Monday, January 26, 2015

Pro-Life and Post-Abortive: Women Impacted by Abortion Tell Their Story, Continued

Last week marked the forty-second anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, as well as the annual March for Life. Too often, when discussing abortion, we are quick to forget the perspective of those most affected by the procedure: the women who have them and live with that decision for the rest of their lives. This post is continues our series of interviews addressing abortion, with a focus on women who have had abortions and now oppose it.

Béatrice Fedor is a French woman who used to support abortion rights. She had a change of heart after she married her husband and faced her demons. She is now a Silent No More Awareness Campaign regional coordinator. She writes about the journey to healing after abortion and reflects on ways we can change our culture to make abortion unnecessary at 400 Words for Women. Her essays and poems have been reprinted in several online publications and in The American FeministFeminists For Life's magazine. Béatrice lives in South Carolina with her husband and four children.

Can you discuss the circumstances of your pregnancies and why you chose to end them?

I was 18, in France, at the university. I became pregnant, and I thought that my boyfriend would marry me, but he told me to "get rid of that." I was shocked — I had never thought about that issue before, but now that I was pregnant, it was obvious that I was against abortion. I thought my boyfriend would change his mind with an ultrasound, but he wouldn't, so I rationalized the situation and took the RU486 pill to please him, against my better judgment.

After our developing child was flushed down the toilet, I sank into depression. I became pro-choice to cope with the situation, to convince myself that I had made the right decision. 

A year after the abortion, my ex-boyfriend told me that he regretted it, that we should have a little girl, but we killed her. That made me extremely angry at myself, at him, at the whole world.

Seven years later, I got pregnant again. The father was abusive and twice my age. I didn’t want to go through abortion a second time, though I supported other women’s right to abort. I registered at the hospital to give birth; I chose a preschool for my son. 

But I was ambivalent about the child because I was scared of the father, and I needed to get out of an abusive situation. A voice in the back of my head said: "You could still have an abortion." And so I made the second most horrible decision of my life out of fear and despair. This time, it was a surgical abortion. When I woke up after the procedure, I broke into tears: What had I done? How was I going to live with myself now?

More years of depression and thoughts of suicide followed, but I didn't understand that my anger, self-hatred and despair came from my abortions. I had to make that paradox exist in my mind: Abortion wounded me in my very soul, but I had to defend my decisions and be pro-choice to be able to survive. I have a secular background, and I couldn't question my "values," because that's all I knew. What else was there for me to believe in, to cling to?

What changed your mind about abortion and inspired you to speak out against it publicly?

Four years after the second abortion, I met a pro-lifer for the first time. He was Catholic, and I was an angry, pro-choice atheist, but he loved me anyway. I moved to the USA, and we got married.

I became pregnant with our first child, and I was crying every day. Deep in that pit of depression, I had my pro-life conversion: I wasn't feeling worthy to carry a "wanted" child because I had aborted two "unwanted" ones in the past. I realized that the notions of wanted and unwanted don't mean anything. The truth hit me: I was grieving two children; this is what I had been doing for thirteen years.

At that time, I was gradually turning to God. In a women's discussion group about forgiveness, to my surprise, I said: "I can’t forgive myself for my abortions." My church friends cried with me and told me about a counsellor from the diocese and Rachel’s Vineyard. Healing from this kind of trauma is a long process. and I'm thankful that I was able to start that journey eight years ago.

Also, in a rally, I saw Silent No More women holding "I Regret My Abortion" signs. I registered on their website to get their newsletter, but I wasn't ready to hold signs or share my story. Then, I learned that a friend's daughter had a pregnant classmate who was pressured by her family to have an abortion. She didn't really want an abortion, but her grandmother decided to "fix the problem" and took her to a clinic where she was given the RU486 pill.

I realized that I should have spoken up and shared my story. Maybe if I had talked to her family about my abortions and how they affected me, they wouldn't have put her through that. Maybe we could all have worked together to help her have her baby and finish high school. That's how I became a Silent No More regional coordinator in 2008, because I wanted to prevent this kind of tragedy.

How important is it for men, whether they are fathers or not, to support pregnant women and their babies?

An unmarried pregnant woman needs to know that her partner will be there for her and their child, but instead of: "It’s going to be O.K.; we will make it work together," he can easily say: "It's YOUR choice" and "I can’t tell you what to do with your body." Her partner's message is clear: "I'm not getting involved." So, it’s either abortion, or she is on her own to raise a child already rejected by his father. Some choice! When you think about it, abortion has benefited irresponsible men, not women.

Until we change that mentality, pro-life men can counsel young fathers in pregnancy resource centers and in sidewalk counselling to help them to choose life for their families.

Also, let’s not condemn single mothers who fell victim of the hook-up culture (or perhaps were raped and courageously chose life). When we judge and shame single mothers, we are fuelling the wrong side of the abortion debate. What is done is done, and a child was created. Now, how can we deal with the situation without adding any more harm?

Lastly, fathers of girls: Support your daughters no matter what. Let them know that you will be there to support them emotionally and financially should an unplanned pregnancy happen.

"When you think about it, abortion has benefited irresponsible men, not women."

What would you say to a woman who has had an abortion but still does not regret it?

Abortion is a traumatic event that creates complicated emotions. It's typical for women to go through several years of justification of their abortion, as I did. 

I would tell her what I always say to post-abortive women, whether they express a regret or not: that I'm sorry she had to go through that and that she is not alone. I'll be there for her if she wants to talk. I would let her know that I had two abortions and they were the worst decisions I made in my life. I would simply share the truth in a non-judgmental way and listen, if she has something to share as well.

Healing comes in stages and on people's timing, but sometimes, women are stuck in the rationalization stage their whole life. It doesn't mean that they are not struggling with eating disorders, that they are not self-medicating with alcohol so they don’t have to deal with that dark event of their life.

The pro-choice movement is built on the lie that the child to be born is not a person; therefore, abortion is O.K. It is when a woman recognizes that, yes, she was carrying a child and that abortion destroyed that child that she can start to heal. But it's not a truth that you can push on people by using a bullhorn and call them "murderer."

I never want to give up on people. If I changed, anybody can change. Some women are not ready to hear the truth yet; I share it anyway, or little bits of it, in a gentle manner.

How did you get involved in post-abortive ministry?

Before joining Silent No More, I read dozens of heartbreaking abortion stories on pregnancy message boards and such, and I started to answer some of the posts. Many were similar to mine: coercion, feeling that they didn't have any other choice. There was also a pro-choice site with several stories that ended like this: "This whole experience sucks, and I don’t recommend it to anyone, but abortion was the right choice for me." To me, all those stories were cries for help, and I wanted to give them hope.

As a Silent No More coordinator, I’m not a counsellor in post-abortion programs, but I refer people to them. Some people prefer a ten-week Bible study, others are more comfortable attending a one-weekend retreat or using a book at home, others prefer online support groups. Some people attend several programs. Abortion recovery programs are usually religious, and Rachel's Vineyard uses Scriptures but is open to non-Christians. I think there is a need for a secular program.

Through Silent No More and my blog, I’m constantly in touch with women, Christian and non-Christian alike, who need to make sense of the grief, to understand how they came to the point where they accepted abortion as a valid option when they were younger, etc. Healing is a work in progress for many of us. Thank God we have resources available and the Internet to connect and encourage one another.

What can the pro-life community do to reach out more to the post-abortive community? Have you ever felt judged by fellow pro-life activists, or is that merely an unfortunate stereotype?

Post-abortive women are everywhere: in the workplace, in your school, within your family. We are sitting next to you in the pew each Sunday.

What can be helpful is to find out what post-abortion programs are available in your area and keep that information handy. Make sure that this info is available in the confessional. It is needed there.

If you engage in discussions online with post-abortive women, be compassionate, open-minded and sometimes, guard your tongue. Tell women that they are not alone and invite them to read abortion stories on Silent No More's website.

There are people (not many, thankfully) who told me that I should have known better after the first abortion; that they don't understand how I could be so selfish; why wasn't I abstinent; why wasn't I courageous and loving enough to choose adoption.

Those remarks don't help anyone, but they can alienate women who need help and make others feel that they don’t belong in the pro-life community. 

It's not like we don’t want to go back in time and change the past. We do. It's not like we never beat ourselves up with "what ifs," "I should have done that..." We do, especially at the time of abortion anniversaries.

But as Christians, we need to see beyond the ugliness of the sin. We need to see the sinner and her need for redemption and healing. How can we be a vessel of that redemption, of that healing? Our society denies abortion grief. If not us, the Church, who will validate it and lead women to a safe place where they can be restored? 

Let us give women room to grieve their aborted children. Let's not focus so much on Justice as some people do — leave that to God — but let's focus on Mercy. 

"Neither do I condemn you." —Jesus to the woman caught in adultery, John 8:11.

Editor's Note: This interview was conducted via email and was edited only for grammar and punctuation, not content.

Post-Abortion Healing Resources

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