Reading the many testimonies about abortion recently solicited by CNN, it becomes clear that the people who regret it (the overwhelming majority) all identify what was lost in abortion as their child. Grief and regret after abortion are of course inextricably linked: one does not spend years mourning the loss of a “piece of tissue” from one’s body or experiencing guilt and distress that one allowed such loss to occur.
What is striking, however, is that those surrounding the woman at the time of her abortion are almost universally denying that humanity. No medic or clinic worker is saying, “Yes, of course this is your child, your baby, but it is clearly an inconvenient or damaging time for her/him to be born and so we agree that it would be best to kill her/him.” The whole phenomenon of abortion rests, of course, on denying that humanity and giving the woman the impression that this is a medical procedure of little significance or consequence.
Human beings are social creatures and we connect to each other, we form ties of attachment and love and this is in large part how we define ourselves – as part of a family, community, nation. The human being that is rejected – for so very many reasons that reflect evil on a societal, not just an individual, level – in an abortion is necessarily that woman’s child. I do not believe that we prevent abortion by getting angry about the destruction of those human beings, although people have a right to express that, but rather by coming alongside a woman at her time of need to offer her support and welcome, so that she can then support and welcome her own child. In recognising her humanity, and the humanity of her situation in all its complexity, the humanity of her child can also be seen. It is not one against the other but rather the most intimate connection that no-one of any sensitivity – of any humanity – would wish to sever.