The Aftermath of Abortion
By Deborah Danielski
It's 11 p.m. and your stomach is growling. What do you do? Run out to a fast-food restaurant for a quick burger, shake and fries. Ah. Immediate gratification. Never mind the 60 plus grams of fat you've just ingested into a body preparing to repose for the night.
Forgotten your mother's birthday? What to do? Get online and order roses. Ah. Problem solved. Never mind that your credit card balance is growing faster than your lawn.
Need a date? No problem. There's a wealth of available men advertising in the personal columns of the local newspaper. So what if the only things you know about them are their age, height and weight.
Suddenly notice the five-year-old car in your driveway is the oldest on the block? Not to worry. The dealer down the road offers instant credit and "no-hassle" deals. Never mind that your daughter is off to college this fall and the paychecks are already disappearing faster than your muscle tone.
It's life at it's finest. No waiting, no planning, no problems.
Noticed a little morning sickness and realized you missed your period? No sweat. The "Women's Health Center" is just down the road. "No appointment necessary."
Instant relief. We've come to expect no less. Didn't Christ, Himself, say "Take no thought for tomorrow?"
So we live in a society where the majority of Americans are overweight, overextended and morally and spiritually underdeveloped. Nowhere, however, has our need for immediate gratification resulted in more dire consequences than in the area of abortion. We read with horror of a mother accused of shaking her two-month-old infant to death, and we wonder, "How could this happen?" We watch in dismay as two upper-middle class teenagers are hauled off to jail in handcuffs for "murdering" their newborn child, and we wonder, "Where did we go wrong?"
These are merely the most visible consequences of our passive acceptance of abortion -- the societal effects. But what about the individual? I can go to the gym tomorrow and work off the excess fat from last night's burger. I can moonlight to pay off my burgeoning debt. I can sell that fancy new car to pay my daughter's tuition. But what do I do about the agonizing guilt of abortion?
I was 20 years old when I "chose" to have an abortion. Like many others, I gave the decision little thought. I already had two children and a miserable marriage. Abortion was quick, legal and available. Why complicate my difficult life with another child? The abortion was over in a matter of minutes. The guilt lasted 23 years. At first I attempted to drown it in alcohol. Generally a "happy" drunk, eight or nine beers a day would usually do the trick. But then there were those other times, as I gulped number seven and watched my three-year-old daughter play peacefully in the floor with her imaginary "sister." Only unconsciousness provided any relief then.
Eventually the alcohol caused more problems than it solved, so
I tried psychotherapy. A little Elavil and a weekly counseling
session with a man who had no clue why I continued to dwell on a
problem that was "over and done."
As my spiritual life grew, I wandered from one Protestant church to another. Each had a little more to offer than the one before. "God has drowned your sins into the sea of forgetfulness," the preachers intoned. Then why couldn't I? It never occurred to me to discuss the problem with a pastor. Only God could forgive sin. So I plodded on, "Father, forgive me, for I knew not what I did." But deep in the recesses of my heart, I could find no excuse. It was 11 p.m. and my spirit was growling. Only a miracle could save me.
When the Holy Spirit began to open my eyes to the Truth of Catholicism, the sacrament of confession was one of the last benefits I embraced. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the communion of saints, the "workings" of grace, all came more easily than the "public" confession of sin. Eventually, however, I entered the confessional for the first time. And though I'd given it no prior thought, the first words from my mouth were these, "I murdered my own child."
I'd love to say I experienced instant gratification that day. But that's not how it happened. It felt good to hear the priest say I was absolved from my sin, but that still wasn't quite enough to convince me. It was a few weeks later, as I prayed the rosary that the miracle occurred.
A vision of a young girl running through a field of flowers with the wind in her hair interrupted my prayer. "This is your daughter," I heard the Blessed Mother say. "God has forgiven you, and so has Elizabeth Anne." Tears of relief flooded my eyes and my heart rejoiced. Finally it's over, I thought to myself. But the story doesn't end there.
Christ had atoned for the spiritual consequences of my sin, but the temporal consequences live on. And that's why I write this story. "There is work to be done," my Mother Mary said. There's no instant solution to the evil of abortion. Even if abortions were outlawed today, we'll suffer the consequences for decades to come. You can't slap a Band-Aid on a mortal wound. But there is hope, if we each do our part -- patiently, persistently and with love.
It's 11:30 p.m. and the world's spirit is growling. A feast is prepared. Who will you bring?
© Deborah Danielski (First published in the Jan. 1998 issue of New Covenant magazine, published by Our Sunday Visitor)