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(LifeSiteNews) – In the post-Dobbs environment, we Catholic pro-lifers need to face three hard truths and do three new things – all of which we should have known and done long ago. I speak on the basis of five decades of experience in crisis pregnancy and abortion-recovery work.

First, the three uncomfortable facts we need to face:

1. We share the cultural attitude toward babies. Yes, we do. We contracept (and hope our children are contracepting), we react with dismay to pregnancies in “bad” situations in our own families, and we are unwelcoming to such pregnancies in parishes. We are the frightened spouse, the disapproving parents, the critical friends, the boyfriend’s parents, the “reasonable” relatives and medical professionals. The baby is the last bogeyman.

The cure for our attitude is one simple truth: God directly creates each human soul. Do we believe that or not?

If God directly intervenes in time and space to create a human soul, and He does, then the pregnancy must be His response to the situation. Incest, rape, affair, too old, too young, whatever – the baby is God’s answer. The pregnancy is God saying, “Here, let me give you a gift which will help you.” Do we not believe that God makes babies on purpose? If we do, then why do we get so upset when it hits home? The first words out of our mouths should be, “Congratulations! Thanks be to God.” Of course, this doesn’t mean God intended the evil acts which may have preceded conception. No, God is not behind us pre-ordaining, He is in the present in front of us, offering a gift, the way up and out.

2. We abort. Statistically, every Catholic family has had at least one abortion or been impacted by abortion in some way. That is one lost member, unacknowledged and ungrieved, often unknown except in the wreckage left behind. The physical, psychological, and spiritual effects of abortion deform our families and parishes. The losses and survivor guilt and moral burden fall on pastors and pastoral workers as much as on family members. Pro-lifers abort, kids of pro-life activists abort, and Catholics abort as much as the secular population does. We are missing tons of people. When I mention this fact in talks, the whole place starts to weep silently. It’s a very hard thing to admit. And by the way, this “we” who abort also includes the “we” who have undergone IVF or condoned it.

3. We are abortion-wounded. Faith does not prevent the natural effects of trauma, loss, or sin. The medical, psychological, social, and spiritual effects of abortion on men and women are too deep and wide to discuss here, but denial and anger are the main coping mechanisms. We Catholic pro-lifers also suffer from this denial and anger, which seep into everything we do.

We are blind to non-surgical abortion. We are blind to abortifacient contraceptive devices. We are deaf to the possibility that we may have lost children through the morning-after pill or the contraceptive pill. But I have heard and seen that the effects are the same – the choice against the child is made, and something closes off inside.

We are blind to abortion among pro-life Catholics because we and/or they are suppressing abortion and/or working it off. We avoid seeing and treating the effects of abortion in the people we are trying to help because we might have to look in the mirror. Abortion recovery should be part of every pregnancy care service.

As for Catholics in general, post-abortive personnel in parishes and dioceses deny abortion by blocking attempts to bring truth and healing where it is needed. Clergy deny it when they are afraid to speak of it for fear of the anger it evokes in the parishioners, or afraid to face the loss of life caused by that negligence.

The choice against the child is made, and something closes off inside.

As for anger, the angry pro-lifer is a myth with a seed of truth. We say we are rightfully angry about the killing of children, but we are also angry from abortion in our families and angry from unhealed abortion (remember, nearly half of us have directly aborted, and the other half are directly affected).

So we try to “stop abortion.” Helping people can become a means, a weapon against abortion. Life becomes our “cause,” a banner in a battle. Even when we do it right, we often focus on saving the baby, overlooking the needs of the mother and father, persons who need not just material support but moral and spiritual formation. I knew a young woman who had a baby with the help of a crisis pregnancy center and then had three abortions. She blamed the pro-lifers because she said they just gave her stuff, and didn’t help her change her life.

In light of those three facts, Catholic pro-lifers need to do three new things in the post-Dobbs environment.

1. We need to get healed. Generational abortion is driving abortion (even Great Grandma got an abortifacient tea from the botanica). One generation’s denial is protected by tolerating or pushing abortion in the next.

Whether from our own abortions, those of our parents and extended families and friends, or the many children that we couldn’t save from abortion, we have serious baggage that has impacted our work. Every pro-life ministry should ask its members to seek awareness of abortion in their lives and to undergo a post-abortion program. If they don’t need it, which is a rare case, they at least will understand their clientele, which is largely post-abortive already. Finally, veteran pro-lifers suffer the losses of the children they couldn’t save. Vicarious PTSD is strong among us, which brings its own anger.

In response to all this repressed loss and trauma, some Catholics will escape into angelism, “a theory of human existence that minimizes concupiscence and therefore ignores the need for moral vigilance and prayer to cope with the consequences of original sin.” This is easier than facing what happened, how it hurt us, who hurt us, whom we hurt, forgiving, asking forgiveness, and accepting and grieving a deceased child.  Jesus said, “He who welcomes the child welcomes me.” You can’t have one without the other (Jesus without the child). You can’t have mercy without truth.

2. We need to make our movement and our parishes welcoming. Not to the outside, but to ourselves inside, to our members and our parishioners. We need to say up front and out loud what every parent should say to every child expecting: “No matter how a baby comes about, the baby is a gift from God. We accept the gift of life and those who bear it, no matter what.” This message can appear in every bulletin and website, and be backed up by volunteers who will personally help with whatever is needed (who needs more corporations!?). This message must be proactive, before you think anyone will need it. Many young Catholics abort because they hear the voice of mom or dad saying, “If you get pregnant, don’t come home!” or school saying, “A pregnancy will ruin your life!” Many young Catholics have sought abortion because they felt they couldn’t hurt the reputations of parents who were considered pillars of the pro-life community or the Church. And many pillars of the Church have forced their children to abort to protect their own reputation.

3. We need to change our approach in three ways: in crisis pregnancy work, in educating the young, and in educating adults.

When talking to parents with a crisis pregnancy, pro-lifers often focus on the baby and prenatal development. That is wonderful, but in a culture in which the baby is the last bogeyman, focusing on the baby in a crisis situation can simply trigger fear. In a post-abortive society, it can trigger PTSD and anger! Before addressing the child, address the self-interest of the parents by showing the immediate effects of abortion on men and women: they will break up, abortion won’t resolve any problem, they may suffer serious physical and psychological aftereffects.

In helping mom and/or dad in a crisis pregnancy situation, pro-lifers often focus on immediate material needs, but we also need to ask mom and/or dad why they are seeking abortion. They will tell you a lot. You will discover their social and emotional and even spiritual needs. If we don’t address those, we are just ensuring we get a return visit in a year or two.

In helping mom and/or dad, we often ignore extended family. We want to be lady bountiful or lord largesse – it feels good. But it is far better to put families in honest touch with each other so they can understand and help each other.

The second way to change our approach is to educate the young proactively. Besides the positive pregnancy message, we need to reveal the immediate and long-term risks of abortion.  Do your research. True stories, true facts. If they know ahead of time what will happen, they won’t do it. At least that’s what hundreds have told me. “If I had only known!”

They need to know that with abortion, you can’t “just do it and put it behind me.” In my experience, this message about the harms that follow abortion has been too threatening to the elders of both Church and family, who are often living in denial of their own abortions. As a result, they forbid the message in youth groups, classrooms, churches, even in pro-life venues. So, again, we come to the need to heal the adults.

And that is the third form of education: educating the post-abortive generation of adults in our movement and in our pews. It is not an easy task, and requires a new approach, one rooted in evangelism aimed at the heart. We need to gently help them see what has happened to them, why and how it happened, and how it has affected them and their lives and families. Then we can invite them into the joy and mercy and freedom that await them with real recovery.