Pro-choice and atheist, woman nevertheless felt remorse over her abortion

By Sarah Terzo

One woman shared her abortion story in the journal America [1]:

“A terrible, raw guilt had festered in me for many years. Ever since the day I had walked into a trendy women’s health clinic and filled out the paperwork for what I believed was a simple medical procedure. At the time I was an ardent feminist as well as an atheist. I had studied ethics in graduate school and was fully versed in all the philosophical arguments for and against this particular procedure. I firmly believed that abortion was morally acceptable if performed in the early stages of a pregnancy. I firmly believed that a woman’s rights took precedence over the rights of the fetus.

None of the philosophical articles I had read ever suggested that the “procedure” might be any more life-changing than, say, a tooth extraction. Instead, the articles had led me to believe that some “tissue” would be removed. That would be the end of the story–or so I thought. The articles also failed to mention that I might experience searing pain, so intense that I nearly ripped the hand off the woman who stood by my side, her eyes shining with compassion.

Even though I didn’t believe that what I had done was morally wrong, some instinct told me not to tell people afterwards. So I lived under a crushing weight of secrecy. As the years wore on, I found it puzzling that I never encountered a woman who spoke openly of having an abortion. There seemed to be an invisible veil of shame covering the issue, even among women who apparently saw no moral problems with it.

Gradually I discovered that my heart pulsed to a different beat than my intellect. Every time I saw an infant, my immediate reactions were always the same. “How old would my child be now?” I would agonize. And “What would my child have looked like?”

These questions hounded me for years.”

She returned to her Catholic faith, and one day picked up a book about Mother Theresa:

It didn’t take many pages to convince me that she was an extraordinarily holy woman, but I was perplexed by her vehement rejection of abortion. She’s a virtuous woman, I told myself, but very old-fashioned and seriously out of touch with the realities faced by contemporary women like myself.

One day at Mass the priest read Mother Teresa’s favorite scriptural passage: “Whatever you do to the least of these my little ones, you do unto me.” A claw of grief clutched my heart. Only with great effort did I manage to stem the tide of tears rising within me. In an agonizing moment of guilt, I finally realized why Mother Teresa was so protective of the unborn, the elderly and the dying. She knew who Christ was referring to when he mentioned the “least of these.”

I began having flashbacks in which I relived the experience over and over. Each time, I saw myself walking into the clinic. I saw myself climbing up on the table. I felt the crushing pain. I saw the woman standing beside me holding my hand. Wracked with guilt and selfloathing, I wept. How could I have ended my child’s life?

She went to confession and learned that god had forgiven her, but her pain continued.

Finally, she went through a counseling program and started to find peace.

[1] Murray, L. V. 2001, The least of these. America, 184, 23-24.

Editor’s note. Sarah Terzo is a pro-life author and creator of the clinicquotes website. She is a member of Secular Pro-Life and the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. This appeared at clinicquotes.com and is reposted with permission.