This Friday, hundreds of thousands of Americans will take to the streets of Washington to call for the protection of children living the wombs of their mothers. For 46 years, since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the crowds have been coming. They have been marching in the streets, praying in the Churches, and lobbying in the halls of Congress.
Is there anything new about their message, and in particular, anything new that legislators need to take into account?
The answer is yes, and it is a dimension of the message that will be on full display at this year’s march. Moreover, it is an aspect of the pro-life message that has not developed in the halls of academia, or even the hearing rooms of Congress, but in the trenches of experience.
The longer we go down the road of abortion on demand, the more people learn from experience that it is not a solution to any problems, but rather creates problems of its own.
And it doesn’t just create those problems for the mother who has the procedure, but for everyone around her.
Abortion supporters don’t like it when pro-life people march in the streets, because the narrative of the abortion supporters is that this is a purely personal, private matter, between a woman, her physician, and her God. It is not, in their mind, a matter to be dealt with in the halls of government or the streets of Washington.
But it is precisely this supposed isolation of abortion that the experience of so many people is contradicting. And now, that experience is finding a voice in a movement called the Shockwaves of abortion. And it provides a new angle for legislators and judges.
Practically from the outset of legal abortion, the mothers who relied on this procedure thinking it would solve a problem began speaking out about the pain and devastation it brought them instead. Groups like WEBA (Women Exploited by Abortion) and American Victims of Abortion arose, and in more recent years, the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (a joint project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life) has become the largest mobilization of those who have lost children to abortion and speak out about it. They are very visible at the March for Life, carrying their signs that say, “I Regret My Abortion.” And their sharing of testimonies in front of the steps of the Supreme Court is a formal event at the conclusion of the March each year.
As Silent No More grew, fathers of aborted children began speaking out about the pain they experience in losing a son or daughter, and their grief about failing in their protective role as a man.
But the shockwaves of pain and grief don’t end there. Grandparents of the aborted children have come forward to talk about the pain they have because they did not do more to protect their grandchildren – or the grief of not even having been given the opportunity to try.
And what about siblings of aborted children? What is it like to realize that Mom had your sister killed? What fears does this engender in a young child, or what conclusions about his or her own value?
Other family members grieve as well, because the aborted child would have been a part of their lives, too.
And if a Mom suffers her whole life from guilt and shame at having killed her child, what about the friend who drove her to the abortion clinic? What about the abortionists themselves and their staff? Performing abortions has a devastating effect on them, too.
And all these groups are coming forward and saying so. Loss of esteem, broken relationships, inability to make career choices or sustain relationships, risk-taking behavior, substance abuse, and suicide are among the common effects.
We are learning more and more about these shockwaves of abortion, as revealed in the book “Shockwaves” by Janet Morana, the co-founder of Silent No More. They impact the health of individuals, families, and our whole society.
So is abortion a private, personal choice? Hardly. Should legislative and judicial debates about it only consider the limits of autonomy, or should they perhaps start looking at the damage being caused to others, often in ways beyond their control?
When the March for Life this Friday reaches the Supreme Court, the Moms, Dads, and family members of Silent No More will begin sharing their testimonies of pain and healing. This concluding event of the March has been going on since 2002. The powerful testimonies are spread all over the country by the marchers who hear them. Some of these brave men and women speak at legislative hearings when a particular bill can benefit from their experience.
And their voices are entering into court testimony as well, so that judges who might otherwise rule in favor of abortion as a benefit to women can take into account that perhaps what the court once thought was helping them is actually hurting them – and others. A similar jurisprudential trajectory was followed in the past in regard to prior court rulings on segregation, workers’ rights, and children’s rights. And the 2007 Gonzalez vs. Carhart Supreme Court decision mentioned the regret than many undeniably experience after abortion.
The most beautiful moment of these Silent No More gatherings is when those who have been affected by the shockwaves of abortion stand together, all having benefited from the testimonies of one another, and show a kaleidoscope of healing, which points to a future in which our whole society will repent and be healed of this devastating “choice” which is anything but private.
Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life, and also Pastoral Director of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For the full schedule of his activities this week, see www.PriestsForLife.org/MarchForLife.