Loving Those Who Choose Abortion

Years ago I was browsing through the stacks at a Catholic bookstore one morning, one of my favorite things to do. I shutterstock_149477798couldn’t help but overhear a conversation on the other side of the room.  One gentleman was angrily stating his disdain for women walking in to an abortion clinic.  I will never forget the angry, hateful, and unloving manner in which he spoke about such women.  As a relatively new convert to the Catholic church at the time, I had learned well from my RCIA teachers that our faith calls us to be Christ to others.  I felt sad and disappointed listening to this Catholic man talk in such a hateful manner   toward women who chooses abortion.  “Has he ever actually spoken with a woman or men who made the choice to abort their baby?” I wondered.

Did he ever listen to her with the ears of Jesus?

Did he ever talk to her with the voice of Jesus?

Did he ever try to feel compassion or empathy with the heart of Jesus?

Choosing abortion isn’t like choosing what flavor of ice cream you would like or which movie you want to see.

We want to stop abortion.  Can’t we just tell them to stop?  Tell them it’s a mortal sin?  We can, but how far has that gotten us?

In a recent interview, Pope Francis was asked “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” He answered, “I am a sinner who has been looked upon by the gaze of Christ.”

We have all sinned.  And we have all been touched by Grace.  We have all been transformed in small ways and in big ways by God’s grace.  As Christians we’re asked to take up Christ’s work and to build His kingdom by helping others to be touched by grace.  We are called to be an encounter with grace for others to lead them to transformation.

“The whole purpose of the Church,” Fr. Barron said recently, ”is to draw everyone into that moment of encounter with grace so that every sinner can see the merciful face of Christ.”  This means that we have to be an encounter with Christ to sinners.  This means that we have to act as Christ would act.  This is what it means to be a Catholic.

If we want to stop abortion, we have to start with the moment between the sinner and amazing grace. If we want to stop abortion, we have to transform hearts and souls. We are called to be an encounter with grace even for those who chose abortion.

Looking only at the sinner’s sin and judging the sinner will not lead to transformation of hearts and souls.  We have to consider the person behind this “choice.”  We have to consider who this person really is, not just who we think or judge she is. We are called to love this person in their sin and suffering, just as does Christ.

Long before women make a decision to abort their baby, they believed the evil one’s lies that are embraced by our culture.  Independence, strength, self-sufficiency is more important than anything.  You are weak and vulnerable otherwise. Having sex with your boyfriend is normal, even the smart thing to do. “Hooking up” is healthy and doesn’t hurt anyone as long as everyone agrees. Being an unwed mother is shameful. Choosing to go through with an unexpected pregnancy is unreasonable, naive and, well, stupid. These are the web of lies the evil one spins.

Long before women make a decision to abort their baby, their lives were influenced by the evil one. One of the most common ploys of the evil one is a physically and or emotionally absent parent, especially the father.  God created each and every one of us with a longing to be loved.  When this need for love isn’t fulfilled by a mother or father in childhood, the longing doesn’t just go away.  The need continues on like a gnawing emptiness and desperate longing that drives the young woman to sexual encounters often starting in adolescence. She subsequently begins looking for love in all the wrong places.  Sexual encounters become like a drug that momentarily satisfies but in the long run leaves the woman feeling disappointed, used, manipulated, confused, ashamed and alone.

More often than not, the woman faced with an unexpected pregnancy is tormented with the decision. Faced with overwhelming fear, regret, crippling guilt, fear of negative judgments from others (parents), and fear of destitution, these women chose to abort their baby even if they feel it is wrong. Post-abortive women often report that abortion clinic staff and doctors never inquired about their emotional state, and if they did, their feelings were minimized.

What these women are not told, and what they will experience during the abortion, is that the abortion itself is a violent, and thus a traumatic experience.  It is a violent violation of a woman’s physical integrity. The parts of a woman’s body which are designed to protect and nurture new life are forcibly intruded upon.  For many women this is their first encounter with death.

She can never talk about it. 

She believed the lie that it isn’t a baby  - that it is just a blob of tissue.

She believes she has no right to feel grief and loss because she chose to have the abortion.  

She believes she has no right to feel regret and guilt and shame because she chose to have the abortion. 

So she buries this terrible secret deep inside.  She convinces herself that it was nothing.  And she suffers silently for years.  

As a Catholic psychologist, I ask about miscarriages and abortions when conducting the background and family history with a new client.  If a woman admits to having an abortion, she’ll tell me that it happened 20 – 30 years ago, and then she begins to cry.  I offer words of comfort and I listen. Inevitably she tells me that, aside from the father of the baby, she has never talked about it to anyone.  I am the only person she has ever told.

As Chesterton has said, these women have not just lost their faith, they have lost their address.  They don’t even know where they are going or where they belong.  They don’t know that God is their father and loves them no matter what choices they have made in their life.  They don’t know that God will welcome them into their loving arms and shower them with mercy if they but ask.

In order to know this they must encounter the loving gaze of Christ.  We must offer this encounter. We must be Christ to them.  We must see Christ in them.

Fr. Barron suggests that we think of the church as a field hospital that is filled with gravely wounded people. These are spiritually wounded people who’re in dire need of healing.

In order to love those who choose abortion, we need to first address this fundamental spiritual woundedness.  These grave issues have to be addressed immediately. We need to offer acceptance, empathy, compassion, respect within an individual encounter between one person and another.  Such encounters communicate “I love you.”  Such encounters communicate “You are worthy, you are valuable.”  Such encounters communicate “You are loved by God.”

Our Holy Father insists that a pastor should smell like his sheep.  Smelling like his sheep means we have to get close in among them. This is how we love those who choose abortion.

We can transform our culture from a culture of death to a culture of life and love.  It starts with one loving encounter with grace at a time, one person a time.  I have seen such transformations through my volunteer work with Project Rachel and through therapeutic interactions with clients.  Through loving encounters with deep painful woundedness, women and men experience true healing.  Then they go on to spread the good news to other suffering souls who have believed the lie.  Then they go on the transform our culture one personal encounter at a time.

Can you recall a time you were an encounter with grace to someone and you saw the transformation?  What about a time when someone else was an encounter of grace for you and you experienced transformation?

image: Shutterstock

 

Patti M. Zordich

By

Patti M. Zordich, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Director & Founder of Triangle Psychological Services in Cary, NC. Dr. Zordich holds a Ph.D. in Developmental and Educational Psychology with an emphasis in clinical psychology, a Master's Degree in Education Dr. Zordich converted to the Catholic faith in 1996 and established Triangle Psychological Services in 2007 with the mission of providing expert psychological services consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Dr. Zordich has been in private practice since 1997 first in Pittsburgh and then in North Carolina. Child and teen behavior problems, marital counseling, PTSD, post-abortion healing and psychoeducational and psychological testing are a few of her specialities. She has been an adjunct professor in the University of Pittsburgh, and has presented to parishes, schools, agencies and conferences in both Pittsburgh and North Carolina on early adoption adjustment, internet safety, porn and addiction and building stronger families. She has published Gotcha! Welcoming Your Adopted Child Home: A Guide for Newly Adoptive Parents. You can read more from Dr. Zordich at Dr. Patti’s Blog at trypsych.com/drpattisblog.

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  • Fred

    So, so, so true. We must love them to Christ.

  • rosebud

    I have experienced a time when someone else was an encounter of grace that changed me; One time is right here-right now; seeing all the goodness flowing from your encounter with grace. God be praised for touching our sister & the resulting reflection of His love shining through your concern for others. I’ve also experienced how my pointing out this grace to Our Lady serves to “Amplify” the experience [ It also helps fulfill the Fatima request to "Make reparation for outrages committed against The Immaculate Heart of Mary" (console Mama)] ; “Rejoice Queen Mother, Your Son our God has gone into the depths of darkness & illumined it with the VICTORY OF DIVINE MERCY. It has penetrated the hardness of our selfish-vanity and softened our Hearts into Praise & thanks for God (who longs to share His GLORIOUS LOVE with us).”

  • rosebud

    I have experienced a time when someone else was an encounter of grace that changed me; One time is right here-right now; seeing all the goodness flowing from your encounter with grace. God be praised for touching our sister & the resulting reflection of His love shining through your concern for others. I’ve also experienced how my pointing out this grace to Our Lady serves to “Amplify” the experience [ It also helps fulfill the Fatima request to "Make reparation for outrages committed against The Immaculate Heart of Mary" (console Mama)] ; “Rejoice Queen Mother, Your Son our God has gone into the depths of darkness & illumined it with the VICTORY OF DIVINE MERCY. It has penetrated the hardness of our selfish-vanity and softened our Hearts into Praise & thanks for God (who longs to share His GLORIOUS LOVE with us).”

  • Lee

    God’s grace is in my life so often. It is sometimes so quiet, so nearly unnoticed and yet it brings so much peace. I pray for God’s love and grace upon others everyday, because there are many who do not pray. I am so grateful for your Catholic love being included in your important work. Knowing what the TRUE answer is wonderful, but you sharing that knowledge openly with those who are looking into other places is

    helping in healing quicker and for keeps. God bless you. I shall strive to be more open to sharing my love in Christ’s name.

  • noelfitz

    This is a brilliant article by one who knows what Catholicism means. It is encouraging for all of us struggling sinners.

  • Theresa Bonopartis

    As the director of a post abortion ministry, I so often come in contact with women and men who feel totally judged by the church and have not stepped foot into its door for years, or even left the catholic faith because of it. Thank you for this article and for being a sign of mercy to those who have participated in abortion. I truly believe they are the ones that will ultimately bring the truth to light once they have encountered the healing mercy of God .

  • Dr. Patti M. Zordich

    Thank you, Theresa. I am truly blessed that the Holy Spirit brought me to this ministry and for the privilege of walking with these women and men on their journeys of healing.

  • jim8107

    There is a lot about this article that is correct, much of it I have heard before – that’s good. However its beginning is an example of the typical lopsided attitude that continues to pervade the issue of abortion – that it is only a women’s issue. Did the author ever stop to consider why the “Catholic Man” was so angry in the first place? Is he himself a victim of abortion? Somewhere in the range of half of the individuals that seek post-abortion counseling are not women, they are men. I applaud the depth, insight and sensitivity the author shows with regard to how a woman ends up in this situation, but I am disappointed in what appears to be the lack of consideration that the law in this country affords men no say in this issue – they are often the ones in tears (and anger) in a situation that they have no say in. I have been involved in Pro-Life for years now, and will continue to be – but this persistent problem in the approach has grown quite tiresome and needs to be addressed.

  • Infinite Grace

    Thank you so much for this article. There is no limit to what love can do. http://www.postabortionwalk.blogspot.com

  • Lee

    Lets encourage all fathers, married and out of wedlock, to start speaking up for themselves. How about men and women stepping back and looking at why they are being confronted with the decision of having abortion in their lives at all. If we are grown enough to make this kind of decision why not be more responsible in the decision that plays the major cause of procreation. We still need to be forgiving and loving of those who make decisions that change their lives for ever.

  • Dr. Patti M. Zordich

    Jim, I agree with your concern that men are also silent, hidden victims of abortion. Although, I mention “women and men” at one point, the issues for men are often different because of the sad fact that sometimes men aren’t told about the pregnancy until after the abortion has occurred. More often than not, however, they are a very big part of the decision to abort. The bottom line is that babies who are aborted have a mother and a father. Both have responsibility and each are affected by the abortion with years of silent, hidden suffering. I recommend “Redeeming a Father’s Heart”, by Kevin Burke, David Wemhoff and Marvin Stockwell.

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