By Theresa Bonopartis
A recent anonymous post, “I Owe My Life to My Mother’s Abortion,” on The Huffington Post Women website, reflected the common feelings and conflicts of those who have lost a sibling to abortion. As counselors, we see the complex thoughts and feelings surrounding the knowledge of a sibling’s termination just coming to the surface as we begin to offer hope and healing to those experiencing this loss.
It is not uncommon for surviving siblings to defend their mother’s decision as this woman does: “I’m embarrassed to admit that the admission shocked and shook me,” she writes, as if having feelings about her sibling is unacceptable. She then goes on to rationalize her mother’s decision in an attempt to make the abortion okay. Running through a litany of “what ifs,” and wondering if the child would have loved her mother as much as she does. But, perhaps most upsetting is the author’s statement, “Nor could I imagine her alternative life if she hadn’t had the abortion – a life that didn’t involve me.”
It is hard for most of us to imagine what it would feel like to question your very existence due to something as horrific as abortion. It has to be heart-wrenching to find out that the woman who is your mother, who protects and defends you in life, actually took the life of a brother or sister. The quest to understand how this could be is a reasonable reaction. This is your mother whom you love.
What those facing this new knowledge need to learn is that they can understand what happened and why, they can forgive and show mercy and love, but they do not have to condone the abortion. It is a tough one, especially when you think your very existence is in question, as most post-abortive siblings do.
Over the past five years, Lumina has conducted Entering Canaan retreat days for the siblings of aborted babies and will be holding its first weekend retreat March 13-15. We are still a work in process, learning from those who come to us about the impact of abortion on their lives. One manifestation is that the very identity and value of those who attend is always questioned. One of our siblings shared,
… [A]fter many years of practicing my Catholic faith, I read an interview with Theresa in a newsletter written by the Sisters of Life, where she mentioned Lumina’s Sibling Day. I thought about my siblings deeply for the first time … ever. It hit me that had any of them been born; I would not have been “the eldest” but the second youngest. The more I thought about, the more I felt a certain identity crisis.”
The profound impact of the choice of abortion on countless people is often ignored in our society. We are quick to choose sides and proclaim ourselves either pro-life or pro-choice, but those who are living with its consequences often see it as more complex than that. The Huffington Post author writes,
I should note here that I am unequivocally, adamantly pro-choice. But I’ve never reacted with outrage at people who are anti-abortion… I think that, in addition to ignorance on women’s rights, they are looking at abortion as a simple moral choice: for life or against it … but my mother’s choice and the choice of those like her, complicates this simple paradigm. But as complicated as it is, it has, in many ways, deepened my relationship and understanding of her. Just how many people like me owe our lives to abortion?
The answer, of course, is none. Life is a gift from God who created and knew us all in our mother’s wombs. The act of abortion, while we can understand why it occurs at times, is never justifiable, but stories like this only show all the more the harm it causes. It is not an either/or concerning her or her sibling’s life, as the writer imagines. Her value and dignity come from God, as does the value and dignity of her aborted sibling. Both are precious in His sight and in ours as we seek to bring His healing presence to those affected.
Theresa Bonopartis is the founder of Lumina, which offers healing retreats for women, men and siblings impacted by abortion and those who aborted because of an adverse diagnosis. In addition, Lumina provides training for clergy members and mental health professionals in post abortion stress. This article was originally published at Aleteia, and is reprinted with permission of the author.