The Legacy of Abortion: An Unexpected Correlation

 Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.

A woman — let's call her Caroline — was 92 years old. She was dying, in agony, but Caroline's pain was not physical. It was emotional. Caroline, you see, had been carrying a secret for more than 50 years: As a young woman, she had undergone two abortions, suffered terrible guilt all her life-and now, on her death-bed, afraid that God could not forgive her.

As her palliative-care nurse, Jean Echlin, writes, "At the end of her life she shared with me her agony over her lost babies . . . she felt that she had committed murder."

Caroline is not alone, as Echlin writes in Perspectives 2007, a publication of the De Veber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research. Echlin also tells the story of a woman named Lydia, who was dying of cancer. Even with the use of a pain pump, which gave her steady doses of morphine, Lydia's pain did not abate.

"I asked her if her faith or prayer could be of any comfort," Echlin writes. "Lydia remained silent except for her moaning." But the next day she confided the truth. "I can't pray; God won't listen," Lydia said. "I killed a precious baby when I was 18 . . ." Lydia's abortion had taken place more than 40 years ago — and she was still grieving over it.

Caroline and Lydia are but two examples of what the Institute calls an "unexpected correlation" between abortion and pain-relief care. Dying women experience unresolved guilt and psychological pain related to their abortion — guilt and pain that stand in the way of a peaceful death. Their guilt is so great, Echlin says, that it impedes the effectiveness of their pain medication. Only when the abortion issue is resolved — when someone listens to them and assures them of God's forgivenes — is the pain medication made effective, and the women able to die peacefully.

This is dramatic testimony that abortion is not, as the abortion lobby claims, something women will "get over" in a week or two. It is evidence that we know inherently that we are made in the image of the God who gives life. When we do violence to that image-when we destroy life instead of nurturing it-it has a profound effect on our emotions, our psyche, and our souls.

As we mourn the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the tens of millions of abortions that have resulted from this dreadful decision, we must recognize that there are likely many women among us who are silently suffering abortion grief decades after their babies' lives were snuffed out. As the De Veber Institute notes, these women need our compassion, and their trauma should be recognized and acknowledged by their care providers.

As we comfort the dying, we must also help the living. We must make sure young women know the truth: that abortion takes a human life; that there are alternatives to abortion; and that there are people who will help them through a difficult, unplanned pregnancy.

And they must be told that the notion that they will simply "get over" an abortion is a bold-faced lie. The truth is that if they walk into that abortion clinic, they may still be feeling the agony over taking their baby's life-even on their deathbed a half century later.

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  • Guest

    What greater proof is there than this, that abortion is wrong?  These women; and I am sure countless other people (both men and women), know in the deepest recesses of their consciences that abortion is a crime against God.  Those among us who are "Pro-choice" are in denial of the deepest kind.  The fact that there is so much vitriole and hatred towards those of us who are against abortion is evidence of this. Don't let them kid you – they are not angry with us because we are attempting to deny them their "rights".  They are angry with us because we refuse to go along with them and assuage their consciences that they have done and continue to do no wrong.

    While we pray for the souls of the innocent martyrs, let us also pray for forgiveness for those who are suffering from hopelessness and guilt as a result of past abortions. That they may come to ask for the forgiveness and unboundless mercy of God; and that they may once again come to know His love and peace.  And that in turn, they will receive courage and inspiration from the Holy Sprit to become witnesses and publicly testify against this inhuman scourge.

  • Guest

    I thought this was interesting….

    Excerpt from:

    Editorial, A New Ethic for Medicine and Society, 113 CAL. MED. 67,67-68 (September 1970) 

     So this is copied from above mentioned California Medical Society's Journal in 1970 (two years before Roe v. Wade)

    " It will become necessary and acceptable to place relative rather than absolute values on such things as human lives, the use of scarce resources and the various elements which are to make up the quality of life or of living which is to be sought.  This is quite distinctly at variance with the Judeo-Christian ethic and carries serious philosophical, social, economic and political implications for Western society and perhaps for world society.

    The process of eroding the old ethic and substituting the new has already begun.  It may be seen most clearly in changing attitudes toward human abortion.  In defiance of the long held Western ethic of intrinsic and equal value for every human life regardless of its stage, condition or status, abortion is becoming accepted by society as moral, right and even necessary.  It is worth noting that this shift in public attitude has affected the churches, the laws and public policy rather than the reverse.  Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent.  The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices."

  • Guest

    Wow — that is some quote.  Is it online anywhere?

  • Guest

    I bet some wizkid could find it online, but I got this excerpt as quoted in the Wake Forest Law Review copy I still have from my Life Issues course in college – approx. year… 1993 !!!

    Here's what I have on this particular Wake Forest Law Review:

    year: 1989

    Volume: 24

    Number: 3

    page number: 549 (but surrounding pages are relevant)

    This may be the only thing you can find online, but you never know…

    Please post if you find original Cal. Med. journal, though!

  • Guest

    Thank you jofa.

    One thing that really bothers me is that I know that process described in your quote has affected me personally.  I have to guard against valuing people based on externals instead of intrinsic worth as a human being.  Only my faith has protected me from a utilitarian view of life, I feel certain.  This age in particular has gradations in the value of human life.

     Interestingly, my HS Seinior daughter had a school project that required culling a group of people and picking 7 of a group of 15 who would go into a bomb shelter.  The people she had to choose from cut across the spectrum of society:  prostitute, christian married, infant, homosexual, cancer patient, atheist professor, mentally challenged child, etc…We decided to draw straws in choosing who would live because we felt uncomfortable putting a value on who would be the best group of survivors.  The project made me think about how and why I value people and  I didn't like what could be brought out in me.

    Thank you again.

  • Guest

    I wonder what demon came up with that little exercise.  Other variations have you throwing people off a lifeboat. Sick stuff to subject our kids to.

  • Guest

    What amazes me is how quickly and easily the "old Judeo-Christian ethic" was "displaced".  Where were we?  Where was I?

    Elkabrikir, I have to ask: did your daughter give any thought to "giving up her place" to one of the "unacceptables"?  That would surely have rocked her teacher! 


  • Guest

    Mary,  quite horribly, this project was incidental to a Spanish exercise to promote conversation.  The kids were to talk about how they chose each "survivor".  My daughter said she drew straws because it was biblical (Judas' replacement was chosen that way) and because she didn't feel comfortable placing a value on any one person.  They all offered gifts.  I agree with you, Mary.  It was a sick idea and the fact that it was used casually speaks to our culture callous disregard for  human life.


    Cooky: my daughter wasn't part of the potential survivor group.  But I'll ask her about it!

    Where were we when the Old Judeo-Christian ethic was displaced?  We were the parents who a.) didn't know our kids had that assignment  and B.) didn't discuss it with them and teach them what we've been discussing in these posts and this article.

    My children have to live in this Dark Age.  Therefore, when they are exposed at the appropriate age to this evil, I try to work through it with them.  They have to have the tools to protect themselves and act for Christ in the world.  (and I did point out to my daughter that I was never exposed to such evil or particular players like homosexual behavior in school.)  


  • Guest

    I found this in regards to jofa's post:

    The above link is to the original editorial as well as a reply by another doctor printed side by side.

    Yes, jofa, thank you! 

    In Christ,

    There, now you have a couple of little Abe Lincolns from me…

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!