Twenty-three years ago I made a life-altering mistake. I decided to have an abortion because I felt that the stigma of having a child conceived through an act of violence would have been an embarrassment to me as a single woman. I was raped by a man who was active in the church. I decided to have an abortion because I could see no other options. I had a job where I worked in the public sector, was very active in my church and community, and I felt that the circumstances of the pregnancy would have never been understood. I was scared, so I chose to dispose of the child.
My doctor arranged for me to have a D&C. It was performed in the hospital, as an outpatient procedure. I don’t remember if I felt comfortable, but I did feel violated. Violated because there were two victims of the rape—the baby and myself. The one thing that stands out vividly in my mind is that I told the doctor to “Remove that thing inside of me and let’s get it over.” I felt embarrassed about being placed in this situation and a part of me wanted to die with the child.
For about 18 years I put everything in the far corners of my mind. To help me keep it there, I turned to drugs and alcohol. I engaged in abusive relationships—some short-term; one long-term; some one night stands. The drugs helped me stay numb. I didn’t want to feel anything, but I did want to be able to have a “normal” sexual relationship without having to deal with memories of the rape. The drugs and alcohol allowed me to do that.
At the point of “getting clean,” the flashbacks and nightmares came back—first with memories of the rape and the abuse the occurred while in active addiction, as well as some early and adolescent childhood abuse. I have had several attempts at suicide. I have engaged in self-injury. I have had two trips to two different psychiatric facilities—both times for trauma suffered from the rape. The last one was 3 years ago, where I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder.) I also suffer from symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, Adult ADD, as well as some physical problems that affect my immune system. I am the poster girl of low self-esteem.
It was only after I decided to join the Catholic church in 2004 that I knew that I would need to address the issue of the aborted pregnancy. Before I began the RCIA program, I spoke to a priest and told him about the abortion. He told me to give the child a sex, a name, and ask the child for forgiveness. I did everything he asked. The child, I always felt, would have been a girl and I named her Maria. Since that day, I have been asking her forgiveness daily.
Twenty-three years is a long time to carry the burden of shame and guilt. However, through the grace of God, I have received good counseling and I have been able learn to handle these difficulties, and to accept that the rape wasn’t my fault.
In June, 2005, I attended my first pro-life mass that was sponsored by my diocese. It was a wonderful mass; our bishop was the celebrant and led a march to a nearby abortion clinic, where we prayed a rosary for life. Afterward, I was able to speak to Bishop Rhodes and told him that I was post-abortive. He gave me a blessing and told me to use this as part of the healing process. It has taken me a long time to get involved, but recently I was asked to be Pro-Life chairperson of my parish’s Council of Catholic Women. I eagerly accepted. I have looked at it as a tool in the healing process; allowing me to give back to my child, in the lives of other children. Up to now, I have been, and still am, an advocate for the victims of sexual abuse. Now I would like to extend that advocacy to the unborn. I have found that when I advocate for a cause, it just enriches the healing process so much more.
Another part of my healing has come from watching “Defending Life” on EWTN. The ministry that Priests for Life performs has been very important to me. It has made an impact on my healing by showing me where I can find resources to help the post-abortive woman, man, or couple. My goal for the next year is to experience a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. I still have much healing to do, but I know that with a lot of prayer and support from my friends and family, I will someday find some true peace within myself.
The most important thing that I would like to tell you about abortion is that there are other options. It is better to release the child for adoption to one of the many people who long to be parents. Also, there is more acceptance in today’s society for single parents.