By Tina Tyra
On this, the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, America is still in turmoil over the right to life and the right to take life. “Pro-choice” seems to be an oxymoron. While women want the right to choose, I’m not sure any person (fetus) would choose to be aborted. Also, fathers don’t have much say in the choice. As pro-life supporters participate in their annual Right to Life March on the Capitol and around the country, legislators have spoken up in respect for life as they urge congress to pass more legislation to protect the unborn. Life isn’t partisan, but it’s clearly not popular for Democrats to speak out for the unborn. Can you imagine someone who understands the value of life NOT speaking out because of election popularity? The sheer number of abortions in this country (55 million conservatively, since many go unreported) is staggering. The laws are confusing at best, with a wide range of variation state by state. What I find interesting is what I call the “wanted” factor. If a woman who is 30 weeks pregnant is involved in a car accident with a drunk driver and her baby dies, the driver will be charged with homicide or manslaughter because he/she was negligent enough to take a life – a life that was wanted. People recognize the life of the baby when the woman involved wants the child. That very same woman can go to an abortion clinic in many states and have the child aborted, with no consequences. It’s not recognized as a life. Scientists search for single cells on the surface of other planets and claim “There may be life on Mars”. So is a fetus a life or isn’t it? Of course it is. Some women tell themselves that it’s not in order to rationalize making such a decision. Sometimes there is pressure from a partner which complicates the situation even further. These decisions are never easy, but I would favor making women informed about their consent before they undergo a procedure that will kill their child and which could kill them. Knowing what is happening to your body and to the body of your baby should be a requirement. I won’t go into graphic detail, but if a person is about to undergo such an invasive procedure, then they should choose to know what the procedure entails. There is a book written by a woman who actually survived a late term abortion. It is a fascinating account of what happened (Gianna: Aborted and Lived to Tell About It by Jessica Shaver, Jan 1995) when an abortionist delivered a child who wouldn’t die.
I want to talk about the grief of abortion and the grief of adoption as it relates to a pregnant woman. They are much the same, but also very different. When a woman aborts a baby, she herself is wounded as well. In the moment, she may not think so. It may be a quick, seemingly easy, solution to a difficult situation. But in the long term, it will leave her with scars and forever she will remember. She may remember enough to have a hard time forgiving herself and she may seek help in places such as her church or Birthright. Often times, when a woman who has gone through an abortion begins to start a family and has children, she looks at them and blames herself for aborting a child who would have been just like them. The passage of time can teach us a great deal and many women regret the decision to have an abortion. I heard those stories when I counseled women who were either considering abortion or who had gone through one or more. With adoption, there is grief as well. A woman with empty arms is no less a mother. Any woman who has become pregnant is a mother. So when a woman voluntarily decides to place her child for adoption, she must go through a grief process as part of the separation. I haven’t met a birth mother who didn’t love her child. The difference is that she knows her child is safe and cared for and she carries with her the knowledge that she gave her child life. That can turn grief into a positive feeling. To change the lives of others with the gift of a child is special to be sure, but to give a child the gift of a life that could have been terminated is something every birth mother can take pride in. Can you think of any figure in history who changed the world? Einstein? Mother Theresa? John F. Kennedy? Martin Luther King? Thomas Edison? What if any one of them had been aborted? We are aborting incredible minds and irreplaceable people in record numbers right here in what some have termed “the greatest nation on earth”. All while there are adoptive parents waiting to be given an opportunity to raise a child. The fact is, because of abortion, there are not enough adoptable children for the families who want them. No woman places a child and has no residual feelings. She must grieve that child as if she had lost a child through stillbirth or early death. Her arms are still empty and her breasts are still full. It can be heartbreaking, but the alternative is doubly so. Women need to help women understand that. So, the grief women feel after adoption is very real. It’s difficult for women to express that much of the time, because their peers or relatives may not understand. They may be told “You chose the adoption, so why is it affecting you this way?” Tears and grief are a necessary part of the process and help heal. Having ongoing contact with the adoptive family and the ability to see their baby grow and prosper also helps the healing process. I did some lay counseling as a neonatal grief counselor at a hospital where I worked and also through my church. I can remember very vividly the primal pain of women who had given birth to a child who was either deceased or died shortly thereafter. I was one of those women who suffered a fetal demise. I believe that both birth mothers and mothers who have aborted feel that same pain. They just suppress it because they think that because they chose those options, they somehow don’t have the right to feel that pain or share it. That becomes a burden they bear alone and it is a pain that stays with them. For women who have undergone abortion and have had a difficult time coping with guilt or shame or long-term unending grief, there is help. One program is offered by the Catholic Church and is virtually available worldwide. You don’t have to be Catholic to attend. There is no judgment, only empathy and sisterhood. It is called Rachel’s Vineyard and is a healing retreat and ongoing support. While the majority of those affected by abortion are women, some are men. Rachel’s Vineyard is a resource for men as well. Typically, men are less likely to seek out help, but this video will show you how abortion can affect men long-term in an equally destructive way. It is called, “Suffering in Silence: The Stigma of Abortion and How it Affects Men”. If you know someone who is pregnant and considering options, don’t stop with the discussion of choices. Talk about the after-effects as well. These are decisions which will impact the rest of their lives, some in a positive way and some in a negative way. There is a good alternative to an unplanned pregnancy for those women who can’t parent for whatever reason. We’re here to help.