If we accept the principle that universal human rights are worth embracing, then all human life must be included within this ideal. That's what "universal" means. Human rights begin when human life begins and ends with life's natural conclusion. Anything else is either ignorance or sophistry and bigotry." -- Mark Davis Pickup
Thursday, August 21, 2008
My role in long ago abortion still haunts me
A recent edition of the Knights of Columbus magazine Columbia, featured an article entitled ‘Reclaiming Fatherhood’. It dealt with men and abortion. This struck a chord with me because I am affected personally by abortion.
In 1971, my girlfriend became pregnant with our baby. We were both seventeen years of age. She wanted to get married and have the baby. Not me, I was a goodtime Charlie. There were parties to attend, beers to drink, drunken choruses to sing. The prospect of fatherhood would have put a damper on the good times and so I began pressuring my girlfriend to have an abortion.
It worked to my advantage that there were many clairvoyants and crystal ball gazers who predicted a life of dire poverty, welfare and lost opportunities, if my girlfriend made the mistake of having the baby. They told us that if we married at seventeen, I would be relegated to low paying and dead-end jobs forever and a day. I would never reach my potential! That was the conventional wisdom. I remember it well.
Granted, the message scared me, but it also gave me ammunition to pressure my girlfriend to abort our baby. The underlying desire to protect hedonism was a powerful motivation. It was so easy to solve ‘our problem.’ The developing child simply had to die.
LANGUAGE TO HIDE TRUTH
Of course, I didn’t couch the reality of abortion in such brutally blunt terms. In fact I stopped thinking or referring to our “problem” as a baby and start talking in terms of “it”, ‘potential life’ and a ‘blob of tissue.’ It was necessary to remove the developing child from her humanity. It worked. My pressure on my girlfriend to abort our baby was intensified until, with nobody affirming the life she carried, she submitted to the hands of an abortionist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton in December of 1971.
On the surface I was glad to have our “problem” solved and cracked another beer to celebrate the occasion. But something deep inside me did not sit right with what was done to solve our problem. The abortion did not solve “our problem” — it created new ones.
Phrases like ‘blobs of tissue’ grated against my conscience. Even at seventeen years of age, I knew they were lies. Unfortunately for this Good-time Charlie, I knew better.
During the 1960s, before abortion became a fashionable social issue, my father kept a complete TimeLife book series in his bookcase. One book was entitled Growth. It was published in 1965 and contained very early prenatal photography by Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson, dating back to 1957. Using an endoscope, and other methods, Nilsson captured stunning imagery of life developing within the womb. His photographs originally were made famous in a book entitled A Child is Born, but they also appeared in our TimeLife book.
My strategy to cope with advocating my own child’s death was simple: Deny, deny, deny. This approach worked for most of the next decade.
I became the Director of Family and Community Support Services for two Alberta communities. In both communities I referred couples in crisis pregnancies to the nearest Planned Parenthood affiliate and even invited that vile organization into my communities to promote themselves and their so-called “services.”
MY TERRIBLE SIN
Eventually my conscience would be suppressed no more. A Dark Night of the Soul -- to borrow a phrase from St. John of the Cross -- occurred in which my first inklings of God’s conviction stabbed me like a knife. Facing the awful fact that I was pivotal in the killing of my first child brought great grief and internal mortification. It involved, in part, acceptance and confession of my terrible sin. It involved penance, and openness to God’s leading and illumination in my life. A long and painful journey of purgation before God continues to this day, although the dynamics changed throughout the past thirty-seven years.
I have been forgiven of my terrible sin, but the journey toward God continues with slow purging of my imperfections and sinful human nature. Still, my terrible sin is the single biggest regret of my life.
THE FORGOTTEN ONES
Fathers of aborted children are, by and large, forgotten in public discussions of abortion. The Columbia magazine article “Reclaiming Fatherhood” brought this out powerfully. Organizations like Silent No More have given post-abortive women a way to express their sorrow and regret. But thousands of men of aborted children face trauma and grief too.
Last year, the U.S. based National Office of Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, the Knights of Columbus, the Archdiocese of San Francisco sponsored the first international conference for male post-abortion trauma. Good for them. It’s needed so badly.
Abortion is a tragedy on so many levels. I consider it to be a great moral poverty of the age in which we live. Forgiveness and healing for men and women hurt by abortion can help to lessen its effects. Abortion’s negative influence on society will require a cultural reversal, or face God’s judgment. All we can do for the millions of aborted children is to commit them to our Lord’s tender care, and pray for God’s forgiveness of us and a twisted time such as this one.
The above blog also appears in the August 25th 2008 edition of Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter under the title “ABORTION CAN THROW MEN INTO TURMOIL TOO: My role in long ago abortion continues to haunt me”