The Women Who Have Abortions, and the Love They Need
The November/December issue of Envoy Magazine includes an article by Jane Brennan, entitled “How Could She Do That?”, about what motivates a woman to have an abortion. Jane herself had two abortions, worked with Planned Parenthood, and helped her sister get an abortion before she finally began to reevaluate everything she believed. Now she does pro-life counseling.
The article is not a statistical analysis; it is simply Jane’s own story. For Jane, feminist ideology, the lies of abortionists and their advertisements, limited understanding of the biological and metaphysical issues, widespread social acceptance, abusive relationships both as a child and as an adult, and a deep fear that each of her first two pregnancies would ruin her life all combined to drive her into the abortion culture. After her second abortion, Jane divorced an abusive husband. She later met and married a man who treated her well. Unfortunately, she needed counseling and chose to get it from a radical feminist counselor. The result was that she generally made her husband’s life a kind of hell. But when he moved out, she was shocked and upset enough to begin questioning everything the counselor had been telling her. Jane realized she had to change. Her husband moved back in. And Jane did change, ultimately finding relief and new life in a Catholic Church.
The point of Jane Brennan’s article is that pro-lifers need to try to understand the mindset of women who get abortions, as well as the problems they experience afterwards. She feels that many pro-lifers find the decision to abort incomprehensible, and that this limits their ability to reach these women. Brennan recommends that the pro-life movement make better use of women who have had abortions (such as those in the group Silent No More) to make presentations at parishes and elsewhere which will encourage other post-abortive women to begin to turn their lives around, and help pre-abortive women to do the same. As she says in her conclusion:
Then the grim reality of how abortion shatters lives would be heard, and soon it would not be thought of as a clinical procedure or a fundamental right but the tragedy it is. This might cause people to say, “I don’t want that to happen to my daughter, my sister, my girlfriend, or to me. In fact I don’t want abortion to happen at all.”
Brennan’s story is powerful and moving. While I think most people who work in pro-life counseling are far more sympathetic to the plight of women seeking abortions than Brennan tends to believe, there is no arguing with her recommendation that the pro-life movement should make greater use of personal testimony from those who have had abortions.
The pro-life movement also needs to make use of men who can get out the message of what it means to love. Brennan reveals this need in her own story when she notes that it was the departure of a man who actually treated her well that finally jolted her out of her self-centered, self-defeating philosophy of life. I have long argued that too many problems of contemporary women (especially the kind of problems that drive them to abortion) are caused by men who either do not know how to be men, or who refuse to be men—men who use women as toys, abandoning them when they no longer find them fun. Fathers who abuse and/or abandon their daughters; lovers and husbands who abuse and/or abandon their wives: These men are architects of insecurity and anger in women, both of which fuel feminism and a culture of death.
It is no coincidence that the wildly popular film Bella makes precisely this point; the film's hero ought to become a role model for males. My own prescription, therefore, is that in addition to inviting post-abortive women to become increasingly involved in pro-life work, we also need to recruit good men who can help spread the message of what it really means to love. Men must not only explain but demonstrate with their lives what it means to love a woman as Christ loves the Church. There will always be exceptions, and some good men have been devastated by a wife's decision to abort. Nonetheless, I think it is not too much to say that the single most important force in ending the epidemic of abortion is something men have the power to do: Love.
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