I’ve been to the National March for Life in Washington, DC many times over the last several years. Each year, tens of thousands of people gather on the National Mall, many of them carrying signs with catchy pro-life slogans. This year I saw a new sign. I’m guessing people have carried this sign in past years, but I had never noticed it. The sign read: “Women DO Regret Abortion.” What struck me, however, was when I saw several women carrying a similar sign that read: “I Regret My Abortion.”
“Wow,” I thought. “That takes courage.”
I understood the sign very well. You see, as a Catholic priest, I have listened to the deep regret that many women carry after their abortion. Any priest will tell you that, whether in the confessional or in private discussion, women who feel the need to talk about their abortion carry tremendous pain and regret. A woman has never told me that she is proud of her abortion; on the contrary, it is one of the heaviest burdens that she carries. Hence the reason she goes to the priest: to receive God’s forgiveness and healing.
I must confess that as I’ve sat and listened to women pour out their hearts about the pain they have from their abortion, I have simultaneously experienced some righteous anger toward those in the pro-abortion movement who promote abortion as if it is one of the most liberating experiences a women can have. They proudly defend “the right to choose” and encourage women to use their “freedom to choose” if they do not want to have the baby. What they don’t tell these women is that there is tremendous emotional and spiritual pain that will follow their decision.
Several times, as I’ve spoken with a woman who’s had an abortion, I’ve thought to myself during the conversation: This woman was lied to. She didn’t freely choose this. She felt pressured. She was scared. Where are the pro-abortion people now that this woman needs healing, love, and forgiveness? They’re nowhere to be found, and the Church is left to pick up the broken pieces, which we will happily do.
As priests we deal with the aftermath of abortion. We see what many people who promote and defend abortion don’t see: the pain, guilt and sorrow that these women carry. It’s not a pretty picture. Abortion is not a glorious choice nor is it some great act of human freedom.
There is good news, however, for any woman who’s had an abortion. Her regret can lead her into the loving and merciful arms of the Lord. Each time I speak with a woman who’s had an abortion, particularly if it’s in the context of the sacrament of reconciliation, my words are the same: no sin is greater than God’s love and mercy. The Lord desires to forgive and He will forgive.
Those in the pro-abortion movement may not be there for the woman after her abortion, but the Church is. I want to encourage any woman who’s had an abortion and is experiencing pain not to be afraid to turn to the Lord and to ask for His healing. He wants to embrace you. No sin is greater than the love He has for you. As a priest, it is a deeply moving experience when I am able to speak words of forgiveness to a woman who has had an abortion. Do not be afraid to turn to Him. And if you know someone who needs God’s mercy and healing because she’s had an abortion, encourage her to turn to the Lord. She needs to know that He is waiting to embrace her with His love.