By Njideka Eze
I have been dying silently for the past two months, I feel so scared, so guilty and so dirty. This is the second time I’m committing abortion. This has really kept me miserable. How can I make amends?
Thanks dear reader for opening up to me and for realizing there is a big concern here. I thank God for the grace and the courage He has given you to come out of your box. I want to assure you that this is a step in the right direction.
Well, I had to share your concern anonymously with Rev. Fr. Remigius Ibudialo and Rev. Fr. Anthony Aneke. I believe that priests would be in a better position to lead you through a healing process and also clarify this sensitive ethical issue according to the mind of the Church.
Here, Frs. Remigius and Anthony speak to you:
Abortion is simply the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion of the fetus or an embryo from the uterus, resulting in or causing its death. An abortion can occur spontaneously due to complications during pregnancy or can be induced. When it happens spontaneously it is called miscarriage. When it happens deliberately, it is called induced abortion. Because it is deliberate, induced abortion is a grave moral evil. It is a murder of an innocent child. It is so sad however, to remark that millions of unborn children are lost annually to induced abortion. According to World Health Organization, estimated 40-50 million abortions happen annually. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. This is a terrible act of violence against the unborn, who equally have right to life.
The inviolability of human life
The life of any human being is sacred to God who made it from his own image (Gen 1:26). It is God’s first gift to every living creature. It is his imprint. It is priceless and irreplaceable. God does not take it away from us arbitrarily neither does he permit taking the life of another capriciously. When Cain rose up against Abel his brother, the first recorded murder in the bible, the question God asked Cain was, what is this you have done?.. The blood of your brother Abel cries to me for vengeance (Gen 4:10). The voice of the bloodshed by men in every generation continues to cry out to heaven for vengeance. The question, what is this you have done? is being addressed to the children of this generation to make us realize the extent and gravity of the attacks against life which continue to trail human history.
Life of every human being should be defended. Christ said, I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance (Jn 10:10). In his ministry, the widows, the sick, the poor and the defenseless have a place. The same God invite us to protect the weak, the orphan, the poor and the defenseless especially children in the womb.
The dignity of the unborn child
There are some who raise doubts as to whether the fetus in the womb has life or soul? The truth is: Life begins at conception. The union of the sperm and the Ovum is a wonderful act of God bringing about new creation, new life. The life of the child in the womb has dignity. From its tinniest beginning, it is sacred and it is part of Gods plan and you have no right to snuff it out. The sanctity and dignity of the unborn child issue from God who made it. The Psalmist recognizes this inalienable dignity when he says, “For it was you who created my inmost being and knit me together in my mother’s womb (Ps. 129:13). Also the Lord tells Jeremiah, from your mother’s womb I knew you and consecrated you to be a prophet (Jer. 1:5). Job in all his agonies was able to recognize that God is the owner of all lives when he asked God the following questions, “was it not you who fashioned and made me, will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you have made me out of clay; will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdled me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:8-12). With these and similar passages, how can anyone think there is no life in the womb? And how can this marvelous work be separated from the wise and all knowing creator? And how do you think that this piece of creation will be left prey to human caprice?
Moreover, barrenness in the thought of many is associated with unfruitfulness, shame, curse and divine punishment that anyone privileged to conceive a baby should regard it as a special blessing. This joy and honor were expressed by Elizabeth. Being childless until old age, she was able to conceive and she proclaimed to the Lord, “now the Lord has helped me, she said, he has taken away my public disgrace (Lk 1:25).
Overcoming the guilt and trauma of abortion
Coming to your very concern dear reader, I want you to know that you are not alone with the memory of an abortion you had. A large percentage of women have had an abortion at some point, but hardly any of them ever talk about it. The reason is simple. Many women who choose abortion go against their own sense of right and wrong, and this makes them feel guilty. That guilt stops them from talking about it or getting the emotional help they deserve.
I am so happy that you opened up to tell ‘your secret.’ And I can assure you that telling our secrets helps to dispel their power over us. As the old saying goes, “We are as sick as our secrets”.
The decision to terminate a pregnancy is rarely an easy one, and it is not always the individual’s preferred choice. It may not be your preferred choice. Whether people choose a termination freely or not, they can have mixed feelings after the procedure. People commit abortion for varieties of reasons. Reasons include, but are by no means limited to, social, financial, or relationship pressures and physical or mental health problems in the parent or unborn child. Regardless of the reason, the emotional response to a termination can range from relief, calm, and happiness to sadness, grief, loss, and regret, depending on the individual’s situation. If negative feelings are severe and persistent, they could be a sign of depression.
Generally speaking, women who have committed abortion might be exhibiting symptoms of emotional or psychological stress. These can include:
- Guilt from violating your own sense of morality.
- Self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, alcohol and/or substance abuse, abusive relationships, promiscuity.
- Re-experiencing events related to the abortion such as memories or nightmares involving lost or dismembered babies.
- Anxiety that leads to headaches, dizziness, pounding heart, abdominal cramps, muscle tightness, difficulty sleeping.
- Psychological numbing—your unconscious vows never to let anything hurt this badly again hampers your ability to enjoy an emotional, intimate relationship.
- Depression, which reveals itself through deep sadness, sudden and uncontrollable crying, poor self-concept, sleep and appetite disturbances, loss of normal sources of pleasure, even thoughts of suicide.
- Preoccupation with becoming pregnant again, an unconscious hope of replacing the baby you aborted.
- Anxiety over fertility and childbearing issues, fearing that God will punish you by not letting you bear children.
- Trouble in bonding with your other children, either by being overprotective or feeling detached from them.
- Anniversary reactions such as an increase in symptoms around the time of the anniversary of the abortion, the due date of the aborted child, or both.
I am happy to know that you have finally recognized your need to come to terms with your past abortions, that’s when the path to healing can begin.
The inner healing: coming to terms with your abortion
The very first step of healing is to come to terms with your abortion which includes taking the responsibility that you have committed a grave moral evil. We cannot run away from our sins. It is ridiculous to say here, that time will heal our wounds. Abortion is a grave moral evil because is the murder of an innocent child. One has to realize that. Such realization becomes a means through which we can be transparent and accountable for our actions. This elicits guilt from us. Guilt is different from shame. Shame is about who I am as a person, and it is never healthy. Guilt is about what I do, and guilt can be very healthy because it elicits sorrow for our sin. Guilt is not a guilt-trip. It is a signal, a summon to relevant accountability and willingness to take responsibility for one’s painful behavior. Guilt does not approve of the acting out behavior. It does not dismiss the evil that has been done. Healthy guilt is not self-centered, but seeks mature and grace-filled ways to undermine the negative thinking that reinforces the behaviors. Once, you do that, the process of healing has begun.
The healing power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Most women who commit abortion are scared to confess their sins at the confessional. They could go on for months and years without going to the Sacrament of reconciliation. They feel they are so estranged from God’s love and mercy. They feel so damned than those in hell. They feel so unforgivable. The spiritual anguish in their souls seems unimaginable that they don’t want to talk about it or be associated with it.
Here, it is necessary to point out that this is a subtle spiritual attack which is very dangerous. The feeling that one cannot be forgiven mixed with a deliberate aversion for God comes from the evil one. The Sacrament of confession is not a place of condemnation but a tribunal of God’s mercy. It is a place of peace. It is a channel through which God’s love and mercy is showed on the penitent.
Before the Jubilee year of Mercy, the Catholic Church holding that abortion is such a serious sin, had long put the matter of granting forgiveness for it in the hands of a bishop, who could either hear the woman’s confession himself or delegate that to a priest who is an expert in such situations. But then, during and after the year of mercy, Pope Francis has declared that all priests have the permanent right from now on to forgive abortions: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” “In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.” the pope said.
When we understand how merciful God is, we humbly come to him at the Sacrament of reconciliation like the prodigal son or like the woman caught in the act of adultery. “Come now, let us settle the matter”, says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18)
Be courageous and confess your sins at the confessional. Jesus calls and waits for you. Meanwhile, it is necessary to point out that God knows our sins even before we come to confess them. We cannot hide anything from him. Confession of sin is only a way of obtaining healing of soul. It is also a process of education and growth.
The work of forgiveness and inner healing is the action of the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit at the confessional, we are forgiven. The same Holy Spirit helps us to deal with the guilt of our sinful behavior. Realize how weak and sinful you are, and forgive yourself. It can only make you stronger to avoid occasions that make you vulnerable to committing abortion. Here, we learn how to refrain from unhealthy relationships, fornication and adultery.
Evangelium Vitae (EV) – The Gospel of Life
Finally, I might want you to read this beautiful encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae (EV) – The Gospel of Life written by Pope St. John Paul II. It is beautiful message of hope and a special word to all women who have had an abortion. You can get this book from St Paul’s bookshop at Holy Ghost Cathedral, Ogui Enugu or at Valin Sacramental and Bookshop, St. Brigid Parish, Asata, Enugu.