How Many Married Catholic Women Have Abortions? The Numbers May Surprise You

How Many Married Catholic Women Have Abortions? The Numbers May Surprise You

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By Kevin Burke, LSW

Of women undergoing an abortion procedure in the U.S., around one-in-four are Catholic.  When people think about abortion, they usually imagine a scared desperate teenager, often pressured to see abortion as the best solution to an unplanned pregnancy. 

What is surprising, is that close to 23% of these women are married, often with living children.  If we apply that data to the general population, one out of every 16 women procuring an abortion is married and Catholic.[1]

Husbands can play an important role in nudging an anxious mother to see abortion as the best solution to an unexpected pregnancy:

John shares:

We already had 2 kids.  I was unemployed at the time and looking for work.  When she shared about the pregnancy, I told her, “I will support you either way…but… is it fair to you, the kids and our relationship to have the stress of another child right now while I am looking for work and we are struggling to make ends meet?”

Many wives will fear a husband’s resentment if she continues with the pregnancy and challenging life circumstances continue to be an issue for the family.

In other cases, the father does not want his wife to have the abortion:

“I tried to get my wife to see that we could do this, and I would support her.   I think she felt overwhelmed trying to be a working mom and already having a young child.  In the end I reluctantly agreed but I was devastated.  I could see how this hurt her, and hurt us as a couple.  Things were never really the same after that.”    

While couples may rationalize that it was the best decision given the circumstances, there will be an underlying sense of shame and guilt for rejecting their child.   There is often a fear that when something bad happens in the future, God is punishing them for taking the life of their child.  

 Without healing of this loss, it may be painful and to hear any prolife messages from the pulpit or on display in the parish.  They may embrace a neutral, or pro-abortion position within the Church to defend and justify their decision. Or, they may become less involved with their faith community, and in time, stop going to services. 

In my book Tears of the Fisherman, I look at some other issues couples often struggle with after abortion.

Post Abortive Relationships

Post-abortion symptoms are not suffered in a vacuum.  Men and women can act out (and re-enact) these unresolved issues of shame, grief and loss in ways that pull their partners into dysfunctional dynamics.  Without an understanding of what’s driving these feelings and behavior, this can be very damaging to the relationship. [2] 

We see these unresolved post abortion issues manifest in a variety of destructive dynamics:

–  This wound is rooted in sexual intimacy and features complicated grief for their child lost to abortion.   So many couples when telling their abortion story will say, “After the abortion, we never talked about it.”

– It is natural that this would impact trust, communication and emotional and sexual intimacy after the procedure. Some may begin to look outside their marriage to find emotional support.  Secretive and shame inducing affairs can result (re-enacting elements of the shameful and secret abortion loss.) [3]

– Wounded people can sabotage their partners need to receive, and a desire to share, love and nurturance. 

– In varying degrees these relationships can become abusive and in some cases even violent.  (Keep in mind that abusive relationships and toleration of abusive partners can serve, in part, as a type of self-punishment and also a type of expiation of unconscious guilt, shame and rage from the abortion event.)[4] 

Fortunately, there is help for couples struggling after abortion. Here is a powerful testimony from Chuck and Linda Raymond.  The couple shares about how an abortion loss they experienced as teenagers impacted their marriage, and how they came to experience God’s mercy and healing on a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat:


[1] Catholics are just as likely to get an abortion as other U.S. women. Why? | America Magazine

[2] Burke, Theresa.  Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion.  Acorn Press, June 2002.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Abusers will take advantage of their partner’s vulnerabilities to maintain control.  This is no way suggests blame on the abuse victim, but points to the value of abortion healing as an aid to empower victims to leave and not return to abusive partners, and take steps toward emotional and spiritual recovery.

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