The trauma of abortion spreads beyond the baby, to the couple, siblings, family, and other relationships – even to workplaces and broader societal circles. Yet, only the healing power of Christ soothes its distress for good.
Abortion is never an isolated incident. There are relationships affected in addition to the baby who was denied a chance to live and the mother who lives with regrets, whether buried or on the surface. The shockwave-effect from each abortion is one of the reasons so many Legates are passionately involved in pro-life causes. The other reason is that God is pro-life. Thus, it leaves faithful Catholics with no other moral choice.
For Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and the co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and member of the Orlando, Florida Legatus chapter, her life is dedicated to the pro-life cause. Since 1989, she has held various local and national leadership roles in the movement and has assisted Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, since his ordination in 1988. In 2009, Legatus International awarded Morana the Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-life Hall of Fame Award.
Her latest book, Shockwaves: Abortion’s Wider Circle of Victims, shares personal accounts of the wounds left by abortion. “Since the early days, I’ve focused on the damage abortion does to women,” Morana explained. “In October of 1990, I prayed outside an abortion clinic for the first time and saw women with visible baby bumps going in to destroy their babies.” She was shocked to see women so far along in the pregnancy aborting their babies.
“Father Frank and I had the idea to make signs saying: ‘Abortion hurts women,” Morana said. “It’s always been on my heart from the beginning to help women who would tell us how they’ve been hurt.”
On November 11, 2002, Morana founded the Silent No More Awareness Campaign as a joint venture with Priests for Life and the Anglicans for Life. It offers post-abortive support and a platform for testimonies. The “I Regret My Abortion” signs first began appearing at their events.
Currently, there are 18,240 people registered with the Campaign, representing 77 countries. A survey among members shows that more than half of them waited over 20 years before seeking healing, although that time varied from one month to 36 years.
“In 2004, we had the first man give his testimony at the March for Life in D.C.,” Morana said. “And we’ve started having more people come forward like grandparents and siblings.”
Shockwaves is the outgrowth of these testimonies, giving a glimpse into the wound our nation has suffered after 45 years and over 59 million have been lost to legalized abortion.
“Abortion hurts people psychologically, physically, and emotionally,” Morana said. “And sometimes later in life, the women are unable to have more children.” She said that she wrote the book to reveal the extent that abortion’s shockwaves have affected society while also offering healing through support and resources.
Before we can heal, Morana explained that we need to understand what ails us. “Denial begins with the professionals,” she said. “The American Psychological Institute doesn’t even acknowledge abortion trauma.”
Her book contains a myriad of stories that demonstrate the shockwaves. For instance, in the chapter “Fatherhood Forever,” men reveal the painful aftermath of losing a child whether it was what he thought he wanted at the time or not.
John changed his mind about his girlfriend getting an abortion while sitting outside the facility in his car. He ran in, hoping to stop the abortion but was too late. “How could they do this to my child… Why was this child sacrificed because of our stupidity?” he cried. “I stopped seeing Janet. I was too filled with rage, anger, and grief to even look at her.”
When Paul Marshall’s girlfriend became pregnant in high school, their families insisted on abortion. Another pregnancy followed but Paul and his girlfriend turned to Planned Parenthood for parenting classes, hoping for a better outcome. “When we asked about taking classes, a clinic staffer told us that was the most foolish thing we could do and that we should have an abortion,” he said. The couple was told the baby was not even human yet.
Later when Paul came to realize he had destroyed his children, he turned to alcohol, burying his feelings until he heard there were other men hurting from abortion and attended an abortion-recovery program for men. “I am now the president and executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central New York, and we are committed to educating individuals with the truth about fetal development,” he explained. “I was lied to at Planned Parenthood and we know they are still lying about the humanity of the child in the womb.”
Stephen shared his testimony: “Clearly, I let her know it was her responsibility, not mine. Years later I realized she had the abortion for me.” More than 25 years after the abortion, Stephen was in the seminary, deep into prolife work. He contacted his old girlfriend to apologize for not being stronger and learned only then that he had not lost one child, but two—twins.
Stories include grandparents wanting to “fix” the problem and pressuring their children, friends thinking they are being supportive, former clinic workers and even former abortionists themselves. The extent of the shockwaves reveals just how very wounded a country that legalizes abortion becomes.
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, the director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia, addresses the effect that previous abortions can have on marriages in his forthcoming book with Ignatius Press on strengthening Catholic marriages. According to him, mistrust, feelings of betrayal and anger can emerge from the trauma of a previous abortion, requiring the work of forgiveness. Sometimes, however, the painful memory causing the conflict is buried so the couple does not even realize it is the source of much of their trouble.
“Spouses report being greatly helped by taking the post-abortion pain to the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” Dr. Fitzgibbons said. “Also, participation in a post-abortion healing programs, such as Project Rachel, has helped many spouses find healing.”
A priest once related to him that he often discovers there is a past abortion for couples with excessive anger. Dr. Fitzgibbons began discovering the same situation when he started asking about it.
“The most severe post-abortion psychological consequence that I have seen is the total loss of trust in a spouse which can progress to the development of paranoid thinking which requires antipsychotic medication,” he said. “I have also treated single males involved with a number of abortions who later developed bipolar disorder with grandiose delusions that were an unconscious attempt to escape from their guilt.”
“The awareness of the shockwaves from abortion is essential to breaking this silence and transforming the ministries of the Church and the health care profession,” Morana explained. Her book also offers a list of resources and explains the healing initiative game plan at AbortionShockwaves.com.
“We are making a difference,” Morana said. “I see people healing and going to Christ to stop the abusive behavior and be made new in Him. There are now three to four more pregnancy centers than there are abortion facilities. We are gaining.”
PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG, who wrote the newly published book, Legatus @ 30, is an award-winning author and Catholic journalist, TV and radio commentator, and mother of 10.