and relationally after abortion loss…children are inevitably affected. When we look across our nation and see the epidemic of single-parent families, failed marriages and over-medicated children in problem schools…we need to see abortion, at the very least, as a contributing factor.
The Good News
Just as proper diagnosis and treatment can restore the emotional, physical and spiritual health of the individual, attending an abortion recovery program can be an important factor in developing more intimate and satisfying marriage and family relationships.
Acknowledging abortion loss in a family and participating in an abortion recovery program, (especially when one or both spouses/partners have previous abortion loss), can provide an avenue for deep emotional and spiritual healing. Groups like Rachel’s Vineyard allow couples, fathers, grandparents, and when appropriate siblings of aborted children to attend their healing weekend retreats and Sunday Memorial Services that honor the unborn children. This healing journey helps individuals and couples who attend to re-establish a healthy spiritual and emotional foundation for their relationships damaged by abortion. Over time this will greatly bless their living children, and lead to healthier family dynamics. The abortion recovery ministry Lumina offers days of prayer and healing for siblings with abortion loss.
So as you can see, abortion is far from a private, personal decision. Given the 55 million abortions since 1973 in the U.S. alone, and the impact on marriage and family life, education and healing programs for abortion loss must be a priority for the Church in her mission of mercy and evangelization.
- Kevin Burke, MSS – Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life
The Silent No More Awareness Campaign in January 2015 launched a yearlong event, the Shockwaves of Abortion. This initiative is designed to help the Churches and the general public to see the reality that the shockwaves of abortion extends far beyond the mother and her unborn child, who are indeed at the epicenterof the event. Each month looks at a different population group uniquely touched by abortion loss; fathers, grandparents, siblings, abortion providers, and minority populations targeted by the abortion industry with information and resources for awareness, education and healing. In September we focus on the family.