Since 2002, the women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which I co-founded, have been speaking publicly about their abortions and the many reasons they regret having made that irrevocable choice.
We have been embraced by the pro-life movement because ours are the voices of experience. No one can tell us we should not feel as we do. This was our experience; this is our regret.
When we attend events and hold our signs that proclaim “I Regret My Abortion,” women often thank us and tell us they, too, wish they had made a different choice. One woman who courageously stands with her sign outside NARAL Pro-Choice America’s annual celebration of Roe v. Wade has told me that even there, women have told her they regret their abortions. “I just keep quiet about it,” one woman confided. The media, with a few notable exceptions, generally ignore us. At public events like the March for Life, pro-choicers try to shout us down. They want to silence our truth.
Two years ago, another kind of shouting began to be heard. The #ShoutYourAbortion movement, begun on Facebook and spread on Twitter, asked women to talk about how their abortions were right, and good, and even moral choices. The movement has now spawned a book that collected the stories of 45 women.
Honestly, I did not want to read this book. But then I realized by ignoring it, I was trying to block out the voices of these women, the same way counter-protesters and the media try to silence ours. So I decided to listen.
The stories are familiar. Chaotic lives that led to unexpected pregnancies, the disruption to well-ordered futures that an unplanned baby would bring. All of us have one thing in common: We chose to end the lives of our children. Some of us would give anything not to have made that choice; others say it was the right choice. Neither group speaks for all women.
A huge number of women are caught in the middle of the abortion debate. They neither want to shout their abortion nor break their silence. These women try not to think about their abortions because their emotions are complicated. It wasn’t their finest hour, and it isn’t something they are proud of. They are often glad they could get an abortion but they still struggle with their rejection of life and motherhood.
These are the women in the middle of the so-called “war on women.” They don’t want to discuss the politics of abortion. They can’t celebrate aborting their unborn babies, nor can they often give themselves permission to grieve their dead child.
What they can say is that the abortion experience changed them forever. That is a universal truth for every woman who has had an abortion. Maybe that should be the place where the two sides can meet, if we can agree first to stop attacking each other. (Those interested in finding out more about how abortion alters women’s lives might want to visit AbortionChangesYou.org)
Militant attitudes based on our right to abort our children or our desire to make abortion unthinkable deny the complicated reality of an unplanned pregnancy. We need to make space for women to grow and evolve in our opinions and feelings about our abortions.
For the first 18 years after my abortion, I only felt relief that my unplanned pregnancy had gone away and my reputation as a “good girl” had remained intact. I often wonder if someone would have asked me then to shout my abortion, if I would have. I think I might have, especially if the person asking was someone I admired.
I didn’t come to see abortion as the wrong choice until I allowed myself to acknowledge that it was more than a medical procedure; it was an act that ended the life of a unique human being. My child. Once I realized what the abortion really did, I was able to begin to grieve. It was there healing began for me. Peace with my choice came finally when I faced all the conflicted feelings I had about my abortion.
I admit that I do not have neutral feelings about this issue. I want women to be honored, as well as their unborn children, and to be given support they need to choose life. I don’t want women like me who have chosen abortion to suffer in shame and silence. But most of all I want women who have had abortions to be heard.
The Silent No More Awareness Campaign and #ShoutYourAbortion are both venues to help women who have had abortions work through the experience. While we don’t agree with each other’s approach, we must respect that the need exists for both messages. But it can’t be at the expense of attacking, shaming, or censoring one another. We all deserve to be heard.
Written by Deacon Georgette Forney
This piece was originally published in the Washington Examiner on December 26th, 2018