In the thirty years since  Roe v. Wade, the public debate  about abortion has coalesced around two opposing moral precepts.  Pro-Lifers argue  that because abortion kills  a human being, abortion  should be regulated or banned outright.  Pro-choicers argue that a woman's "right to choose" trumps 
all other moral claims, making abortion a private decision that should be free of any outside influence.

Pro-choicers  resist calling  any unborn child a child at all.  They  prefer fetus (Latin for little one) because it dehumanizes the aborted child. Most people know deep down that abortion is wrong. Dehumanizing the child makes the procedure more palatable.

It used to be that the deliberate abortion of an unborn child  met with almost universal disapproval.  In  the last three decades, however, the public stigma against  the procedure has eroded, in large part because the language of dehumanization has taken hold.  This language has shaped discourse,  and in shaping discourse it has shaped thinking.

A new  book  helps us think  more clearly about  abortion.  "Forbidden Grief"  by Theresa  Burke  and  David Reardon reveals that abortion is far from the benign and neutral procedure characterized by pro-choice activists. 

Burke and Reardon council women who underwent abortions and reveal that many, perhaps most, women suffered trauma  because of their abortions - including women who were committed pro-choicers when they had one.  Women who chose abortion are afflicted by grief, guilt, and a tremendous sense of personal loss. Many carry the trauma for years afterward.

This grief remains largely hidden - forbidden really - from  public view.  One  important  reason is  that  the decision to abort is rarely freely decided.  A major  Los Angeles Times poll reports that 74% of women who admitted having abortions stated  that they believe that abortion is morally wrong.  The decision to abort is usually made in the blizzard of a personal  moral  crisis when the mother is  especially susceptible  to outside influences by mental health  professionals,  family members, a partner, abortion clinic counselors, or others who can exert leverage they would otherwise not have.

This leverage is often expressed as subtle coercion.  A  woman in a  crisis pregnancy  needs the support of family and friends to help her raise  the child.  If  this  support  is implicitly  withheld, the most immediate solution is abortion since it promises (falsely, as it turns out)  that circumstances  can return to  what they were before the woman became pregnant.  The woman  is compelled  to abandon  her child to avoid being abandoned herself.

This personal trauma occurs within a culture  that has what Burke and Reardon call an "empathize - despise" relationship with victims.  We empathize with  victims but are impatient with the time it takes for them to heal.  At the same time, we tend to be suspicious of people who claim they have been victimized.

Moreover, when the victimization involves psychological claims, the argument takes on a political dimension because  psychology is not a precise science  but subject in  many cases to social fashion and personal agendas.

In  particular,  people  who  have an interest in promoting abortion are quick to dismiss  the evidence that abortion harms women.  Those  who profit  financially  from abortions,  are those driven by an ideology that seeks to control the "qualit  culture necessarily turn a blind eye to the suffering of post-abortive women.

As a result, women who have undergone abortion soon discover that no support exists for resolving their trauma.  Affirming the distress is either too great a threat to pro-choice dogma, or too difficult for others to bear.  So they are forbidden to grieve.

This is not the first  time that the evidence of  trauma has been ignored write Burke and Reardon.  In the past both hysteria  and shell shock were  recog-nized  as legitimate  trauma  only  after  the  victims  finally  spoke  out.  Abortion  will  be  recognized  as  trauma  only  as  post-abortive women  continue to speak out.

Forbidden  Grief  is  a  humane  and  compassionate  work  that  reveals  how  emotionally and psychological destructive  an abortion can be for women.  Burke  and Reardon explain that  many women  choose  abortion out of  ignorance  and  desperation and  not  ideological  motive  or  moral callousness.  They  offer hope  by showing that forgiveness and healing are possible.

They  also show that  the most  articulate defenders  of the unborn can be the women who have experienced the trauma of abortion.  We should listen to these women. 
Copyright (c) 2003 Johannes L. Jacobse, Rev. Jocobse is a priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  This article was published on the
Breakpoint Online and websites.

The Evil of Abortion:  A personal testimony to learn about one woman's journey into healing.

For information about healing from an abortion, go to the
Rachel's Vineyard website, or the Elliot Institute website.
Return to Archives/Research Page
by Johannes L. Jacobse, February 14, 2003
"And GOD shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;  and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow,  nor crying, neither
shall there be any more pain:  For the former things are passed away"  -
Revelation 21:4