Saturday, January 22, 2011

How do you memorialize more than 50 million people?

Every year the death toll from abortion climbs to even more staggering heights. Today we mark 38 years of legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in the United States. And today we mourn the lives of more than 50 million pre-born babies, whose lives were brutally taken from them. 50 million. It's an unfathomable number. And sometimes it's so overwhelming that we go about our daily business as if abortion was not happening, because to admit that it is, leaves us with a level of responsibility.

An irony in getting caught up with a number like 50 million is that it almost results in the depersonalization of those children. They become a number and no longer a face.

So for today's anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I want to share a reflection I wrote years ago about an encounter with one woman who was scarred by abortion. The event occurred during a summer-long pro-life walk I did in college. It is one story, portraying the lives of a few people that were forever changed by abortion. And even as the numbers of victims (both babies and mothers) climb higher, each of those numbers is not merely a number -- it's a human person. That's precisely the point.

June 16, 2004:

Four of us were standing outside of a New Hampshire Planned Parenthood. We didn't really want to be there. In fact, if the feeling of knowing we had to be there did not supersede our nauseousness, we probably would have joined the other walkers before we had even arrived at the abortion mill. Nevertheless, we knew God wanted us to be there, even though we noticed that the building wasn't open. We were singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet when a woman approached and silently watched us We stopped singing, thinking she wanted to speak with us, but she made no move to begin a conversation. So, we continued the Chaplet, while she sat on the steps of Planned Parenthood. When she had finished, she simply said, "That was beautiful." She worked across the street, saw our shirts as we were praying, and stayed to hear the Chaplet, after coming closer to see us.

We soon learned that she was raised Catholic but has not been to the Sacraments in years. We could tell by the longing in her voice that she desperately wants to come home to the Church. She confided that several years ago, she and her husband had a young son. He was less than a year old when she discovered that she was pregnant again. Not thinking she could devote enough to both children, she had an abortion. Less than a year later, she found herself pregnant again, and again she had an abortion. To ensure that she was not in the position a third time, she was given birth control pills. We listened in silence as she told us that she now has breast cancer. She told us that she believes she has breast cancer because of the abortions and Pill, which have been linked to breast cancer in various studies.

It was so hard to listen to her heartbreaking tale, knowing how much we want to prevent women from enduring this suffering. Even with the sorrow in her voice, she still insisted that she would have done nothing differently, if given a second chance. Yet, as we continued talking with her, apologizing that no one had offered to help her when she was pregnant, and encouraging her love of the Church, she admitted that the "wheels were beginning to turn" in her head. She said she still had not changed her mind, but she was thinking in a way she never had.

With promised prayers, we left her. One of the young men in our group, however, remained. He gave her a Miraculous Medal, and spoke with her about the beauty of confession. Now all we can do is pray for her, her healing and continued conversion. Obviously God had a reason for us to be in front of that Planned Parenthood today, and I pray He continues to cultivate the seeds we have planted.

For information on post-abortion healing organizations, visit NOPARH, Silent No More, or Rachel's Vineyard.

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