by Matt Kaufman
When I was in college, a friend of mine—a conservative columnist who wrote for a decidedly liberal student paper—was fired. The reasons given by the editors were unconvincing, and kept changing; the bottom line was that they just didn’t like his politics. But one claim they made still stands out in my memory. They accused him of fabricating a quote from a woman with a group called Women Exploited by Abortion (WEBA): “I killed my baby.” At first he was told “No woman would ever say that;” later, that it was “libelous.” The column was never published.
The fact is, though, lots of women say exactly what that woman did — and even more of them feel it, very deeply. If you have any doubts, read David Reardon’s Aborted Women, Silent No More, originally published in 1987 and just re-released by Acorn Books.
It may sound strange to speak of “aborted” women, since it’s actually their children who were aborted. But Reardon — who heads the Elliott Institute, specializing in post-abortion research — understands that the women have also been subjected to a type of violence, both physical and spiritual. So he spends some pages simply letting them tell their own stories. Listen, first, to their voices:
Alice: [After the abortion] I didn’t realize why I felt bad. My boyfriend took me home. It wasn’t long after I got home that I knew — it just hit me — that I had killed my baby. . . . I had six years of depression after my abortion. . . . I hated myself. . . . A lot of times I wanted to die. . . .
Carol: One night Jim’s band was playing at a local club and he insisted I go with him. Up to that point [since the abortion] I hadn’t left the house. . . . people still thought I was pregnant. One of the wives came up and said, “You must be thrilled! When’s the due date?” I about died and had to think fast. My emotions about it all were rushing again; and as I looked at Jim, I could honestly say that I hated him. First the abortion and now this! I knew I’d have to lie in order to protect his rapport with our peers. I sadly told her that I had miscarried. We left shortly thereafter because I couldn’t handle the sympathy these people were giving to me — me, a murderer!
Sarah: The thought of having a defective baby . . . was enough to drive me to kill. That says a lot about my morally bankrupt condition.
Those feelings are undeniably real. The most hardened feminists will say they’re misplaced, a product of religious propaganda. And in fact, the women quoted above have embraced Christianity — but after their abortions. Prior to that, and often for years afterward, many who now oppose abortion were active feminists, abortion-rights activists, even atheists. It wasn’t Christianity that first made them feel the guilt. It was personal experience.
Karen: I was twelve weeks pregnant, so they performed a suction abortion. They inserted dilators into my cervix, one after the other, until the largest one was as big around as my little finger. It was really, really painful. . . . They turned on the suction machine. I could feel the baby being torn from my insides. . . . three-quarters of the way through the operation, I sat up. To my right and down, I saw the tube that led out of me, from the vacuum aspirator, and it led into a little glass cylinder. In the cylinder I saw bits and pieces of my little child floating in a pool of blood. I screamed and jumped up off the table. They took me into another room and I started vomiting. They responded by offering me Seven-Up and cookies. It was all just repulsive to me, and I couldn’t stop throwing up.
How many women feel the same way? There’s no way to know; studies are hindered by the natural reluctance of many women to talk about their experience, and of abortionists to cooperate with all but the most sympathetic researchers. Yet even studies by abortion-rights supporters (Reardon cites specific examples) have found substantial numbers feeling “guilty” or “dirty,” confused, violated, sad, lost.
Several studies show one in 10 women who get abortions are subsequently hospitalized for clinical depression or other psychological consequences related to abortion. (Among WEBA women surveyed, the number rose: One in five reported a “nervous breakdown” or “complete mental breakdown.”) For each of those women, numerous others suffer untreated through a string of broken relationships, alternating promiscuity or sexual frigidity, heavy drinking, drugs — behaviors that often were nonexistent or far less pronounced prior to the abortion.
Most important, these problems don’t go away or lessen with the passage of time. On the contrary, Reardon says, they get worse. While abortion supporters say women’s primary feeling after abortion is relief, follow-up studies show that regrets, guilt and other emotional consequences grow more severe years down the line. In fact, Reardon writes after reviewing studies from sources with a variety of views on abortion,
The trend is clear to anyone who looks. The negative, WEBA-like abortion experience is the rule rather than the exception. Many aborted women will deny it by hiding their emotions and telling little or nothing of their experience. Others may hide it behind the anger and bitterness they feel toward other persons who were involved, especially the male. But most will admit they are troubled. They simply don’t know what to do other than to try to forget it and move on.
And forgetting it doesn’t work. Not even in sleep, where persistent nightmares about aborted children are common. The sight of a child is enough to spark deep sadness and tears. And then there are cases like Carol’s, while waiting for a doctor’s exam five years after her last abortion:
After the nurse left the room, I started looking around, checking things out. To my shock and complete loss of control, I saw, two feet from my left foot, a suction aspirator machine! I freaked out. I had a total flashback of my abortion experience. I began crying uncontrollably, got up, dressed, and ran out into the hall, hyperventilating. I found the nurse and was near hysteria as I explained why I couldn’t go back in there. She understood, and tried comforting me, reassuring me their office did not do abortions but that the machine was used for other purposes. She took the machine out of the room. I returned shaken and surprised at my lack of self-control. I wonder . . . will it ever end?
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to recover from abortion. Thousands of pregnancy-care centers across the country help not only in giving women alternatives to abortion, but also in counseling those dealing with its aftermath. Healing, however, can’t come without first facing the reality of what abortion is. And that’s just what women are doing when they say “I killed my baby.”
It’s no mystery why people don’t want to face that: They can’t believe they could be forgiven. Yet here’s where Christianity comes in. Again, the Christian faith isn’t the source of guilt; that comes from what the Apostle Paul calls the law written on men’s hearts. But it is the source of healing — the only place where genuine forgiveness can be found. As Reardon has written elsewhere, before the abortion, Christ condemns it and Satan makes excuses for it. After the abortion, Satan is the one condemning it while Christ forgives it.
That redemptive theme recurs throughout Reardon’s book, making it — for all the ugliness he’s forced to depict — an ultimately uplifting work. Listen to one more voice:
Ila: The legalization of abortion and its rise to social acceptability did nothing to ease the loss and emptiness I felt. Eventually I became so lonely, guilt-ridden, and desperate, that I saw suicide as the only way out of my torment. I overdosed on Valium and Jack Daniels. When my suicide attempt failed, I was admitted to an alcohol rehabilitation program. . . . I prayed for the first time in years, and my prayer was answered. I suddenly realized there was a God out there, and he heard me. . . . My heart began to be filled with joy and hope. . . .
Today I know I must do all I can to help stop legal abortion in this country. I do this by speaking to groups and by reaching out to aborted women, helping them find the one answer to the emotional hell that follows abortions: forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Only in Him do I have hope for my babies who have died, and for my husband and son who live.