By Charlie Johnston
Back in the early 90’s I was working as a secular radio talk show host and commentator. Even so, religion was one of my big topics – and I often spoke about abortion. At the time, even many nominally religious people accepted the depiction of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, as a pioneering women’s advocate. That deeply offended me, as I had read some of Sanger’s books and knew that she was an elitist who wanted to eliminate “inferior” people and races. In 1933, she had Ernst Rudin, the director of Hitler’s Racial Sterilization program and founder of the Nazi Society for Racial Hygiene, write a guest column in her “Birth Control Review,” the newsletter of the nascent Planned Parenthood. She advocated for concentration camps in America to segregate and sterilize those she considered unfit (and she considered almost half the population to be unfit). She gave a lecture to a women’s section of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey in 1926. I consider her one of the greatest monsters of the 20th Century, alongside Stalin, Hitler and Mao. But I figured the most effective way to destroy the hagiographic myth surrounding her was to use her own words. So I often quoted directly from her books, usually “The Pivot of Civilization,” (which you will never find in a Planned Parenthood facility – they don’t want you to know who she really was). The quote I most often emphasized was, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” – Women and the New Race. I was gratified to receive calls from several women who claimed they had worked at abortion clinics who had quit – because they had done exactly what I suggested and got copies of Sanger’s own works and read them.
Much as I decried this Pied Piper of Death, I was also convinced that abortion was as much a satanic attack on the living survivors as on the martyred babies, to cause despair, to make us see ourselves as vile and to lose heart that there can be any good in us. To this end, I encouraged pro-life organizations to reach out to women who had had abortions and help them to heal, for many, many were suffering in silence. Though many pro-life groups tried, it was in the mid-90’s that the Rachel’s Vineyard project really began large-scale help for the survivors of abortion. It was taken on as a ministry of Priests for Life and has since had great success in helping those left walking wounded from the lies they were told by the abortion industry. How it gladdened my heart to see it rise!
A strange thing began. I started getting calls off the air from women who had had abortions. Once, the news director grabbed me just after I got out of the broadcast studio after a shift and told me I had a call in the newsroom – but I should take it in a recording studio because she was pretty sure it was one of those calls (Not so I could record it, but for the privacy it afforded). For several months, I would get three or four such calls each week. They were agonizing. Women would tell me stories of boyfriends and parents who had pressured them into it, threatening them with abandonment at a time they were young and vulnerable, if they did not. One, in anguish, told me they had assured her it was just a “blob of tissue.” But when she looked on the tray after it was finished, she saw a mutilated baby – her baby. Rarely could a woman get through such a call without weeping copiously. At least half told me they had never told ANYONE about it before. Most believed they could not be forgiven for what they had done. Almost all were contemptuous of the abortion facilities, claiming they were soothing and comforting before the abortion, but then had no use or comfort for them after it was finished. These women desperately needed to talk to someone. I was glad that there was something in my manner that spoke to them and suggested I could be a safe repository for their sorrow, but it sure was gut-wrenching for me. As hard as it was, I thought a lot about how very many women there were out there who were carrying this terrible burden of guilt, sorrow and pain all alone with no one they dared call, not even a stranger like me. Again, thank God for the rise of Rachel’s Vineyard! I came to think of abortion as the wound that will not heal, the wound that leaves a permanent hole in the heart.
Thank God that telling the women my private perspective on the subject seemed to help quite a bit. I would tell them that their baby was alive and in heaven, that it had a name, given by God, Himself, and that it spent its heaven praying constantly for its Mom and Dad to repent of what they had done and come to Jesus, that all might have a joyful reunion in heaven. I told them that was their child’s fondest hope and constant prayer.
Some would tell me it could not be because their child had not been baptized. I told them that the Church recognizes two forms of baptism other than the ordinary form, the Baptism of Blood (in martyrs) and the Baptism of Desire. I believed that such infants had been baptized with both. They were martyrs to the satan’s plan to sow despair among believers. While I knew most commenters say an infant is incapable of having such desire for God, I firmly disagreed – and found no canon that specifically said this. I believe that we are formed with an intense desire to know and love our Creator – that it only fades from us as the satan sows seeds of vanity and disbelief as we grow – so that, in fact, an infant’s desire for his Creator is the most pure and untainted of all. I was a relatively new convert then, so I was not acquainted with any theologians or canonists of great stature – but I was convinced of it. Since then, I have become friends with a number of such. Every one of them I have explained this position to has agreed that I have a point worthy of serious consideration, and that it is not contrary to faith and morals.
Some of the women told me that, in the aftermath of the abortion, they had named their baby. I told them their child proudly bears that name along with the unique name God gives each of us (Rev. 2:17). Others told me that their child could never forgive them for their active consent to the child’s murder. I told them that in heaven, we have perfect understanding, and so their child knows the fear and ignorance that plague us here – and re-iterated that their child’s fondest hope was to be re-united with them in God’s Kingdom. I encouraged each to go to their Priest or Pastor and speak of what they had done, seeking forgiveness and dedicating themselves to being a sign of hope to all they encountered. I told them if they stumbled into a condemning pastor, don’t give up but find another. I emphasized that God wants all of us to turn to Him – and that anyone, confronted with a seriously repentant soul, who does not understand that is unworthy to be called a pastor. A couple of times, with women who insisted they could never be forgiven, I tartly told them to NEVER underestimate God’s mercy – that the only thing that could keep them from being forgiven is a failure to truly repent…so that was on them, not on God. Oddly, that was almost invariably reassuring to them in a very deep way.
I know something about the devil. Contrary to popular images, he gets NO kingdom save that which he can cobble together while this earth endures. When the end of time comes, he will be as isolated and agonized as all the rest of the damned. He is not God’s rival, but it serves his purposes to convince humanity that he is head of a rival, dissenting kingdom. Satan is pure malice, his purpose to negate that which God has created, to mutilate the body of God’s creation. He is showy, but barren…all sizzle with no steak. His purpose is to destroy man – and he delights most greatly in eventually destroying men who enter into his service thinking they are going to be captains in hell, for he has utter contempt for vain fools who do not even have the wit to know which team is on their side. With abortion, the satan took on a risky gambit, sowing despair at the cost of adding tens of millions of pure souls to heaven advocating against him.
One time a young woman (maybe 30) who was active in pro-abortion politics wanted to debate the issue with me on the air. I had her and another two on. Weirdly, after the show was over, she would not let up. She even followed me into the parking lot hectoring me the whole way. I was annoyed – and then inspiration struck. I spoke to her as I spoke to the women who called me in despair. I looked intently at her and told her, “Your baby lives. He is in heaven and his constant prayer is that you repent so that you can be joyfully reunited.” She looked at me as if I had slapped her, then started trembling, burst into tears and hugged me. I never saw or heard from her again, so I don’t know how her story ended. But I did realize that while some women go into quiet despair in the aftermath of an abortion, others adopt the most shrill advocacy of abortion of all. It is, I think, a desperate attempt to convince themselves that what they did was okay. The more they hurt, the shriller they get. Pray for them.
I certainly learned that the culture of abortion has touched almost everyone, either directly or indirectly. For many, it is their greatest secret and greatest shame. Some of our TNRS family have spoken of their struggle with it. I am sure that there are many more here who have struggled with it, but never spoken aloud of it. For you, I say the same thing I said to so many before:
Your child is in heaven, advocating ceaselessly for you. The only thing you could do to compound the pain and hurt you once caused is to deny him the joyful reunion in heaven he so longs for. Confess your sin, receive absolution, and dedicate yourself to being a sign of hope to all you encounter.