by Verity Worthington
“If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people to not kill each other? Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want”. Mother Teresa
I was sitting beside Mother Teresa’s tomb when I was given a copy of Voices magazine to read. Perhaps the sister who gave it to me knew that I needed to read it. I’d landed in Kolkata [Calcutta] many times over the years, supposedly volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity, but more often escaping from England, from the past, from painful relationships and decisions. After all, as Mother Teresa said, it is easy to love people far away; and the volunteer community often provides a bubble far removed from individual reality.
A few months later I was sitting in a volunteer sharing group listening to a woman’s testimony about abortion. It made me uneasy. The healthcare bill had just been passed, and it was a hot topic of discussion. That night, on a sultry rooftop I was asked outright by a fellow volunteer, “what do you think about abortion?”
For a moment I was filled with panic, I hesitated, before replying “I think it’s the most damaging thing a woman can do”.
And I should know.
I type these words from a laptop far away. I type these words knowing your readership, knowing your articles on pro-life issues. I type not because it is a form of therapy; I type because my story could be your story, your daughter’s story, your niece’s story. I type because it is difficult to do so, because God puts nothing on our path we are not meant to use for the greater good.
If you google “post abortion” you are met with a host of web sites offering support/message boards and advice. There have been campaigns on the NYC subway, on buses, on billboards; yet it remains a taboo, even in secular society. For something so readily available, something sold as a small “procedure”, it is shrouded in a cloud of shame, of secrecy, of regret. Certainly I never thought I would tell anyone, aside from the anonymous priest I mumbled a confession to in a dark church long ago.
It is understandable that pro-life campaigns focus on the unborn child, the innocent, fragile life murdered in the womb; yet there are always two victims. No woman wants an abortion. The popular campaign slogan is right; it changes you. It changes your outlook, it changes your relationships, your responses. Life can never be the same again, no matter how well-appointed the clinic, or how smiley the staff.
For four years I kept my silence. I went to Mass, I continued my voluntary work. I endeavored to function like a normal human being. I avoided the abortion debate; I excused myself from potentially awkward conversations. I had no opinion. I had no feeling. In many ways, I had ceased to exist.
There is no excuse. I committed a serious sin, a crime, a murder; for which I will be held accountable before God.
I signed my own child’s death warrant.
At the time it was nothing more than a bad situation, two blue lines in the window of a plastic stick in a public restroom. There was no one to talk to; no one to make me see the evil in which I was partaking.
I wonder how many young girls/women have looked at those blue lines in the time you’ve been reading this article; fearful, alone, confused. This isn’t the time for lectures on the merits of abstinence. We are all tarnished with the brush of original sin. We all make mistakes. We need to replace condemnation with compassion.
Every abortion statistic is a person; a story that doesn’t begin at the pregnancy test. Abortion statistics are a reflection of the brokenness in our society the effects of a contraceptive culture, of divorce, of the “me-driven masses” who consider themselves masters of their own destiny.
Abortion is a huge issue in today’s society; it is political, social and religious. It encompasses every area of life, and evokes the strongest of feelings. Yet I would argue that the pro-life campaign is in danger of alienating the very women who can give it the most support women like myself, who have been there, who have made the mistake and paid the price.
It’s all well and good showing graphic photos of aborted fetal matter, but hearing a testimony from the heart can reach far more. It is not a simple “procedure” from which you can ever walk away; it is a life sentence and no one knows this more than those who have been there and experienced it. I would do anything I could to stop another young woman from carrying this pain around with her for the rest of her life. Maybe someone is reading this at this very moment, in the process of making a decision. I was there once; numb, frightened, alone ... and I chose the wrong path. There is always another way.
When I sat in the volunteer sharing group, listening to this lady’s testimony, I was cynical yet beneath that cynicism lay a jealousy that she could sit in public and say “I had an abortion”. That takes courage. It is one thing to write a paper or contribute to an anonymous internet help group, but quite another to speak it out loud.
God gave me the grace to share with the sister who first introduced me to Voices. She was a true gift to me, and her love and support enabled me to look at my past and decisions with compassion and understanding. She changed my life. My “healing” has only just begun, but it was thanks to Voices that my voice could be heard.
Verity Worthington has a degree in Archaeology & Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and is currently training to be a nurse at King’s College London. She has written on educational/women’s issues in student and national press. Verity has volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity for the past 10 years and considers Kolkata to be home.
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