She stared at our posters: 3D ultrasounds of pre-born children safely cocooned in their mothers’ wombs contrasted with the broken bodies of the aborted.  She pulled out her phone to take pictures. And as the reality of what she was staring at sunk in, she burst into tears.

As she walked away, our volunteer Anita, who is post-abortive and with Silent No More Awareness Campaign, called out to the woman, wanting to comfort her. But there was no response except a hand moving to her eyes to wipe away the tears as she carried on. The pain of another, and love for the other, compels one to reach out. And so Anita persists—a 70-year-old woman with a bad knee runs to the 20-something young woman. The women meet up, the tears flow, and the pain comes out: Eight years ago the young woman’s mother pressured her to have an abortion at the tender age of 16. Not only was this woman left with the indescribable grief of losing a child, but she has been left with a now-barren womb thanks to an abortion complication.

As one of my male colleagues and I watch Anita approach the wounded woman, he comments, “It’s times like this where I wish I was a woman to be able to reach out to her.” And I think to myself, “I am a woman yet even I am not the best person in this moment.  But Anita, by her shared experience, is.” Indeed, Anita was with us “for such a time as this.”

In my 10 years of full-time pro-life work, I have been privileged to witness many grace-filled moments like this, where the healed reach out to the hurting.  In these encounters I am reminded of the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II who said to post-abortive women,

“As a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”

I have been privileged to partner with many post-abortive women over the years on the front lines.  In fact, three years ago when I gave a pro-life apologetics talk and showed abortion imagery at a high school, I was joined by a post-abortive woman, Bonnie, from Silent No More Awareness.  With her testimony of regretting abortion, we provided the most holistic message possible: The pre-born are children, abortion kills them, and it wounds women.  Today, a 3-year-old is alive in a beautiful adoptive home because her teenage mom who attended our presentation chose not to abort.

Time and experience has reinforced my conviction that there is powerful synergy when this 3-fold message is communicated together.  With over 3 million children slaughtered in Canada alone, millions of women are suffering in silence.  Graphic images and pro-life demonstrations don’t cause post-abortive women pain; rather, they bring to the surface a pain which already exists.  They give these women permission to grieve; they reinforce that there is something—someone—to mourn. When our messages act as reminders of the abortion nightmare, the solution is not to eliminate our message but to add to it with ministering.

In fact, the same day Anita ministered to the woman weeping for her child who was no more, another woman was compelled to talk to us as a result of encountering our graphic demonstration.  She told one of our team members, Ruth (who was holding a graphic image), that she had had an abortion.  So Ruth introduced her to Anita.  In their conversation, Anita told the woman about her own abortion and that she had vowed to not ever tell anyone as long as she lived.  The woman responded, “So did I, until today.”

And that woman, like the other, received the good news that there is help, that there is healing.  Both women looked into the loving eyes of a gentle soul who was living proof that one can be forgiven and set free.