This year we have marked a dark and tragic commemoration….45 years of legalized, unrestricted abortion on demand thanks to the infamous Roe V. Wade decision of 1973.
No other event has more profoundly affected American society – ushering in a culture of death and destruction. Increased rates of suicide, addictions and child abuse crashed to the shores of our world in the wake of this monumental Supreme Court decision with no relief in sight.
After working over 25 years as a psychotherapist, certain patterns emerge with regularity when it comes to this abortion issue. Putting aside all politics and philosophical discussion, the sad reality is that human beings are deeply affected by abortion – no matter where they stand on the issue.
What I’ve seen over the years is that abortion is often not the presenting issue when seeking psychological help but, if present, exerts profound influence on whatever the presenting problems are. For many, an abortion experience is the catalyst for a series of self-destructive patterns and decisions – the aftermath of which lead them eventually to the counseling office. In sorting out the failed relationships, addictions, anxiety and depressive disorders, too many therapists fail to inquire if a past abortion may be lurking in the shadows. Sadly, even when presented, many ignore or gloss over the significance and fail in an opportunity to help the client fully heal and find real and lasting transformation.
However, abortion rarely happens in a vacuum and focusing solely on an abortion in therapy and not recognizing the pre-existing issues that left a woman vulnerable to that choice also misses an opportunity for real healing.
My own experience in working with clients is that a woman (Or, man – let’s not forget the men involved in the abortion experience.) who comes from a home where they experienced love and authentic affirmation and received moral and spiritual guidance, will rarely opt for abortion when faced with an unplanned or ill-timed pregnancy.
However, few people today have that experience growing up. With alcoholism and divorce at alarming rates in our society, the safety and security of the home has been shattered for many in their formative years. Without the inner strength that only unconditional love can foster, it is too easy to cave in to what is often inhuman pressure to “get rid of” the problem.
The interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that although most of the reasons put forth to justify legal abortion appeal to selfishness, in very many cases, the woman choosing to abort is trying to be unselfish by not going through with a pregnancy that deep down she wants but that will clearly be inconvenient to others…the father of the child or her mortified parents. If they’ve already experienced abandonment by a parent through divorce or by abuse or neglect, the very real possibility of abandonment if she continues her pregnancy triggers a self protective response of compliance. Depression usually follows and can root in for years or decades. It’s not unusual for someone to wait 20 or 30 years before coming to terms with their abortions. I’ll never forget one beautiful woman who had an abortion 50 years before who was hospitalized for debilitating depressions every year around the anniversary of the abortion. Medications and shock treatments couldn’t set her free…only facing the reality of the abortion in the light of God’s forgiveness and mercy could break that pattern once and for all.
The other phenomenon that I’ve experienced in working with post abortive individuals, is that through this tragedy, many experience a healing and transformation in Christ that could never have occurred had it not been for such deep suffering and distress. It’s no coincidence that the 20th century that was the bloodiest in all of human history also witnessed the beautiful message of Divine Mercy manifested to St. Faustina. The reality of God’s ineffable mercy is nowhere more clear than in the healing of those who have participated in the tragedy of abortion. From such abject devastation, God regularly works miracles of mercy and transformation in the souls of those who reach out to Him in faith and hope. The job of the Catholic therapist is to facilitate this healing by living this example of merciful love in relation to those entrusted to our care.
If you or someone you know has suffered the pain of abortion, whether coerced by others or by your own choice, trust and believe in God’s mercy and forgiveness. He never allows an evil unless He intends to bring a greater good from it.
Ponder that. Do you believe it? Even if you don’t yet believe – HOPE in it.
Let this be the year that you break free of the chains of regret and shame and step into the light of God’s healing and mercy.
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