“After the fact….”
The following is adapted liberally from an excellent seminar recently given by Michael Petrides and hosted by Catholic Charities of Norwich, Ct. The subject is Post-Abortion Assistance to Women and Men, Including Rachel’s Vineyard. For these insights and facts, Mr. Petrides gives much credit to Fr. Paul Raum, Ph. D., of Baltimore, Md., a founder of Rachel’s Vineyard.
20-25% of women of childbearing age have had abortions, including unfortunately a similar percentage of Catholics. That should be remembered in any presentation on abortion. It is often 10 or more years before a woman can bear the grief and can begin to come to terms with the issue. The men involved often realize this sooner, at about three years post-event. Selfishness is a basic cause here. But often the woman has been coerced into the act.
Remember that this may be the first time that the person has been invited to tell her story. And remember that anger or a judgmental approach turns them off. The message will cause pain, and it should. The abscess must be incised, and a message of forgiveness must be given. For, post-abortion women and men can have profound suffering. How do we help without being condescending? We must come with a message of forgiveness and not judgment. Remember that this process can involve siblings and grandparents also.
God is not coercive. He has given us free will; and He seems to allow our mistakes, knowing that we will suffer consequences. He guides us if we seek His help. And the Church wants reconciliation. “The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.”
In dealing with these people, remember that there are two groups. There are those who have arrived at being or becoming connected; and there are those who have not yet arrived. For the second group, information to overcome misinformation and lack of information is vital, properly presented. In this effort, a professional must validate the possible post-abortion effects, so that the person can feel connected. One way to approach the question is to ask, “How many pregnancies have you had?”
And there definitely are post-abortion effects, although many professionals have allowed their politics to preempt their professional knowledge and experience. For example, the American Psychiatric Association does not admit of and does accept research regarding an Abortion Post-Traumatic Syndrome. And yet, children in this type of family often suffer “survivor syndrome”, with questions like “why did my parents do this”? and “why not me”? Abortion having occurred before the first pregnancy taken to term is associated with increased incidence of breast cancer. Abortion is associated with substance abuse: there is a two-fold incidence of alcohol abuse and a three-fold incidence of illicit drug use. And over 40% of post-abortion women suffer clinical depression, a 35% increase over normal.
These people need help…and many are ready for help. One approach, Rachel’s Vineyard, is a weekend retreat for post-abortive women and men. It involves psychological and spiritual healing. It deals with grief, anger, mourning, and eventually self-forgiveness. Why should we care? Because “In love, God suffers every agony that people suffer”. And “the way to prevent abortion is to love aggressively and to care for all people.”
Peter Moore, PhD George A. Sprecace, M.D., J.D.