February 27, 2013 (Unmaskingchoice.ca) – “I was raped at 16 and had an abortion.”
That’s not what you normally hear from someone you met just a few minutes prior; but I’ve gotten used to it. It seems that almost every time I give a presentation or participate in a pro-life display like the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) or “Choice” Chain, some wounded woman confides in me a horror story of abuse. And it leads me to believe that sexual abuse is far more rampant than we realize.
I met this most recent woman during our annual pro-life mission trip where we take the GAP (Genocide Awareness Project) display to university campuses in Florida. She jumped into a conversation I was already having with three other female students—they weren’t pro-life so I was explaining the pro-life position to them. This fourth female student, I’ll call “Emily,” echoed the sentiments they expressed and seemed agitated, but as I went through the logic of the pro-life perspective, the first three drifted away and it was just Emily and me, who started to “get” the logic and conceded it made sense if the science was right.
But sometimes something that makes the most sense in our minds can be rejected because of what’s going on in our hearts. And that’s when she told me.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
Our friends over at Justice for All teach that when someone asks about abortion in cases of rape, they’re not so much asking to see if the pre-born are human, but to see if the pro-lifer is human—in other words, do we care about the teenage victim of rape as much as we care about the pre-born victim of abortion? And so my immediate concern was for her, asking if she had received help and if she was safe, or if the victimizer was still around.
And then I was reminded of our culture of cover-up: It was a relative who raped her; her mom knows but was the one who drove her to the abortion clinic; to this day, years later, her dad doesn’t know any of this happened. Violated by a relative. Betrayed by her mother who covered it up.
And now her arms are empty, which I think explained her sudden interest in my little friend Elizabeth.
After we spoke a bit about what happened, Emily said, “I hear you guys have a baby with you.”
Me: “Yes, we have a married couple on our team who brought their 3-month old baby Elizabeth with them.”
Emily: “OH! That’s so cool! [With great interest] Is she here right now?”
Me: “Yes. Would you like to see her?”
Emily: [With great excitement] “Really?! Could I?”
Me: “Sure, just come over to the back of the display with me.”
Emily: [Shocked] “Really? Okay! For sure!”
As we walked, I was struck by her fascination and excitement about seeing a baby. I see them all the time; and hold them often—of course, I am delighted each time, but there was something out of place about Emily’s response; it was as though she had never gotten close to a baby before. Maybe she didn’t let herself, after the doctor ripped her own from her.
When we got to the back, the fencing was such that she couldn’t get through, so I told her I’d bring Elizabeth to her. She smiled and waited with excitement. And when I brought Elizabeth over to her, she smiled with joy.
“Do you want to hold her?” I asked. Again, Emily expressed both surprise and delight: “Could I?!”
And so I placed little Elizabeth in her arms and watched as this mother of a dead baby gently, lovingly, and peacefully embraced this living baby.
She had to go to class soon after, but as she left she expressed that she had assumed the pro-lifers with the exhibit were going to yell and be mean, and how grateful she was that we were just the opposite to what she thought. I was able to tell her about my friend Nicole, who wrote a book about how she was also raped, had an abortion, and regrets the choice she made (even saying it was more difficult to heal from the abortion than the rape).
Nicole once remarked, “I want to encourage those suffering in the aftermath of an abortion that indeed God can help you pick up the pieces of your life again. He is truly bigger than your pain offering both forgiveness and hope.”
I wish I’d had more time to be with Emily, to hear her grieving heart and tell her more to give her hope. But our brief encounter reminds me, as John Henry Newman once said, “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth.”
That’s the call of each one of us—to be a link in a chain. There are many links before us, as well as after. I tried to play my small part, as did Baby Elizabeth (who doesn’t even know the beautiful role she played to impart light and life to Emily).
As Archbishop Oscar Romero once said, “This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.”
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This is the first of several reflections from CCBR’s Genocide Awareness Project Mission Trip 2013.