Women have spoken about their personal experiences of abortion and the lack of resources and support which led them to the tragic decision. In responses to a survey conducted by the website FemCatholic, women noted a lack of practical information about the support available to young mothers, and also their fear of rejection by family and loved ones.
One respondent said that what she desperately wanted when faced with an unexpected pregnancy, but could not find, were “practical resources, inspiration, and information. How can I finish my degree and be a parent? Where can I live? Can I continue in dorm housing? Are there other mothers out there with thriving careers who started out with an unplanned pregnancy as a single woman?” the respondent wrote.
In many cases, the reason that women chose to have an abortion was, they said, because no one told them the could continue on with their lives and, at the same time, be a young mother. The same respondent wrote that after she had an abortion, she discovered there were special housing and financial aid at her college for ‘non-traditional’ students and that she could have completed her degree in a modified way.
“It makes me sick to think about it. If that information had been readily available, I would have a ten-year-old today,” she said. FemCatholic draws its founding inspiration from Pope St John Paul II’s “effective and intelligent campaigns for the promotion of women.” The website says the survey was taken anonymously, with aim of making support to vulnerable women considering abortion more effective.
A number of women detailed similar experiences: they said they found almost no resources aimed at supporting them in life as a young mother. Not a single person around me told me it would be ok to have the baby. No one showed any confidence in me,” wrote one woman. I believed the lies of the culture that abortion was the most responsible decision for a young woman in college to make,” another said.
One woman wrote that “Everything pointed to choosing abortion because of poverty, being single, being in high school, not being able to give a child a good life, it’s too hard, you will be shunned, you won’t have help, you’ll live off the government forever, no one will want you anymore.
While in all the cases quoted by FemCatholic, the women did choose abortion, some wrote about how their own experiences helped them to resolve to help other women choose life. In my tiny town the only resources available was at the health department with a hateful nurse and junk provided by Planned Parenthood,” one woman wrote. “This is why I now volunteer at crisis pregnancy clinics.”
Many of the women, and more than one man, also spoke about the fear of the mother that she would be rejected by her family when it was discovered that she was pregnant. Several describe the “terror” of rejection by parents and the wider community.
I come from a very, very traditional family. I felt so lonesome, scared. I knew my parents would kick me out of the house, and my partner ran away,” one woman recalled. One contributor related the experience of her sister, saying that while their mother hand handed down firm teachings against premarital sex, this only inflamed her sense of isolation and shame when she found out she was pregnant.
I think we need a cultural shift in how we speak about sex and pregnancy so that women in these positions don’t feel so ostracized and shamed into trying to undo the situation without anyone knowing,” she wrote.
The results of isolation and fear are that women feel they have no place to turn, the contributor wrote. “I wish (my sister) had known about other pregnancy resource centers besides Planned Parenthood because they were all too willing to take her in and confirm her fear that her only option was abortion. Others said they worried about social stigma or pressure to marry the father, even if they did not want to. In the end, the responses concluded, there were many different reasons why a woman might feel she must choose an abortion but they are “all based on extreme terror.”
The survey also asked women about the lasting impact abortion had left on their lives. Many related the ongoing physical and mental health problems they had been left with, including damage to their womb, panic attacks, and grief over their lost children. I still think about my child every June when s/he would have been born. I should get help. I just pray for healing,” one still-grieving woman wrote.
While the pain was still intense for many, others spoke about the support the had received from husbands, family, priests, and from the example of Catholic figures like Dorothy Day. “I feel spiritually and physically healed,” one woman wrote in response to the survey. “Confession and joining the Church helped tremendously. What still hurts – I miss my kid. But now I have even more motivation to strive for heaven so I can meet my child.”