by Beth Ryan.
There was a powerful presence at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. this year. It was a power, not primarily political, but spiritual, a power akin to that of the prophet Jeremiah.
As the Lord promised to make Jeremiah a fortified city, a wall of brass, these women of Silent No More Awareness have been strengthened by the fires of suffering and tempered by the waters of mercy.
Silent No More Awareness is an organization of women who have had abortions and who are courageously speaking out to tell of the devastation they suffered as a result of it. They are telling the world in a way that only those who have experienced abortion can, that abortion hurts women terribly.
Janet Morana, co-founder of the group, spoke at the rally preceding the march. She had an abortion, she told us, she was lied to, and she is still suffering from the loss of her baby.
She gave an impassioned speech, reaching out to all who suffer from abortion, offering them hope. Especially she offered them the hope available through Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, healing retreats for women who have had abortions.
After the rally, we began the march. And as we approached the Supreme Court, the place where, on January 22, 1973, abortion was made legal in the United States, we saw a solid line of approximately 25 women. Each was standing in silence holding a sign saying, "I regret my abortion."
It is one thing to have heard that there have been 52 million abortions in the United States alone since Roe vs. Wade. It is quite another to walk by one after another of these victims of abortion.
Margarita Guerrero, my fellow Madonna House staff worker, wanted to say thank you to one of them but was so choked up that she could barely do so.
I, too, made brief contact—with a woman with long, dark, wavy hair, a pain-lined face, and eyes that held a sea of compassion. "Thank you," I said, and walked on. Thank you for standing here in your pain and your healing, in your great love for all people, and in your witness to truth and life. Thank you for not remaining silent.
There was more. The police kept us all off the steps of the Supreme Court, with the result that we were squashed around a small rostrum with a microphone where one woman after another was giving her testimony.
The woman who was speaking when we approached was only seventeen when she had her abortion.
She had been told that what they would take out of her was only "a sac of cells." Yet as she lay on the table awaiting the surgery, she began weeping. The workers at the clinic told her she was over-reacting. She felt like she was going to die right there.
Afterwards, she was filled with shame and she lost her self-respect. She married and bore three children. When she had the first of those children, she learned that that "sac of cells" had been, at 12 weeks when she had had the abortion, a tiny child. And her womb should have been the safest place for that child!
When her husband turned violent, she thought she deserved it. When she finally left him, he was given custody of the children and turned them against her.
But when her daughter was seventeen and pregnant and attempts were being made to force her to have an abortion, one of their relatives suggested she call her mother.
She did, and this woman embraced and welcomed her daughter and urged her to bear the child. Now she (the speaker) has a grand-daughter as well.
Often, when women receive post abortion counseling, they are encouraged to name the child they have aborted. This speaker, having experienced the great miracle of forgiveness and healing, named her child, "Hope."
Michelle was the next to speak. I missed many of the details of her talk though some were very like those of the first speaker I’d heard. It caught my attention when she said she "knew better," for the others I’d heard had believed the lies they were told. I think she said she was Catholic.
It was heart-breaking to picture her, so young, pregnant and desperate.
Michelle met her future husband four years after her abortion. Her voice broke as she told how he had imagined her with a four-year-old daughter. Both felt an enormous sense of loss, and as I stood there listening, I, too, felt their loss.
Michelle’s story stayed with me the rest of the day and on my way home, and it was still in my heart when I went to Sunday Mass two days later. And when, during the second reading, I heard We were all baptized into the body of Christ…. if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it (1 Cor 12:12, 1), it was Michelle’s pain that was wrenching my heart.
What could I do with that pain? I lifted it up to the Lord in union with the Sacrifice of the Cross and the Sacrifice of the Mass and with the pain of these women, as a prayer for the end of abortion.
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