In my two previous columns, I have pointed out that there is a mutual causality between abortion and child abuse. While this does not mean that everyone who was abused has an abortion, or that everyone who has an abortion will abuse her children, it does mean that there is significant correlation and influence both ways. I have already looked at some reasons why having an abortion can lead to the abuse of other children. Here I will comment on why being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood that one will abort her own child.
The person who is abused or neglected as a child is deeply damaged, and the damage extends into adulthood. Because the damage is done in key areas of how one sees oneself, how one trusts others, how one views the parent-child relationship, and what expectations one has about the world and the future, this damage obviously affects both the willingness and ability to give birth to and raise a child.
Life and hope are inextricably linked. To have the courage to say “Yes” to new life requires hope, and hope is one of the most precious things that abuse and neglect destroy in their victims. If the hopes and dreams of the abused person are dashed, she sees little hope for the future of her child, and hence aborts that child.
Moreover, abuse and neglect make the person weaker both in body and mind. The abuse victim finds it harder to trust her body to bear stress or pain, and finds it harder to engage in mature and flexible thinking. For these reasons, she will often say that a pregnancy is “too much to go through.” Abortion seems like the easier option.
Fear of abandonment is another major factor. Children who have been neglected or abandoned are terrified it will happen again. Hence, a pregnant abuse victim is especially vulnerable to threats of abandonment from those demanding she abort. She may also fear that the child will abandon her, and would prefer to abort than to face that kind of abandonment.
A related problem is the parental relationship. A woman who was abused or neglected by her parents in childhood is not going to think that they will be present and supportive during her pregnancy. When she desperately needed help as a child, her parents did not help; hence, she is convinced they will not help now. This increases the temptation to abort. Pregnancy and childbirth, moreover, catapult a person into the demands of adulthood. One who has been abused or neglected has, essentially, missed out on her childhood, and seeks to cling to or recover it. This increases the unwillingness to lose that childhood in yet another way, that is, by accepting the maturity demanded by parenthood. This is seen as losing one's last chance of being nurtured by a parent.
For more information on these and other reasons why abuse leads to abortion, consult Dr. Philip Ney.
Fr. Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.priestsforlife.org.